Motorsport UK iRacing Esports Series

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https://www.tradingpaints.com/showroom/view/193139/Dallara-F3-Zebra-Air

After my last blog, I signed straight up for the Motorsport UK iRacing Esports Series , and was assigned a qualifying slot to decide what league we’d be in.

My session was an absolute disaster because of tech issues. My laptop had finally reached its limits for gaming, and I was getting around 20fps with no laps registering through the whole of my qualifying.

Thankfully, I was given another slot, where I managed to lay down a couple of laps that was enough to get me in.

Then it was time for the long overdue tech upgrade – I bought a reconditioned desktop PC set-up for £500, featuring a Nvidea GTX1650 GPU and Intel i7 processor. Basically the best bang for my buck that I could get. Old but will still more than do the job. A bit like the Sheane Formula Vee I race!

I could also justify this because it gave me a monitor, keyboard and mouse that I can use for working from home, rather than my current work laptop. It might save my back, and to be honest is something I should have done at the start of lockdown when I knew it would last more than a few months. (there you go – now you can justify it to your wife, too!)

It boots up in around 20 seconds! Sometimes you just have to get the right tools to make life easier for you…

So things were looking much better just in time for the first race at Silverstone GP in the Dallara F3 cars we’d be using for the season.

I made a great start, weaving through the field until I found a car slam it’s brakes on around the outside of the first turn, and I slammed into the back of them.

This was the first I knew about damage not being turned on in the sim. This is great as you can keep going, but encourages everyone to drive like idiots.

You might notice that on my recovery I ended up, well, upside down, as another car hit me.

This put me dead last, with so many incident points that a couple of minor off-tracks gave me a drive-through penalty as I tried to fight back through the 28 car field.

Finally things settled down a little, and I finished 17th. Not bad considering my fastest lap was about 5 seconds off the pace, so at least I’m consistently slow!

The Dallara F3 is a good car to drive (it feels a lot like the Praga R1), but as I’m not used to driving it at all, let alone used to downforce, it’s going to take me a while to get up to speed. Plus when I took a look at some of the other names in the field, they’re racing this kind of car in real life, so have a bit of an advantage there!

That said, it’s great to be amongst them, and I can learn a lot from them.

The next round is at Spa on June 22nd, so I will try and get more practice in. That is hard when I’m doing ok racing the Mazda MX5, Skip Barber, RUF GT3 and a couple of others in the regular iRacing series, though!

We’ll see if this all helps when I get back in the real car…

The Return To iRacing

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I hope you are all safe and well out there? Or, to be more specific, I guess – in there.

With all racing cancelled due to Covid-19 (you might have heard of it), if you haven’t switched on to all the brilliant sim racing that is being broadcast, you really are missing out. Many ‘real drivers’ have switched to sims for their first time ever to try and get some of that buzz back. And you know what? It works!

Me? Well, I last did a blog on iRacing years ago. In fact I let my subscription run out and hadn’t played it for around 3 years.

Why?

Mainly because my internet connection wasn’t good enough, so I’d get my laptop hooked up to the TV, plug in the wheel and pedals, fluff up a few pillows, and then on the first lap of the race my connection would drop out, no times would be recorded, and my game ratings just took a dive every time…

Add to that a not insubstantial monthly fee, and that was that.

But despite having most of the other racing sims, I still knew iRacing was the one I really wanted to be playing. The one that was most rewarding to race against others on.

I signed up for one month for $15, as tax is now included. That’s a crazy increase!

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My first impressions (after a few hours of downloads and updates) were that the tyres felt much more realistic – especially on braking where they’d nailed the floaty feeling before it locks up.

I’d also forgotten how to drive the sim, and my safety rating took a clattering, along with some more disconnection issues…

But I reset my brain again. I started driving like Miss Daisy and put the racing line back on. I did a load of Time Trials with just me on track, so I could lap consistently without going off track without overdriving the car everywhere.

I concentrated on the Skip Barber and Mazda MX5 only. The Skippy is the closest the game has to a Formula Vee, and feels great. The MX5 is much less forgiving, and will swap ends frustratingly quickly, but the actual racing you get is brilliant.

ir skippy

I’m trying to get my C Grade licence back, so will literally start the race slowly and keep out of everyone’s way to let them pass me through the first few turns. Assuming they’ve still not taken me out, I then drive a few slow laps, and half the field will crash on their own or in tangles. I then just cruise through and normally end up in the top 5 just through consistency.

If someone is catching you by 2 seconds per lap, just let them through. You’ll gain a lot more by avoiding the incident points for contact and following them to see how they’re faster.

Honestly, all you want to do is stay out of everyone’s way and even if you finish last as long as you have no incident points your rating will climb and you’ll be put into races with more careful drivers.

Do that a few times and you’ll find yourself leading races and THEN you can start to enjoy it all.

I’ve definitely got the bug again, so will be taking out a full year subscription.

ir mx5

I also remembered a few essentials for people using their laptop and basic equipment:

  1. Plug into your router with a top quality (class 8) ADSL cable, and do not use a WiFi connection.

  2. Use the lowest graphics setting. I have a very high spec laptop, but it’s still only barely good enough…

  3. Lower the screen resolution slightly to get more FPS (frames per second).

  4. You need a custom desktop PC if you want it to look pretty, but you can still do it if you have limited space and just a laptop and your TV screen.

So I’m still building my skills up again, but loving it for a few hours a day. I might even try some oval racing – or the new dirt oval and rallycross that’s now in the game.

If you’re on it, feel free to add me as a friend – I’m called ‘James Cater’ weirdly enough.

I bet you’ll enjoy it, once you’ve slogged your way out of the crash-happy Rookie series!

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BONUS BITS!

Did you know that Motorsport UK licence holders get 3 months of iRacing for free? Click the link in the Members Benefits section of your account and they’ll send you a code in an email.

As someone already paying for iRacing, I tried this and the code did not work – I’ve queried this with Motorsport UK to see if it’s for first time members only, or if it will work when my sub runs out…

Also, there is an e-racing championship being organised by Motorsport UK and iZone for all licence holders, with analyses and stuff all free for you! You need to sign up to the league before Monday 25th May (tomorrow!!!) ideally, or you won’t be guaranteed a space. The link in the last mag is wrong, so go here to sign up: www.bit.ly/izone-esports

The Speed Of The Praga

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Reading back through my blog about driving the Praga R1S, it strikes me that I missed some important stuff about the experience!

Part of the blame was that it hadn’t really sunk in, but part was also that the blog was already far too long to be adding more in.  So now, four months after I wrote this, and with zero motorsport happening around the world, I thought it might be a good time to post the blog!

I did a bit of research into the Praga before my drive, watching a few onboard videos and reading/watching reviews for the road version.

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A term that cropped up a few times was that the car is “motorcycle fast” – as in the way it moves is more like the sort of speed you get from riding a superbike than a car.

I’ve ridden sportsbikes almost every day of my life for the past 20 years, so I’m very used to 0-60 in under 3 seconds, 85mph in first gear, and top speeds approaching 200mph. That sort of performance literally gets me to the office (admittedly with a grin, most days), so it takes a lot to phase me. Plus throw in a bit of driving and instructing in supercars…

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The Praga R1 looks like an absolute beast, with wings and diffusers all over the place, and it’s a tiny car so you’re almost wearing it when you slide in through the window. And it’s clearly a very fast car around a race track.

To be honest, though, at no point did I ever find it intimidating. I’m not saying it felt slow (far from it!), but it was very… user friendly.

The cockpit is far more comfortable than you’d ever imagine from a very basic carbon fibre seat – if cradles you well, and there are headrests to help you cope with cornering if 3g’s gets too much for your neck to take. Everything in there is within easy reach, feels pretty natural, and visibility is much better than you’d think – a great testament to the designers.

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There was no speedometer, so I have no clue what speeds I was hitting, but can say that mashing the throttle didn’t elicit fear – in fact my heart rate monitor shows I only got up to 115bpm (in Formula Vee I’ll normally be around 130-140bpm in the wet and 140-160bpm in the dry). I should note here that I was in the normally aspirated R1S with about 260hp – the turbo powered R1T has around 460hp, so I’m sure that would pick up its petticoat and go a fair bit faster!

From the onboard video I’d seen from Donington, I noticed that the braking points were about the same as I’d use in the Vee, so used the same thinking for my Silverstone drive. I’ve got no doubt that the Praga was massively faster than the Vee, but it didn’t really feel it in terms of driving.

I was in 6th gear for a long time down the straight, so was seeing a bit of the top end, although I’m sure I’d be able to get another 20 seconds per lap out of the car with a bit more time to feel things out in the corners.

I mentioned that the mechanical grip in the corners was very good – the Praga feels and drives like a single seater. Very stiff but still compliant, and it just goes instantly wherever you want it to. Obviously it has much better, wider tyres than a Formula Vee, plus about 40 more years of suspension development. It soaks up all the bumps without ever getting skittish, and whilst it’s a bit of a cliché to say it felt like it was on rails, it was – except you could seemingly change the line at will, too.

Which brings me nicely onto the biggest unknown for me: downforce.

I don’t know what speed is needed for the diffuser and stuff to do their thing, so that may well still help in the slower corners, but then once the speed gets up things move from pure mechanical grip into the physics of downforce created by the wings etc.

Whilst I didn’t feel like The Hand Of God was pushing me down into the track, it was very clear that grip had increased – especially through Stowe and Abbey. Going through Farm in a Vee you’re pretty much hanging on and fighting the car drifting to the outside on the exit, but in the Praga it still felt like you could turn in hard and hug the inside curb.

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I’m sure you can dial out any smidgeon of under or oversteer quite easily in the car using set-up, but the impression I got was very neutral and balanced with maybe a slight hint of understeer.

It really is a beautiful car to drive on a track, and if I ever got the budget to race more than Vee, the Praga would be at the top of the list. I think it’s the kind of car that would teach you a huge amount because it just does everything – it’s a bit like a blank canvas inviting you to do what you want with it.

Whilst I’ve always loved ‘tin top’ cars, I’ve had the impression that they’re not as ‘pure’ as single-seaters.

Maybe that’s true for the GT cars, but the prototype-style racers are just a single seater with a roof – and driving the Praga showed me that it’s every bit as pure and exciting as a single seater.

And You get to stay dry.

A small Lottery win or a big promotion at work, and I will be having a serious chat with Vincent Randall again…

**As a bonus – check out the new liveries for whenever things get going again!
praga new

Physical training for an amateur racing driver

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Something we often neglect (especially us oldies) is our physical fitness for racing.

Let’s face it – unless you’re in Formula One or doing the Le Mans 24 Hour race, you can get away with driving a Formula Vee fuelled only by Big Macs and donuts.

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But that’s the danger – you CAN race so long as you can fit into the cockpit, but you won’t be the best that you can be.

If you walk around any amateur racing paddock you will see drivers of all shapes and sizes. Yes, there are some super-fit specimens there, but most of us have lives and stuff going on outside of racing that means we can’t commit to a full training regime and diet. Hell, we even laugh nervously when we chat about about how unfit we are, but we all know we should be putting a lot more into our personal fitness.

Weight is a crucial factor in motor racing, and when you’re racing a 370kg single seater the difference between you being a 68kg active Lightweight boxer and a 100kg post-Christmas lummox will have a huge effect on the performance of your car.

Around the middle of last year I was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life – slowly creeping up towards the 14 stone (89kg) mark.

This was all my own fault, as the rule is very simple:

James Cater’s Book Of Dieting: Chapter One –

Eat less and exercise more.

The end.

Around July I had a ‘lucky’ break and had a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, which saw me lose almost a stone over a few weeks. I saw this as a golden opportunity to join a gym, make some lifestyle changes, and try and keep it going.

It also helps a massive amount if you have a training partner, and so when The Ryland Centre were offering a free ‘taster session’, my fiance and I went to check the place out and see if we liked it.

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We didn’t want to go down the whole personal trainer route, and decided to just do our own thing – once my fitness is back to a certain standard I might review this, but ideally I’d need a trainer who knows how to deal with a racing driver.

I figured the first step for me was to chip away at core strength and get my aerobic fitness up – so started increasing my pace on the treadmill to a fast jog, and taking advantage of their indoor cycle, rowing machine and cross-trainer.

The Ryland Centre have a good variety of machines, so I can switch it up a bit rather than bore myself on the same machines every time, and also use the weight machines and free weights. I will use these more once I’m happier with my overall levels.

That’s another thing about gyms that can be a struggle – you have to drag yourself there for at least a month or two before you start to really see any results, and maybe even start to enjoy it.

After about 7 weeks of going twice per week, I ambled into the section to do some stretches (I know how important flexibility is from my martial arts training) and was absolutely ecstatic to see a punch/kick bag hanging up!

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This totally reignited my training, as it’s a piece of kit that I’m good with, plus it gives an amazing workout! I challenge anyone to do 60 seconds punching a bag as hard and fast as they can – it will kill you!

So now my routine is to warm up on a few machines, stretch and hit the bag for a few minutes, then back to the machines for a while before round 2 on the bag! I’m monitoring my heart rate as well as recovery time, and toning up very well, so far

I eat pretty well, generally speaking. I eat a lot of home cooked food (believe it or not I’m actually a pretty good cook, and chase perfection with anything I’m doing in the kitchen) but I’m not denying myself the odd takeaway or anything like that. The key is to control your portion size, and if you know you’re going to cheat and eat snacks between meals then you have to have smaller meals to compensate!

I’m here to enjoy life, so don’t agree with total denial for diet, as it never works. I’m also open to trying new food, and will swap in healthier options as and when I find them.

Also, in those spaces between the Winter rebuild, I’m getting myself up into the hills as often as I can! Even just walking can be tough if you chose the hardest route available in your local hills, and a few hours away from the garage does wonders for your wellbeing and mental health!

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In a future blog I may go more into depth with training methods and routines, and even add in a few of the things I eat. This blog is really just the basics, and that doesn’t mean it’s the least important – if you embrace the prinicples here, your diet and training will work, however you specialise and jazz up the finer points.

Have you found anything useful for your training and diet? Let me know in the comments!

Praga R1S drive at Motorsportsdays Live 2019

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After sitting out the 2019 season, I’d pretty much switched off and was looking forward to getting out there again for 2020.

Browsing Facebook I saw that VR Motorsport were going to give out drives to experienced drivers at Motorsportdays Live, and so threw my hat into the ring. A few weeks later I saw a post where the team drew out the winning names, and mine was amongst them!

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First I need to speak about Motorsportdays Live. It’s a brilliant event held in The Wing at Silverstone, with loads of trade displays and offers for racers and people in the motorsport industry, or those thinking about doing trackdays or racing. It was a really good event, and you need to check it out and get down there next year for the third show of it’s kind!

The important bit for me, is that you can book a drive in a car around the International circuit, so you can actually try out a car before you commit to that race series, try a new car on track, take your own car on track, or just experience a drive in something amazing.

For me, that would be in a Praga R1S.

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I watched them racing in the Dutch Supercar series for the first time a few years ago, and loved them immediately. What’s not to love about these ‘superlight’ racers? A full carbon fibre monocoque, huge levels of downforce, less than 600kg and a stonking F3000 engine sat just behind the driver!

I dropped my race kit off and said a few hello’s with the VR Motorsport team, had a little wonder around the displays and paddock, and then before I knew it my 15 minute slot was coming up to get out on track with the LMP/TCR/BTCC/GT4/GT3/Prototype group.

Team boss Vincent Randall and all of the team were very friendly and welcoming as I chatted to them and had a mooch around the beautiful cars. If I’d got on the racing ladder 15 years earlier, something like the Praga would have been exactly what I’d be aiming for rather than going down the F1 route, so I still couldn’t really believe I was there!

Soon I was asked to get my helmet and HANS on, and I climbed in through the tiny window, sliding down into the carbon fibre seat to be faced with a cockpit slightly more modern than your average Formula Vee.

The first thing that struck me was that EVERYTHING is carbon fibre. The ignition, engine start button and a few others were up above the windscreen, along with a tiny switch to work the indicators (I never used it, although we were running trackday rules for overtaking with consent). It was all within easy reach in the tiny cockpit, and although some might feel a bit cramped I thought it was very comfortable in there.

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They clipped the steering wheel on, pointing out the paddle shifts at each side, a ‘neutral’ button for getting the car, err, into neutral, and a few balance adjusters that I had no interest in messing with. I knew there would only be a brake and accelerator pedal, but was surprised to be shown a clutch pedal that was hidden up and back from the these that would only be used to getting moving.

Vincent waved me and the sister car (the Praga R1T turbo with almost twice the horsepower), and I held the engine start button down and flicked the ignition switch, hearing the 2l Renault Sport engine roar into life behind me.

I held the Neutral button and the clutch and pulled the right paddle shift to engage first gear, and got a helpful push start from the team in the pitlane.

Unsurprisingly, the car revs to 7500rpm extremely quickly with the lightest brush of the throttle, so as I drove up the pitlane I found every tiny bump of the track surface was making life tough to hold the revs steady – not a problem as I hit the exit and everything smoothed out with more revs.

I short-shifted up a few gears before brushing the brakes nice and early into Village and almost stopping dead 50 metres before the turn-in point! Of course, you have no choice in these but to brake with your left foot like in a kart, so it’s always in the back of your head not to mash it like the clutch pedal with your big, goofy untrained left foot!

Turning the wheel the car moved more as if reading my mind than the steering input, absolutely rock stable and flat on the full wet tyres despite the damp track. Through The Link it felt unflappable with the direction changes, and I opened it up on the Hangar Straight and watched the digital readout climb with ease.

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Braking a bit lighter and deeper into Stowe the Praga simply ate it up without any drama – probably my first time experiencing the power of downforce from the multitude of wings, planes, splitters huge diffuser. Some heavier braking and back down to 3rd gear for the complex showed the car was equally stable using its mechanical grip at slower speeds.

My biggest fear had been for Abbey. I know how fast I can (and how fast I can’t!) get through there in a Formula Vee, but in the damp, with wet tyres, a lot more speed and downforce I had no idea. I gentle dab of the brakes and again the Praga was on rails, asking to be pushed harder to get the full 3g’s of cornering capability from it.

Over the next few laps I steadily built up speed, amazed at the speed I cold carry into the turns and through it without the car so much as shaking it’s tail, and putting a bit more pressure on those huge brakes as I felt them out to see what their limits were.

I hoofed it through Abbey and finally the tail twitched and it all got sideways, but even then I simply caught it with a touch of opposite lock and the car was back on friendly terms with me, barely even raising my heart rate.

It’s tough to describe the handling, as it’s so good it does everything perfectly, and simply goes wherever you want. There is no drama. You can feel it’s just a brilliantly designed car that works perfectly in the twisty bits. I’d love longer in the car to push closer to those 3g forces…

Unfortunately, I never got to see the chequered flag for the end of the session…

As I came around Stowe one lap chasing some of the other exotic machinery, with a McLaren GT3 behind me, I had pushed the car a bit harder and carried a fair bit more speed through and down to the complex.

I was watching my mirrors as I hit the brakes, and this was the first time I managed to exceed the braking grip, locking up the front tyres.

I’m no stranger to driving cars without ABS, and after a fair bit of practice in the Vee I know to modulate the pedal to get the grip back. Using my right foot.

I think the problem with the Praga was that my left foot just doesn’t have the same kind of ‘feel’ for doing this, and once I’d lost it I couldn’t recover it. In hindsight I should have probably just turned in and tried to make the turn, and the car could well have been capable of it – or at least given me the chance to sort it all out after…

But the car sailed straight on, surfing the gravel at a speed that definitely did get my heart rate up as the solid red and white wall got closer and closer as I uselessly sawed at the wheel to try and get some movement to the right to miss it. Luckily I stopped short.

There is only one real chance at Silverstone to find a gravel trap – and that is on entry to the complex. If this first lock-up had happened anywhere else on the track I’d have been fine, run wide, and carried on my merry way knowing to be a bit more careful.

Sat there, not believing what I’d done, my racers brain kicked in and I went to restart the car – not that there would be much chance of getting out of the gravel without help. To make things worse, the car was absolutely dead. I had no power at all as I tried every combination of the ignition and starter button without getting so much of a flicker.

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The session ended and I was unceremoniously dragged out by a tow truck, with my first question to the marshals – “How much damage is there? Have I ripped the front end off?” – luckily proving to be overly pessimistic as there was no damage from my little excursion.

I insisted on helping to clean the gravel out to help turn the car around for the next session, but sadly the car still didn’t have any power for some reason. I don’t think this was directly from anything I’d done – the thinking was that the problem may have been compounded by a marshal hitting an external reset button, triggering a complicated restart sequence.

Despite the somewhat unfortunate ending to my session, I loved everything about the Praga R1S, and if my budget (or sponsorship) ever allows I would definitely look to drive one. At the very least I’d love to get some more time in the car to experience how amazing they are again.

A massive thank you to Vincent Randall and VR Motorsport for giving me this opportunity to drive one of these awesome cars – it really is a dream come true, and I can’t apologise enough for my mistake.

The team treated me really well, and even after the Praga was towed back in they took it all in their stride and never tried to make me feel any worse about it. I’m looking forward to watching VR Motorsport stick it to the Brabham at Brands Hatch next weekend, where the rules are allowing the Praga to use full power for the first time. **EDIT** VR Motorsport have now decided to run in their Class 1 configuration due to concerns over finishing with the allowed fuel and feel that it’s more respectful to the championship for the final round. Make sure you cheer them on!

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and sign up to their website for news and offers.

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New Sponsor: The Birmingham Superprix Project

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I am proud to announce that The Birmingham Superprix Project logo will now be displayed on the Formula Vee racecar as a sponsor!

Despite not being able to get out on track this season, things have still been moving behind the scenes, and it’s great to be able to help raise awareness for a local project for this legendary motorsport event from my childhood.

 

 

 

The Birmingham Superprix Project is a multi-platform project focusing on images, footage, memorabilia, social media, collaboration’s & events related to the history of Britain’s pioneering legal city street race.

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80,000 people crowded onto the city centre streets for the August bank holiday from 1987 to 1990 to watch F3000, British Touring Car Championship, TVR Tuscan’s, Formula Ford 1600 and others racing around a track that took in the Bristol Road, Bromsgrove Street and Pershore Road. 

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Please go and ‘like’ their page on Facebook and show your support – you’ll also find regular pictures and videos of the events and plans for where it will lead in the future!

I’ll be bringing the Superprix name back to the track (if not the actual event!) for 2020 in the Formula Vee Championship run by 750 Motor Club, and hope to see you all out there!

 

 

 

My Favourite Racecars Ever

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I’ve loved racecars for as long as I can remember.

From getting up in the middle of the night to watch Indycar and F1 races to standing by the side of tracks around the country, I guess they are the art forms that truly move me.

It might also surprise some of you to see F1 cars in my all-time favourites list, as I’m quite vocal about not having followed F1 since about 1994 – but I used to be totally obsessed a few years before that, and was a huge fan of Elio de Angelis and Ayrton Senna.

So, in no particular order, here are the cars that I love the most:

McLaren MP4/4

rc McLaren MP44

Most beautiful single-seater ever created. I love the Marlboro colours, but the car itself is just gorgeous. It was an honour watching Senna decimate the opposition in this.

Lister Storm

rc Lister Storm GT1

My favourite car for years, after randomly seeing one in a magazine and sending a letter to Lister Cars, who kindly posted me a brochure for their cars. And then a few years later this absolute brute of a car appeared in the British GT Championship!!!

McLaren F1 GTR

rc McLaren F1 GTR

I don’t think I even need to say anything about this one.

Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak

rc Audi Sport quattro S1 Pikes Peak

Back when I was 11 years old, my best mates Dad – TR4 Challenge racer Peter Cox – had a white Quattro. It was awesome, and the fastest thing I’d been in at that time. Of course I always loved the Group B cars, but the Pikes Peak versions took it all to the next level.

Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

rc Chevrolet Corvette C7R

I think the C7 is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Just look at that rear view! And the sound of that V8…

Sauber Mercedes C9

rc Sauber Mercedes C9

I’d say this is the best looking sports prototype ever made. They were absolute beasts on the track, and just looked perfect in silver (especially with their flouro wing mirrors).

Top Fuel Dragster

rc Top Fuel Dragster

If you’ve never experienced top fuel drag racing in person I honestly can’t express what you’re missing. It’s awesome on the purest sense of the word – a spiritual experience as the dinosaur-like roar tears the cells of your body and the air around you. I still get withdrawal pains in my soul when I remember the experience. 10,000+hp, a standing 1000 yards in less than 4 seconds crossing the line at 330mph, and just the exhaust gasses produce 1000lb of downforce! So, yeah, this is all top fuel dragsters.

Ultima GTR

rc Ultima GTR

I remember watching the development of the Ultima GTR at Mallory Park! I always liked them, and remember them lapping the second place cars in their races in a 10 lap race. I’m happy to see them still around and looking better than ever!

Lotus 98T

rc Lotus 98T

An all-time classic in the gold and black JPS paint scheme.

Lola T332 F5000

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I saw this testing at Mallory Park a few years ago and the sound is monstrous! Glenn attributes most of his hearing loss to being behind and F5000 car in the tunnel at Brands Hatch. I’d love to drive one.

Quaife R4 GTS

rc Quaife R4 GTS

Another rarity from the British GT series in the 90s. And it was 4WD!

Renaultsport R.S. 01

rc Renaultsport RS 01

I saw this all in carbon when it was released at the Autosport Show one year – it’s been a long time since a racing car caught my eye that much.

Which are your favourites and why?

Markers vs Feel

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It’s been a while since you got any of the mad ramblings that go on inside my head, so as I’m still totally obsessed every second of the day, here are some more random racing thoughts!

I have said before that I rely on markers to get me around a circuit.

That is to say, I will watch onboard videos and read circuit guides so that I have an idea that I need to brake at the “II” marker board and then turn in halfway down the entry curb, get on the power just before the apex curb, and then let it drift out to the 3rd red stripe on the exit curb etc.

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I will adjust the braking and turn-in points once I’m out there, depending on conditions, how the car feels and how brave I am, but for the most part it’s all “Point A to Point B” in my head out there.

But that’s not the only way…

I’ve asked other racers “Where are you braking?” – only to be met with a bit of a blank stare and confusion, before they admit that they don’t really know.

Whilst in racing terms, this answer normally means “I’m not telling you”, in this case it doesn’t, because these drivers do it all on ‘feel’.

This is still an alien concept to me, because even when I know a track and am just driving, I’m pretty sure I’m still subconsciously hitting those markers, because I certainly know about it if I’ve missed a braking point!

However, when I’m karting I do seem to drive most of the lap on feel rather than markers.

Now in theory, having a good feel (wha-hey!) should be faster, because you can always keep the car on the limit – but if you don’t have the natural talent to keep the car on the limit then you could be much slower because you’re braking far too early etc.

From karting sessions I am learning to feel the lateral g’s to know I should be able to carry more speed into a corner where my markers would tell me to brake, so it is slowly creeping into my collection of racing skills.

Doing it this way at my local karting track, I recently discovered that where I’d normally be braking and getting ready to turn, I can actually get back on the power before the corner and get around it.

Whilst skills aren’t always transferable from a kart to a Formula Vee, for me most of them are, as I’m still very much learning.

All I need now is to get back out there and see how I can make it work for me!

Do you race by feel or are you using markers? Or do you have another way?

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Prodrift Academy UK – Birmingham

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My race-widowed Fiancee bought me a voucher for some drift training as a Christmas present from Groupon.

I think it cost about £60 for a 3 hour experience, so I thought I’d go along for a bit of fun sliding a car around.

I was expecting a couple of downbeat ‘instructors’ and a slippery car park, much like you’re average skid-pan training facility. I soon discovered that the Prodrift Academy was far from that!

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When my confused sat-nav finally got me to the venue at Birmingham Wheels Raceway not far from the City Centre, I parked up and followed the email instructions to sign on in the, err, signing on hut, where they took a few details and the £8 weekend surcharge. I’d already paid the £15 damage waiver, because £15 is better than the bill for the car you’ve managed to put through the tyre wall upside-down!

From there it was a short walk to the skid-pan, where there was another porta-cabin which sold snacks and drinks, and a horde of instructors were hanging around chatting and watching some live drift championship racing.

I soon realised that this wasn’t some back-street set-up, and their instructors had a wealth of proper drifting experience at high level, and this could be a serious stepping-stone on the way to doing it in a championship.

The staff were all very friendly and upbeat and you could tell they were enjoying it as much as the customers!

We sat down for a briefing and Yo took us through the basics and what we could expect to get from the day, and then names were called out to jump in the cars with an instructor.

I should also note here that the tools of the day were Mazda MX5 NB’s with welded diffs – even better for me as it’s my daily road car!

They break down the art of drifting into a manageable way – the first step was simply to get us used to breaking traction at the rear using the handbrake on corner entry, and then catch it. First you get a demo as the instructor does it and talks, then you swap seats and go for it.

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Setting off I was instantly slewing sideways thanks to the diff and rainy track. How people ever drive them on the roads with a welded diff I will never know!

We only ever kept the car in first gear, but you still had plenty to think about. On queue, I pulled the hydraulic handbrake and the rear started to swing around. I instinctively caught it by counter steering and giving it a bit of throttle – which was wrong! What you have to do is pull the handbrake, then as the rear swings out pull the clutch in and let go of the steering wheel and let the car sort out the first part for you.

After a good few attempts to master that, the next thing was to then get control of the steering and get the power on to maintain the slide around the whole curve.

For this level we were only using one curve, so you had a better chance of mastering the technique without too much to think about. I found it relatively easy, but there was still a lot of polishing off to do. The instructors recognised I had some sort of skills already from my racing, and so were happy to teach to my level rather than as if I was a total novice.

After all, remember this beast of a drift I did during a race at Silverstone?

The rain finally eased off, but left the track wet, which I’m sure made things easier for everyone. I don’t know if they’d normally use a dry track or would wet it anyway to get the cars to move around more?

The final turn in the car was a quick competition, with all of us getting another few runs, but this time we had to drift the rear of the car out to touch a cone on the outside of the turn. Like a true drift event, bonus points were awarded for style, so a lairy angle and bouncing it off the rev limiter rewarded your fun if you weren’t quite up to clipping the cone! (I got 3rd, just in case you were wondering!)

Most people there were total novices and picked up enough to be enjoying themselves out there and I don’t think anyone was disappointed.

Of course, it was fun for me but also business. Any driving skill is good to help with racing, so naturally I was inspired to see the extra training Prodrift Academy offer with one to one training, and essentially training you up to fly free on your own drift career.

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Yo took me out for a quick demo of what the next stage would teach me, using left foot braking to change lines and how to transition the car through corners. I will, of course, be having a crack at some more in-depth training where he said they could tailor the skills more to something I could use on track to improve my lap times and car confidence.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the day – It’s a great present to get someone that’s fun and a little different, and they have a brilliant team there to help you enjoy it.

I’ll look forward to going back there soon!

Season prep update & 2018 compilation video

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This weekend the Formula Vee circus descended on Brands Hatch to open the 2019 race season.

But you may have noticed that I wasn’t there…

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Some of you will already know that Glenn’s brother Malcolm sadly passed away in February, leaving Glenn with a lot of slack to pick up for his business.

With his other brother also being in poor health, it means that he simply doesn’t have the time to do anything with the race car.

Add in a dose of other ‘life stuff’ getting in the way, we’ve had a discussion and decided to put all race plans on hold, for now.

I am still registered for the season, and you can bet that when the window of opportunity opens we’ll be diving through it with the same fire as always, and giving it everything!

I will still continue to give updates on here and on the Facebook pages, so please ‘like’ them to see what’s going on!

Until then, I did knock up a video with the main action from my 2018 season, so I hope you enjoy that. I do have another more technical video to post on the RTV blog where Gelnn talks through the engine problems that cut our season short last year, so look out for that, too!

Oh yes, and my top picks for the title this year?

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James Harridge – He’s finally took the plunge and got a GAC engine, so with the reliability issues sorted and more power, his driving skills could make him a proper weapon this year! (note: shocking story here that stopped him racing at Brands – but I’m not going into that here…)

Craig Pollard – Still fired up after winning the title last year he should be full of confidence to repeat it in 2019.

Ian Jordan – He’s probably done more Vee races than the rest of the grid together (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration), and he’s always well up the front in the mix. I’d expect a few wins (note: updating this after the weekend to say that he won the opening round!)

Graham Gant – Proven to be very fast in what could be the best Vee on the grid. I’ve had him in my top picks for the last few years but he hasn’t done a full season – if he does in 2019 then he’s a major threat. He doesn’t seem to like the rain much, though… (note: yep – and he won the second race at Brands this weekend!)

Daniel Hands – He was strong before in Vee and hasn’t lost anything! He’ll be out to take it.

One to watch:

Christian Goller – he must have had horrendous luck, as he always seems to start from way behind me, and then just comes flying past during the race. If he qualifies well his true pace should surprise a few.

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