Coastal road

elise

The coastal circuit at Anglesey’s Trac Môn will be the first place I drive a Formula Vee with a full grid of cars for company. After studying YouTube videos of last year’s race, I decided that it would worth heading to Wales in advance for some local words of wisdom and a lesson on the track.

The staff were incredibly generous and arranged for me to have time on the coastal circuit, despite normally only doing tuition on a shorter layout. Me and my brilliant local instructor JJ ended up having the track all to ourselves.

What a track it is. YouTube videos don’t capture the speed of the corners, the banking and camber, nor the absolutely stunning view of Anglesey’s coastline framed by distant mountains.

anglesey

JJ guided me through the lap. The first corner that radiuses more tightly than you expect before opening into the banking of turn 2. Exiting here leads onto the entry to the fast Church corner, and then onto a long kinking straight which ends abruptly in a hard uphill braking zone at Rocket. After feeding through two right-handers, the track then begins to tumble back down the hill and into a Laguna Seca-stye corkscrew. A tricky last corner involves waiting to put the power down and avoiding a nasty exit kerb to complete the lap.

anglesey

The Elise I was driving felt fantastic through both the fast and slow corners. Over-enthusiastic entries were punished by understeer, and I could occasionally feel the weight in the back of the car urging it to break away.

In the Vee, I know each straight will seem shorter and each apex will come sooner. Despite being still nervous of keeping it together and staying out of the way of faster traffic, my lesson here will allow me to enter next month’s Friday practice with the confidence of knowing the track. I will try to keep JJ’s voice in my head, to remember to check my mirrors on exits, and to try not to gawk too much at the view.

Advertisements

Getting a grip in the wet

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 17.14.58

“If you choose to race in the UK, you are going to get wet,” warns the MSA’s Go Motorsport video for novice racers. My last session at Silverstone may not have been in the rain, but the track was soaking wet and slippery following a downpour the night before.

This was my first experience learning wet lines. The dry racing line is polished by the passage of thousands of cars, meaning the surface of the quick dry line becomes like an ice rink in the wet. Add rubber oil and grease to the picture, and the familiar line becomes an unwelcoming place to be.

My instructor, Anthony, demonstrated the difference in grip levels by starting me on a normal dry line. The Megane I was driving understeered for what seemed like an eternity through Copse and Luffield, and twitched nervously coming into Maggots and Becketts.

Next, wet lines. He got me to avoid turning in where you normally would, going deeper and round the outside of corners to avoid the apex and pick up the less-used tarmac. The difference was extraordinary. There was so much more grip available that the understeer vanished, and braking in the middle of the track reduced the nervous back end stepping out. It was almost like driving in the dry in comparison to the normal racing line. Crossing the racing line makes you really feel the difference in grip. As I began to push more, I had a few moments – a slight tank-slapper coming out Brooklands and a few eye-widening slides coming back onto Club Straight. But my confidence increased as I began to attack Copse and improved my line through Maggots.

It was almost a dream track day – apart from one first-timer in a Porsche Boxster, the track was empty. As I left, Sky Sports were preparing to film a feature on the ARDS test which will appear in their F1 coverage soon.

Overall, another fantastically fun day, another great lesson and another eye-opening step on my journey to learn to race.

Silverstone’s National Circuit