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Driving Silverstone International

I’m still buzzing from the weekend, and have woken up every single morning since then knowing how I can go faster, and how I should have done each corner better!

This blog won’t be an expert guide to driving the Silverstone International circuit, but it will be my notes on what I did, what worked, and what didn’t work.  Hopefully this will come in use for the next time I race there.

I still haven’t uploaded the qualifying footage – this is because the way I drove in the races was so vastly different that there’s not much to show for my qualifying, other than a bit more action.  Qualifying (and testing the day before) was me driving as fast as I could but still safely – that turned out to be so much slower than the other Vee drivers that I had to totally change my driving style and push way past where I thought my limits were!

So, let’s do a lap.

Turn 1: Abbey

Every Vee driver will tell you that this one is flat out.

From braking hard in testing, I did get braver through the day, and it might well be flat if you’re brave enough and get the line perfect.

There are a lot of entry points, but you want to be as far onto the left curb as you can on the entry, and turning in hard to a blind apex.  At best, I’d breath off the throttle, turn in and let the lift-off oversteer start to bring the back wheels around, then get back on the power and drift out wide towards the curbs on the exit.

There is a lot of time to be had here, and even the slower cars were doing this with a lift off the throttle, and absolutely hammering through the turn.  Get it right and it’s a shouting-in-your-helmet with joy moment!

Overtaking is possible with a bit of soft trail braking to keep you in tight, just in case the car on the outside doesn’t lift off for you.

Turn 2: Farm Curve

This is fully on the power.  The front tyres were skipping  through the turn as I tried to drag it back over to the left side of the track, but I don’t really know why I wasn’t just letting the car run out to the edge of the track on the right, anyway?  There’s still enough time to get back over to the left as you’re on the brakes…

Turn 3: Village

Brake hard just after the curb has started on the left side and whack it in to the ‘hairpin’, dropping down to third as you do.  Some were keeping the exit tight ready for the next left-hand flick, but I found using all the track was the way to go.

Turn 4: The Link

This is just a left flick that you can do flat, but if you’ve exited wide from the previous turn may find you need a brief lift off to get you turned in on the tighter line.  Mid-turn there is a big bump followed by a fair old drop, so expect to be in the air and sideways, angled towards the left side of the track…

Turn 5: Becketts

Stabbing the brakes as you land, you don’t have much time to get lined up on the left before you have to turn right.  This is your exit onto the Hangar Straight, so very important.  It’s a no-brainer to sacrifice the last corner to make sure you get a good exit here, because you’ll carry any extra speed all the way down the straight.  You can run out wide onto the other circuit, but watch out for the cones they may have put out, and make sure you’re back on the International track before the green stuff, or you’ll be at risk of being called for track limits.

Turn 6: Stowe

You need to get your brain to stay flat on the power until the impossibly late curb on the left. brake short and hard here and then trail brake to a late apex.  The curbing on the left hand side actually tightens on the exit, so it’s easy to run out from the apex too early and end up on the astroturf.

Gearing choice is split here, and depends really on your car.  I found snatching 3rd on the way into the turn upset the car too much, but you get better drive out.  I kept it in 4th through the whole turn, but the exit felt slow.  I did notice Pete Belsey was changing down to 3rd on the exit, last year, but didn’t get a chance to try this as there were still some worries about over-revving the engine.

I know I could have grabbed a lot more time here, and I was getting braver every time I took it.

There are loads of overtaking opportunities here on the brakes into the turn, or by cutting back for the exit and the short blast into…

Turn 7: Vale

The corner that I don’t think I ever did to my satisfaction – this section was definitely my weakest/slowest.

There is a crest just before the start of the curb, and some nasty bumps that are the reason I was running such hard front damping. Any softer and the front wheels pattered around like the desperate hands of a drunken faller trying to keep his face off the ground.

It’s the only corner you’re braking really hard for, but I tried braking everywhere from the crest to about the mid-point of the curb, and couldn’t nail it.

Turn-in is at the end of the curb, but again this wasn’t ideal.

Either way it’s really a sacrifice corner, because you need to be setting up for the main straight through this complex.

A right turn is immediately after, and you can compromise your line into it by being far to the right and lifting to get turned in, or try to get out of the first part of Vale as far to the left as you can and try to power through.

Turn 8: Club

Club starts with an easy curve to the right, where you need to be heading straight at the curb on the left to get the speed up,  before the fast apex leading onto the straight. This should be flat, but beware as, much like the pit straight on the National track, there is a big hard concrete wall to the inside that you really don’t want to be spinning into.

I was at 7000rpm when I hit the exit curb, so was having to shift very quickly to fourth – there wasn’t much I could do about this, and so was the hardest section on the engine.

Also remember the finish line is a fair way before the start line, so get any last lap dives up the inside done early or it’ll all be for nothing!

My fastest lap was a 1:21.33 (avg. speed 81.89mph) when I was reeling in Ed Lowndes and Alex Jones, but from the footage I had a huge lift off in Club at the start of the lap to avoid a slower car. Although I took Abbey with probably my smallest breath ever off the throttle, the rest of the lap wasn’t particularly outstanding – so I know I can take a big chunk out of that.

I need to find another 3 seconds to be up with the leaders. 1 second I’m sure will be there. 2? Possibly, if I up my game considerably.

I was expecting to be 8-10 seconds off the pace, so I’m pretty chuffed with that for my first time out in a Sheane that was built back in 1995, and hasn’t had any modifications other than lowering the rear!

I can’t wait to see how far I can take the car! If my performance wasn’t a fluke, I can’t see a reason why I can’t put myself in the top 10, with a lot of hard work, a few set up tweaks, very hard work, and a bit of luck!

On the other hand, Silverstone International is the only track the other drivers don’t know so well, and their experience will make things a lot tougher at Snetteron and Donington…