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Abingdon Track Day

Hi all,

Bit of a nostalgic day for me today. Itís been over 3 years since I attended a track day in one of my ex minis. Today my sister invited me to a track day with two of her friends, Pete and Ben, who have an M3 and an Ariel Atom.

It was at Dalton Military Barracks in Abingdon, run by It was an Airfield track day. Personally I much prefer Airfield days compared to actual racetracks, it gives you much more space and forgiveness to make mistakes and learn how your car really drives without worrying about armcoís and gravel traps to wreck your car on.

Peteís M3, was standard on engine mods, 3.2ltr with huge brakes, coils and Potenza race slicks:

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Benís Atom was a factory spec non supercharged Atom, running 246Bhp, in 460kgs! Running Yoko A048Rís (had these on my last mini, crap in the wet, road legal semi slicks):

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Track days are expensive as we all know, to register a car is £120 for the day, however additional drivers are only another £20 each, meaning the full cost can be split over a few people to make it cost only as much as a weekend night out drinking pointless amounts of alcohol!

I first went out with Ben in his Atom, starting with a trial lap, it was very damp and greasy and even a slow manoeuvre on a sharp corner was making the car snake, however after an hour or so of full track time the lines were dried out. I have dreamed of going out in an Atom since I first knew they existed, and it didnít disappoint. I gave that emotional feeling that made me want to turn my feelings and marry the man who created this machine. On full commitment this car is like nothing I have experienced before. The sheer acceleration with the precise handling is something above anything I have experienced before, what a car! Being honest, although Ben is not the most confident of drivers, quite a rough ride and intermittent aggression, I could really feel the potential of the Atom, and is, by far, the most impressive vehicle I have ever had the privilege to be a passenger of. He went out with an instructor later in the day to improve his driving which really helped him. On my first track day I also had an instructor with me, And no matter how confidant you think you are, having a level-headed, experienced person next to you guiding you, it makes an unbelievable difference to your day and what you can learn, I really recommend it if you are attending one of these days. Even if you are experienced in track days, having a professional next to you really realises to you the potential of your car.

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After this I went straight out with Pete in his M3 who is a very experienced driver. It was a great comparison, with the coils and slicks, after the tyres had warming I was blown away by the level of handling and braking the M3 had being such a heavier car than the Atom, he kept pushing it, braking later and hitting apexes harder on each lap, until we had a fantastic ďpirouettingĒ experience over grass at about 60mph, my bum was twitching like a rabbitís nose! It was actually more exhilarating being in the M3 due to Peteís driving ability, I have been out in M3ís before but only on the road. His suspension setup was fantastic, maybe this is down to the fact he was a bit of a setup geek(!). He even had a reader that measure tyre heat after being out on the track, to ensure all tyres were matching across the width of the tyre to ensure the suspension setup he had adjusted made a difference. He said he had made the bump and rebound harder since the last track day and raised the height on the rear, making tyre heat much more even all round. My sister went with him to a track day a couple of months ago, and she said comparing to today the improvement was fantastic. We were chasing a new model V8 stock M3 round when I went out with him, and although the other M3 had more grunt we obliterated it due to sheer braking power and handling, and again although pushed too far and making mistakes, being on an Airfield meant no worry of writing off a lovely car, I have a new respect for the E36 M3, and would probably choose over many cars as a choice for track vehicle.

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Sorry to go on about this, itís just thereís not much coverage on Teamshock and track days, and it would be great if we can get some organised meets done at these events.

There was a great variation of vehicles today, From Caterhams and GT3ís, to Clios and Peugeot 309ís, to Subaruís and MX5ís. Such a good professional vibe that I havenít had from a track day before. Saw a lot of TVRís today spinning off like mad too, it reminded me of what JC said one time many years ago: ď owning a TVR is like having a beautiful young girlfriend, perfect in every way, cooks you dinner every night, letís you do what you want , lots of money and a great personality, but if she has a tendency to stab you in the legs every time you go to bed, the relationship wouldnít last that long.Ē

Does anyone else have views on track days they have been on? Iíve got the bug again for it and am going to save for a budget car just to track, made me realise what itís all about again (even if the burger van was crap and overpriced!).

Peace x

Posted by DaveB on 10am Sun (25/10/09)

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