Finding the grip limit – at last

A track day on the Silverstone GP circuit, courtesy of the BMW Car Club, gave my coach Malcolm Edeson another opportunity to train me in finding the grip limit and driving to it – a skill that is vital under all conditions for optimal lap times.

After overnight rain, the circuit was both wet and greasy in the morning and never actually dried completely during the day. We swapped from part-worns to brand new Toyo R888s, which did help matters, but it wasn’t until the final few sessions of the day that we were able to really push on. I wasn’t able to be my personal lap record (set in an Elise with Rebecca Jackson goading me from the passenger seat) but nevertheless got within 1 second of Malcolm’s fastest lap – which I was incredibly pleased with. I was also pleased to finally get a feel for when the car reaches the grip limit in corners – where the steering wheel starts to go “light” in your hands.

The day was also an introduction to the Toyota MR2, which I intend to drive in a couple of races of their series in 2013, where I will be hiring from the biggest and best-established team in the series Rogue Motorsport. Like the Boxster, its mid-engine rear-wheel-drive – with power output and weight somewhere between the Lotus Elise (which Malcolm and I have used for tuition on a number of occasions already) and the Boxster that I race. It also runs on the same Toyo R-888 tyres we have on the Boxster, but lacks ABS – so I did manage to lock up the brakes on one occasion, sliding graciously (but harmlessly) off the circuit at the Vale chicane.

Overall the day went extremely well: I did put “4 wheels over” the white line on a few occasions and had a spin onto the grass after the turn in to Luffield, but I did learn a lot more about car control. I can’t wait to get out there again!

Rookie at Rockingham

A track day at the Rockingham Raceway in Northamptonshire gave me an opportunity to try a circuit that our series raced at this season but I skipped having never driven there before. Originally built to host Nascar races, these never proved popular and a variety of infield sections were added to the original banked oval.

I used my own road Boxster and with the superb but chilly weather we were blessed with, I managed to get out for about nine sessions, some with passengers. After our day at Donington I had replaced the front brake discs and pads, fitted Goodrich braided brake hoses and changed the brake fluid for ATF Super Blue – and I’m happy to report that I had no issues whatsoever with brake fade. Neither did I experience such severe understeer.

I gave passenger laps to a mix of drivers and a couple were happy to take tuition from me. Perhaps I should consider taking the ARDS instructor course myself…?

2012 Season Roundup

Chris with #88 at Donington

With the 2012 season now complete, 5 rounds and 13 races in the bag, its time to reflect on my rookie year in motorsport.

There’s no doubt that its been an expensive undertaking – they do say that one of the quickest ways to make £1M is to start with £5M and enter motorsport. If you’re interested in taking part yourself, my recommendation would be to avoid doing things on an over-strict budget – at least in your first season – because it can be a serious waste of money if your car lets you down. There are no refunds of race fees, etc. if your car decides to pack up during qualifying. If you can afford to buy a car yourself, this will save hire costs, and you can still have a support team run the car for you. Alternatively you can follow what I did and choose an “arrive and drive” package where you hire the car on a per-race basis and the team do all the work – except drive it!

So now the season is over, what happens next? It will be a little while before we get the timetables for 2013, followed by a 5-month wait for the first race. It is my sincere hope to do more race weekends in 2013 than this year, both in the BRSCC Porsche Championship and guesting in other series at the circuits I’ve already raced. I vowed not to race at any circuit that I hadn’t already been coached on and I kept to that rule; now I need to build on that coaching with more track time.

Ideally I would like to bring in some additional sponsorship money, so if there’s anyone out there interested in buying advertising space on the car, which will be seen on TV, the web and various social media websites, please do get in touch. In exchange you also get mention in the event programme, free entry tickets to the relevant races, photos of the car both in the garages and on track that you can use in your own promotional material. Pay more and you can enjoy passenger laps in the car at a track day near you. Newbridge Motorsport are holding an open day on Sunday 28th October if you would like to visit to see the car and workshops and to meet the team.

Entering motorsport has been a fantastic experience – something I never even remotely considered. I have met a most fantastic group of people – the camaraderie of club-level racing is unmatched. The feeling you get actually being in the race, chasing and competing with other cars, is almost indescribable.

Some of the highs:

  • Getting through my first race unscathed
  • Being interviewed as a driver
  • Seeing my times improve across the rounds (even though I only avoided being last in class twice!)
  • Filling my MSA license upgrade card (National A next year)
  • Meeting past and current F1 drivers
  • Sharing the post-race banter with such a great bunch of drivers

And I have to personally thank:

  • RMK Media, for sponsoring me
  • Richard Tovey and all the guys (and girl) at Newbridge Motorsport, for looking after both me and the car (sorry I couldn’t quite finish the season without any DNFs, Richard!)
  • Malcolm Edeson, for the majority of my coaching
  • Rebecca Jackson, for being both my inspiration and such a great friend
  • Rick Styrin for his constant support and encouragement
  • John Clarke and Nick Hull for running the series
  • The BRSCC staff and marshals for looking after us at race meetings

See you next year!

Race 3 – and that’s all folks!

Having spun off in race 2, I guess it was inevitable that I would take things a bit easier in the final race of the weekend – and of the 2012 season. I managed another “better” start but it wasn’t long before first Boxsters then 924s were passing me.

I actually crossed the line 19th out of 24 finishers – one of my worse results of the season. Didn’t affect the points score but I had hoped I’d got past the days of being mugged by a swarm of 924s.

Once again, in-car video footage of the race recorded on my Racelogic Video VBox Lite: