This was my first trackday after what seemed a long drought and I was itching to get out there. So what better place to start than Brands. This circuit has a special place in my memory as I often visited it to watch touring cars and rallycross, in fact just about any form of motorsport that was on would tempt me down there!
The day was organised by
BookaTrack and I had persuaded Alan Head (moon miles Mk1), James Mathews (blue mica t-bar), Tim Higgins (stock SC) and Roger Hole (Aquamist MK2) to join me.
After the briefing we were off! Brands Hatch it has to be said is a fast flowing circuit with some interesting gradients especially at Paddock Hill Bend. Well this was the chance to try out my new cross-drilled front brake discs and new Mintex pads. This should have been fine, but it wasn’t! On my second lap after driving off the ‘cliff’ at Paddock Hill Bend and up the hill to the Druids hairpin I went to brake and the pedal just went to the floor. Cue “Oh Sh*t!!” as the gravel trip was fast approaching some frantic pumping went on (no, not that kind!) and I managed to get round the bend, just! The brake fluid had boiled so all I could do was go easy on the brakes until they started working again. A frantic call to my tuner, Geoff with lots of apologies from him for fitting too hard pads and I had to take it easy. Allied to this I was suffering from terrible boost cut due to heat soak so driving round with half throttle did take some of the fun out of it.
With Rod on-board in the pit-lane
just before the infamous events happenned!
After lunch was open pit lane and with my Mum there to watch me I was trying to be on best behaviour (ie; no sudden death like moments!). Of course it didn’t last! Let me tell you about Paddock Hill Bend. This bend is at the end of the start/finish straight and basically it is a very steep right hander with an unsighted apex until you’re right on it. It is a bit of a leap of faith much like the Craner Curves at Donington but about ten times steeper. As you go down the hill the track then starts to slope steeply upwards on-route to the Druids hairpin. What in effect happens is that the car gets very light as you turn in keeping the throttle steady then as soon as you can see down the hill you floor it and as you run to the outside of the track the car’s suspension loads up and the tyres squeak under load as you start going up the hill. It’s pretty exciting if you get it right.
What happened next is now of course all over the web entitled “Lauren bites the dust!”. There is a very large gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend. I was just coming up to complete my first lap when through the last few corners at the Surtees S, I caught Roger in his MK2. As we approached the straight coming out of Clearways Roger indicated for me to pass, but he didn’t lift off much. My car with it’s heat soak problems didn’t have it’s usual power so I passed Roger very slowly. Allied to my not too clever brakes (!) meant that I was fast approaching ‘the bend’ at around 110mph. Now the maximum speed to turn in is just under 80mph in 4th, but I had had trouble slowing down and was turning in very late as I wasn’t sure how close Roger was to me. At this point I had another “Oh Sh*t” moment as I was turning in too late and at about 85mph! The inevitable happened as the rear started to step out I caught it initially, for all of about a second then the car just snapped round where I was presented with the interesting view of going backwards down the hill with Roger coming towards me!! This didn’t last for long though as the car then made a very quick exit backwards and sort of sideways with the the rear offside hitting the gravel first. Oh how I wish hadn’t left the roof off! Suddenly all this orange dust just enveloped everything in sight and all I could hear was the crunching of flying gravel having no idea if I was about to hit a wall or just stop. After what seemed like an eternity (probably 5 seconds) the car stopped, but I still couldn’t see anything and I was conscious of spitting gravel dust as it seemed to have got everywhere. My passenger Rod was howling with laughter, I just sort of laughed feeling a bit bemused and shocked at the same time! Roger had gone nose first into the gravel in sympathy and was jumping around whilst looking at his car. I then noticed that the engine was still running! I would have been better to stall it as gravel can wreak havoc with timing belts if it gets in and believe me it gets everywhere. Lucky for me the car was ok apart from some pebble dashing to the sideskirts, a cracked door mirror and most of the laquer removed from my relatively new alloys on one side. Of course the session was stopped and an ambulance came round followed by a tow truck.
Click the link to see the
video( wmv. 800kb): 16046spinatbrands.wmv
Yummy looking a little dusty after
the excursion into the gravel
It took a little while to tow me out and then I had the memorable experience of driving back to the pits with my brakes full of gravel. It was the most excruciating grinding noise ever, it sounded absolutely terrible. Then I had to let a tyre down to get all the gravel out that was stuck between the tyre and rim. My Mum was pretty upset as she was worried sick and vowed never to come to a track day again! After spending ages trying to remove what could be best described as half the sahara dessert from the inside of my car I was off again and yes I did get to the limit at Paddock Hill every lap for the rest of the afternoon though I was careful not to push my luck too far!
Half the gravel trap was still in the
On another note, James Mathews MK1 was pretty poorly as his piston rings decided to part company with the pistons just after his tuition session! Talk about unlucky! I should mention that Tim Higgins had a taste of the gravel too, though Alan, somehow managed to stay out of the gritty stuff all day.
Brands Hatch is a good circuit though not a great one as the Indy course is very short being around a mile long and though driving Paddock Hill Bend is a great corner and a real experience apart from the Surtees S the rest of the track is just smooth and flowing. I guess there is something nice about driving an ex-Formula One circuit where everytime you blast down the start/finish straight past the grandstands there are always a few moments to think of all the greats that have driven down the very same stretch in years gone by. Remember this still a British Touring Car venue.
Lauren –The Trackday Queen!