On Tuesday the 31st of July 2012, I went to experience the racing environment by having a go myself in a Ginetta G40J.
This was the Junior Race Tester Day for Ginetta to give young drivers the chance to see if they have the potential ability to enter the 2013 junior championship.
If you want to take a glance yourself go to http://www.ginetta.com/.
The event took place at the Bedford Autodrome, a disused airfield, which had been transformed into a racing circuit by former F1 racing driver Jonathan Palmer.
I had an early start, getting up at 6:15 in the morning. The weather was the usual British summer weather with rain in the morning which soaked the track and made the conditions a bit tricky.
However, the afternoon saw more promising conditions with the at times hesitant sun drying out the circuit. This meant we could set faster lap times and really go for it.
Go-karts are quite simple to drive and I thought cars would be very similar. But that wasn’t the case!
Instead, driving the car was a whole new mind-blowing experience for me. I had to adapt to the use of a gearbox and clutch.
Whilst getting used to driving the car, I made mistakes due to my lack of experience at first: I held the clutch down when I was at an apex which spun the car immediately and I accidentally up-shifted through the gears when I was meant to down-shift.
However, as you always learn best from your own mistakes I quickly got better as the day went on.
As I added more revs I let the clutch go faster than I’d done before, which made the engine roar.
I also got to know what the activity is like in a pit garage, hearing the noises of the wheel guns fixing the wheels onto cars and observing how the mechanics fit you into the seat-belts of the car.
Before we started racing we had to have an introductory meeting, a driver’s briefing. The introduction saw us meeting our instructors for the day, going through the health and safety procedures and the specification of the car.
After this, the first session started before lunch. My first go was my slowest of the day, which really isn’t a surprise. I was warming up for the second and third sessions and getting a feel for how a car works compared to a go-kart.
During the three sessions, we saw some spectacular spins. At one point I even spun the car 360 degrees and kept going! A stunt performance… Well, luckily I didn’t stall it and the car pointed in the right direction of the track which meant I could keep going. However, the spectators said that ‘it looked like a stunt.’ I could have spun on numerous occasions, but I quickly reacted to catch the car, causing smoke from the tyres to loom up into the air. This occurred when I was pushing very very hard to get the best time possible. In my second run, the times were fast but inconsistent. This happened as I was not braking hard enough into the corners. This would then reduce my speed through the corners quite dramatically or make me go wide through the apex. If you don’t know what an apex is, it is the middle of a corner. A key definition for you to learn in the racing world! My third and final run was slower than my second, but the lap times were more consistent as I was braking harder and getting a faster exit through the corners.
Whilst I was waiting to get into the car, I had a number of pictures taken of me with the Ginetta cars, Jonathan Palmer’s Tyrrell from the mid-80s and with the Ginetta pits. Here are some of the photos:
Overall, I had a fantastic day! Do I feel I have ‘IT’ to become a racing driver? Too early to make a judgment on that, perhaps I should practise some more … watch this space…