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Published 22nd November 2009 by

I've been wanting to do some track driving tuition for quite some time now, and I finally got round to booking and taking part in a Sports Saloon track day at Castle Combe yesterday afternoon.

The day started off wet and windy and slowly got worse. After registration and some paperwork, we assembled for an introduction and safety briefing.

We were split into two groups of four and were taken out two at a time for a white knuckle ride in the first car - a new shape Subaru Impreza WRX STI. I then had to wait my turn for my solo laps, watching the other cars slide around in the wet. Eventually, it was my turn behind the wheel, and with my instructor next to me I set off onto the soaked circuit.

The first thing you notice is how much tarmac you have to play with, the other thing is trying to get out of the "road driver" mentality. I can use all the available tarmac - I don't have to stick to my side of the road.

Not only was I driving in atrocious conditions (nearly caught out by a crosswind!), I have been driving my automatic Mercedes for the past 3 months and had to get used to driving stick again. And I really didn't like the Subaru. Everything felt disconnected, and there wasn't much feedback through the pedals or steering.

Despite this, I managed consistent lap times of 2:12. The lap record is 1:14.60 by a Nissan G-TR.

My instructors comments for these laps were:

Good first drive - some good lines and some not so good. Difficult conditions but you did really well. Well done!

The not so good lines were going through The Esses where I didn't go deep enough into the corner, making the exit a bit more work.

Next up was the Lotus Elise. With my bad leg and ankle I found it very difficult to get in and out, but once in it was quite comfortable, although I could not live with it every day - no carpet, very sparse, poor visibility side and rear. Perfect for track use.

Anyway, I thought this car was a million times better than the Subaru, much more powerful, more responsive and way more feedback. The poor weather prevented having any serious fun, but the aim of the day was to concentrate on the racing line, break points, turn in, apex and exit.

I didn't get any lap times for the Lotus which was unfortunate since I thought I was much faster than in the Subaru.

My instructors comments for these laps were:

Keep looking and thinking ahead. You drive really well in some truly awful conditions.

I think these comments refer to my looking out for the Formula Fords, rather than the race line.

There were a few other cars out on track - another Subaru, Ford Focus and Formula Ford. I didn't envy those single seaters in that weather!

Despite the poor weather, it was still a great experience and very enjoyable day. I think I'll leave the next one until the weather gets better in the spring!

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