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Silverstone National Test 14/08/15

This was my first test on a ‘proper’ track that’s been used in the Formula Vee UK Championship in recent years, and so should have given me my first real benchmark in where my lap times would put me on the grid.

As it turned out, it was ridiculously wet!

As I signed on in the morning, we were all being sternly warned that the trucks had been there the day before, and so there was lots of rubber down, making it all extremely hazardous combined with monsoon conditions.

I did want to drive the Sheane in the wet so that I could test the limits of the car and push past the handling limits to see what happened.  I certainly did that!

I went out on track being very smooth and cautious.  Glenn has adjusted the clutch so that it’s not all or nothing at the end of the pedal movement, and this gave me much more control to pull away.

We were also using the brand new and shiny Hoosier tyres for the first time.  There is a recommended run-in and settle cycle, but being so wet we never even got any heat into them, and so kept them on the car all day, rather than switch back to the Dunlops.

I slammed down from 4th gear to 3rd as I came up to the hairpin, and the back end came around.  Ah.  Time to readjust the brain to how slippy it is, and carry on, then!

It wasn’t quite like driving on ice, but it was the next best thing!  I had my first taste of severe understeer mid-way through the left-hander coming off the back straight, and the back end stepped out with even the slightest jab of the throttle anywhere.

It was a bit disenchanting to see the MSA Formula cars and Formula Ford’s blasting past me, and my main mission became “Stay out of their way and don’t kill the car”.

In that first session I had another spin around Copse, where I just couldn’t find any grip all day, and think I actually managed to take a decent line through there once!  This time, the back went out and I caught it, corrected, and then it went again.

The third spin of the session was powering through Woodcote in 4th gear, having not had a single problem any other lap.  I thought about a Sheane that was written off there in 2010 when it spun and hit the pit wall, and just as I thought “As long as I don’t do THAT…” I lost the back again on the exit!

As it spun a couple of times I made tiny steering inputs when I could feel the tyres bite a little, and came to rest facing the right way inches from the pit wall!

OR, as I prefer to tell it, I decided to have a go at practising my race starts, and flamboyantly spun it onto the grid, where my test start went extremely well!

I decided to reign it all back in after that.  More than 3 spins in a session is bound to attract the attention of people holding black flags, and it was clear that I couldn’t find grip anywhere and wouldn’t be even attempting any lap times.

We disconnected the front anti-roll bar for the next session, but I think it was just too wet for anything to make a difference.  All that happened was it was even less happy about turning into Copse.

When it finally stopped raining for 20 minutes before the last session, I went out only to find someone had driven the Exxon Valdez around three quarters of the track, as a 5ft wide slick of oil had taken ownership of the racing line!

I actually really enjoyed that session, with a huge opposite lock drift around Luffield as I was watching a FF behind me just as sideways doing the same thing!

So, Formula Vee’s are pretty lethal in the wet.  The Sheane was well balanced, and I did manage to recover most slides, and wasn’t just spinning helplessly everywhere.  I was pleased to find my biking instincts meant that I kept my foot on the throttle whenever the back lost grip, rather then snapping the throttle shut on instinct and making everything worse.  This will probably help me better in the dry than the wet, though… And, of course, it should be noted that everyone else was spinning off everywhere, with loads of flags and stoppages!

The custom made waterproof case from JooVuu for my Mobius camera was flawless, and despite the rain I did get some good footage.

Here’s the full first session, warts and all – remember this is my first time ever on a wet track, and my second ever time lapping in the car!

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