Month: March 2017

  • Track Day: Cadwell Park 16.03.2017

    Headed up to Cadwell Park last night and stayed in a great B&B called the Paddock, located just 2 miles from the circuit. Highly recommended.

    Gary called at 8pm to say unfortunately he was not going to make it for the day today, as something urgent had come up. A shame as the continuity of having one instructor is helpful, but he said James Foard was coming in his place. James called at 21:30 to touch base and we were set for the morning.

    Arrived at the circuit around 08:30, met James, and just made sign on and the driver’s safety briefing. We started the day by reviewing some videos showing Gary and James battling at Cadwell in the 2014 PBMW Championship. It was helpful to see the lines, and get an idea of where the breaking points are, before I get into the car and give it a go.

    I explained to James that from my last session at Snet, my Heel n Toe was something I was working on, and I wanted to get that nailed in the morning before pushing on. We joined the circuit around 10:00 and within 3 laps I was pleased that all the muscle memory work at Snet seemed to have paid off, and I was comfortably Heel N Toe’ing every downshift. With that put to bed, we moved onto learning the lines and getting a baseline. After 10 laps we came into the paddock and had a debrief. Good early progress with 4 areas of improvement to work on. Cadwell is an amazing circuit, and venue. I had heard a lot about it and it lived up to the hype. The first left hander from the start finish straight is a flat out forth gear corner, but I did not have the confidence yet to attack it full on. Your brain has to switch from road mode to racing, and it initially tells you there is no way on earth you can get round that corner flat out.

    After 3 15 minute sessions, we had put in some decent track time. We had lunch and hit the GPS  timing data and GoPro video to see how I was getting on. Officially there is no timing allowed on track days, but since when has that stopped anyone, especially as the loggers are installed into the cars. The results looked promising, if frustrating. I have never seen so many red flags at a track day before. That was really hampering putting in hot laps, and the timings said it all. My fastest morning lap was a 1:53.05. To put that in context, the pole times in summer are around the 1:48s. So I was a long way away.

    After lunch we went back for more. I had now sorted all the lines, braking points, and knew the circuit pretty well. After a few clear laps the times started to fall. We had some dramas with the GPS not starting automatically, but were able to get a feel for the actual pace I was at, and predict the times pretty accurately. At the end of the day, after looking at all my best sectors, and feeling us going much quicker, I was lapping in the 1:50s. Really chuffed with that, if I can replicate that during qualification I should be looking at around 10th. I think it is not realistic to set that as a goal, as who knows how I will deal with qualification in my first season, at unfamiliar tracks, but it is an indicator that if it all hooks up I have the potential to challenge the Top 10. Awesome day, in fact the best day I have done so far. I actually feel ready for the first race now, rather than feeling really anxious.

    So that concludes the pre-season work. The only things left now are to buy the remaining kit, and keep watching the vids. The next event in my calendar is Race Meet 1, Cadwell Park, 23rd April 2017. Now the excitement builds…

  • Track Day: Snetterton 300 06.03.2017

    Went up to Snetterton for my second pre-season track day. The lesson learnt from Silverstone was I have a fairly good feeling for the car but I am limited by my underlying lack of race technique. Not too surprising given I have exactly zero history with motor sport. So the aim for today was take a step back and get the basics right.

    We went out in the morning and I spent a frustrating 15 minutes failing to Heel N Toe with any consistency, often missing completely. So back in the garage and a 20 minute in car session practising up and down through the gears, blipping every down shift. Gary identified my foot position when going on the brake was far too low, and this was the root cause of the issue. So I had to brake on the ball of my foot and this would help to allow the foot to twist for the required action. I got it pretty well when stationary and went off for a tester session. Result, hit and miss but better. When travelling at race speed the forces on the body are considerable, and I was still not getting it quite right. So more practise and by the end of the day I would judge it was adequate but with lots of room for improvement. If I can’t master this and make it natural my speed will be impacted and I will never be able to challenge the mid pack.

    The weather was sunny, then raining and wet, back to sunny. I actually fell off the circuit once, after I misunderstood a third gear corner for a fourth and just ran out of track. We ended up in a big mud pile just a few feet off the track. Red flag and embarrassment as all the cars passed me to get to the paddock and we awaited recovery. D’oh! No damage, just an example of a small mistake leads to a big mess 😀

    The car held up perfectly. None of the small faults that dogged us at Silverstone. The circuit is a real challenge, highly technical, especially under the bridge where you come off the main straight at over 120mph, braking to fourth gear, turning and braking to third, then still on the brakes until you transition into a right hander and catapult the car through. When you hook it up it feels epic! I am starting to accept the cornering potential of the car. Understeer is almost non existent when warm and dry and oversteer is mostly rare as the 140bhp limit keeps the rear tyres not an overwhelming amount of power.

    So overall a kinda backwards learning day, but something I hope will pay dividends in the long run when I am mid season and actually stringing it together. My best lap was a 2:29.1. We never had a clear lap with so much track day traffic and sub optimal temps in March and a passenger in the car make us think we were around 2:27 for my best time. As a comparison, in summer the lap record in PBMW at Snetterton is 2:23, the top 5 are 2:24-2:25 and the pack is 2:25-:2:26. If I am within 1-2 seconds of the pack at this stage I will take that.

    An interesting mix of cars and transporters at the track, as usual the amount of money on show baffles me, but hey it’s a rich mans game, these guys are well out of my league:

  • New lid, boots, GPS race timer & transponder

    I visited Grand Prix Racewear when I was at Silverstone and tried on some lids. The Bell RS7 Pro was the recommended choice from their nice sales guy, and it felt a big step up in comfort from the model below in their range. It comes with ventilation too, which can only be a good thing on a sweltering grid:

    I thought I would get some boots whilst there and picked up a pair of Sparco Slalom RB-3 Race Boots in Blue:

    I have an XT Racing ZED GPS timer that I bought for track days. The plan is to get this installed in the race car permanently to show me lap times, deltas, and best times. Nice bit of kit:

    For race day all cars must run approved transponders to inform the circuit timing systems. I have gone for the MYLAPS X2 Direct Transponder, with a 1 year subscription:

    That gets the list down to:

    • Race Overalls & Underwear
    • HANS Device
    • Some sort of inter-com for my helmet