club msv trackdays
Own a performance car but feel you never get the most out of it? Then you need to sign up for a Trackday. At Club MSV, you don't need a supercar or a lot of experience, just a bit of sense and a willing right foot. Jonathan Crouch went along to take a look.
Speed cameras, radar traps, traffic jams - today's drivers are fed up with them, particularly if they own a performance-orientated car. Trackdays are one solution. They won't ease the pain of the daily commute of course, but they will allow you to let off steam in between and drive your car as it was intended to be driven.
Search around on the web and you'll find any number of trackday operators but nearly all of them will be independent companies hiring time at established circuits. In the current climate, there's also the danger that they may not exist when the trackday you've booked and paid a deposit for comes around.
With all that in mind, a more established operator who actually owns the tracks you'd be using has to be a better bet, assuming they can provide trackday excitement at an affordable price. Someone like Club MSV for example. This is the in-house trackday division of MotorSport Vision, the company that owns five UK circuits - Brands Hatch in Kent, Oulton Park serving the North, Snetterton in Norfolk, Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire and Bedford Autodrome. In other words, some of Britain's greatest racetracks are included within their circuit portfolio.
To prove the point, Club MSV recently invited me to try two of their circuits, Brands Hatch in Kent and the purpose-built Bedford Autodrome, as part of our Performance Car of the Year test programme. It was a good opportunity to check out their facilities and meet some of the people who make the business tick.
I wanted to start by dealing with a few preconceptions that people have about trackdays. First, that you need a special kind of car to take part, or at the very least, a lottery-winner's supercar. Not so. Almost any type of road car is eligible to take part in a trackday, the only restriction being noise regulations that most standard production models will have no trouble in passing. Many trackday customers have nothing more sophisticated that a GTi hot hatch or a much older sportscar that they keep in the garage for special occasions. Indeed, for a novice, something lower-powered is a much better bet, allowing you to make the inevitable mistakes at much lower speeds.
Club MSV have clearly thought about the needs of trackday first-timers. Several formats of trackday are available, including "Arrive and Drive" taster sessions for beginners and "Novice-only days" for first time participants. The last thing you need when you're learning an unfamiliar circuit in a lower-powered car is to constantly have more experienced drivers impatiently flashing you from behind.
Do a few of these types of days and you'll feel much more confident about signing up for the kind of date that regular trackday fiends love, one with an "Open pitlane", offering the flexibility to go on and off the circuit as often as you like throughout the event. By this point, if you haven't already taken up the opportunity of some one-to-one in-car tuition from Club MSV's qualified race instructors, then it would be wise to do so. Their experienced drivers can even offer racing license training and ARDS/BARS tests for race and rally licenses.
Having perfected your skills, you may want to bring along spectators, passengers or additional drivers to admire your new-found track driving prowess. And that's no problem with Club MSV. If your car is from a famous marque like Porsche or BMW, you may want to sign up for one of the specialist trackdays that are run only for these types of cars.
And prices? Well, they start from £25 for a twenty minute 'Arrive and Drive' session, £99 for an evening session and £225 for a full day. Trackday vouchers are also available for gifts and special occasions - available from £25 up to £500 packages. These are rates that compare very favourably with those of independent operators. And of course, it's all a lot cheaper than losing your licence to a speed camera.
Safety of course is treated with the highest priority at all events. All participating drivers have full safety briefings. And on-track shenanigans is treated with the kind of discipline it deserves. You'll need a helmet of course (or Club MSV can provide one), but no overalls or gloves and there's no need to modify your car in any way.
All of which leaves only the issue of which circuit to choose. Of course, you'll want to look at selecting the nearest one but if you're prepared to travel a little, the rewards in store can be great. The Bedford Autodrome is a good example. OK, so it was a bit of a trek from my Sussex home but the advantage of this facility is that it offers purpose-built test tracks rather than a race circuit. That means there's virtually no Armco to expensively hit, meaning that you can explore many more of the limits of your car and make mistakes in reasonable safety.
Of course, if it's a race circuit you really want, there's something to be said for going to a classic venue and few names in motorsport stir the soul like Brands Hatch. There's something about driving round a track that has hosted all the greats that adds a very special touch to any driving experience. It was on a trackday at Brands that double World Champion Graham Hill first was bitten by the motorsport bug. Perhaps a future Club MSV customer will follow in his footseps.
It won't be me unfortunately, but I enjoyed my two days experiencing what the Club has to offer. Quite honestly, I can't see the point in owning a high performance car if you never use it in anger. And since you can't really do that in safety on-road, a trackday is really the only viable solution to getting the most out of ownership. Having tried other operators, I'd recommend Club MSV first. Quite simply, it ticks all the boxes.
TRACKDAYS- THE FACTS
We tried: Club MSV
Costs: Prices start from £25 for a twenty minute "Arrive and Drive" session, £99 for an evening session and £225 for a full day.
To find out more: To find out more go to www.motorsportvision.co.uk/trackdays or call Club MSV on 0843 453 3000.