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Where to test a race car?

It is surprisingly hard to test a race car – especially if you have an open-wheeled/single seater – and it’s getting harder all the time.

A lot of the smaller (and cheaper) testing facilities seem to have moved focus towards hosting ‘driving experience’ days.

These are the circuits that you may or may not know about for testing:

Bruntingthorpe

Bruntingthorpe used to be great with it’s airfield runway layout and loads of run-off area, but this one is now out of the picture.  They want you to produce your own liability insurance to be able to test there.

This liability insurance is the type of thing that trackday companies all have for their events, and your average Joe trying to get it for a day will find it almost impossible.  If you have your own business, you may be able to find someone to cover you, but from my research it seems you’ll be looking at £250 for a day, then testing fees on top of that – so that no longer makes it a viable option.  And that’s if you can even narrow down what SCOPE of cover you need – Bruntingthorpe are very vague when you ask any questions about this, and the impression is they don’t care or want you testing there.

That said, a few people do have cover for the year, such as Alan Harding from AHS – and if you’re in one of his cars you’ll be ok.  He is not able to just let you do it on his policy, as insurance won’t allow this anymore.

I’m amazed that Bruntingthorpe don’t have their own insurance, because they are surely losing money?

Three Sisters

A forgotten little track up in Wigan, that I thought only did karts and bikes, but their website does indeed say that cars are welcome!

They seems pretty flexible, and will let you come and test whenever there’s nothing else on for £60 per hour.

They answered my email enquiry very quickly, and are helpful and friendly.  There is also a fair bit of info on their website.

Llandow

Another small and forgotten track in Wales, around 20 miles West of Cardiff, where they actually used to hold Vee and Super Vee race meetings!

I sent several emails which were answered very quickly (thanks to Sharon and Louise!), and are also very flexible and relaxed over dates and times.  Again, you can test there whenever they’re free, and they were happy for me to turn up “around 11ish” and book on whenever I was ready.  It’s a bargain at £30 per hour, and although I was expected a boring but functional track to shake the car down on, I found I loved the place!

For less than a 50 second lap you get a very tight complex with flat-out high speed turns, a tight chicane, and it somehow has a million times more character than it should!

Short of these, you’re limited to paying through the nose for pre-race test days at £300-£400! Plus it will mean in most cases another night spent at the circuit, and if anything does fail it can be a busy old time trying to fix stuff so you can get out for qualifying the next morning.

If you keep your eyes open you might be able to squeeze into a test day for another series, so it’s worth checking out where Formula Ford, F4 etc are due to race. This can mean you’re out there with seriously fast machinery, and you might find you spend most of the time trying to stay out of their way…

If you’re in a tin-top you can take your pick of the many track days organised all over the place – but then you’ll be driving amongst a pack of Average Joe’s. Even worse is the added frustration of rules limiting where and how you can overtake anyone, so you might find you’re stuck behind a gaggle of Fiat Uno’s unable to pass for the entire session! The driving might also not be as predictable as you’d hope from MSA licence holders…

If you can get a few other Vee drivers to test with you, wherever you do it, it’s a massive bonus, because you’ll have some kind of reference point of how you’re doing. I blasted around Llandow all day thinking I was doing ok, but it wasn’t until I got to Silverstone that I found the other Vee drivers were gobsmackingly faster than me! You won’t get much from a test day where you’re not doing it right!

With an increased budget it would be great to cram in all the testing I could, because that’s the best way to get faster. At this stage I don’t know how much I’ll test this year, and most of it could well be turning up at a circuit and learning the track during the qualifying session – not ideal if you want to be competitive!

If I’ve missed anywhere, feel free to let me know! I hope this is of use to someone out there!

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