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Always fancied going motor racing but don't know where to start? Splendid... simply follow the easy steps below!
Step 2) Get in touch about an excellent car sharing opportunity in the Production BMW championship
Step 3) Buy your helmet and clothing, and go racing...
Of course, there's a lot to pick up in addition to the above, but if you really want to go circuit racing please get in touch. Like most competitors, I'm looking to offset my own racing costs, and car shares are a great way to do this as well as getting people their first taste of racing. I'm also more than happy to pass on my own limited experience, so give me a call or use the contact facility.
Next year I'm hoping to enter the Production BMW Championship, a friendly budget but competitive club series - for details see here: http://www.pbmwc.co.uk/
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Silverstone National May 2012
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This was another fact finding mission, and another chance for me to meet the PBMW guys (as well as thank Tom Ibrahim, driver representative in person for help with the roll cage people!). Finally I wanted to see a snapshot of a weekend, how it panned out, and I got a rough idea.
Firstly though, I have to get this out the way. I did see a couple of very fine cars as you'd expect at a motorsport event:
I'll modestly admit the one on the left was actually mine, the red car wasn't too shabby either...
What I came to see though was these guys (apologies for the shoddy photos from my phone):
This was the afternoon PBMW race, where (as I'm sure can be found on Youtube!), Ben Winrow (on the right) started from the back and overtook all bar the first two cars. Sadly he didn't overtake too many where I was standing - which was a bit inconsiderate, but anyway.
There were also some of these from the F3 Cup:
And these from the GT Cup Championship:
...and the SuperPro VAG Trophy:
Now I'm a bit "tight". Okay I'm spending a small fortune on crazy racing car dreams, but I'm quite stingy with money when I'm not being stupid and impulsive. But even I thought this whole day, at a tenner per person, is ridiculously great value for money. At Silverstone too! Genuinely enjoyed my first visit to a competition day, with an interesting mix of cars. Watching a Renault Clio, in the MSV Trackday Trophy, stack into a pile of cars leaving his bumper behind (I presume it's still there...) would have been reason enough to enjoy the experience. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't been to one of these days to take themselves and the family down.
Brands Hatch Novice Trackday
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Wow! Just absolutely wow.... I loved every minute of it! I can confidently say that's about as much fun you can have with your clothes on. I went for my novice track day, quite apprehensive to be honest. I knew if I had a big off then I'd be an idiot for even going in my main car. Truth is there were machines much more expensive going much faster, and funnily enough my self appraisal pretty much ended with the theory "just leave a bit of room for error, don't push too much and you won't crash".
However, a new found sense of wellbeing gave way quickly after meeting several other trackday enthusiasts... when I started to think "Okay, I can pootle round carefuly and not fall off, but one of these bellends could easily stack into me..". I think I know exactly what sort of crowd people poke fun at who go to track days. I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing... "You just have to to play the game for a couple of laps to appease the marshals then you can ignore them and do your own thing", along with pissing about noisely making fun of the minibus driver on the tour round the circuit, picking holes in the driver's briefing. Look, I don't care if you're a marshall with 20 years experience - more than everyone here put together, I even feel sorry for your kid who upsettingly idolises and adores you. But if the organisers say the grass is blue and the sky green, then frankly whilst I'm here I'm going along with it. So please, just shut and keep your advice and dreadful attempts to impress me to yourself and your gormless giggling family.
By the way, there are some nice grounded blokes around too by the way with some sensible conversation, not everyone is an utter tool thankfuly.
So having vented all that, this is how I got on...
You start off by signing on (for next of kin forms etc), and then a noise test of your car. Pretty simple even for my tractor engine. You need your towing eye fitted to your car, just in case you do have an off and get stuck, so the marshalls can clear you and everyone gets on with things quickly. I then went for the familiarisation laps, nice and steady behind the pace car, trying to remember (from what I could hear of) the circuit guide. Back in after 2 laps, and waited for the instructor I booked. There's a bit of video of it here, and it's absolutely worth it even as a circuit familiarisation on it's own.
Your lines (most importantly), braking points, turning in points are found then fine tuned, which helps you get more value out the session. It gives you something to work on further on your own, rather than going round aimlessly, though still having fun. It's a bit baffling when you apparently take a great right line one lap then get it slightly wrong one the next, when you can't really tell the difference. But I guess with anything it's a learning curve, and I was getting the hang of criticising/complementing myself when I was solo, as I was finally starting to "get it". I was struggled a little initially with the concept of what was a good line what was a not so good one round Stowe mini circuit on my ARDS. I think you have to learn circuit driving chunk by chunk, and I think it takes a bit of getting used to just going round a track at full pelt before you fully start to appreciate driving lines. It's not actually about making tyre squealing noise - that's actually quite easy. Faster lines are more precise and brutally more efficient, not as fun perhaps but more enlightened if you like!
On trackday etiquette, I actually had a pretty easy time. I kept up with most cars in corners, and they breezed past me on the straights, except the Mazda, Nissan Primera and RX-7 hehe!. In some ways I had more value out of the session because I wasn't held up much, and only dabbed in the brakes/lifted off to let the bigger cars through in good time. Indicators are an important and useful tool, they just help everyone get on with their day. I caught one car, couldn't really pass on the straights (only have 90 horsepower!), but was held up on all the corners. So I backed off for half a lap, and set off again and caught him pretty quick sadly. But fair play I think he recognised this and just let me straight past. It certainly pays to play ball. The lad in the garage next to me incurred some mild wrath (I left - no need to be part of that conversation!) from one of the staff after an irritated instructor exclaimed he'd driven round him on one of the corners - they don't like this on trackdays.
I took some video so I could analyse myself, which is much easier out of the car and you can kind of see what the instructor is talking about. Sadly there were no photographers - I would have paid an arm and a leg for snaps of me and my Fiesta round Brands Hatch! The staff at Club MSV were helpful and approacahble and kept things ticking along nicely. I've already booked a day off work to go round Snetterton in October - I'm utterly hooked and can't wait to go again, and even learn another circuit. Brands Indy was 5/6 corners - it's a superb place to start out. Even in a diesel Fiesta.
All I can say is these days are definately recommended, and roll on Snetterton!