I’ve never been to a track day before, so this was a new and exciting experience. Passenger laps in a variety of fast cars around the full F1 circuit!
First off was the open-topped Sylva roadcar. A thrilling ride, on the borderline of scary! Two impeccable fast laps, and then on the third lap we spun out on a bend and stalled. No way was the engine restarting, so rather embarrassingly the red lights went on around the track and we had to get towed back home.
Also in the garage was a Toyota MR2, 1600cc mid-engined rear-wheel drive. With a design dating back to the late 1980’s, according to Wikipedia the MR2 featured “a naturally aspirated 4A-GE 1,587 cc inline-four engine, a dual overhead-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder motor, borrowed from the E80 series Corolla. This engine was also equipped with DENSO electronic port fuel injection and a variable intake geometry (“T-VIS”), giving the engine a maximum power output of 128 hp (95 kW) in the UK.”
I was naturally drawing comparisons with my Generation 7 Celica, with the 1.8 VVti Yamaha 1ZZ-FE engine delivering 140bhp (142 PS (104 kW; 140 hp) @ 7600 rpm 173 N·m (128 lb·ft) @ 4200 rpm). The MR2 benefited from the better mid-engine weight distribution and everyone commented on how, although it was surpassed on the straights, the line it took through corners put other superior cars to shame.
Next up was the Ford Focus RS. One of the race team drives this to work during the week, and then changes the tyres over at the weekend for the track! It’s a 2.5 litre 5-cylinder engine, turbo assisted, and the only significant modification from factory spec is the air inlet manifold being changed over from a plastic moulding to an aluminium casting. Some very fast laps, and three-point seatbelts meaning we had to wedge ourselves firmly in!
The main event, of course, was the Aston Martin GT3 race car. A six-litre V12 engine, producing around 550bhp. I have to admit to being quite nervous about the prospect of laps in such a beast of a machine, however it turned out to be tremendous fun! – a real white-knuckle ride, with me wedged firmly into my seat and hanging on tightly to the roll cage. The grip, acceleration and braking of the GT3 are absolutely phenomenal, so it’s quite physically demanding. But I got out beaming like a Cheshire Cat! An experience like that has to be another one for everyone’s bucket list…