#MyEvoYear 2014

2014 built on 2013’s resurgence in trackdays. Thanks to all friends and family that shared in car adventures this year.

March: Rockingham with Northloop and Circuitdays

Rockingham Raceway Mazda MX5 RS LTD

The MX5 was easily the slowest car in attendance but it didn’t stop Dad and I enjoying ourselves. Should have kept the roof on for the faster banked sections but it was too nice, and un-seasonally warm weather. Thankfully a lot nicer weather than my last visit in 2012. Ice rinks offered more grip than the circuit on that occasion. Then my e36’s clutch met its untimely end. Leaving me 300 miles to drive home with no clutch. 2014’s visit went a lot smoother (trailers are great) with the afternoon spent chasing Matt and his 924.

April: Thruxton, and the Transit

Tyronesnell Transit and MX5

Project tow SAAB turned out to be a disaster, and far from the cost saving Caravelle replacement we hoped it would be. Struggling to find a tow car Tyronesnell trailers came to the rescue with their Transit. For a die hard VW fan it put me in a tricky situation as it’s a surprisingly good van!

Matt also booked Thruxton and we had some more close lapping. Seen at the start of his video above. The day began wet and slippery, particularly on the exit to the chicane with lots of incidents and red flags. Slowly started to establish a rhythm and enjoy the circuit. It’s bumpy and fast, with lots of potential to have a high speed off that keeps you sharp. To further keep the pressure on you could overtake on both sides. Sadly not a lot of people wanted to let an MX5 through so I had to resort to borrowing a friend’s VLN tactic: hopping through when faster cars went for an overtake: Long session.

May: BCA BMW car auction + Tow barge purchase

BCA Car Auction

In a bid to buy a tow car (pun intended), after way too much time spent browsing car classifieds, Dad and I attended our first car auction. We both enjoyed the day and learnt a lot but the prices, including buyer’s fee, were higher than cars on our local BMW dealer’s forecourt. An eye opening experience. Car after car went for thousand more than anticipated. Dejected, we went home with our tail between our legs. Any thoughts of getting a bargain BMW died this day. The budget was upped, and with the help of a good friend, the below 530d tow barge was collected from Poole, Dorset. The budget… lets not talk about the budget…

e61 BMW 530d Touring in spaced grey

June: Bedford with Circuit Days

The 530d’s maiden tow was effortless. Comfy seats, an auto combined with a good stereo and plenty of torque makes for a pleasant place to spend time and munch miles. Even with the surprise that the 5 series’ boot is smaller than the SAAB’s. First time at Bedford with a trailer and it’s a proper faff. Trailers are not allowed in the infield paddock. The MX5 rewarded the separation of tools, trailer and tow vehicle by jamming a front caliper on.

MX5s at Bedford

Thanks for the roadside repairs goes to friends Iain and Jon, and other tips from ‘Loopers. I learnt a lot about calipers and Iain managed to free it up allowing for an afternoon’s lapping. First glimpses of the Plus Four Engineering Lexus powered v8 MX5 were the highlight! Even if it did get beached on a sleeping policeman attempting to get noise tested. Once home I did a full service, fitted two new front calipers and changed the brake fluid.

July: Destination Nurburgring 10

Team Bridge To Gantry

Two glorious days at the ‘Ring. Taking my total to 41 driven laps and, not that we were timing, driving my fastest lap to date (9:23). Massive thanks to Ray (driving in this year’s VLN, hoping to get out and watch at least one) for all the coaching. What’s better than two days at the ‘Ring? Colour coordinating team t-shirts and the hire car!

August: Glorious Goodwood and Evo Track Evening at Bedford

Glorious Goodwood Mazda MX5

First trip to Goodwood, and great weather despite the impending tail end of a hurricane. Sessions based, interesting and very well organised. What a wedding venue! Congratulations to Steve and Helen. Brave move having a Northloop Trackday the day before. I wouldn’t hurry back in the MX5 (the circuit deserves a faster car), or choose to do a session based trackday. But it’s a great circuit and feels very special to lap. There aren’t many trackdays with Spitfires taking off and landing while you’re lapping. A lot of fun was had closely lapping with friends in similarly powered MX5s (thanks Simon and Hannah).

Bedford in a BMW 116d Evo Track Evening

Returning to Bedford without a trailer was a lot more enjoyable. Accidentally passing Bedford (thanks to taking a 200 mile detour) in my company car I definitely wasn’t tempted, in the slightest, to turn a few laps… Bedford Evo Compilation

October: Donington with Northloop and Circuit Days

MX5 at Donington Park

After buying the MX5 at my first time to Donington this was my first solo visit / revisit. It’s becoming my favourite UK track. Certainly my favourite trackday of the year (in this country)! It also presented an opportunity to help Mission Motorsport and offer pax laps to ex-service men. The reward for which was further firming up my 2015 plans with pax laps in their Caterham Academy car.

Mission Motor Sport Caterham Academy Car

December: Brand at Brands with Mazda On Track (MOT)

Brand for a surname and not having been to Brands seems even more silly having finally been. In the wet and cold lack of December daylight I learnt two key lessons:

1. My Federal 595s don’t work in the wet and cold

2. Paddock hill bend is scary. In fact: all of the circuit is scary with the 595s.

Fiddling with tyre pressures proved futile. A dry line finally started to form and confidence grew when an RX8 stopped play by dumping its oil over the entire circuit. After a shakey start it was still a lot of fun. I’ll be back.

Brands Hatch Indy Circuit Mazda MX5

Thanks for reading. Here’s to a good 2015, and another year as an Evo subscriber!

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DN10 – Sticking to even numbers

Post DN10 (Destination Nurburgring 10) depression and work have kept me sufficiently busy that this post is now inversely proportional lateness to its relevance. It’s also melodramatic… 75% happy to have been able to attend DN6, 8 and now 10. 25% sad an imminent grown up things mean this may be my last DN and Nurburgring trip for a while (hopefully some house building posts to follow, after a rant on how poor Cornwall Council Planning are….).

Making new friends at the Chunnel. Some DN10 attendees were easier to spot than others.

My first solo voyage, all previous trips have been with friend paxing. Unsure how the 666 mile journey would go I looked forward to meeting new and old friends there. Thankfully I needn’t have worried. The 1 series proved a faithful companion. Discovering the excellent Tim Ferriss’ podcast helped too.

BMW One Series at the Nurburgring
Very much at home

With the news European speed cameras will soon be able to get our details from the DVLA, and this being the 1 series’ last trip, I was keen to set a good time. How good I’ll enjoy and shorten each time I mention to people silly enough to listen. When the company car people collect the 1 series expect a very sad Olly!

Lots of miles done with only one fuel stop!

With getting to the Nurburgring sorted it was time to settle into the excellent Gastehaus Fuchsrohre. After a quick shower and freshen up I headed for the sign on and briefing. Being a Rent4Ring customer this isn’t strictly necessary. We have a separate briefing and sign on at Rent4Ring the morning of day 1, early! Even as a regular it’s still a requirement, and a further reminder to take things easy to start. The main briefing is still worth attending, a chance to see some of the cars and meet up with friends. Lots of nice cars in attendance. Everything from exotic Alfas to multiple 911s 4.0 RS, with Atoms, Schirmer m3s and new 991 GT3s thrown in for good measure. This briefing we also learned the T13 pits were in use and gathered a full appreciation for just how many people are attending the event. Lots it seemed!

Matching BTG T-shirts with AI's colour scheme
Rocking the BTG look…. (me, Mr. BridgeToGantry and Ray)

Massive thanks to Ray, my GT6 buddy and Nurburgring veteran, for sharing DN10 and our R4R Swift ‘AI’. His coaching over the two days and paxing with him really helped. A great three days: good food, company and impressive to see how fast Ray can pilot a Swift around the ‘Ring.

Day 1 – HOT

We skipped the DN sighting laps: the track opened at 8am with a strict no overtaking rule until 9am when the track goes live. Our Rent4Ring Swift package came with 24 laps, using 1-2 of those for sighting laps seemed a waste. If it’s your first time, or you lack confidence this equation may change for you. Solo I’d of been more tempted but with Ray’s experience and offer of going first it made sense to save our laps.

Wipperman Kerb usage
Using the Kerb a little

Paxing with Ray I learnt a lot. He was also very patient with coaching and we safely knocked 15 seconds off my previous best BTG. To be clear we didn’t time, we just filmed with a GoPro and reviewed footage. More than chasing a time I’m trying to improve my knowledge of the track, safety and have fun. A drop in lap times hopefully a bonus biproduct and a good yardstick to measure progress. The Rent4Ring Swift proved far greater fun than a sum of its mighty parts. The weather was glorious and my 6 driven laps were over all too quickly.

Day 2 – Still HOT

Day 2 was great fun but only managed 5 driven laps. Amazingly the weather was again perfect even if the day was marred by silly mistakes, lots of traffic and a few closures. Still far from a bad day and I managed to get out paxing with friends in other cars that proved a highlight in the afternoon.  There’s lots to be learnt and experienced from the pax seat, thanks to those that offered me a PAX. I also finally got a pax lap with Mr. BTG by sacrificing one of my driven laps. Soooooooooo worth it!

No wheels on the ground
Flying

My first lap the fuel light came on at Hatzenbach, rookier error! Went to get fuel and then took another friend out for more coaching / tuition / being shouted at. Aborted due to a red flag at miss-hit-miss. It was then lunch time with no sign of the track opening soon. With all the closures and two false starts it looked liked getting my laps in was going to be an issue. Thankfully I had a solid 3 lap stint in the afternoon.

 

I had great fun and learnt a lot from the laps and more of Ray’s coaching. Additional traffic held me up and none of my laps were clean. Straight from the racing driver’s handbook of excuses for not going faster. A particularly poorly driven M3 wouldn’t let us, and many other drivers, through. They constantly blocked lines, held us up and made dubious decisions. Having waxed lyrically to several new recruits to DN days I was sad DN10 didn’t live up to my previous experiences of DN6 and DN8. I’m hoping lessons are learnt and less people are on DN11 :D. Still a great event and so glad to have been able to attend.

Until next time…..
Highlights…

Realising what fast is and paxing while Dale and Ray pretty much overtook everything. A real privilege and worth the entry fee alone. Considerably less than 9 min laps with lots of traffic in a Suzuki Swift! At the end of Day One another R4R Swift driver complained AI was much faster and driven by a ‘maniac’. Technically two maniacs (Dale and Ray).

GTR Fishing 😀

Low lights…

Closures and some terrible driving: Undertakes, line blocking, indicating right then diving left for an apex and the feeling far too many people were let loose to play. Not the usual DN experience I’ve come to know and love.

The Channel Tunnel Train
Home time (La Chunnel)

Looking back make that 100% happy and very lucky to have been able to attend another two great days at the Nurburgring. Will I really be able to not go back out for a while…… We’ll see…

When will I see you again….