Took the Z4M up to Silverstone yesterday. Arrived at 08:15 to meet Gary and GFR. During the post Brands Hatch inspection, the engine was showing signs of trouble. After some investigation glazed bores were diagnosed. Worrying, but GFR fixed the problem and replaced the parts. So the engine has basically been rebuilt to some extent, which is a bonus pre-season. Hopefully it will be all good to the end of 2017!
Gary wanted to let the car run in for the first session, and let the engine bed in. So after the sign on and safety briefing we had a warm up session. I had never driven Silverstone before, what a cracking track! The GP layout is a pleasure to drive, and being so wide you can really push the car to its limits.
Once the engine was sorted we were onto full power for the rest of the day. Before lunch, just as we were due to get on track, the engine wouldn’t start! After 40 mins of diagnosis a faulty battery was the swapped out and we were all set again. We got on track and I was now feeling more confident, pushing the car harder, and starting to get into a rhythm.
This being the first time in the car in the dry I had no idea of the limit of grip, or how the car behaves on and beyond the limit. Gary suggested he give a demo to help me understand the potential in the car. So mid afternoon Gary took to the driver seat and off we went for some demo laps. All I can say is Wow! The car’s cornering ability is quite incredible. Through Becketts it is an absolute beast. The car remains flat and neutral and is predictable. Gary shared some insights – firstly, listening to the rears tyres. When the inside wheel starts to lift and the car looses grip, you can hear the tyres chirp! This allows for fine correction and a gentle steering adjustment to bring the car back into grip. Down the straights he was flat shifting through third, to firth. In the PBMWs every bhp counts, so this technique is something I need to incorporate into my driving if I want to be competitive.
Gary holds the PBMW lap record at Silverstone, so he has talent. During his last lap we were flat out through a sweeping section entering at 110 mph and on power through the whole sector. The lesson? Commitment. I am still driving and leaving a margin for error, as I do in the Z4M. This is defensive to stop me ending a 20k+ car. But that doesn’t lead to the fastest laps. I need to learn to commit to everything and drive to the absolute limit of grip, putting faith in the track limits. I am sure I can get there with practice, but I could literally feel the difference between my competent laps, and Gary’s mega speed.
During the day, almost every other car we encountered was slower than my race car through the bends, and then on the straights they would blast past and slow us down again. Argh this is frustrating! But I can’t really complain, as it is not a proper test day after all. One “special” person in his 2015 Ferrari was an absolute PITA! All the money and absolutely no ability to drive!
During our final session I found the car behaving strangely on power on the bends. It was loosing power and not accelerating correctly. Turns out the car has two fuel pumps, the stock and an upgraded pump in the boot floor delivering the additional bar required for the insane cornering performance. This secondary pump had given up and that brought our fun to a slightly early end. So two failures in one track day, neither particularly expensive to sort out but this is exactly why I wanted full support on the car. During the race meets, with a paddock of PBMWs and loads of parts everywhere, I need not worry about the car being unable to get onto the grid for the start of the races. And that confidence is worth a lot.
Overall I had a great day, the car well outpeformed my expectations, and my pace was improving considerably after each session. I am getting the car now, it is chuckable into corners, the grip is epic and the balance sublime. We took the Z4M out for two laps before leaving. It is mega in all areas apart from the seats, no harness means I am all over the place, and the car just feels like it has more mass during the transitions. This could all be solved by taking it to the next level but I am glad I kept it a mega road car, and let the E30 race car shine in all the important areas. Having both feels like the best of both worlds. Lucky.
Next up Snetterton on the 6th March. Can’t f’ing wait!”