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A journey into track days


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Bought my helmet for Demon Tweeks and they were very efficient when I had to return thinking my Arai sized head was the same as Sparco. 

Also Goodwood as a track day is not that bad for a novice as the groups are generally smaller and you can pace yourself easier.

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3 hours ago, Gashead1105 said:

I bought a cheap (under £200) SNELL 2005 one from GPR about 7/8 years ago and it's been fine for trackdays. Would have been replaced a while ago if I was going racing though! After one day I decided to buy one because hire helmets are pretty disgusting, frankly.

I don't get the "cheap helmet for track days, expensive for racing" a crash is a crash wherever it happens. I'd get the best (not necessarily the most expensive) helmet you can afford for either. Look for fit when choosing rather than brand/material/preconceptions. When you have spent a sweltering day in it you will be grateful.

You'll spend more time driving a car on a single track day than any race weekend.

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I agree with you Tom actually, it's like ski boots - you should get the one that fits best and then worry about the cost afterwords (within budgetary constraints obviously). However when I bought my one it fit fine and I was very very much more constrained by budget. If I were buying a new one now I'd spend between 3 and 500 on the one that fit best. But my old one is going to have to soldier on for a while longer, if I went racing it would need replacing because I don't think SNELL 2005 remains approved for racing. 

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I'd consider the organiser rather than focus on the circuit for your first day. Been said many times before but I'd not recommend anyone other than LoT for a first timer. Or one of the MSV/BaT novice days (not many of the latter). Most people suggest Bedford because it's safe - I've seen more accidents at Bedford on track days than any other circuit. Providing you are driving within your limits any circuit is fine, you can't control other people though. Bedford is actually a great track in all the configurations, and along with Snetterton and Silverstone nice and flat so takes one "interesting" element out of your first track day. I'd avoid Brands Indy as it really does not suit the V6 and people can bomb round there so you may struggle to have clean lapping to get your eye in.

MSV and Javlin particularly cram on the cars and charge less which attracts a certain type of car. Rockingham organised track days in my experience have been pretty good, not too many cars and well run (free brekkie too). BaT are great days but they tend to attract more competent drivers and the nimble Caterhams don't have much patience for the high powered cars holding them up in the corners ;). Similar with RMA and GoldTrack but less Caterhams. I've done one day with Open Track at snett, it was great and quiet but I don't know if this is the norm? I've done direct days with Silverstone too - was very good and they run through lunch so it spreads the cars out a bit during the day.

Circuit days are somewhere in the middle and can be a bit hit and miss, avoid using trackdays.co.uk as they are just a reseller, try and find the actual organiser running the day so you know a bit more about it and who's on it. Look at race calendars before booking, or what is going on at the circuit the following weekend - if it's a big race meet you can expect one or two race cars.

If you are looking for track time per £ then general rule will be the more you spend the more time you will get on track. For example there will be no queuing on a BaT day, MSV will be queuing all day long which means people stay out longer, more red flags so more queues to get out, etc. Also consider avoiding sessions on your first day, that way you can go out when you feel like it for as long as you feel. Sessions tend to be a bit more focused as people want to get as much as they can out of each run.

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Set against the above, I have done many trackdays over the past 7/8 years with the cheaper end of the TDO market, MSV and Javelin (and Easytrack back in the day as well actually); and only a couple with LoT and none with Backontrack/Gold Track/Open Track etc. My first 3 days were all Snetterton with MSV, the first one even being an official novice day. I've not seen any more accidents at Bedford than any other track, but the point about it from a novice perspective is that there is more room for you to make a mistake and get away with it without seriously damaging the car. If you do have an accident at Bedford though it's often quite big, and there seem to be more car on car events there than most other places, although I've never seen one personally. It does suit the V6 well, I like the GT layout best. You'll also have much fewer race cars at Bedford than you will at other circuits, Snetterton in particular - trackdays are a lot cheaper than test days, I've done them at Snett where there has been the odd BTCC car out on track even! Evenings at Snett are also worse for attracting the chav end of the trackday car market and there can often be a fair number of stops within a 2.5 hour period, although I generally find them enjoyable. Weekend bookings also, the price is often £20-£30 more and there often seem to be be more badly prepared cars. Mondays are the best in my view! 

Also, even where the TDO is booking double the circuit limit of cars onto the day, personally I find that so long as you avoid the first half an hour after the start of the day and lunchtime, queuing is minimal to non-existent. Even when Javelin book 90 cars on the Bedford GT (40 car limit) there's generally very little queuing. YMMV of course. I try to avoid sessions personally (particularly in the winter, knowing that you have to stand around for 40 mins out of every hour isn't great) but I don't seem to spend more than 20 mins per hour out on track anyway - and when the weather is nice and you are with a mate or two, it's a very pleasant way indeed to have a day out of the office. 

I probably do more days with Javelin than anyone else. Colin is pretty strict when it comes to chucking people off for driving like dicks, he gives a firm but fair briefing and generally the day/evening is pretty well organised and having whinged about other drivers to him myself and been whinged about as well, he's normally sharp on pulling people over for a word when they have been naughty. Although I once got a telling off for drifting on sighting laps after I applied a generous helping of throttle out of one of the 2nd gear corners on a slippery morning at Bedford!

Edited by Gashead1105
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It is great that you are going to share your experiences of getting in to track days and possibly racing too, it will be interesting to read how you get on.  I've only driven a few days myself but I bought the Exige with track days in mind and I'm looking forward to learning more about getting the best out of the car.  I know my car is much more capable than me at the moment and I think that's fine.  I also know after trying to keep up with some guys at Brands GP yesterday (some of them being those who make the inspiring footage you refer to) that I have a long way to go before I'm happy to corner at the same speeds.  Experience is a huge part of this and you can relate back to your time karting which I'm sure is a great way to learn about car control.  I think with driving several days this year, plus the instruction you are lining up, you will be very capable by the end of the season and you have a great car to be doing it with too.

I was very happy yesterday, despite being one of the slowest out there, I was focussing on lines and trying to keep everything smooth.  I try to be courteous and let faster cars past when its safe so I then find I get some clear track to push on a bit more.  By the end of the day you find you are going much quicker and keeping up with some of the other cars, overtaking slower cars and so on.  Being in your own car does require some bravery/faith, however you view it, that the car can get round that turn at that speed, experience is what tells you it will.  

I have the same pump as you, it works fine but I need to set the inflate psi higher than it needs to be for it to inflate enough, especially on the rear tyres.  I use a tyre pressure gauge to fine tune at the end as I am not sure how accurate the reading is on the pump itself.

I think your concentration will be fine, shorter sessions on track are much better.  A session day will be 20 minutes or so on track and that is plenty for me.

If you do get to Bedford, I think its main advantage is lots of run off so there is less to worry about regarding that and a weekday is bound to be better.  I recommend Snetterton too, there are some parts which have less run off but generally it is pretty good for run off.  I drove Snetterton last year for the first time with MSV, it went fine and I booked an MSV instructor for £20 which really helped with track knowledge.

 

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@M4rk and @Colin67

thank you for taking the time to add your experiences.

i would be delighted if you both also shared your details/experiences/videos in here (I am not precious and feel the more of us that share, the better the advice for any others on the fence).

i agree with your view on it being a bit intimidating but I guess like anything once you have taken that first step, it all starts to feel less daunting.

my car comes back today after a string of teething issues but Hofmann's and lotus have been great.

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Hi. Yes, I'm happy to share further experiences and look forward to reading those of others.

Disappointing to suffer a string of teething problems on the car, but hope it's all behind you now.

When i bought the Cup I originally went in to buy the Exige 350 Sport. My dealer let me borrow his club racer for an afternoon. Searingly fast in a straight line, but I could "feel" the additional length and weight versus my old S2 Exiges. I also figured that to get the same feedback response from the 350 i was always going to be a lot closer to licence losing territory!! I've got over the 'Kudos' downgrade moving from the Exige to the Elise family and I'm very happy with the Cup now, especially experiencing the car on track where it behaved beautifully. As a novice it's very helpful to sit with a pro as they start to exploit your own car and you get a feel for the edge of the envelope (and a bit beyond it on a few occassions!) 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Car looks great Alastair.  Just call him whenever, he will get back to you if he is busy - he is more than likely to be behind the wheel of something :)

I had an awesome coaching day with David yesterday, highly recommend him.

 

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Hi Alistair. David is currently travelling to Magny Cours for the second round of the Masters Historic race series held 1-2 July. I assume he will be returning to the UK, but not sure as he is at Spa for the British GT series, 7-8th July, where the wife and I will be travelling out to watch him. As Mark suggested, just call him and he will get back to you.

Mark, Its amazing how much there is to learn at the hands of a good teaching pro' eh! 

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I totally agree Colin!  Top job by @david_pittard  yesterday.  I was amazed at the pace he could get from the car at a wet, slippery Silverstone and also how he was able to guide me on handling the car in those conditions.  Without his guidance I would have not been at all confident taking the car out during the morning, it was pretty wet.  I learnt so much, it is hard to take it all in actually and I was knackered when I got home.  Thinking about it now, the wet, intermediate and then dry conditions were really great for learning, ideally you would want it dry but I think I learnt more about car handling with the wet conditions.

So much fun and David is a natural coach with a really good teaching style, calm, clear, patient and lots of good technical information given in a way I could understand.   Great to get some yee-hah's from him too during a few slippy moments!  (He needs to trade mark that saying).  He gives you the confidence to push with the safety of him being there to limit any serious errors.  We didn't spin once, a few moments naturally but given how wet it was I think that was a real achievement.  He will give you an option for the use of his vbox data logging with video too, go for that, it is definitely worth it and enables some helpful analysis giving David good pointers on what to work on with you.  I have to also say, it was pleasant chatting to him during the off track time.  All in all a great day.

The day has given me a greater appreciation for my car and its capabilities but also just how good pro drivers are.  It is one thing driving a good lap or several good sections across a series of laps but to drive great every lap, consistently when you have lots of other cars racing against you on track is a whole other level of skill!  

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Hi Alastair. I endorse Marks suggestion of using Davids V Box data logging and video. It's 1080 quality video, accurate speed and lap timing and audible commentary so when you get home you can relive the whole experience and by comparing your laps its easy to see where you can improve further. (Which is quite different from actually being able to do it!) Another thing is to ensure you nominate David as an additional driver. That way you get onboard footage showing the correct lines, approach speeds, braking points etc for quick laps.

The GP circuit was excellent, but the leg out into the country is quite different to the Indy circuit. In the GP leg its all about carrying speed whereas the Indy is more in your face. I found myself over braking and killing momentum too often. You have to commit to these bends on the correct line, some of which are effectively unsighted, and if you get the right rhythm they flow really well. If you lose momentum for any reason it penalises you in lap times.  However, its a great circuit and i'll be back. Biggest problem is the cost for the GP circuit which i think can be in the order of £500. There is also a lot of very quick traffic on the GP circuit track days as the race teams turn up. Thats also another plus for having a pro on board as they will watch your back and tell you when to pull over for faster traffic coming up.

Hopefully you will post your experience on track as I'm sure you will have a great day. 

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That is awesome, too cool :D

Good racing too, great overtaking especially on the final lap. Well done :thumbsup:

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I am trying out with Radical next month, the new SR1. But I will most likely stay with Caterham for 2018. I'm also considering LCE but the Elise needs a EU FIA approved bag tank rather than the factory fit one that is OK for UK competition.

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  • 5 months later...

Cheers Mark, super excited and hoping to do many days this year. 

Fingers crossed on the weather - David said the same as you, plus he mentioned it will be easier to explore correcting over/under steer if its wet. 

Its going to be like the first day of school again.... :)

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