Monday, 16 November 2009

2010 - a year of understeer?

MSA Categories
The MSA has decreed that all speed championships will run class structures based on a set of defined categories from 2010. I personally think this is a good idea as it moves towards standardization across the country, meaning that wherever you go, you'll know which class to enter.

However, it is raising a few questions, particularly for road-going cars like mine. The MSA have split road-going cars into two categories - Road-going Series production cars (produced in quantities of over 1,000 per annum) and Road-going specialits production cars (less than 1,000 per annum). Now, I'm pretty sure that my VX220 is a Series production car because the VIN database on VX220.ORG suggests that there were over 7,000 produced in 5 years. My own car has a chassis number greater than 1,000 and it appears to have been built in the first year (2001) but trying to prove this to a scrutineer could be problematic.

Some Lotus variants, like the Exige, appear to have been produced in quantities much less than 1,000 and so will fall into the specialist production category. In many championships (including the Scottish Championships), this will not matter as specialist and series production cars will run together but in some, it means that Exiges will run alongside Caterhams and Westfields.

I guess time will tell how this is going to pan out.

2010 Plans
I've decided to cut down the mumber of events for 2010 and will probably do no more than 15. My plans at this stage include a double-header at Ingliston on 1/2 May, the mighty Doune in April, Kames as often as I can, Forrestburn at least once, Harewood at least once and a foray up north to Fintray or even Golspie.

I've decided, for budget reasons, to keep the car fairly standard with just some wheels/tyres and safety critical mods (harness bar, harness and rear toe-links). This will give me a chance to get to know the car and get my driving up to scratch without spending too much. Hopefully I can still bag a championship award at the end of the year but my real aim for 2010 is an event class win.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The winter training regime

No. It' not what you're thinking. I'm NOT going on a health kick just yet!

I've been planning some track time in the VX to get my skills in shape for next season and have already managed a couple of great days.

First off was a trip down to Kames for a test day last month. The weather was awful but the car handled it superbly. Fresh from setting a new PB in the racingFive, I practiced my new found lines and discovered that the VX has much more grip, much more acceleration and much better brakes. So much so that I reckon I was lapping in the low 100s in the very wet conditions. Mid-90s in the dry is my target time for next year.

This week, I ventured all the way to Essex for a session with Lotus driving guru, Andy Walsh. I booked one of his famous 4-person car limits days and I have to say it was the best £200 I have ever spent on my car activities. I learned more in that one day than I've learned in 10 years of trackdays and 3 years of competiive events.

The theory covered in this introductory day was already familiar to me through my reading of 'Speed Secrets' and 'Going Faster' but I realised I had never actually had the opportunity to have it explained nor had the chance to try out sliding and drifting.

The infamous high speed bend exercises were great fun - I spun more times than I can remember but soon got the hang of catching the big slides, top gear stylee.

The best part of the day for me was the mini sprint circuit at the end when we got the chance to put all we had learned into practice. Andy takes you out first and sets a target time in your own car (55 secs for me). Then its your turn to show him what you've learned. I took it nice and steady and he gave me a few pointers for the next run.

He then gets you to take one of your fellow attendees out for the last run so that they can critique you. I went out with Steve, a nice Elise owner, on his first 'track' experience. He drove first. Nice and smooth, lacking aggression but a good effort given his experience.

Then he jumped into my car, I guess expecting much of the same. He got a bit of a shock when I braked a good second and a half after he finished shouting BRAKE for the first cone, turned in, immediately started a huge slide, caught it, power on and before he'd caught his breath we were braking for the next cone. He didn't say much after that! He just laughed all the way round as I understeered, oversteered, drifted and generally ruined my tyres on every corner!

At the end of the run, we got out and Andy was grinning broadly - "that was pretty good" he said - "you did a 60 second lap, not very smooth but very entertaining". "Thanks", I said, "I've been wanting to do that for years. Smooth is so yesterday!"

The VX? It was sublime - so balanced and controllable. I can't wait to drive it in anger again. The 900 mile round trip was ok too - I got a wee bit wet and the ABS light came on briefly but nothing fell off. Need to buy some new tyres though!

Anyway, I had so much fun that I'm already planning my next foray - possibly a Lotus On Track day at Rockingham in a couple of weeks. Watch this space......