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Track Day - Teesside Autodrome Apr 2009


Track Day - Teeside Autodrome

Teesside Autodrome, Middlesbrough. Venue for the first track day attended by the whole DA team, and for some, the first track day full stop. Here’s what we thought.

Nick DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009

Nick

Have you ever seen a "Road to Damascus" moment? A life changing experience as it happens? Well I did, in the unlikely location of Middlesborough - the Teesside Autrodrome to be precise. My fellow DA-ers were sharing my Caterham at a trackday up at this little known motorsport venue and Gav pulled back into the paddock, switched off the Seven, removed his crash helmet and the grin said it all. He, like many before him, had just had their perceptions of what a car can do blown away by my Seven. I’ll let him tell you what he thought of the day but I know his life has been changed forever...another one falls under the spell of a car designed over 50 years ago.

The day was organised by the North East Severners - a bunch of die hard petrol heads who own Sevens or copies of the motoring icon and know how to enjoy them. The circuit is brilliant and as you can see from the pictures, relatively short. Don’t be fooled by the size as it proved very entertaining with a good mixture of fast corners, gradients, different grip levels and tricky slower technical sections. Highlights for me were the huge 180 horseshoe taken at 80-90mph, the chicane, and the cracking off-camber left hander which was never anything less than interesting.

The atmosphere was fun and friendly with overtaking encouraged, fast or slow people made room for you and gave helpful advice "you’re going in too deep - the chicane - in too deep". The DA team was joined by two fellow Seven owners; Rog and an old mate who helped build my Seven, Pooh . Yes, the same Pooh (named after the famous yellow bear) who came with me to the Nurburgring - he was hoping to do more than the half lap he managed there.

They say the sun shines on the righteous, well we must have been saints as it was glorious all day - blue sky, warm sunshine – perfect. Tell me, is there anything finer than spending a day with your mates just hooning around in cars, not a care in the world, other than the dodgy oil pressure on the long horseshoe right hander? It’s not till you’re on the track that you realise the very stiff suspension that knocks the wind out of your sails and pops your spine through your skull on the road is so soft you find yourself sliding around - great fun but it gave the rear Yokos a hard time.

The new quiet exhaust (or floatation tank as it’s been described as it’s that large) allied to the 4 in to 2 into 1 collector and the 52mm throttle body gave the engine a few more gee gees and more mid-range punch which you could use to its full extent on the hilly bits of the track. I have to say, and I know I am biased, but the Seven is just fantastic on the track, you can be as smooth as Mr Button or wild as Colin McRae and it will respond in kind. Me, I’m a bit raggedy - chuck it into the corner and sort it out as the tarmac unfolds before you, quick but not pretty. Mike was Mr Smooth - no fuss, no drama, just fast progress belying his lack of miles behind the wheel. Gav, well let’s say he was somewhere in between the two of us best summed up by "just down right bloody quick". A few people were surprised that a) it was his first time behind the wheel of the Seven and b) he had never been on a track day before. Check out the video (coming soon) his dad took from the passenger seat and this was him supposedly taking it steady for his dad!

To say we had a great day would be an understatement. We were knackered and happy in equal measure. The Seven, well it had 4 well worn Yokos (now replaced), noisy cam buckets, used a tanker full of fuel and creaked a bit more on the way home, but if it had a soul it would have sung. Track days - it’s the future I tell you.

Nick.

Mike DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009

Mike

I must echo Nick in thanks to both the owners of the track and all of the guys in the North East Severners – we were made so welcome and everyone was friendly, generous and encouraging. My hero of the day goes to the ex-biker who, after a big spill decided to calm down by removing the Fireblade engine from the crushed frame and using it to replace the blown cross-flow in his old MKII bare-ally Seven. He admitted it was still evolving and the Lotus purists had ostracised him but I think the spirit of Colin Chapman lives on – performance through light weight.

As with Gav, this was my first track day, but unlike him I’m more familiar with the Seven as the ever generous Nick put me on his insurance some time ago and forces me to go out in it whenever I can. Teesside Autodrome was still my proving ground for pure driving, unfettered by such things as speed limits and junctions. The brilliant circuit design was testing and rewarding in equal measure and ideally suited to the size of car buzzing round. It’s a relatively short lap but has everything you need with fast bends, slow corners, chicane, climb, drops and adverse cambers, back (kinked) straight, all with room for everyone. The open pit day we enjoyed created a natural balance of cars on track so I never felt pressured or held up.

I learnt a lot about the Seven’s reactions, even though it feels almost like a canoe in the way that you can almost steer it with your body. I would go as far to suggest that all new drivers attend compulsory track days during the run-out phase of their new licenses to encourage a better understanding of cause and effect dynamics and perhaps reduce accident stats for that high-risk group.

Mike.

Gav DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009

Gav

Your first kiss, your first time behind the wheel, your wedding day, witnessing the birth of your first child...these are life changing moments. The kind of moments that, once experienced, have such a profound effect on your life that it can never be the same again – your whole perspective of what life is, was, can be, changes forever. Moments like this are rare. When they happen you savour them and hope that, one day, you might be lucky enough to experience another. If you’re lucky you will...and if you’re really lucky, the next will be even bigger than those that came before.

For me it happened on about lap 5 of my first session. Down the back straight, speedo showing 110, brake momentarily and turn into the horseshoe right-hander at about 85. Then back on the power, gently, tyres squealing as the nose just starts to run wide. A slight lift and the nose tucks in. Ease the power on again and the rear just edges out, keep it there with a slight adjustment of the wheel, keep the power on, committed, focussed, out of the bend and onto the straight towards the chicane. There is nothing else. No sky. No trees. No barriers. No spectators. There is only the car, the track, me. The seven is dancing and I’m in control.

This was my first track experience. I always believed I could drive, but I had no idea how far I could push it. Would I have the bottle to take it to the limit? And if I did...could I handle it? Well, yes and yes. And it was a revelation. I could’ve driven round and round all day, feeling the power, the g-forces, controlling the slides, tweaking my lines trying to achieve a perfect lap. I didn’t...I had two mates to share the joy with and they wanted a drive too.

I was conscious that this was Nick’s car but he encouraged me to push it and I can’t thank him enough. In one of the afternoon sessions I was in the groove, really enjoying it then I remembered a piece of advice Nick was given on his first track day – "when you really think you’ve got the track nailed, come in and take a break. That next lap is likely to be the one where you have the big accident". I came in, and relayed this to Nick. He looked at the fuel gauge and said "so you didn’t come in ’cause you’re out of fuel then?". Ooops!

And I got almost as much joy from watching Mike and Nick driving too. No, that’s cobblers, as much as I enjoyed watching them it just didn’t come close to the joy of driving myself. The Seven is so responsive, so controllable, and so alive that surely no other car can give you the same unadulterated driving experience for so little money.

My only concern was that I thought I had killed my Dad. He rode with me on the last session to get some in-car video. The first few laps were "hot" ones. In fact, Nick sarcastically commented later "I’m glad to see you slowed down with your Dad on board!". After the second lap my Dad stuffed the camera between his legs and held on for his life. Unfortunately, it took me about another lap to notice. When I did I eased off and asked if he was OK. No reply. I asked again. No reply. Oh god...he’s had a heart attack. Fortunately he hadn’t. He mumbled something then picked the camera up and started filming again. We did a few sensible laps then came in. The end to a fantastic day.

So, a life changing experience. But, better than the other aforementioned ones? You b.................................................................................................(text deleted in the interest of harmonious relationships – ed.)

Gav.


Video & More Images


DA North East Sevens Track Day Teeside Autodrome Apr 2009 Video
Click to play

Pooh (red) & Rog (green)

DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009

The Rest

DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009 DA Teeside Track Day Teeside Autodrome April 2009

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