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Taking The ARDS Test – This Is It!

Note: This blog was originally posted 19 October 2012.

Read Part 1 for the morning part of the day here: https://jamescaterracing.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/taking-the-ards-test-the-morning-preparation/

After lunch was where it would all matter.  I’d expected to have a LOT more laps in the car in the morning to get used to it, but apparently not!

We all went into the classroom, watched the ARDS video to refresh ourselves, and immediately took the written test.

The first section was all about knowing the flags, and stating which flag you’d expect to see in a given situation, and whether it would be waved or stationary.

Easy – except I had problems remembering if a red flag would be waved or stationary or whether it mattered!  And then brain fade about the ‘mechanical failure’ flag as to whether it was black and orange or black and yellow!  ARGH!  

The rest were very obvious multiple choice questions, such as:

Your car is on fire.  Do you:
Pull over by a crowd of spectators.
Stop in the middle of the track.
Pull over near a martials post so they can use their fire extinguishers to put out the fire quickly and safely.
Jump out of the car and dive in a nearby toilet.

It took about 15 minutes to do the test, then we split into the same groups again – mine was first out on track as the others headed off to rag a Caterham with bald tyres around for some more skid control.

Back in the 2.0 litre turbocharged Mégane Renaultsport 250, and I’d decided to slow everything down.  The track was still wet and greasy (did I miss that excuse out before?), so I braked nice and early (and pretty lightly) and went back to one of the best ways to ride a bike fast on track – make sure you’re inches from the edge of the tarmac and concentrate on hitting the inside curbs in the right place.

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Doing this and being conscious of progressive braking without any lifting off and on again, I think I was going immediately faster than the morning session.

I’d become familiar with the track – apart from one moment trying to take a left hairpin on a fast right sweeper!  Meh!  I stayed on and corrected it without disaster… Good job, too!  There was no £20 damage waiver available, so we’d be liable for all damage to the cars!

I was feeling much better as we came back in for the short break as my instructor took the other pupil out for his laps.

Back in the car and Neal talked me around a couple of laps before telling me he was going to shut up and let me get on with it as he marked me.  I had to string about 5 laps together flawlessly.

A calm came over me and I went totally relaxed, breathing steadily.  In the zone 100%.

I braked into the first corner and slipped it straight into bloody 6th gear again for the exit!  NOOO!!!

I didn’t let it rattle me and sank straight back into the rhythm.

They say you should drive at around 80% of your ability and concentrate on being smooth.  That wasn’t working so well for me earlier, and I’m totally sure those assessed laps were by far my fastest of the day.

There was a Ferrari and Aston Martin out on track driven by people on ‘Experience Days’, and they may well have been surprised as my little Mégane sailed past them!

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I even overtook a few others in my group, with a rather lovely shimmying drift as I passed around the outside of someone on a fast sweeper – I watched the instructor out the corner of my eye hoping he hadn’t noticed!  I kept it all controlled, though, so figured I’d be ok with that one!

After a few laps he told me to pull in and head back to the Experience Centre, and started marking my score sheet as we sat outside.

I could see a lot of A’s mixed in with a few B’s as he graded everything from mechanical sympathy to gearshifts to lines.

He then had to tick a few boxes, and delayed for a lonnng time over one as he mulled it over, eventually ticking that, too.

He told me I’d passed, but not to tell the others as they might not have theirs yet, but put an advisory on my sheet that I would benefit from further training even though I had passed – something I totally agreed with.

I felt a bit emotional sat in the car.  I mused that I might even shed a tear after my first race win!

Then I remembered I didn’t know if I’d cocked up on the written test, yet…

At least the pressure was off, and I had a good laugh booting the Caterham around for the rest of the afternoon as the others did their track test.

Arriving back after that we all got our results, and I think most of us had passed!

I even got a Novice sticker (yellow background with black diagonal cross) to put on the back of my car next year!  Not bad for £400!

So I am now an Officially Licensed Racing Driver – something I’ve dreamed of since I was around two years old!

I’m also fully aware that I’m at the bottom of a very steep learning curve.

But this is going to be fun!

Like a ‘P’ plate – but faster!

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