Category: Track Day

  • Track Day: Brands Hatch GP 04.05.2017

    Met James Foard at Brands on Thursday to give me some experience before PBMW Round 2. As it was the GP circuit the day was split into 3 groups of 20 minute sessions each. First session was learning the lines of the GP track. I have done Brands Indy a few times now but the GP bit was all new.

    Session 3 and I was picking up the pace. With James in the car, on a damp track, I did a 1:53.6. Happy with that. I am expecting the Top 10 qualification times to be in the 1:50s to 1:51s, so I am on target, as the weight & damp cost us around 1.5 seconds. I will push as hard as I can on the day to get 10th on the grid.

    The final session of the day I went out on my own to see if I could replicate everything I had learnt. I had a close race with an E36 that was running in a different race championship. I was actually a lot quicker than him round the back through Westfield and Dingle Bell. We had pretty much the exact same power to weight, and we were level down the straights in terms of raw speed. It was good race experience following a car really closely. In the end after 3 laps he relented and I passed.

    Overall the day was productive. I had some major gripes though. It was oversold, overbusy. The group we were in had some frankly hilarious cars on track. Honestly, a Nissan Qashqai!! WTF was that about???? Moron for bringing that on track and then holding people up through the bends, pure dangerous. Next up in the idiot hall of fame was a bog standard Audi A6 Estate??? I was behind him and was flying, put him under pressure, he then goes off into the gravel as shockingly his tank doesn’t corner very well. Darwin Award nomination right there. Then we have all the Red Flag brigade. At Cadwell Park I had to sit through 5 red flags. Here it was 3. And right at the start of my God dam 20 minute session. If you can’t drive keep the f** off the race track. My love for track days has run out. I understand the need for them to be profitable but there surely MUST be a car restriction for the pure nonsense driving around at 15 miles an hour. I come to the track to avoid these slow twats on the road and OMG they have come to the track to drive slowly around HAHAHA, it would be funny if it wasn’t tragic. Other option would be to have a 1 hour slot where fast drivers can book on the day and have a limited number of cars in that slot. If I was lapping with 10 others then it would be good, you want some hot lap time, even if that cost a bit more.

    No video for the track day as the RoadHawk camera is now mounted but the passenger chair obscures the view.

    Roll on PBMW Round 2 on 21st May.

  • 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: Silverstone GP 20.02.17

    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!”

  • Trackday: Brands Hatch Indy – First Time in the Race Car

    I went to Brans Hatch on Saturday 10th Dec. Went down in my mates BMW M4, which was a great start to the day. That car looks incredible in stealth black 🙂
    We arrived early and met Gary and the team. There were two E30 PBMWs there, mine and a newbie called Will who will be racing with GRF in the 2017 championship. He was a lovely guy, starting out and was pretty new to track days.

    Whilst they prepped the car and garage we attended the Briefing. And to my surprise, Tom Chilton was making a guest appearance for the day. Two lucky people were picked out randomly and each had 30 minutes of 1 on 1 tuition with Tom, lucky buggers.

    After a bacon roll for some much needed wake up fuel we were in the car getting ready for the first stint. I have never driven an E30 before, so I was keen to see how it compared to the Z4M.
    The weather was pretty cold, the track was wet, and the car had 888s. With an open diff this was going to be exciting.

    The morning sessions started off at a slow pace, learning the car and track, my first time at Brans. The first thing I noticed was how heavy non assisted steering felt, and how many turns the rack was from lock to lock. Also the throttle was a lot less sensitive that the M, which took a while to adjust to but was actually welcome after 10 laps.
    Doing a track day in the E30, with only 145 bhp was a brand new experience. I was getting buzzed by so many cars with loads more power, and some caterhams with wet tyres, but I soon learnt to drive hard where I could and be aware of others coming past. Everyone was well behaved and things progressed.

    After lunch, with some track and car time under my belt I increased the pace and pushed harder each lap. Now I could feel the car on the limit of the tyres and I started to get used to it being on and beyond the limit of grip. Brans is a great circuit, so different from the flat of Bedford Autodrome.
    Towards the end of the afternoon my pace had increased significantly and I was having loads of fun, the grin on my face was huge lol. The track was drying slowly and was becoming more and more greasy. Graham Hil bend was a nightmare with the apex like an ice rink! I pushed on as hard as I had all day, and ended up doing a massive drift in front of James, one of the GRF instructors who was following in their new Z4 3.0 Race Car. I held the drift and came in a lap later for a rest, to be greeted by a marshall who informed me in an every so nice way that drifting is not allowed and he took my number and wrote it in the naughty book!

    A few laps later, we saw the medical car leaving the pit lane. We then heard that the Z4 had left the track and was involved in an accident. We found it, burried into the tyre wall on the exit of druids. Gary’s business partner was clearly enjoying himself a bit too much and had spun out and had a big one. The car was recovered and the entire right hand side was dented, every panel from the front wing to the rear. Whoops! The only thing hurt was his pride, but it was a bit extra drama for Gary as they had driven the Z down and now had to trailer it home, to get back in time to get the PBMWs back.

    The day finished with another 10 laps on a pretty empty track and the light faded and everyone had had their fill. Over the day I was faster than Will, so I may not qualify last for the first race (note MAY lol). My mates were timing my laps and I went from 1:16s in the morning to 1:11:54 best time and most laps around 1:12 – 1:13 depending upon traffic. I have no idea how that compares to wet lap times in the PBMW series, but hey, it was an awesome intro and I really loved having support from GRF throughout the day. Having someone to tend to the car, help with the harnesses and coms, and keep things running smoothly was something I could get used to lol.
    I am going to get more dates booked in between now and the first race, getting an much pre-season learning done as I can before the first race meet @ Cadwell Park late April.