It was a massive relief to get the IVA out of the way but particularly so as we’re approaching the start of the new racing season, what I really didn’t want to have to do was get the car back to race trim and then back to IVA trim again. Austen had arranged to go on a Bookatrack trackday at Anglesey with some instruction from ARDS instructor and former RGB racer Tim Harmer. I arranged to share the instruction with Austen and Daniel who has bought Doug Carter’s old ZX12 engined Genesis. Since then Austen’s pulled out but I decided to go.
On Thursday I nipped over to the local DVLA office with my V55/4 form which is quite confusing with lots of boxes to fill in many of which I thought weren’t applicable to my car. The chappie on the desk wasn’t sure either so called the guy who deals with kitcar registrations. He was a bit prickly to start with, I’d taken all my receipts and he only wanted to see the major ones, I got flustered and couldn’t find the bits I needed. Once he realised my paperwork was actually all there and I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one he relaxed a bit and was very helpful. I’d arranged insurance but as the cover note was handwritten I was waiting for it to arrive in snail mail. He said he didn’t need to inspect the car but wanted photos of it – I’d sent loads off with the IVA application but of course that’s VOSA and not DVLA.
So on Friday I headed back with my paperwork all neatly sorted out, cover note (£237 fully comp for the year ) and photos. I’d been hoping they might have sorted it there and then but I had to pay my £55 registration fee and £130 for the tax disk and they said they’d send my documents out within 2 working days.
There was lots to do to the car to prep it for going back on track. I want to keep it OK for the road but the ride height needed sorting, corner weights re-doing, fire extinguisher and master switches refitting, race harnesses fitting etc. This all took most of Friday and half of Saturday. I then got the car and motorhome loaded up and headed off to North Wales on Saturday evening having decided trekking up there first thing in the morning wasn’t viable. You’d think a little jaunt from south Wales to the north of the country wouldn’t be a big deal but it is. There are myriad different routes possible, all of them horrific! Going on A roads via Aberystwyth worked out at about 180 miles, I did briefly consider the slightly less tortuous A49 route but Google maps reckoned that was 240 miles!
By the time I crossed the Britannia Bridge onto the island of Anglesey it was 11pm so I parked up in the first layby I came across and bedded down for the night. I got up early and was in the paddock at 7.30 and got a space right next to the hook-up points and got on with some breakfast.
When I booked the trackday it was for the Coastal circuit, the one we’ve raced on before but when I printed off the info on Saturday it said the GP circuit, which Jonny from Bookatrack confirmed was due to the new pit garage complex being incomplete and meaning the Coastal circuit was unavailable. Tim and Daniel arrived and unloaded the Genesis.
The first track session started at 10am so Tim fitted a bluetooth intercom into my helmet and we went off for the sighting laps. This was of course fairly undramatic but at least let him get a feel for the car and make sure everything was working OK. I was feeling decidedly rusty after almost 5 months without driving the car and I hadn’t driven the circuit for almost 2 years. Having been initially negative about the out-and-back via a hairpin GP loop it was actually very good and overall Anglesey is a fantastic circuit with some great corners and fab gradient changes.
The only issue was a non-functioning speedo but that was sorted by reducing the gap between the transducer and the magnet on the front hub. Once the car had had a little rest we went out again. After a couple of laps to get the tyres up to temp I upped the pace a little bit then we went in for some feedback. I’ve been well aware that the main thing I’ve lacked has been confidence, in both myself and the car; I also didn’t expect Tim to be able to give an instant injection of that! However he did give me some very useful and very focused feedback on my driving and helped me to understand what’s happening to the car dynamically round a corner and how to get the best out of it. I think Tim was actually a little surprised at the engine performance, he’s used to the bigger bike engines and I suspect had expected my weedy little ZX10 to be a bit gutless compared to the ZX12 in Daniel’s Genesis. The main issue of course is me simply not carrying enough speed into, around and out of the corners but there was also advice on positioning prior to corners, gear selection around corners and throttle application out of them in addition to advice about the lines for each individual corner.
With that food for though I went out for a solo session and really enjoyed myself out in the car. Everything was working very well and I gradually gained a bit of confidence and got to the point of getting it out of shape a bit on a couple of occasions. It really was a joy to be back out in her again after all these months getting her sorted for the IVA and the Anglesey circuit is really fantastic and fairly forgiving with quite a bit of run-off.
My brother Andy had arrived just as we were about to go out for the sighting laps and Daniel had kindly taken him out for the sighting session. For my next session I took Andy out in the BDN. The last time Andy was out on track in a car with me was at Llandow in the Evo many years ago. He’s been well aware of my confidence issues and has been very supportive, as well as working like a trojan when we rebuilt the car for Oulton Park last season. His first words on getting out of the car were that he hadn’t observed much to suggest I was lacking confidence and that he’d actually been quite scared
During the lunch break we went for a walk round the track and Tim spent some time talking Daniel and I through the lines round the section of track approaching and round Rocket – this is the fastest part of the circuit and one I’d been particularly poor at. We also had a good look at the section around Peel and on towards the Corkscew looking particularly at the cambers. This photo’s taken from the top of the hill exiting Peel as you head down towards the Corkscrew.
After lunch I wanted to try to get Andy in the driver’s seat. As those who’ve met Andy will appreciate I’m the runt of the family at a mere 6′ 5″, Andy’s 5″ taller than me and when we’d tried him in the car back home in the garage he’d failed to get into it. So we took the seat out and replaced it with just a pillow and although he was far from being comfortable he did fit in and could just about manage the pedals. So we toddled off for a quick session in which he did remarkably well – he hasn’t driven on a track for about 10 years, he’s never driven a bike engined car before and his driving position was pretty compromised. We didn’t stay out long but I was really pleased that he’d at least had a chance to have a go.
Once back in the paddock we noticed some oil in the engine bay but it was the slightly frothy emulsified stuff that comes out of the breather and I realised the catch tank was full and had overflowed. It’s a bugger to get to so it took a little while getting the tank drained and the oil cleaned up. The car also needed some fuel – the tank had started the day with its full complement of 30 litres as a hangover from the IVA where you have to present the car with a full tank – and of course the chain got some lube but didn’t need adjusting. And that was the extent of the attention the car needed during the day.
I had another solo session then went out for an extended session with Tim. Around the faster bits the intercom was useless but I could hear him OK around the slower corners and he could use hand signals for the rest. His main frustration was trying to get me to stay on the gas for the transition across the track from the left hand curb at the end of the main ‘straight’ to the right hand side for the braking area for Rocket. Trouble is by this time I was getting knackered, the main problem was that my neck muscles were starting to get tired but it’s surprising how your concentration starts to suffer towards the end of a day. I was definitely doing better everywhere else on the circuit though and just needed to gain some consistency to string it all together. We came in at the end of this session and after some feedback from Tim I decided that going out again was counter-productive, particularly with a 4 hour plus drive back home ahead of me.
I didn’t actually get Tim to drive the car himself but his analysis was that the balance and setup of the car was fine, with it slightly favouring the front end with just a small tendency towards understeer but no signs of any instability or tendency to snap away. I didn’t fiddle with any damper or ARB adjustments – this was deliberate, the game plan is to leave the car alone while it’s working OK and concentrate on improving my driving. Once I improve a bit and can start to analyse more of what the car’s doing for myself then it’ll be time for some tweaking but not before then. All in all a very successful first day of the season, the cobwebs are well and truly blown away and I can prepare for Silverstone in 3 weeks knowing that the car’s ready to go. I’ll have a look at my logs and video and get some uploaded later this week.