easy track goodwood
track days a primer
These Days It's Madness To Stretch Your Performance Car To Its Limits On The Roads. Andy Enright Shows How Easy It Is To Take To The Track Instead
The briefing seemed serious. A long set of dos and don'ts were followed by a run down of which of the Goodwood corners you particularly wanted to avoid spearing off the track. It seemed virtually all of them were potentially hazardous to health. Suddenly any ideas of going out there and letting it all hang out rapidly left the building.
Instructor Geoff Tobert wasn't trying to deliberately put the willies up the forty or so attendees at the Easytrack day, instead merely reminding them of their responsibilities and adding a couple of cautionary notes. Of course there are always some who switch off throughout the briefing and having clearly asked drivers to take it easy for the first couple of laps so that tyres and transmissions could be brought up to speed, not to mention the fact that the large local population of exceedingly dimwitted seagulls needed to be put to flight, it was perhaps inevitable that one customer would have a first lap spin. No damage done, the driver of the Nissan Skyline returned to the pits suitably chastened.
Trackday enthusiasts are full of useful advice on which tyres will shave tenths from your lap times, which exhausts will offer an extra couple of horsepower and which fuel will give you that crucial extra edge, but the best, not to mention the safest, way of upping your game is to invest in some instruction. Goodwood looks a pretty simple circuit but it's only when you start pushing a little harder that the unusual cambering of the corners, the occasionally abrupt surface changes and the lack of runoff around most of this very high speed track becomes apparent.
Years spent lapping the track allowed Geoff to calmly point out reference points on the track that can be used to gauge whether or not you're on the optimum line, how to tackle the trickier double-apex bends and where time can best be made up under braking. Taking cleaner and more satisfying lines through most of the corners made the circuit seemed a decent way to invest my time. Referring to the in-car video footage that I'd shot during the day showed that my lines before the instruction session were ragged and inefficient, forcing the car into sharper bends than was entirely necessary. Easytrack strongly disapprove of the use of lap timing equipment on their track days, believing that it encourages drivers to eat into their safety margins too much when chasing a time, but reviewing the video tapes at home that evening showed that I was, on average, a full four seconds a lap quicker after the instruction session without seemingly pushing the car any harder. It would have been pointless pushing for any sort of lap record there, however, as Geoff had already advised us that rally legend Walter Rohrl had logged a lap with an average speed of over 140mph in Lord March's Porsche Carrera GT.
The atmosphere at the event was a surprise. I'd figured that a trackside collection of mainly male sports car drivers would bring together a bunch of big egos and competitiveness, but that was a long way from the truth. Many attendees were happy just to chat about their cars, to lend tools if there was a problem with another driver's engine or to offer advice. Easytrack's web forum even gave me the opportunity to chat to several of the drivers I'd met on the day online, getting more information on what I was getting right and wrong. One helpful character even emailed a selection of pictures he'd taken of my red Impreza as it sailed through the chicane.
Graham Watson, the man in charge on the day, explained how they liked to offer a no nonsense track day. "It's all about just getting out there and enjoying your car safely and sensibly," he notes. With an open pit lane format, drivers can log plenty of track time during the day although a maximum of 15 cars are allowed on track at any one time. With only 27 cars attending that day, this was hardly a problem.
The 2.4 mile Goodwood track is a fantastic circuit when it all clicks. The start/finish straight puts you into the complex Madgewick corner, taken in the Subaru at around 85mph before being spat out onto a short straight leading into the Fordwater kink. Here the red WRX was tipping in at nearly 130mph - a real test of nerve - before braking into the right-hander of "No Name Corner" the point where Stirling Moss' racing career came to an abrupt end. This is followed directly by the awkward left-hander of St Mary's where the track just seems to fall away and tighten. A quick blat along a short straight brings the double apex Lavant corner, a real tester in the wet, followed by an exhilarating blast along a snaking straight to the big braking zone of Woodcote. Tip right into this corner - avoiding the yawning gravel trap - and it's a right/left jink through the tyre wall chicane and on to a new lap.
From the vantage point atop the pit garages, all sorts of machinery could be seen lapping from modified Citroen Saxos and Volkswagen Golfs right up to a magnificent sounding Aston Martin Vanquish. The most popular cars were Caterhams and Lotus Elises with a smattering of Imprezas and BMW M-Coupes present. A strict 98dB noise limit is enforced at Goodwood and any car that fails the test is not eligible to run. The Caterhams often prove a problem as their side exhausts point straight at the trackside noise level microphones installed by the local Environmental Health department and if the sessions get too noisy, the cars are brought in for a while and then sent back out in quieter combinations.
Easytrack are the UK's busiest track day organiser providing members with opportunities to put their foot down on circuits all over the UK and on some well-known tracks in Europe as well. They are one of the many companies now offering motorists the chance to drive their cars at the limits or, alternatively, to hire a specially prepared track day car to do the same thus preserving their pride and joy.
I've spent this morning scanning Easytrack's online diary looking for the next event I can attend. I have a feeling that this could become more than a little addictive. Check out www.easytrack.co.uk and find out why.