My first time on the GP track and what a blast it is ! Compared to the indy, surtees and clearways become proper bends and you gain an additional 4 bends up the back section and most of those are very fast and require some time to get to grips with.
First one at the top of the hill is Hawthorn and is the fastest on the circuit. No doubt 100mph+ turn-in is easily achievable here but my own personal limit on the day was just shy of the 90mph mark. Next up Westfield is way way quicker than you think but blind with a sharp crest that makes the car light so once again requires lots of commitment. The revised dingle dell is also far quicker than you think. All day I was building up speed on these corners and there's still a fair bit left to go as well... the sequence is actually quite daunting and not for the faint-hearted. After that we get Stirling which is a wonderful 90deg+ bend where grip is hugely enhanced by the camber; it feels really natural and 'right' and also being downhill affords the car some serious acceleration on its exit. Finally we have the new clearways... now one seriously formidable bend in GP guise.Approach-wise as scary as anything else ive driven (pouhon comes to mind) ..... because of the crest, the fall away and the zero run off this bend requires some serious faith. Apart from the epic, fast and historic feel, the GP track on a warm sunny day is just a glorious place to drive around. Shame 'cos days here are few and far between and usually very expensive when they do happen.
For this outing the Duranail had quite a few changes. New rear 215lb race springs to match the stiff 250lb fronts, a new 3.92 diff to optimise the BGH box and new camber settings to try and get the slicks to work.
Setting off in the morning I noticed that the rear of the car felt immediately more loose and responsive to excessive throttle. Also, the whole car felt more planted through bends but was also slightly more unsettled over bumps (braking for paddock). The slicks once warmed were also obviously working. Grip through druids was improved and through bends like Stirling and Hawthorn the car felt so secure and planted. Gearing is now better with acceleration feeling very very strong up the back hill. Clearly the car is now better balanced with the matching springs, and the camber has allowed the slicks to do their stuff. So all in all, quite a different car from the one I drove last time and the day reflected this with relaxed lapping and getting to know the new handling and grip levels gently.
A couple of mechanical gremlins on the day. Firstly there was a stuttering at the end of some of the afternoon sessions when the car was hot. Occasionally under load the car would kangeroo almost like a misfire.... it didn't always do this and it was on bends and on straights so nothing to do with fuel surge. Over fueling ? Plugs ? Coil pack ? It will need some investigating at some point. Also, I was black flagged twice in the afternoon for a leakage. The car seemed to be leaking some gearbox oil underneath but this seemed to be from the breather and when we checked the levels there was plenty left in it so it was most likely still finding its level after the it was refilled a few weeks back. So the culprit was fuel again (same thing happened in February at Brands), visibile on the back of the car around the filler cap. This time we suspected the breather hole down the centre of the fillercap so to temporarily fix this i used lots and lots of gaffer tape on the back of the car.
Up the main straight the car brushes about 122mph and then at the crest when the bumpiness starts its quite light braking, into 4th and down to around 90mph. You aim for the end of the service road and then yank the car toward the apex but its hidden so you do it more by intuition at first. The car feels vague and you're not so much turning razor-like into paddock but more 'wafting' it in. Once the turn has been made true speed is more in the low 80's and then you're brushing the apex and then allowing the car to run left.
The rush increases down the hill and it all starts to feel quite fairground ride-ish ... you're hitting the compression where the car will wiggle ever so slightly if you've held onto too much lock. You are around the 100mph mark now and momentum is very good so the rush up to the hill feels quick and satisfying. Just before the bridge you stamp on the anchors down to about 50mph. As the car gets beyond the LHS kerbing you throw the nose in sharply and end for the last third of the kerb. You wait on the throttle till the apex and then you squeeze and soon your crossing the track the other way and gathering speed quickly down the hill, and through another mini-compression that momentarily sucks the car from under you.
Braking for graham Hill feels slightly perilous because the gradient is working against you but you don't need to slow that much. A late and aggressive turn-in and you make a mental effort to be on the throttle almost as soon as you've turned. The next straight is uphill, your up from 3rd and after a quick spurt in 4th its down to 3rd and into surtees. Through the bend the car squirms underneath you a bit so you adjust the throttle marginally throughout the mid section. Only after the apex do you nail it and everything begins to feel really secure and solid.
Brushing the RHS kerbing the strong acceleration even up this steep part of the track surprises you. You cross to the right , navigate the slight kink in the track and now you are up into 4th and charging rapidly uphill. The bridge looms and you change up into 5th and then suddenely you're going rapidly downhill and approaching the very fast but uphill Hawthron... this has to be one of the very best moments ! Around 118mph and then the slight braking - assisted by the incline - feels real good. Make a concerted effort not to knock off too much speed, blip the Duratec down to 4th and then turn in late but sharp at just under 90mph. The car feels very solid and you note that at least another 10mph would be possible here ! You are almost flat to the floor through Hawthron and charging still uphill toward westfield. A gentle brake here, you can't see any exit but you throw the car in. Yes, its blind and theres a unsettling but enjoyable crest, but theres tons left in the car here as well.
You are still in 4th and you're sweeping downhill then up again. A sharper bend looms but you're still on the curve so you have to go gentler on the brakes. Again, a deceptively quick one this and blind on entry. You should have dropped it into 3rd but you're being too lazy, so still in 4th its downhill again then strong braking for stirlings and dropping a gear then. You aim for the last 3rd of the kerb and as you turn in the car really digs in and feels very grippy. Powering through the car is bang on the sweet spot and what with the descent its as if youve been catapulted toward clearways. Up to 4th, under the bridge then hard on the brakes, and still hard on the brakes and a bit more braking and then you pussyfoot into clearways, safe in the knowledge that this is only a trackday and you would rather go home alive.
Second camera looking down through the nearside wishbone which apparently shows that i need to remove the damper spacer to avoid me running on the bump stops. Also, a pointless but humbling comparison with Derek Bell in a Porsche 956 at a somewhat vintage Brands Hatch.