After several months of enforced down-time over the winter, I hit the track again last week for the first time in 2020. The venue was Oulton Park, Cheshire – the scene of my ARDS test back in 2018 and a track I love to drive, though I have never raced there. Fingers crossed that will change this year!
In attendance were the Go4it Racing team, who will once again be running my car in 2020. My team-mat Martin was evaluating his new-build Mk1 race car for the new season and the team were busy prepping a Mk3 car to make its debut in the MX-5 Super Series.
For me, however, the aim of the day was different. I wanted to get my head back into “race mode” and re-familiarise myself with the car ahead of the start of the season. I also had three students from Birmingham University, all of whom were members of the “Formula Student” UBRacing team, with me at the track. The plan was to harvest some data from my data logger and use it to analyse where I could refine and improve my driving technique.
The day dawned wet and cold, with the inclement conditions making running very tricky. I was suitably cautious on the damp track, but unfortunately the same could not be said for some of the drivers piloting modified road cars who were attending the track day. An unprecedented number of red flag stoppages for cars beached in the gravel interrupted the morning session and made it very difficult to gather any meaningful data.
Thankfully, after lunch the track began to dry up and the sessions calmed down, enabling me to get in a few long runs. I was trying out a new setup on the car in this session and, whilst I will still need some track time to get fully used to it, it felt good and the car was well-balanced, particularly on corner exit which was my achilles heal last year. It feels very promising.
My longest run was a full 20-minute race simulation, which left my arms a bit sore afterwards given that they’ve not had much exercise over the winter! But it was really good to get that time in the car and prepare for the first full race distance of the season in just over 3 weeks’ time.
It also meant that I was able to download some meaningful data for myself and the students to analyse. I identified the optimum way to take turns 1 and 2, which are all about momentum and critical to lap time. The three UBRacing team members will be back with me at Silverstone to put their learning into practice and help me hone my lap times during Friday practice!
There are always highs and lows in motorsport, and sadly for me the day was tainted slightly by the discovery of an oil leak in my engine right at the end of the day. This will now need to be rapidly repaired before we hit the track again at Silverstone.
Overall, though, I got what I wanted out of the track day, which was to re-connect with the car and get “in the zone” ahead of the start of the season. Next stop, the home of British motorsport, where we finally get to go racing!