View Full Version : Not a Petrolhead

14th Mar 2005, 09:29
Funny experiences this weekend.

I had a voucher for a car racing class, and at 8.15 yesterday began with a few laps in a beefed up saloon, then a dozen or so in a 180 hp single seater Formula something.

Bizarrely, it was OK. Not great, just Ok. Driving a fast car is just like, well, driving an ordinary car only faster.

Sadly, I concluded that middle age has finally taken it's grip.

But then I went off and put in an hour and a half in a little 65 hp permit aircraft and came back grinning like a tomcat with two dicks.

So next time I see Clarkson wanking on about the new 550,000 Ferrari GRBLX
that does 0-60 in half a nanosecond, I'll just say "Who gives a shite."

Not that Jeremy will give a damn, he'll be on the telly making megabucks and I'll be on the couch at home. But still.

14th Mar 2005, 10:20
Well, since I spent 15 years flying Hunters, Harriers and Tornados I don't give a [email protected] about "fast cars". Kids' stuff. Would love to have had a crack at Typhoon. Lucky sods.

14th Mar 2005, 10:50
Just an airhead then........ ;)

Flying Lawyer
14th Mar 2005, 11:24
The trial lessons/voucher days don't really give a true picture of motor racing. The schools make sure you don't go too fast because of the risk of injury and, more likely, damage to the car. Also, driving at 'fast' road speeds on a track seems much slower than the same speed on the road because you're not passing a series of fixed objects against which we subconsciously measure our speed on the road.

Until you've learned to drive a car fast on a track, it is as you say, just like driving an ordinary car only faster. Anyone can drive fast in a straight line, and many people can go around corners on a road at what seems to be high speed - but going round corners at racing speeds on a track is a whole different ball game. You are (or should be) at the very limit of adhesion where just a fraction quicker and you'd be off the track.

Overtaking often means outbraking someone into a corner, wheel to wheel, closer and closer to the approaching corner until one of you gives in and hits the brakes. Even then, it's not all over. The last one to brake can often end up carrying too much speed into the corner, and be overtaken again on the way out by the other driver being able to take the corner in a more controlled way and getting back on the power first and exiting with more speed. It takes time and lots of practice to learn - and a few repair bills!

I loved racing slicks & wings single-seaters - very fast around the corners - but, in the last few years before 'retiring', raced a Lotus 21 in Historic Grand Prix races. That was a completely different challenge. Although a 'state-of-the-art' racing car and Grand Prix winner in its day, going fast round corners (and staying on the black stuff) in a 1961 technology car was much harder work than in a modern slicks and wings car.

Most PPLs fly spamcans, straight and level most of the time. It's very enjoyable, but can it really be described as exciting and exhilarating? You've got to compare like with like for a true comparison. Flying fast jets is equivalent to Formula 1 - sadly, unlike Wingswinger, most of us don't get the chance to do either! :{

Motor racing and flying are both exhilarating. Unfortunately, I haven't got either the time or the money to do both so I eventually stopped motor racing and continued flying. If I won the lottery, I'd do both.

(Thinks ..... perhaps I should start buying lottery tickets. ;) )

14th Mar 2005, 11:35
The sensation of speed in the low slung racing car WAS great.

There have been times too when, I've wet meself in boring VW equivalents on gravel or ice. Just there was not the positive buzz I'd expected from a racing car.

In the permit aircraft at eighty mph and 1500 ft was pretty much non existent, so Top Gun it was'nt..

You military types? Afraid not, tedious civilian office job.

(airhead..grrr..)makes a note in little black book

Standard Noise
14th Mar 2005, 12:27
Speed, pah, who needs it when you're going up a 1 in 2 rutted track up a hill.
Spent a day last week at one of the Land Rover Experience courses learning how to (properly) throw a 47 grand Disco 3 round a very bumpy, muddy forest on the side of a hill. A grand day out with a nice lunch thrown in and all for only 200 sovs.

14th Mar 2005, 20:58
One of the best speed experiences I ever had was snorkelling down the Takaka river in NZ. It's about a foot deep, very fast flowing, and crystal clear. Face down with nose about 6 inches above the river bed, and give the trout a run for their money..... sounds weird, but a great 3km or so...... wear a wet suit though....

14th Mar 2005, 21:10
The best sensation of speed I ever had was whilst sailing dinghies as a boy. Going hard to windward with the odd bucket of spray in the teeth.....magic! Probably not much more than 9 or 10 knots, but felt like a lot more.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
14th Mar 2005, 21:38
I did a racing day at Oulton park a few years ago, and it was good fun (Formula First back then). But it didn't grab me. I like riding my 1150GS bike as well..but....... you just can't beat that 3rd dimension.
But I can beleive that FL is right in that these 'days' don't compare to real motor racing.

A lovely day 'stripping' in the Chipmunk, with a few gentle aeros (well, I am an old fart these days), hits the spot very nicely for me, thanks.;)

Clarkson is in the entertainment business. Most viwers have no idea what flying is about - but they al drive cars. So they can relate to the 500K supercar, but not to the far more acheivable simple pleasures of gentle aeros in a vintage aeroplane.


14th Mar 2005, 22:03
Raced saloon cars for over 20 years and still looking for the perfect lap. Nothing beats a flying lap on the edge of adhesion improving your lap time with 0,5 sec knowing you took the right decision to change the front spring rate from 350 to 400 lbs, lower the car by another 1,4" and deflate the slicks by a few psi's.

The fun comes with total control of the car, it took me some time to find out that the quicker you drive the easier it gets to control the car on 4 wheel drift.

And yes, everyone can go fast on straight lines, it's the corners that really do make all the difference.

I thoroughly enjoy driving historic (saloon) race cars with 60's basic mechanics rules, M section Dunlops with endless drift angles.

PS in the old days there were quite a bit of (anonymous) pilots racing on my track..

14th Mar 2005, 23:57
Flying Lawyer put it very well.

It takes a long time to adjust to the corner speeds attainable in a wings and slicks car.
I can clearly remember my first drive in one, a nicely sorted pinto engined F4, at Snetterton on an 'open wheel' test day.

Although I'd raced the circuit in race prepped kits and formula fords I was taking the first few laps reasonably gently to get a feel for the car but still thought I had some reasonable pace when a West Surrey Racing F3 car came flashing past me still at full chat as I was already braking for The Esses at the end of the back straight. There was such a massive speed differential that I was convinced he was about to have the biggest off imaginable. So convinced that I braked yet more expecting to have to dodge the wreckage.
What seemed like an eternity later I saw the thing squirm on the brakes and by what appeared to me to be some miracle he didn't stuff it into the bridge.
The fact was he was probably barely trying on his first lap out on cold tyres and I'd had my first and very graphic lesson that even from higher speeds than I was used to the braking points and corner entry speeds were in a completely different league to anything I had previously considered to be late or fast.

After more than 70 laps (lots of tweeks and the best part of a set of tyres) that day I was starting to lap at lower mid grid times that still saw the quick guys disappearing into the distance dishearteningly quickly in my first race in the car.
It took a full season to really start to pick up the pace.

It's a long ladder to climb, you don't get on the first rung in a day. You just take a look at the thing.

Even now with prior knowledge of how high a sensible entry speed is the first few corners after a long break often involve me chanting 'Don't brake, don't brake, don't brake, don't brake' to prevent myself doing so too soon. :O
It comes back pretty quickly now though and a lap later I'm back in mode and occasionally clamping the right foot down with the left to cure that pesky security lift before the flat corners! :E

15th Mar 2005, 09:32
Sensation of speed is a subjective thing. Landing a glider (an inch off the grass), sailing (at maybe nine knots) , go-karts (at fifty or so) all give me a sensation of really speeding.
Not having flown jets or done low flying, flying seldom gives me a speed rush. (Although I know an airline pilot who sometimes dips his 737 into a cloud up to the windows. Now, THAT, he says, gives you an idea of how fast you are moving.)
I suppose the trick is to balance your time of life, personal preferences, and bang for your buck for your thrills.
For sheer adrenelin and bang for your buck, I'd go skydive. As Father Time catches up though, maybe mild aerobatics with a Zimmer frame will be more appropriate.
Disappointingly, cars don't really do it, especially with my modest driving skills.

Maude Charlee
15th Mar 2005, 11:23
You can have some tremendous fun chucking a spamcan down uninhabited gullies in the North Pennines, or across peat farms at 10'. :}

Or so I hear. ;)

High Wing Drifter
15th Mar 2005, 12:27
I'll second the comments on these trail track days. I spent a day at the Mansel school at Brands. A few laps in a 3 series followed by several in a Formula First.

It was a dissapointment by and large. The FFs were rev limited to 95mph which didn't feel outragously quick and the acceleration rather padestrian. They gave us a very unchallenging time to beat and it didn't feel like the car was being pushed at all. The ultimately irritation was to have every marshall waving yellow slow down flags at every corner.

But it was fun getting the car to bottom our at Paddock Hill; very clenched buttocks!

One ambition is that I will, one day, sign up for one of those residential racing schools and learn how to do it properly.

Flying Lawyer
16th Mar 2005, 18:27
Track days where you drive your own car are also good fun, and I'd recommend a day to any driving enthusiast, but a few words of warning.

Does your policy cover you for driving on a track?
If not, and you go ahead, bear in mind that it could be a very expensive day out if something goes wrong.

Take it easy at first, get to know the circuit, and you'll have more fun:
Your road car will initially feel very different on a track, mainly because you'll be going faster than you think. (No cues in peripheral vision.) That's not a problem on the straights, but you can easily end up going far too fast into a corner and lose it - usually on the exit.

Some years ago, I was checking drivers at a charity day at Donnington Park. One chap came along in a Z series Nissan 3 ltr which was in magnificent gleeming condition, with every conceivable extra - obviously his pride and joy. We did a few laps and he was clearly a good road driver, but I found it very difficult to get him to brake earlier for the corners. It was obvious he thought I was fussing and he 'knew what he was doing'. Eventually, faced with an ultimatum to demonstrate he could drive around safely or I couldn't sign him off, we did a couple of quite fast but perfectly safe laps.
I signed him off, with some reservations because I suspected he'd probably done those just to get me out of the car, and warned him again to take it easy until he got to know the track - no need to rush it, track open all day etc - and he'd have more fun later if he took his time at the beginning.
No more than 10 minutes later, I was in the pit lane briefing another driver when I heard a loud bang - that distinctive sound of glass and body panels crunching. He'd braked too late at the end of the straight, entered the chicane at Goddards far too fast, got through the first part (more by luck than skill, I suspect) entered the second part out of control and spun nose first into the wall of the grandstand at the start of the pit lane.
He ended up being carted off to hospital for a check up (minor cuts) and what was left of his gleeming pride and joy was pulled off the track in kit form - clearly a write-off.

At least he had the good grace to manage a smile and say "Don't say it! I know."