CCC Castle Combe Meet - 27/04/2002
This was an event which I had only decided to attend relatively close to the day. It is a long drive from Chester to Castle Combe but since I won't be able to attend the Rally Car day on July 27th I decided I would make the effort and have a go on the track. Simon Dawes secured my interest with the promise of a free entry ticket and track pass.
As no other members seemed to be traveling down from the North West I decided to make the journey late on Friday evening. I left Chester around 11:30 pm and headed down the deserted M6 arriving at the last M5 services before Castle Combe at around 2:30 am. I slept in the car and woke around 6:00 am on Saturday morning. I filled K1ANO up with petrol, 16 quid had got me 150 miles, added a can of octane booster and headed to the circuit were I finally arrived at around 6:30 am.
The car parks were deserted at this time and there were only 2 or 3 cars there which made it difficult to find the GT4OC parking area as there were no familiar vehicles to home in on. I eventually managed to find the right spot and staked my claim on the dead-centre position. Since I now had no-one to talk to, and a couple of hours to kill, I decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and clean under the bonnet and polish the car. By around 8:00 am this was all done and K1ANO was now gleaming and ready for some admiring attention.
Other owners started to arrive around 8:30 am, including some GT4 owners from other clubs. Needless to say by around 9:30 am the car parks and club areas were reaching capacity and those of us there were finding it difficult protecting the GT4OC territory from Novas, Astras and all unsundry.
I phoned Simon Dawes who was still on his way so at that time I didn't realise I was going to definitely get a track pass. So, while the others attended briefings and started to plan their track action I was umming and ahhing about whether to tag along. In the end I decided to sit it out and chat to some owners including Don, Tony Z, Mark, Steve W, John B, Jordan, Russell, Paul, Tony L etc. etc.
I don't recall the time the first track sessions started, or when the GT4 mob went out for their first run but I do remember long queues lasting for nearly an hour and incidents-a-plenty from the boy racers who had turned up in their Carlos Fandango jalopees - bit too close to Carlos Sainz that ;-) Incidentally later in day we say what was a tidy Mk1 Gold GTI in need of some panel beating at the front, I suppose the driver must have hit a deer on the track.
Simon eventually turned up with his cheafuer Alan driving. Simon had unfortunately picked up a snow boarding injury and was unable to drive himself with his right arm in a sling - shame. He did hand out some track passes and initially avoided giving me one even though I had probably traveled the farthest and arguably had the best looking car - well this is my article ;-)
Myself, Don, Tony Z and Steve W managed to watch the first pack of GT4's round the circuit heading up the field as usual due to the superior Toyota turbo power. Jim Pomphrey had to back off a bit due to his DV26 being stuck open, little did we know his day wasn't going to get better. We did manage to unstick Jim's DV26 when he got back to the club area where the conversation was alight with racing banter.
The day progressed with the usual car talk and meeting of new owners. Modifications were a big talking point as usual and what was next on each of our agendas. By now myself and Don had talked ourselves into a burn around the track at which point Simon made my day by giving me his last track pass - thanks Simon ;-)
Don and I attended the track briefing at 1:30 pm and claimed our fluorescent wrist bands which were intended to identify you as a true racer ! In all 7 GT4's decided to take to the track and we all queued in line and continued our talking. Queuing was still taking a while as the track was not only very busy but the 'yahoos' as Don called them kept crashing or spinning off which was quite funny when it was near enough to see - LOL. In fact it was quite entertaining listening to the track commentary during the day as the announcer gradually got more sarcastic about how the drivers were causing track delays as a result of not following the briefing advice.
Eventually we reached the marshaling area where a track marshal organised us so that we could all race together. The cars were Jim P, John B, K1ANO, Don, Russell, (e-mail me I forgot) and (e-mail me I forgot). It was time for crash helmets on as we entered the start area for the final 12 minute wait.
Simon Dawes was riding shotgun with his video camera and, after a small delay caused by another 'yahoo' entertaining the crowd, we were off.
K1ANO accelerated like a whippet out of a trap and before I knew it we were at the first corner. At this stage the brakes felt good but I forgot all of the cone colour coding for braking, turn-in and apex and was relying on Simon to warn me of the bad corners. Jim and John had been in front in the lineup and were getting away fast but unfortunately Jim had to pull onto the track side due to poor running. I was being haggled initially by a 1380 Mini Marcos which was cornering very well but was not a match for K1ANO on the corner exits and straights. Simon was filming and commentating on the corners whilst I was worrying about my rapidly fading brakes, which may as well have been made out of chocolate, and the knocking coming from my rims as the car rolled on the tyres under hard cornering.
I did start to get the hang of the corners after a lap or two but was also preoccupied with monitoring my mirrors and keeping an eye on what other cars were doing. After all this wasn't a race and I don't think it's worth crashing or damaging your as a result of other drivers who are being aggressive or think they have a point to prove - as myself and Don will testify with regards to some of the w*****s which were on the track at the same time as us.
I made a couple of detours onto the grass at the chicane, the first time was due to its sudden, as if by magic, appearance - Simon DID warn me. The second time was due to being run off the road by a VW Jetta who must have had some engine in that car to catch so many off us up or perhaps it was just his aggressive driving and overtaking illegally on cornders - who knows.
The 12 minute session ended without incident for me and Simon. I had a great time and K1ANO performed very well apart from appalling brake fade on the standard disks and pads. When we got back to the club area I left the engine idling for 10 minutes mainly to prevent heat soak and head gasket failure which can occur under these circumstances.
Needless to say the next half and hour or so was spent reminiscing on the track action and experiences each of us had with other cars around the circuit. Our thoughts and conversation turned to Jim who had to pull his car up. He was later towed off the circuit and was worried that he had HG failure.
The afternoon was by this time drawing to a close and many cars, including some of the GT4 owners had started to leave. I was gearing myself up for a long drive home but myself, Paul and Don decided to see if we could lend Jim a hand with his car. The water situation didn't look too bad and we were hopeful that the car had simply spat some out like Tonys car had. After filling the radiator up with water we couldn't seem to start it - even with jump leads. We did eventually bump start the car but unfortunately it didn't sound too good and Jim was resigned to a tow home from Paul.
I eventually set off from Castle Combe at around 5:30 pm and managed to get back to Chester just before 9:00 pm following a steady and mainly wet drive home.
I certainly came away from the day having had a brilliant time and experiencing my first track day action. A very necessary modification which I need to make before doing another track day is brake improvements. I am sure that with better brakes I would feel more confident and be able to make the most of the short track time. I now also have the experience of the circuit and feel that I know what to expect from the corners - I can't wait for the next race around Castle Combe.
Oh, and there were a couple of other types of car there at Castle Combe so here are two worth mentioning ;-)
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