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Driving A Car On A Race Track

Note: This blog was first published 21 October 2012.

“So what was it like to drive a car on a race track?”

Well, I wish I’d had more laps!

Two days after my ARDS test, I’m sat here watching the British Touring Car Championship and my adrenalin is going mental.  How can fate put me on a racing track for the first time (in a car) and then say “Well, actually you might get another go next year at some point.”?

Very frustrating!

It was essentially a road car I was in at Silverstone.  I didn’t know that they’re supposed to be pretty rapid cars until afterwards – 2 litre turbo with 225hp.  One of the hottest Hot Hatches around.  I thought it was a bit slow…

I had a Hell of a lot to take in, and many things to adjust about the way I was driving.

I made sure I was trying to use every inch of the track – keeping right to the edge on the corner entry, getting two wheels up over the curb on the apex, and then drifting out with two wheels over the exit curb where it was safe.  The racing line is where you will make up most of you time, especially on a damp, greasy circuit like it was all day long.

I know I could make up a few seconds a lap straight away on the brakes just by braking later and harder.  I could make up more seconds by pushing harder in the corners, as I had more traction to go.

But that’s where I’m kind-of in unknown territory!

I have no comparison.  I know it’s advised to go at 80% of your ability on the test, but where was I?

50%?  100%?

As I’ve never done it before I have absolutely no idea.  Thinking about it, nobody else overtook me all day – apart from two sideways Nissan 350z’s driving by those super-fast Playstation 3 Nissan GT Academy geeks.  I did try to hang on to the back of them but I just got a bit more ragged, and as soon as we hit Hangar straight their 125hp more took them well away.

https://i0.wp.com/wot.motortrend.com/files/2012/01/Nissan-GT-Academy-370Z-Oversteer.jpg

I overtook some of the others, but that doesn’t really tell me much because I don’t know how hard they were pushing.  I didn’t get a chance to actually follow anyone around, which is a bit of a shame.  Or a good thing?  Who knows!

One thing I am well impressed with, is that when the time came to string my test laps together I instantly dropped into The Zone.  A huge calm came over me, and I was totally relaxed and focused.  Even my breathing was perfect and normal – not hyperventilating or holding my breath at all.

That bodes very well for the future.  If I CAN drop into that state at will, then it means I can think clearly and feel everything that’s going on, rather than feeling rushed and having get by purely on reactions.

I’m hoping the actual feel is much better in a Formula Vee single seater.  I expect it will all feel much more accurate and less detached than a hot hatch, and I think I’m ready to have that.

Compared to a riding a bike on track… I don’t want to say driving a car is ‘easy’… but it’s far less busy.  Because I’m used to having to brake from 170+mph and deal with acceleration of 0-60 in under 3 seconds, plus having massive forces working against your whole body the whole time, actually getting a car around a track is far less challenging.

Of course, getting a car around a track faster than 30 other people will be a whole new ball game, and the difference between a respectable pace and pushing right to the performance limits will be massive.

I know now that I can at least string some solid and consistent laps together, and that’s a huge relief.

It’s a base.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of balls it takes to jump off that base, and what kind of rush it gives me!

https://i0.wp.com/homepage.eircom.net/~goconnor/Fvee1/driver.jpg

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