Rockingham Speedway Track Day

Yesterday was spent in the good hands of EasyTrack tearing about on an infield and bit-of-the-banked-turns circuit at Rockingham Speedway. This was my first ‘real’ trackday, after an airfield about a month previous.

It was fantastic fun! I’ve certainly never driven the Clio like this before. The chance to really fling it about and operate the pedals in an on-off way is huge fun. Even leaving the pits and being able to hurl it to 90 with abandon was fun, but the corners, squeals, lurches, noises, forces and even the overheated tyres and brakes were extra excitement too.

The infield section turned out to be quite challenging with very short sections between the corners. It was a real trade off between gearshift and holding on to the steering wheel! The little right, left-right, l-e-f-t section was probably the best bit, although forcing the little French tart over 100 along the back wall was almost as satisfying.

Things I learnt …

  • 110 -> 85 takes a surprisingly long time under braking
  • It isn’t a corner until one wheel is in the air
  • When the tyres overheat things get slippy
  • When the brakes overheat the pedal just makes everything vibrate

As was the case at Wrougton airfield, the only new hatchbacks on the circuit were Clio 172s. Say what you like about them v. other cars. We owners are getting our fun from them. Other urban / track warriors that were more than three months from the showroom included Golfs, 205s, a Williams Clio and a 306 Gti.

How can I mention Mark’s Williams so far down the list? I’m so sorry Mark. Well it is my thread dammit … post your own if you want top billing! 🙂

Mark was, as expected, a celebrity in his Williams – kitted with racing slicks, brakes rated to about a billion degrees and air filters so big that sparrows fell from the sky due to lack of remaining oxygen – everyone loves to watch and / or ride in his car as he roars and slides the Willy about biting the ankles of the caterhams and passing the elises.

Personally, I refuse to ride in it, knowing that it will generate a four figure upgrade bill on my Clio – something I am not ready for yet. That, and I’m a wuss. There were many forum readers there that did ride with Mark, his bro and the generous TVR, Exige and Caterham drivers. The crowd of folks there was great… I spent most of my time with EVO forum and Clio 172 owners, but the ‘serious hobbyists’ were great to talk to as well. The whole scene is a lot less of a clique than I had imagined and everyone was approachable and enthusiastic about their cars and driving.

Back to me again, and I was getting instruction on and off throughout the day. This is really worth it, and has saved my tyres and brakes from total annihalation at the very least. Two EasyTrack instructors rode with me and pointed out the racing line, braking points and said ‘faster’, ‘more’, ‘now’, ‘upshift’, etc. It helped a lot. One of the instructors wanted me to push harder than the others. ‘Third’, “no”, ‘third!’, “ok dammit” … squeal, slide, grass, mud, “arse”, ‘ok, next time round then, it can be done’. Luckily I overheated the brakes later that lap and got a reprieve. The second instructor then drove me round for a few laps shaving about 10 seconds off my times. This proved the best way to learn the lines and you should consider asking if you do a similar thing. In my last session I was a lot better, quicker and didn’t quite overheat the brakes, and squealed the tyres a lot less.

Sure enough, I didn’t want the day to end. I made a commitment to the future and bought my rented helmet and promised myself to do more and do better. Trackdays are expensive and wear your car out in no time flat, but this is the most fun you can have in a car I’m sure and it beats the hell out of anything that can be done on the road – legally or otherwise. Castle Combe next up on October 8th, but don’t hold me to that … I might just appear somewhere else inbetween.