So I think we left off with me trying to get an early night and somewhat failing! Although by my standard it was a decent effort for a Saturday. I was greeted nice and early by many many alarms that would eventually force the extraction from bed to be completed. First victory of the day! I was up on time (6.15am!!!!) A MIRACLE.
A quick snack for Breakfast followed by a looooong shower to leave the zombie feelings behind and I was ready to start checking I had everything. And again. And again. Oh and one more time. I had packed my bag the night before so I was quite sure I had everything but you know…..best to be sure. I put all my Nomex under layers on before throwing on whatever combination of clothes I had laid out the night before to travel in comfort. The agreed plan was to meet at the car at 7am and I think we all ended up being there by 5 past, connected Tims car to the trailer and off they went with me and Kev following behind. The first stop would be the nearby service station to put some nice juicy fuel in the Compact ready for blasting round Brands, I really do love the low petrol prices currently!
We then had a fairly standard journey up to Brands although I was filling with dread at the sight of snow covered fields and snow falling lightly in the wind. Luckily this lasted for only a minute or so and for a moment we were driving towards blue sky! Maybe we’ll get lucky afterall…
Me and Kev arrived first without having the towing speed restrictions and I wandered off to get signed on to receive my colourful wristbands that say I’m allowed to go on track! By the time I got back Alex and Tim had made good time and were nearly ready to unload the Orange Beast (we really need a good nickname..) Now. The first scare. We had the Test Nankang tyres fitted to wheels that should have been exactly the same as wheels already on the car but just as it came for me disappear off to the drivers briefing they just would. not. go. on. Hence one very stressy Chris hearing about 5 words of the briefing whilst trying to think of someone who could help out with some better tyres for the day. There’s a really flattering picture of the briefing room where you can see me looking happy as larry………..honest.
I rushed back to the garage after the meeting to find WE HAD WHEELS ON. Relief. Now it was a rush to get the car noise tested so Alex whipped off up the pitlane to get this down while I got my race gear on and we were ready just in time for the “final call for sighting laps!”. Phew. Ok so now to follow an instructor car round for a nice slow few la-WHAT THE !*$&. By the time I got out of the pits I found someone a few cars up the train had binned it at Paddock hill that me and the MX5 ahead had to avoid. With my heart now beating rather quickly and the instructor car barely to be seen I followed the MX5 for my sighter laps instead. Quick stop in the pits and it was time to head out for the real track time!! Here. We. Goooooooo.
So my adventure had begun. I WAS FREE. Not free of the nerves though…the sighting laps had made it painfully clear the track was very cold and certainly not dry! So I had a very slooow first few laps and then coming out of Druids I had a big tail happy moment! I saved it and was pointing back straight but the heart rate was certainly on the way up! I almost needed a new race suit and let’s leave it at that. No footage of the slide so I’m not sure if it was a big moment or just felt that way to my untrained feel but it was enough thankyou. By the time I got to Paddock Hill there were another 2 cars off in the gravel trap and therefore the red flag was out. Trundled back round to the pits and stuck the car in the garage. I needed some time to recover from my Druids moment and put my HANS device on as well as put the go pro in the car.
The most important find of the day was up next. Bacon! The Bacon Rolls in the Brands Hatch pits were on point. We all had a bacon roll and then it was time for me to jump back in the car and get a meaningful run done before lunch. Unfortunately it was a very busy track day so I spent a fair while in a queue until a red flag came out…at least this meant I’d easily get out when the session restarted. Alex wandered over and had a chat, took some pictures and then finally the lights turned green and we filtered out of the pitlane. Still hadn’t mastered the art of displaying the wristbands to the Marshals on exist as they were underneath my race suit so a one handed tug at the suit then waving that arm at a marshal seemed to do the trick and away I went! This was my first proper session in the car and although still bedding the new Brakes in I was building up slowly while spending a lot of time moving out the way of others! About 10 minutes in and the session was stopped again but this time I went straight down the pits to queue and continue my run. We were to get another 10 minutes or so before lunch and I really started to make some progress here with much improved confidence. The tyres were giving me much better grip now and I guess the track conditions had slightly improved, although still cold and at the very least rather damp. The chequered flag came out and it was back to the garage for the lunch hour. I was quite hyped by now! Initial nerves had worn off and I was enjoying it.
First port of call during lunch was to attack our snacks obviously. Extremely important. We then moved on to playing about with the go pros to see if we could find a better position, quick check of the car and a few chats with people nearby. Waited for the initial few minute rush after lunch to pass and when we set off again. I picked up where I’d left off before lunch with constantly gaining confidence and getting much quicker. Even catching and being let past a few times!
I believe in total we got a good set of 3x20min runs in after lunch which led to lots of fun and even more progress. By the end everyone was saying it was clearly visible how much more confident I was getting with later braking and far more speed which was good to hear! I certainly felt like I had made progress myself but it was good to have this confirmed by others. I tended to bring the car in once it felt like I may be getting near to exceeding the limit. One came to end after going slightly deep at Paddock hill, another after a bit of a squirmy moment in Graham Hill and the final run was just due to the session being red flagged. I certainly felt like I was going at a fairly good pace by the end of the day but the video footage showed a time of around 1m06-7s. So plenty of time to find although I’m sure with a dry track and a warmer day some of that would come instantly. The day wasn’t about times anyway, the focus was to get me some confidence and see how the car ran. Fair to say the car ran perfectly all day and I made lots of progress to begin my long journey of learning. I certainly reduced the amount of nerves/fear factor during the day and I think this will be the main thing to conquer. The lines were all fairly similar to the simulations and the g-forces were AWESOME especially the compression as you come out of Paddock. That was amazing. Although I’m not sure if partially due to the relief of having survived the corner..
So in summary was it a successful day? Hell yeah! As I rolled back in to the garage for the final time a huge wave of relief, excitement and achievement hit me. We had survived the first day with the car (and me) in once piece! Hopefully the next time we get out the 2015 Springs will be on and the front strut bar also to have the car in exact spec for how it will be raced.
Next up? 750 club day at Donington on the 1st March!