It’s been a while since my last post, and that certainly wasn’t intentional, however, over the winter period, i’ve not really had much to post about. However, one thing that i’ve been thinking about recently is the masses of ‘track’ cars being built on forums and the suchlike.
The idea in itself is great, something the owner can use for blasting around circuits, or on a nice day down a B road. But it seems ever increasing amounts of these ‘track’ cars are being built after little to no track experience, and suddenly the owner has decided that absolutely everything about the car as it stands is wrong for it to be useful on track. Sure, there’s always improvements to be made here and there, and some are glaringly obvious from a persons first taste of track time, however some things can easily take a back seat (or at least, be put somewhere where they used to be, because no ‘track’ car should ever be seen with them…!) while the driver learns the basics of track driving, getting to understand the car, and raising their abilities to match those of the car.
It seems nowadays that a car must spend years of it’s life in the garage being ‘track prepped’, having all of the interior ripped out, a full MSA spec cage welded in, every suspension piece and bushing replaced, hideously priced bucket seats, even more hideously priced 16 pot brake calipers and tyres that would look at home on a Time Attack car fitted before it can be considered worthy of being used on track. Heaven forbid someone were to actually take a relatively standard car to the track on one of their first forays into the world of driving in circles.
What it seems people are completely overlooking is the main part of the machine itself, the part that makes it all go – no, not the throttle bodies, not the truck turbo, not the £500 air filter that gains you those 3bhp they will most definitely need – but the driver. People seem to forget that most modern, even remotely sporty cars, or even moderately older sporty cars can quite easily be taken on track in standard (or relatively standard) trim, and, for a driver’s first few track visits at least, it’s almost certain that the cars limits will exceed those of the driver. Sure, a few basic modifications to make it feel more comfortable to drive at a spirited pace may make sense, but then, after making sure it’s safe to be driven hard (i’m talking plenty of life left in the brakes and tyres, no leaks etc, not the 12 point MSA spec cage…) it just makes more sense for a novice driver to go out and enjoy it, before going from there, and considering what they actually want to improve. Forget extra power for the time being, learning to drive fast in a slow car, before adding power, is a much more sensible proposition. As the old adage goes; “Anyone can drive a fast car, few can drive a car fast”.
Now, I know there may be people out there reading this thinking I sound an absolute dick (you probably wouldn’t be far wrong), but please, don’t think i’m telling anyone how to build a car, or that I believe because I have some track time under my skin that I’m the last word in driving fast, far from it, but I do take pride in the fact that i’ve always been in lower powered cars, and, on occasion, i’ve proven my cars and their worth, against faster, more powerful machinery. I’ve had enough seat time over the past 5/6 years to know roughly where I may want to consider making improvements before I take a car on track, but that’s it, it’s nothing more than a rough guess, how do I know where I want to spend my money? I go and drive it on track, and I decide from there. My friendly suggestion is that before folk pour thousands into building a ‘track’ car from something they’ve barely, if ever, driven on track, they do the same too, go out there, drive it, tune it, drive it again, and so on. It’s a damn fun way of doing it.
Side note: If anyone does want to spend thousands building a track car after very little track time, then go for it, enjoy yourself in doing so, and create something that can make you proud in whatever way you intend. In no way is this post meant maliciously, and it most certainly isn’t aimed at anyone, all i’m trying to do is encourage people to get out there and enjoy the very thing they’re trying to create, rather than spending money on many areas making it go fast, before realising they’ve forgotten about the most important area of all, the one controlling everything.
One final note, something that I do ask that anyone out there considering going on track for one of their first times remembers (it’s always mentioned in the safety briefings, but so many people completely forget it on track)… If a car has caught you up, they’re faster over a lap. They may be slower in a straight line, but they’re faster over a lap, move over in a safe place, back off throttle if necessary to let them past, and do so. PLEASE don’t move over and keep your foot flat before realising they’re not passing and pulling back across, all you’ll end up with is someone stuck behind you getting irate at the person who didn’t listen in the briefing and is now holding them up. Let them past, they’ll be out of your way within a few corners time.