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Time to try out club 96 then. This was a freebie (a saving of £250 or so) so we decided to have an easy start and arrive a little before lunch. Weather forecast was abysmall for the whole week so instead of paying for a very wet Gold Track day at Snetterton we went to take a look at the monster of all UK circuits for free. I was also interested in trying out a second club in case I need to add some extra days to my season next year on top of those organised by CMS.
It was drizzling when we arrived and the track was extremely slippery. We were taken out by an instructor to get to know the circuit a little but to be honest, I may just have well as gone round blindfolded. Despite some 3 laps I felt no better off and went back to the pits extremely confused.

After half an hour or so our session was looming. Thing was that neither Stefan or I could find any of the club's helmets to borrow. We ran frantically up and down the length of the pits asking plenty of people for a quick loan and looking in cars for unused club helmets. Although its mandatory to invest in your own helmet, it was becoming clear that we were amongst one seriously unfriendly bunch of people

GP circuit :  3.194 miles        website:

Of course I don't wish generalise across a whole mass of individuals but the overiding sentiment was not particularly helpful or inviting. People not returning club helmets, hanging on to them with some abstract excuse and generally behaving quite gaurded and sterile. So we had to miss our first session and hang around for lunch.

During this long break we wandered around some of the impressive machinery - plenty of race-prepared 911's, Ferrari 355's, elise sport 190's (at least they started life like that) and a number of Ultimas and BMW's. We started to initiate friendly conversation here and there (as you do) and unfortunately this is where things got worse. I don't consider myself particularly socially intrusive and am nearly always greeted with enthusiasm and warmth - its down to my eyes you know and my very human, and very real character (all true you know ;-) ). But many here were well boxed in, afraid of what may lay beyond the infantile, bigotted sphere of control within which they so desperately need to exist. Still, it was quite amusing attempting to interact with such individuals - I haven't met the like since my horrific days at public school.

We did finally get out on track after lunch and boy were we shit. I was just so confused by the track that let alone getting good lines, I had trouble keeping to the GP circuit as opposed to one of the many other combinations here. We still got helmets pretty late for this outing so we only got maybe 4 or 5 laps in. When I was just starting to get the hang of Luffield and Woodcote it was time to come in. Get this - we were so disorientated that we couldn't even find the right way back to the pits again, exiting through a coned off section of the track (an alley way leading to a hamburger stall I think) that kind of looked like the pits ! The Marshall sent us back round the track in utter disgust. I definitely needed some tuition as soon as possible but with the weather looking ever more threatening and it being so late in the day it really wasn't worth it.

Sure enough, the heavens opened and it came chucking it down by the bucketload. Stefan and I sat in my car and wondered if Oulton was all a dream or not.. how could we get on so well there and then make utter goons of ourselves for 5 laps at Silverstone. We were very tired and the vibes down the pits weren't helping either but mainly we realised the importance of getting 2 sessions in early morning if you are new to the circuit. I think also that on balance, I prefer the smaller tracks for the elise. Silverstone is just so wide and grandiose by comparison - it is seriously taxing on your body and energy levels, and it don't come cheap either.The solitary photo that we took and that you see here is a pretty good measure of our enthusiasm during this catcylsmic, disasterous day-out.
I must point out that the organisers we met at Club 96 were very accomodating and really open and friendly. Malcolm is a very trustworthy bloke and I wouldn't want to put you off a possible membership with this club. Until I am disproved, I just don't think that its the right club for me. It was good to see Vivian Mezza there though - an elise owner and attendant at many a track day each season.

The rain was getting worse and I felt like just getting some good kip, so we left the circuit and headed for the shop Grand Prix Racewear in Ealing, W london to look at purchasing.... guess what.... a helmet !

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