That trackday feeling - John Hammond
The Classic and Sportscar Action Day at Castle Combe
Saturday 30th August dawned (so they tell me) cloudless, and by 9.30 I was
blasting westwards in the Mk1 with a chill breeze through what's left of my
hair. The action was already in full swing by the time I arrived at Castle Combe,
with plenty of hopefuls queueing for the track. Club displays by the usual suspects
revealed some exotica, as well as the expected; MG, Triumph, Lotus and yes,
Alfa Romeo were all there. Kitcars were represented by the usual Lotus/Caterham
7s and clones (yawn), a couple of Duttons (!!) and Neil Foreman with his Ferrari
reps. The local Alfamen gave me a warm welcome having been primed by Mark Pollard,
and let me park the Custard Tart next to their uniformly red array. A little
intimidating to be surrounded with glistening Italian machinery from immaculate
Sud Sprint, through Alfetta GTV and Bertone 105 to Montreal. The Minari was
not only recognised but looked on with respect by the Alfisti; with comments
on their virtues and commiseration that they are no longer made.
After looking around the cars I found Mark and his mate Richard queuing for track time with Mark's purposeful yellow RSR. Richard wanted to get some practice for a hillclimb in the car the following weekend. He admitted to having already had an exciting few circuits with Mark at the wheel, but was still remarkably cheerful.
With track passes £20 for 5 laps, track time was irresistible for anyone with pretensions to driving ability.
Ritual humiliation was never so easy. Of course, there was the option of parade laps behind a course car with no overtaking allowed, but why deny yourself the terror of the real thing? After the safety briefing, when we were told to be good boys and girls; not to overtake in red zones (mostly corners) (ha!) and not to race (in your dreams), I joined the queue for noise testing. Around this time the red flags came out and track activity ceased. Some time later the crash truck came in with a demolished Lotus 31R- someone's day had been truly spoilt by being used as soft landing by a flying BMW. No casualties luckily, but it certainly focused my mind!
Noise testing negotiated we waited in the pit lane for our quest for glory. Eventually around 30 of us were unleashed with one thought in mind - pass the guy or gal in front. As far as that was concerned, I don't know what was under the bonnet (and in the rear suspension) of the manky Triumph Herald Estate that left the pits just before me, but he disappeared out in front at a hell of a rate, and stayed there!
|As a complete newcomer to track driving it was all very bewildering - how to get the best (or any) line for the next corner (or even learn which corner is which) with all those cars hurtling past? However, once I sussed that there are two chicanes on the circuit things got a bit simpler. Bar the odd hot hatch (don't know where these fit in to the classic/sports universe) from hell it eventually got fairly civilised. The old crate did everything asked, only squirming a bit while panic braking in the middle of the trickiest corner complex. At least I can console myself that I can't have been passed/lapped by the entire group, I even vaguely recall overtaking a couple of other cars which were still moving. Five laps completed and adrenaline simmering we pulled in to cool down, stop shaking and consider.|
After the excitement there was time to watch the varied techniques (and vehicles)
used for getting round the course, including Richard's precision piloting of
the RSR. The day was a great mix of interesting autos stationary and moving,
with the spice of action on the track. Just what most Minari owners would like.
How about seeing more of you there next year?
As a relative newcomer to the breed I'm still learning and being impressed by its capabilities. Great engine and acceleration, effective brakes, and now the tyre pressures seem right it just goes round corners on rails. Even with my limited driving skills and skinny budget 165x70s there's no squeal or misbehaviour.
But you know all that already. Now, when's that next track day?