Test Day at Donington Park

Gold Track Evening
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit (2.50 miles)

We all arrived separately for a 5:30pm briefing. I came down from Sheffield and had a quick bite to eat in the Donington Museum Cafe. At the time it was raining, but I still stopped to look a the Fangio and Senna statues on the entrance to the event. I wondered if it would stop for our practice.

In the briefing they told us the rules of the road. No overtaking in corners or braking areas and even then only on the left and with complete cooperation from the others. This was after all a track day not a race or even an official test. There would be a lot of others out there would hadn’t taken the ARDS course. We also learnt that we would be using the Grand Prix track and not the national. This was slightly unfortunate as we will be racing on the National circuit in June.

The rain stopped some half an hour before the first session and the early evening Sun put in an appearance. Andy check over the car and put tape on the headlights and then we were ready to go. Dad went out for the first session. The track was still damped, but a dry line still emerged quite quickly. Half way through his first session Dada came into the pits and picked up one of the Donington ARDS instructors who showed him the lines. The instructor also noticed that the brakes may be running slightly too hot as they were juddering under light braking.

In the next session I went out with the Instructor who showed me the lines and eventually I could follow them. I tended to want to turn into Hollywood much too early, but once I did it correctly, or at least not completely wrong, I found that the car much preferred it. Through the Craner Curves I was at first having a confidence tap on the brakes, but soon became to realise that not only was this unnecessary the car felt much more composed if I kept on the throttle. The rest of the evening was a matter of having more and more throttle each time. Although it was never flat. I suspect it is possible flat, but that you would be too far over to the right for the Old hairpin. Well that’s my theory anyway. At present it appears that going round the outside of someone here is impossible. I must watch that 1993 Grand Prix again – I guess that’s why there is a statue here.

Past the place were Senna got Damon in 1993 and up to McLeans and another place where it is tempting to stray from the line. This time on the exit. The temptation is to wind more lock on as you exit and follow the inside on the road, but the proper line just lets you drift out to the outside with no drama.

At the end of the straight we arrive at the Melbourne loop complex. The instructor was very keen for me to keep of the still damp kerbs. This I did, not wanting to what Mika did in Magny-Cours two years ago. I feel that if this happen in a race I wouldn’t be able to put in such a good recovery drive overtaking half the field (again).

It was in this part of the track that the brake problem became noticeable. I seemed to suffer more than Dad with it. The initial braking was OK, but then when I got of the brakes they juddered and unsettled the car which was not ideal. It also caused me to lock up once going into Goddards, but this was not that dramatic and I still managed to get turned in at approximately the correct point – as well as my other laps anyway. The instructor suggested some different pads to try, but Andy was having the car for the following week so he’ll check them out.

We don’t have any times as we were not allowed to time ourselves – it was not meant to be competitive. The times would have been meaningless as on every lap we had to be kind when letting the quick round corners, but slow on the straights, Caterhams pass us. We do know that we were both getting quicker – we were the slowest on the track at first, but overtaking Porsches by the end! I wonder what it’ll mean by June.



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