While the racing season is now at an end for another year, the action on track is still ongoing – albeit in a less competitive environment - as car enthusiasts take the chance to sample circuits up and down the country in the growing track-day market.
Donington Park has long been a popular venue for drivers eager to see what their own machinery is capable of and now the circuit has launched its own range of Track Days – titled Thunder in the Park – which will run through to the end of the year.
Having spent plenty of time at the East Midlands circuit on the 'other side of the fence', the chance to get out on track wasn't something that was going to be turned down when Crash.net
was invited to sample Donington on the first Thunder in the Park session last weekend.
The format is simple. For either £99 or £135 (depending if the day is noise restricted or unsilenced) you can take your own car onto the Donington circuit for six 20 minute sessions, following the footsteps of some of the biggest names in motorsport who have tackled iconic corners like the Craner Curves over the years.
When we arrived at the circuit on a damp and cold Sunday morning, the Track Day regulars were already starting to fill the paddock with a wide range of machinery – from an Aston Martin Vantage and Nissan GT-R down to a raft of Peugeot 205s and a Hyundai Accent, resplendent in the livery formally used by the factory WRC team around a decade ago.
And there, right at the far end of the pitlane from sign-on in the media centre, was our car for the day...
Now not that there is anything against the diesel-powered Peugeot 307 that had carried us to the circuit, but it isn't a car that was really designed to tackle a racing circuit, even in a non-competitive environment.
Luckily, that was where Bookatrack.com
came to the rescue. As well as organising their own track days, Bookatrack.com
offer a car hire service with a fleet of Caterhams available for use – ranging from the R300 race car down to the more standard Superlight model.
For the day, our trusty steed was BAT4, an R300 race car fitted with a two-litre Ford engine and producing 180bhp, which doesn't sound much until you consider that the Caterham weighs next to nothing; making it more than a match for anything that was on track.
While we were sharing BAT4 for the day with a colleague from the Derby Telegraph
, that still meant a total of around an hour on track was planned, with the first 20 minute session coming after a driver briefing which was to the point and informative without being too over the top and confusing to any novice taking to the track for the first time.