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A much shorter distance from Central London this time but nevertheless we were up at 6am and off through Battersea, Catford and Blackheath in time for rush hour. At the track it was soon obvious that a lot of people were turning up and that things would be on tthe crowded side. Plenty of Caterhams as usual, a large number a 911's, lots of race vehicles and various oddities like an Evo II integrale, Lotus excel, a chimeara (why do the TVR's always turn up alone) a Ford Anglia and a couple of skylines. Weather was very bright and sunny but pretty cold with a very chilly wind.
At first I was a little disappointed that we were not running the full GP circuit, especially after the kalaidoscopic array of bends on offer at Oulton. But when arriving I relised that the compact and simple Indy circuit was really the best thing. 

Just 6 bends to learn and concentarte on for the whole day and start refining my relationship with my 111s on track. The last thing I needed was a big circuit to throw me, especially after the Silverstone experience. Also, I knew the track pretty well from the computer game TOCA2 (sad but good for preparation the evening before) which for all its non-realism, does show you the lines and route of UK tracks really rather well.

GP circuit :  2.6 miles     indy circuit:  1.204 miles    website:

After circuit familiarisation which was easy to take in, we had the main club briefing and the overiding point seems to be that Brands Indy, whilst simple, is fairly intense and the bends come thick and fast, keeping you well on your toes. Also, plenty of height variation and I really couldn't wait to try out paddock and then sharply sink down then back up toward druids. From the back of the pits it looked mouthwatering stuff.
This was also my driving partner, Stefan's first full track outing in his new toy the blue factory 190 "NTO". Although I had driven this intoxicating animal down to thruxton and back (but not on thruxton) a few weeks before, I was looking forward to trying it out on the circuit. He had kindly sorted out insurance for me for this day and for the forthcoming Mallory event. I reckoned it was best to leave it to the end of the day though.

The first session was a great indicator of just what a fantastic day this would turn out to be. After just a few laps I felt that I knew my way around pretty well and was starting to get into my lines and construct a nice flowing thread through the whole length of tarmac. First big impressions had to be Paddock and its lovely steep downhill exit. Also, the section from the apex of Clearways to the straight immediately felt gloriously natural and very satisfying in the acceleration department.


All the way from Clearways it is flat acceleration down the rhs of the Brabham Straight. Before my tuition session with the club chief instructor I was getting this approach quite wrong (although it always felt good) and was coming down the straight in the centre and drifting to left of track about halfway, well before Paddock. Although most other cars there seemed to be doing the same thing I was taught to stay right down the Brabham Straight, all the way until the just before the exit mouth of the pit lane. The reason for this is that the straight is higher further away from the pits (i.e. the left hand side) so by keeping right you use the downhill aspect to help your straight line speed. Also, by crossing the track late you move to the lhs as you brake for Paddock so you are moving slightly uphill and this helps your retardation.
My top speed down the straight was probably approaching the 110 mark and I never ventured further than this despite the prospect of true competitive speeds down here - how about 125-130mph for one of the BTCC touring cars ! 

Initially most cars seemed to be braking quite early for Paddock and although I started the same I managed to delay this braking point progressively through the day.

However I never worked on it too much as I always wanted the car to be 100% settled into Paddock and I was put off teasing out the cars braking limits after I messed it all up on a few occasions and felt like I was going to carry straight on into the gravel trap on turning in. Also, late in the day a lot of tyre marks had gathered on the end of the straight and the track had definitely started to become a little slippery here. It is a tricky one to solve becuase the turn in is blind and often I found myself braking way before the crest in the track only to rise and find that I had some way to go before turning in. In a sense this is one you have to work out rather than feel.

Paddock Hill is an exceptional bend and the key to a good lap. Its pretty quick and needs a very comfortable medium amount of lock. Its apex is hidden till you start to ascend the end of the straight and only then is the exit also visible. It took a little time for me to get enough lock on and initially I found it quite deceiving, running well wide of the apex. But best go as close as you can then immediately unwind and let the car drift right out as you squeeze the throttle quite hard and descend rapidly, hitting the compression. I am told that things can get hairy here but in the elise as long as you've gone in at a sensible speed and you keep the turn and the power delivery nice and progressive, the dip won't be a problem. At the compression you are flat to the boards and you can slowly let the car run well left to touch the rumble strip up Halliwood Hill, using as much of the track as possible to improve speed.


Paddock is 3rd for me so after the compression the vvc was already screaming blue murder. As you finally starighten up well left of track you are going up the beginning of Halliwood Hill and its 4th (about 85mph for me from memory) for a brief period before braking for Druids.

Braking here is quite reassuring as you have the steep gradient to help, and lots of open space in front of you beyond the track should you cock it all up ! I did the usual later braking routine at each session but I reckon that there's still lots of room for improvement here for me. I never felt that close to maximising the complete distance to the turn-in for Druids so maybe I'll leave it all even later next time. You can't see a great deal coming up the hill so its one to work out at every lap.

From memory I reckon that if you drew a straight line up the rhs edge of the track at Halliwood Hill and then extended that line, where it hit the back (or lhs) of the track would be about the turn in point for Druids. Maybe slightly further round though as you do seem to be pointing right a little at the end of the hill and whilst braking. I am told that this is not the competitive line however, as it leaves you far too exposed for overtaking. Lets not worry about that then.

Down to 3rd and around 40-45mph (although I did try 2nd but preferred 3rd - whether it was quicker or not I do not know) and turn in with lots of lock, immediately back on the throttle and keep it steady whilst you pass the apex and start to arc round. You are now facing the other way (as opposed to Halliwood Hill) and you can't really accelerate much as the car is still tight and needs to get back over. You reach about 2/3 of the way across the track then the car gently comes back over to the right and you are then flat to the boards, negotiating the little righthanded kink on the approach to the Graham Hill bend.


You're going downhill here so it all feels quite fast and I found it a little unnerving at times. There's this kink to get round and then you have to straighten your car for braking - it all happens in quite a short distance.

Graham Hill bend was my least favourite at Brands. I believe it used to be flat-out but now they have changed it. During my second session I completely cocked this one up, aiming for the middle of the track probably instead of the apex. Of course I ran well wide on the exit and my wheels went beyond the rumble strip into the mud and bashed into the club's exit point cone.
After this, I never really got to grips with the thing and didn't really attack it or achieve any level of mastery. I am told that it can be taken a lot faster than you imagine and judging by some of the cars in group A, I was way way off the mark.
It is not a bend I particularly enjoy and I also found that in 3rd when applying the power on exit the 111s was at that flat spot at around 4000rpm so I found getting back on the power all a bit too late. Thing is, this is where you want to overtake, before the entry into Surtees so I never fared too well here. A later apex may be in order when I return in order to get on the power earlier


Hard in 3rd then up to 4th down the Cooper straight and you are approaching "the kidney", Surtees & McClaren. You turn in at high speed so just a dab on the middle peddle and turn in very smoothly to keep the front well stuck. I was managing 80mph at turn-in, maybe slightly more but it needs a bit of nerve and I was suffering a bit of understeer early on. I made my turn in point earlier and kept the wheel movement ultra-progressive to cancel this out.I can see that Surtees could be flat out in the elise but for now, I'll leave that to the more senior drivers.

After the apex you are steady on the throttle, trying to create a straight line through the apex of McClaren and using the rumble strips. You're speed stays pretty constant and you have to line the car up well and get it all nice and tidy in preparation for Clearways as you will have to do a fair bit of braking.


Now we come to my other favourite bit of Brands. You end up on the lhs of track after McClaren and start braking hard. The 111s felt very stable here and there's loads of space to shed your speed. I was turning in tight at about 45mph, looking well ahead all the time to negotiate a good exit which is obviously important here for the straight. Immediately after the apex its hard on the power and unwinding the lock quite rapidly. In the morning I was holding onto the steering for far too long and only using half the track but the key is to let the car run naturally out left around the Clark Curve. I found it quite difficult to judge and needed to guage it each lap and kind of work it out more mathematically.

Get the line correct though and the car runs right to the lhs and hits the edge and then you are turning the other way and aiming well into the straight toward an exit point on the rhs. By using all the width, you can gather speed much better, change into 4th through the Clark Curve and gun down the rhs of the Brabham Straight. Its a very satisfying, flat-out combination.


The day at Brands went very well. It wasn't too tiresome and the small size allowed me to focus on just a small array of bends. Whilst the safety proceedures of the club were of their usual high standard the track was a little busy at times and I found myself having to back off here and there in order to retreat and find myself a little pocket of space. Approaching queues of cars and trying to get passed them never really worked. Also, a number of cars were performing rather raggedly to say the least and Stefan and I decided that it was high time to move up to the more experienced intermediate group for next time.
At the end of the day I took the sport 190 out for 10 laps or so in group A.
The differences were quite startling. Firstly, the high side race seats and harnesses really come into their own keeping you glued to the whole car. Its amazing what just a seat and belt can do - you feel much more united to the car and your body doesn't slide and roll around. You don't need to fight the G forces with your body, just sit back and go with it, leaving you much more energy and concentration to delpoy to the track and car control.

Secondly, the motorsport suspension on the Factory 190 is a different kettle of fish round the track. "how the hell do I cope with mine", I thought after settling into a few laps in Stefan's car.
The roll around corners is dramatically lessened and once again, the net effect is to also lend the experience a far greater sense of ease, stability and control. NTO really is a "point & squirt" job. It is much easier to place than my car and just goes exactly where you want it. Also, it feels as though the steering has less of a biting point so in one way its more forgiving - you just point it where you want to go and boot the thing up to 8000rpm. Obviously dive and squat are less pronounced which again, makes for a much more composed and reassuring drive.

I won't drool on about the VHPD for too long. The high rev limit is fantastic, particularly coming out of the Clark Curve and down the straight. The thing just gathers speed far quicker out of the bends and responds so well to all the changing gears and heel & toeing. The Pagid motorsport pads are so much better as well. After the spongyness of my car I have to be gentle on the anchors, its easy to lock up as I am are not used to the far greater stopping power.

The run in NTO rounded the day of nicely. I don't really want to drive this car too much as I have my own and that's the one I have to enjoy. But it gives a good guide as to where my car is lacking and where it can be taken via upgrades. The suspension and seats most definitely will be the next to go - as well as giving you more mechanical grip these mods will make trackdays a lot less taxing on the body and far more relaxed all round.

this is not intended as a circuit guide, the views expressed here are not those of a "highly experienced racing-driver" and others may well disagree


The Jackals Racetrack 1998 Richard Morris