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Lapping at the ring

Juan - sporting new Darth Vader stylie helmet

It's a track I said I'd never go to. Just too risky and it never really appealed. But then as BookaTrack's 10th Anniversary celebration they had hired the circuit for a closed track day, I couldn't really say no.

Originally it was planned that Colin and I would go over in the Elise and use that, the theory being that it has magnificently compliant suspension and isn't actually that quick. Then Claire (Colin's missus) asked if she could come along and we thought, no problem, stick the Elise on the trailer and tow it over. The problem came when I sold the Elise and bought the Porker.

The Porker is too heavy for the trailer so that knocked that on the head. So, what to take? The Juno runs too low and hard. It'd be fine with some suspension tweaks, but with Spa/Zandvoort a week later, we didn't want to mess with it or risk it. Leaving the Bathtub.

It'd been sitting there largely unused for a while, with odd jobs outstanding on it. This gave me the drive to get cracking. The new suspension went on which was a revelation, and the track rod end that I'd just not got around too finally got swapped. Since doing that I'd been taking it out when possible to make sure it was 100% ready. Still, when it comes down to the crunch, they're all nails and we just had to see how it went.

Fast-forward a few days and we're at the Nurburgring and it's hot, damn hot. Out for some sighting laps and I notice as I pull into the pits that the car is getting damned hot also, too hot. So off comes the nose and we (that'd be Colin, for he is more beardy than I) delves in. The long and short of it is that the fan had packed up terminally. Given that as long as you kept moving at a reasonable lick, this wasn't really an issue, we just limited the revs a bit and made sure we got into the pits and shut down sharpish.

Colin - normal helmet containing freakishly impressive memory

Using this method the car didn't miss a beat and did 209 miles, 16 laps, using 50 litres of fuel and ran for around 3hrs 20mins in all. The suspension was pretty much spot on throughout the track, only requiring a little tweaking of the damping. The only problem was Karusel when two up at speed, where it would bottom out at the rear. If it were to be tracked more I'd up the spring rates a bit to counter this, but given that you had to be going some in the first place to induce this, and it's primarily a road car, I want to keep the on-road ride it has on the current rates. I can live with slowing down a bit, it's not like we're racing.

The final quite random problem that I had was from a local cat that decided to use my air filter as a scratching post. Suspiciously the cat was not seen again.

The track itself is the most unforgiving circuit I've ever been too. If you're pushing really hard and make a mistake, 9 times out of 10 it's going to be a very big and expensive mistake. It's not as bad condition-wise as you'd believe, there are odd bumpy places, but the surface is generally good. The problems are that there are many, many blind rises. More so if you're arse is a couple of inches off the floor in a nail. When you don't know where you're going this does cause the quite amusing sight of the driver trying to crane his neck out of the harnesses as much as possible to see where the next bit goes. What makes it worse is that you don't know what's over the blind rises. You might know where the track goes, but you don't know if there's anyone or anything, like an oil spill, over the other side of it. This is all compounded by the fact that there is absolutely no run-off at all.

As such, in my opinion, you can't treat it like other circuits. You need to operate much more within you and your cars limits. So for me, in order for it to remain a near risk-free day, I treat it like a drive on country roads that happen to have no speed limit. Do that and you minimise the risk as much as possible. For what it's worth, five cars were recovered that day. Apparently that's pretty good in the scheme of things.

Yet, given all this, I'll certainly go back under the same circumstances next year. The track was nigh on empty when you were out there and the vast majority of attendees behaved superbly. As a proper controlled track day it's not as scary as you'd think. Still, the place should be treated with great respect and I look forward to doing so again in the future.

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