Brands 2nd May
(See bottom of page for movies)
Brands Indy the day after Donnington. Today was to be different in that it was my third time here this year and as my local track it meant time to start pushing the car a bit more and trying to improve my performance steadily over the day.
My first session reminded me just how physical and demanding the indy circuit is. Its a right work out with zero time for a drop in concentration, making donnington seem like a walk in the park, a gentle ride on a scenic railway ! Also, Druids and the Clark Curve are great for playing at the car's limits and you really can put a car through its paces here. There something so very intense about the indy circuit, it all happens so fast and concentrated and never fails to get the pulse racing.
Initially I started to get a flow going in the SLR and was working out how it was behaving in the bends. Compared to the 340r here a couple of months ago, one of the biggest noticeable differences was the braking which not only needed shorter distances but was much more stable. Braking for Paddock, the SLR was far more poised and secure than the 340r ever was. Also, the Caterham dived for the corners much better, particularly at Druids where the 340r used to feel quite wallowy and recalcitrant turning in. I was able to maintain good power into Clearways (60+ mph as opposed to 45mph that i managed in my 111s elise 3 years ago!) and pretty much do as I pleased here once the car was at the apex. The only misgiving with the SLR was again the top speed. I was again significantly below 120mph here regardless of how good my exit was from Clearways, whereas the evo & 340r both saw 120mph.
During the first part of the day, from my video footage its clear that my times went from the 59 second mark (around the time I was getting in the 340r) down to the 58 and 57 seconds. By the end of the day though I was managing 56's and a couple in the high 55's. A lot of this was down to pushing myself. I have a very bad habit of getting complacent on track, just breezing along enjoying the scenery and not pushing my entry speeds, braking distances or power out of a bend. This time I did a lot better in this respect and attempting to follow some faster cars helped me enourmously, showing me where I was slow and egging me on to try better. Also, when you do try and catch a faster car you tend to take a few more risks and end up quickly discovering new limits and possibilities.
Limitaions and improvements
My two big question marks at Brands have always been Paddock and Graham Hill bend. I have always been pretty slow into Paddock and maybe because of its formidable reputation, never bothered trying to find the limits of grip here in any car. Secondly, I have always hated GH bend with a vengeance and it has never felt natural, flowing or fast to me. Well later on in the day I did do some work on Paddock Hill. I realised that I was actually shrugging off far too much speed and then having to accelerate after turn in so that I was back at a respectable 80mph at the apex. I find it difficult, almost like a mental block, upping corner entry speed by several mph from what feels natural... its almost as if there is something inside you stopping you but knew I had to force myself at Paddock. Looking at the video, especially the way the Radical loses me on this bend its clear that I still have a lot of work to do here including a nasty habit of not using the width of the track on entry. I would estimate that apex speed should be 90-100mph in my car especially since it never felt wayward or light on exit. Things did improve though and I found that far less braking was required for the bend.
At the closing sessions of the day I finally sussed the Graham Hill bend as well. Not sure what it was but I found myself applying the power far far earlier which is the key to this bend given the following charge up the straight. The video shows that Graham Hill became much more of a single flowing movement, more seamlessley attached to the straights either side and my change into 4th got earlier and earlier. I was very pleased with this and I now really enjoy the bend.
The surtees/mclaren "kidney" complex was taken with a slight feathering of the throttle (sometimes a very small dab on the brakes) at around 80-85mph. Now entry into fast bends is another weakness of mine since it requires lots of bottle and I reckon I could or should be faster through here. Taking some left kerb makes the car feel more secure and this helped on occasion but I really would like to work up to gentle oversteer on entry situation when I return. Having said that, my line through McLaren and braking for Clearways was fast as always - I always seem to show a considerable advantage over other cars here.
Clearways was as natural and exploitable as ever, one of my favourite bends in the game. I upped my entry speed here during the day and was turning in much quicker for my good laps. I did overcook it though on several ocassions - mostly when I was concentrating on catching someone in front instead of on my own car ! - and had to back off and opposite lock to regain composure. Looking at the recordings though, its obvious that I am getting a bit lazy with my lines here. Into Clearways I should be more to the edge of the track and out of the clark curve I wasn't using nearly enough width of the track. The idea is to let the car run right out to the left hand curb then arc back in to touch the pit wall. Holding onto the steering before the straight will compromise terminal speed.
Overall then a great work out for the SLR and some decent progress made. I had a great dice with the resident red Radical (see movies) and although I only ever caught him because of the traffic it was one of the things that helped me push at the end of the day and make good improvement. Look at the movie and watch how he turns into Paddock compared to me, we're level peggings on one lap and then he looks like he's flowing at 20mph+ more through the bend... just shows you where I need to be faster.
The highlight of the day has to be where the infamous Maurice Reeves (he of www.howfast.com) suddenly went past me out of the blue. I saw his son here a few weeks ago giving an R500 a very hard time and when this black Golf appeared in my rearview mirror around Druids I had a pretty good idea who it was. Trying to keep up was great fun and again, helped me push the boat out a bit and learn some more about where on the circuit I was holding myself back. Maurice told me he runs a 55 here and to be honest looking at the movies i'd say thats well conservative. His rear inside wheel is off the ground of most of the lap !, he carries massive speed through bends and straight line acceleration is nothing short of sensational.. easily showing the SLR a clean pair of heels. The way it shifts out of a bend on its Avon slicks would give an R500 a hard time.
For details on my codecs, required software and filming equipment used click here. If you have the connestion speed, iWMV files are the preffered download.
Please note that timing, the use of laptiming equipment or data logging at general trackday events is strictly prohibited. The author calculates lap times AFTER such events purely as a by product of in-car filming,