Academy Race Programme – Mike & his HRDC Austin A35

This is the 2nd in our series of customer stories, where we look at some of the inspirational journeys our customers go through on their way to becoming advanced drivers. In our first customer story, we focused on former Motorbike racer Stef and his journey from track days in a BMW M4 to leading the 750MC Bikesports Championship in a Radical PR6. Today, we’ll be looking at a completely different type of driver profile. We’re talking to Mike, a 65 year old complete novice to the track. We’ll be following his journey as he looks to compete in an Austin A35 in his first HRDC race later this year. One thing is for sure, what Mike lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in drive and ambition. So let’s dive in and take a look.

HRDC Race driver trainingWhere did it all begin?

The journey for Mike began in February of this year (2017) with a Performance Driver Course. It’s a course which bridges the gap between both road and circuit techniques. “It was something I wanted to try before I snuffed it” said Mike. “I’ve never had any kind of advanced driver training”. Mike’s everyday car is a supercharged Jaguar XKR which he says, he’s never driven hard, nor taken above 100 mph.

First thoughts on the training

Millbrook’s unique 2-mile banked track allows for neutral steer operation at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. This allows drivers to focus on the core elements of driving at speed, the subtle changes in technique required to remain safe and in control. It’s ideal for getting a better understanding of your vehicle. Compliance steer, bump steer and role steer all affect the behaviour of your vehicles dynamic platform when driven at its limit of adhesion. This is where Mike started his day.

“I had no preconceived idea about the training” said Mike looking back at before he took his first course. “CAT Driver Training were recommended to me and I reckoned I would enjoy myself and learn a few things. I didn’t expect I’d be buzzing around as I was”. Mike laughed as he explained his experience on Millbrook’s 2 mile, banked high speed circular track.  “We were in lane 1 doing around 30 miles per hour and practicing lane changes. A car went past on the outside lane doing close to 150mph and I thought “you needn’t think I’ll be doing that” – 10 minutes later that’s exactly what I was doing in my own car”.

“That first day was quite an eye opener and a real adrenalin rush.

From that day onwards I was hooked.”

Mike’s Austin A35 (Gracie)

The goal for Mike is race in his Austin A35 (called Amazing Grace, affectionately shortened to Gracie). The car had been transformed into an HRDC race car by CAT Driver Training.  They also recommended the engineer who could maintain this for Mike. “Driving a 1959 small saloon car that is certainly not designed for racing is a completely different experience to driving a Subaru Impreza or my Jaguar.” Says Mike “It takes a lot of driving. They do say if you can drive one of them quickly, you can drive anything. I do look forward to be able to drive anything once I have mastered the Austin”.

On his track days at Silverstone

“I enjoyed my first session at Silverstone on the National circuit and I learnt a lot but didn’t use the full Grand Prix track” says Mike. “Then I left too much of a gap between my first and second session and I’d forgotten most of what I had learnt in the first one. It took me the whole session to get back to where I had been at the end of the first session. I’m a slow learner and you don’t learn any quicker when you get older, but I am determined to get there and I bloody well will.”

Mike’s full journey preparing for his HRDC race with CAT Driver Training

10th February = Performance Driver Course with Paul

28th February = Drifting & Over Grip Limit Handling Course with Paul

6th March = Grip Limit with Colin & Paul

13th March = Optimisation with Colin

17th March = Track day at Silverstone (National circuit) in the CAT Subaru with Colin

3rd May = Track day at Silverstone (Grand Prix circuit) in the CAT Subaru with Colin

19th May = Track day at Donington in the Austin A35 with Colin

Austin A35 HRDC race trainingTell us about your first experience in the A35 at Donington

“That was a wonderful experience. But it was pouring with rain and I spun the car on the first turn. As the day went on, I spent a lot of time with Colin understanding the car and the track and towards the end of the day I went out on my own. I was pretty slow at first as I was being too careful and being too gentlemanly to other drivers. I didn’t want to get in their way, but then I had a change of attitude and decided I had to make the most of it and I sped up considerably. By the end I was doing a good deal of 4-wheel drifting, which is what you need to do to make an Austin go fast round the corners. I felt very pleased at the end of that day considering that was the first day in the car.”

You’ve got your first race in July. What are your expectations?

“If I don’t come last, that will be my ambition achieved. I will damn well give it a go, that’s for sure. I’ve got a number of races this year and it’s all about the learning experience. Next year I want to be truly racing.”

Do you have any pearls of wisdom for our readers?

“No, only to say I’m amazed how much progress one can make with the right instruction. I’ve been in the education business for years, yet Paul and Colin ask me questions that I’ve never thought of asking in regards to how I learn best. I know now I learn best by example and Colin and Paul adapted their teaching style to suit. The experience has helped me learn a lot about myself.”

Last Words

“Go to Millbrook, put yourself in their hands and let them get on with it. They really know what they’re doing and they’re nice people.”

We’ll be following up with Mike after his first HRDC race in July. In the meantime, if you’re feeling inspired and would like to explore how you can take your love of driving to the next level, take action. Contact us today for a chat about your experiences and objectives for any training on 01234 757 633 or email us at info@catdrivertraining.co.uk.

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