Team CAT Driver Training – First Drives

Very exciting day yesterday – our first chance to drive car 169 on circuit at good pace. 

A big thank you to Chris Franklin at Center Gravity for his care of car 169 since our initial Millbrook test a few weeks ago.  The best in the country, Chris has had the dampers rebuilt and the geo parameters checked and recorded, ready for the race season ahead.  As always he has completed a fantastic job and reconfirmed why we recommend his services to all our clients. 

All 3 drivers carried out a 20 minute installation session for both the car and themselves.  A stop for spanner check and tyre pressures was carried out, with drivers then back out on circuit for a further 20 minute session each.  Picking up the pace now, the team were starting to make the car work through the corners at Bruntingthorpe.  For drivers new to sequential gearboxes, it is important to muscle memory in which direction you need to pull and push the gear lever – it is counter intuitive.  To go faster you pull the lever towards you – so you are numerically going up the gears with each pull of the lever towards the driver.  My muscle way of remembering this is to tell drivers that when they get dressed in the morning “they pull up their trousers” so that you are pulling the gear lever to go up the gears.  Whilst driving round the circuit you can just keep repeating the phrase until it becomes instinctive (muscle memory). 

Before lunch we successfully completed 3 x 20 minute sessions by each driver.  Running on the old tyres that came with the vehicle – this seemed prudent.  Temperature was only 2 degrees C, sleeting and snowing with the abrasive surfaces of Bruntingthorpe – why waste new tyres?  This is also a reason why we don’t look to set up cars at Bruntingthorpe as the surface is too abrasive compared to UK and European race circuits.  Having said that, it’s great for training – lots of space, reasonable run off and the freedom to move around on circuit without having to consider too many other cars, as you would on a track day. 

The morning session had 3 main objectives.  1) Install yourself in the car 2) begin to understand the characteristics of the vehicle and 3) work the brakes in the final session – so they were starting to build a more competitive feel to the corners.  After lunch new tyres were put on and a further spanner check.  Pace had increased by lunch time, so the afternoon sessions objective was to push on and build pace – laps to be timed towards the end of day, now that we had a degree of confidence in the car.  Main feedback of the afternoon from the drivers was how easy it was to control the vehicle at grip limit.  The duration of the oversteer correction is small – the vehicle responds well to driver input.  This gave all 3 drivers the confidence to push on, getting the car fidgeting and moving through the corners.  Their objective at the end of the day when they left is to find corner entry speed – this will take a little more time but as confidence grows they will all get there. 

I had 4 laps in the car towards the end of the session – once you get to grips with the cars characteristics, it is obvious that the braking phase and corner entry phase of the corner is critical.  You must keep the pace up going into the turn, letting the car slide a little, so as not to scrub off too much speed.  With only 130 bhp you have to keep up the momentum throughout the lap.  This is always the area where drivers have to work the hardest as it takes a degree of confidence and a reasonable knowledge of the vehicles characteristics, to get the car a little loose on turn in.  Paul Rose has given us a very safe well set up car, but there is time to come out of the platform if we raise spring rates front and rear, to make the car a little more nervous and quicker to respond to input.  The car is also a little vague on turn in – we’ve got a little work to do to camber and castor settings, to improve turn in.  Once we’re at Donington next week, both our Engineers will be working on tyre pyro to optimise the set up.  That said, I think we’ll be leaving the settings as they are for the first race at Oulton Park, giving the drivers incremental increases through the season to vehicle performance.  They’ll have enough on their plates to think about on their first race without needing to be too particular on platform characteristics.  All in all a great day – the car lives up to expectations.  Great fun to drive and very involving.  Having only completed a few laps, you can already see it has a race car feel and will respond well to adjustment.

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