Silverstone Track Day

When doing a track day I turn up in my Renault Clio V6 Phase II, do the track day and drive home (hopefully). On the few track days I have done most participants do the same, with the few exceptions who bring their cars on trailers (about 10% - 15%).

Well, I turned up early at Silverstone in the new ‘Wing’ pit and parked next to an articulated lorry with 'FF Corse – Racing with Ferrari livery'. A quick look in their pit garage showed numerous sets of tyres, computers and hospitality for their ‘Gentleman racers’. After a quick chat with the engineers it was apparent that they were taking part in the track day with 2 x F430 GT cars and a 458 GT Car. Next to them was another Ferrari team with a huge truck running a 458 GT, the other side of the pits was David Richards of Prodrive running an Aston Martin team with a massive truck, Toyota GB brought race cars and a massive truck. Then on to the ‘small’ guys with their cars in covered trailers and large transits containing various spares. Every pit garage was taken by some team or another with Lamborghini GT Cars, Porsche GT cars, open cockpit racing cars, Renault race cars. And then there was me, turned up in my Clio V6, no garage, no pit crew, no sets of tyres, no amazing tool kits, no computers, just a small bag of tools (which I probably would not know what to do with if something went wrong), a tyre pressure monitor and an electric tyre pump.

My car preparation was to remove the front stowage unit to allow the air to flow freely through the radiator and to remove my helmet bag, tool kit and air pump from the car.

To the briefing, and it became apparent that this ‘Track Day’ had turned into a non-official ‘Test Day’ and there were just a handful of drivers without a team and who weren’t wearing their fireproof suits.

As instruction was on offer I decided to have a 20 minutes training session. I had been driving around the circuit on ‘Real Racing 3’ on my iPad and this game gave me a basic understanding of the track layout, but defiantly not the braking zones. As I had had clutch problems on my previous track day at Bedford I decided to have an early instruction session. I did 3 laps without instruction to get a feel for the circuit and then let the car cool down. Then I had my instruction that was OK but not brilliant. I did a few laps of the circuit being told what I was doing wrong (which seemed a lot) and then a quick debrief of where I could improve. I did pick up some great tips though, particularly with hand position on the wheel and how to approach the braking to some of the more difficult corners.

After the instruction had finished I was left to my own devices and as the day went on I got to understand the track better and I was having an amazing time. In hindsight I should have had the instruction after I had done 8 – 10 laps so I understood the circuit more.

A lap went like this: Down the International Pit Straight in 4th and braking lightly to scrub speed before turning into Abbey and accelerating through the corner and still accelerating through Farm Curve before braking hard and dropping down to 3rd for Abbey, easing the car round Abbey throttle being balanced and car understeering before braking and down to second for The Loop. Round the slow loop corner and up to 3rd and turning late for Aintree Corner throttle pressed to the floor, up to 4th and 5th down Wellington Straight, before braking hard and down to 3rd for Brooklands Corner, still in third for the forever turning Luffield Corner the car slightly understeering as the corner opens up, and the throttle increased. Up to 4th through Woodcote Corner and the National Pits Straight before braking early and taking Copse Corner in 4th with the steering and throttle balancing the car ensuring the car stays on the track. Then quickly up to 5th before braking lightly, down to fourth going through Maggots Corner and braking harder and down to 3rd for Becketts Corner throttle being increased through Chapel Curve on up Hanger Straight getting up to 5th before braking and dropping down a gear for Stowe Corner and pushing down Vale and braking hard, down to 2nd for the long Club Corner and then accelerating through the final part and onto the International Pit Straight.

Compared to most of the other ‘Race’ cars the Clio V6 did not have a chance. Most cars were race prepared and ran on slick tyres. There were a few Renault Race teams present and they all overtook me. I did run down and overtake an older Nissan Skyline and a BMW M3 and an older racing Clio.

My Clio V6 ran impeccably without any major problems throughout the day. I ran 30 – 45 minute stints and then came in after a cool down lap. When I parked the car the windows and the boot were opened. I removed the engine covers and left the car in gear, not on the handbrake. After 10 minutes I ran the engine for a minute or so to allow the hot coolant in the engine to circulate with the cooler coolant in the front radiator. This procedure allowed the car to cool down sufficiently within 20-30 minutes. I didn’t alter the tyre pressures during the day but did notice that the tyres were not offering good grip in my last stint, but with only 10 minutes of the day remaining I pushed on. The brakes also started to squeal in the last run, but this had stopped by the time I had packed up and was on my way home.

After correcting my steering, after the instruction given, I found that the large wheel was a little cumbersome. Also, the steering wheel started to ‘melt’ in my hot hands. I found that the seats were not the most supportive, though you were stuck to them. I have ordered a smaller ‘Race’ wheel and have the lowered seat brackets for Recaro Pole positions, that I will get at a later date.

I'm not too sure what can be done on the traction side of things. I'm looking at an LSD and maybe a suspension upgrade.

I noticed that the tyres scrubbed up and that the rears had a much higher wear than the fronts.

As per usual, the Clio V6 got admiration from a number of onlookers, including 2 of the drivers from the Ferrari Race teams. In fact one of the drivers owned a Clio V6 but had never seen the engine. His Clio V6 was Black and had not been used for 4 years, although he had had it serviced and was looking forward to taking it out on a run this year.

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