Kemble Airfield

Kemble 10th Nov – Sideways … … and backwards, but more on that later…

Justin, my passenger Dave and I arrived a little after 9:00, on a truly freezing morning. We got ourselves booked in, noise-tested, (a rather disappointing 84.5db, compared to Mel’s 85-and-a-bit) and parked up in the ‘pitlane’. We soon met up with Barry, Mel and Rich, EvoPete, MR2Harvey, M_D_B and the gang, and stood waiting amongst 60 (!) cars for things to get started. At about 10:30, we had the drivers’ briefing and by 11:00, we were queuing for our instructor-session.

A few gentle, but slidy laps later and I was back in the long, long queue to go out on track with Dave. He had plenty to tell about his passenger ride in the 355 – it was the first run of the day, the tyres were cold, and the driver was giving 100%…

Justin meanwhile found himself giving instruction in a selection of fine machinery, but I’m sure he’ll tell you more about that himself. Everyone else got 3 x 15 minute sessions throughout the day.

My first session was fairly cautious, (I’ve only had the scoob for a month) but we had a laugh. The tarmac corner was excellent; the first chance I’d really had to play with power-slides, and they are as good as people say… Only error was on a corner where I had to straight-line through some mud on the inside. Inspection of the tyres showed that the outside front was suffering a bit, but the others were ok. Once off track, we then decided to beat the queue at the bacon and egg sarnie shop in the control tower.

1 hearty feed later, we were back in the queue. It was then that Barry found his Prelude wasn’t quite so happy with the day’s proceedings – it decided to empty its entire oil supply onto the ground. Barry, EvoPete and other technically minded folk got to work to find the problem.

Another 30 minute wait and I was back on the track, alone in the car – Dave was queuing for a ride in the Westy, much to his later annoyance. It was with great enthusiasm that I screamed up through the 2 chicanes, flicked it gently round a slight right-handed, got it all horribly wrong, tapped the brakes just on the wrong side of a slight rise and span for what seemed like 30 seconds before sliding backwards and parking on the apex of the next left-hander, some 2-300 yds away amid a huge cloud of smoke, and dark spiralling tyre marks… Oh dear.

I *think* I span twice clockwise, countered far too much, span once the other way before finally flicking it back the other way again and sliding backwards off the track. Don’t ask me for details though – I have no idea what my feet were doing; I suspect they were firmly planted on the clutch and brake pedals. All in all, an excellent display of driving skill that, while quite fun in a scary kinda’ way would surely have, ahem, killed me dead on a normal road.

I paused for a moment gathering my thoughts while the smoke cleared and glanced at the Marshall waving his yellow flag in a frantic but wholly unimpressed manner. I let the 3 closest cars past, selected 1st gear and got on with the rest of the session. It wasn’t for another 2 laps that I noticed the ABS light was beaming out at me from the dashboard…

After yet another 45 minutes, I started on the third session, with Dave eager to experience a repeat of the second sess. Fortunately, the ABS light had gone out – I think it’s wait in the queue gave it time to steady itself with a sit down, a cup of tea and a couple of hobnobs. Fortunately, this went without any embarrassments, although I was trying to save whatever tyres I had left…

Upon our return to the pit, it was good to see that Barry had managed to fix his car; the oil filter had ‘popped’ so refilling the car seemed to bring it back to life. I’m sure he’ll be looking more closely at it today.

At the end of the day, Justin, Barry, Rich and Mel, Harvey, Pete and I found a nice warm local pub for a quiet drink. Harvey and Pete had to head home, and the others came back to Bath for a bit of a night out.

All in all, a cold but fantastic day. It was good to have share my first trackday with Mel’s and Barry’s first day. Shame about the sheer number of cars there, but excellent none-the-less. Also I now have very accurate impression of what happens when you lose a Scooby at 80 mph, all without any major breakages of me or the car. Ahem.