Last month I was invited by Luke, again, to act as personal photographer/pit crew member/brake checker at a track day put on by ‘Circuit Days’ over in Donington Park. This venue is located in Derby, UK, and has its roots in the birth of MotoGP. Noteworthy is the fact that Ayrton Senna put some rubber down on the circuit in the European Formula 1 Grand Prix during the early 1990’s.
Donington Park is a really well done and sorted race track, which is most likely due to the acquisition made by MSV (Motorsport Vision) in 2017. This organization clearly want to see British motorsport grow, and this is evident in the quality of their facilities.
You will see this wheel frequently throughout this post
With the Caterham race series nearing, some of the entrants were getting as much valuable seat time as possible; and where else is better than the 2.487 mile-long GP Course at Donington.
I have always respected the Caterham marque. This was the first time I was exposed to the ‘scene’ and I now realise how sharp these cars can handle the asphalt.
That day was not the warmest, as you would expect in England during the winter season, but the onslaught of 50+ mph winds didn’t make it easy for us bystanding spectators.
The basic yet bold look of this deep-blue example caught my eye as it pulled back into the pits. I also thought the clean look of the side panelling, with the roll cage outboard of the body, suited the car much better.
Caterhams forcing much higher powered machinery to fall to the side is a common sight.
Lucky Number Seven
Luke sold his MNR Vortx last year, and shocked us with this new investment. Specifically, a 310R model, equipped with a 1.6l inline-four Sigma engine produced by Ford, power output close to 150bhp. But lets not forget, this thing weighs around 600kg, so it gets about if you tune in to its very sensitive chassis.
Avon ZZ-S tyres did for the time being, but Luke has now wrapped the wheels in Yokohama Advan A048s instead. Trust the Japanese to make it right I guess…
Thankfully, we had our own pit garage all to ourselves since our neighbour was a no-show. As soon as we stepped outside though, we get slapped by the cold breeze.
Later in the day as the track surface dried up, adjustments were made to the anti-roll bars for additional stiffness in the rear, which allowed for more rotation in corners, especially the two extra hairpins you run on the GP layout of the circuit.
As you would expect, the “interior” of this car is not that of a normal road-going vehicle. The fixed-back bucket seats and four-point harnesses secure both the driver and passenger in as safety is critical.
Here is what is known as ‘craner curves’, a right then left down a fairly long decline, where speed can be gained in dangerous measures before ‘old hairpin’ right-turn.
Not an engine I have ever come across, maybe because they are originally made for and found in Ford Fiestas (yawn), but with a short-ram intake and opened up exhaust, the straight-four does make a healthy buzz when you stomp on the gas.
That MX-5 in the distance seems like it ran a bit wide from this angle.
Very interesting colour combination here
Similar to Cadwell Park, this track has some great views as the elevation difference adds a dynamic element to both the course and trackside.
I wish I got a closer look at this – what seems to be – E46 M3 CSL (‘CoupeSportLightweight’ for those wondering).
Amazing design and still sharp-looking to this day. This was the BMW M3’s more athletic version, with only approximately 15bhp more than the standard car, this machine makes up for through the extensive use of carbon and fibreglass on the bodywork and windows, and shed a whopping 110kg in kerbweight!
This E92 M3 was spotted doing plenty of rounds which was nice to see, as they are usually rolling slow on public roads, with some smug-faced driver behind the wheel. The pilot of this white-on-black example seemed to be having a laugh throwing into every corner, as you should do in a car with this level of capability.
A serious track weapon E46 stormed by a few times. The straight-six note is one you cannot hate, to be honest.
Another top BMW, this E82 1 Series was modified tastefully and with an obvious functional focus.
Here is a shot I took trying to depict the dramatic dip in altitude, but it is only when you experience it for yourself that proves how intimidating this section of the track in particular is.
The many ‘offs’ drivers have should they push too early on corner exit
Me and Luke saw the behind of this car quite frequently when out on track. It is astonishing how capable the GT-R is when you put into perspective the weight difference between both cars. But it is equally, if not more astonishing, how much pace a Caterham can keep with a lacking power & torque spec. The chassis is impressive and extremely well balanced, and there is still more room for improvement.
Must be nice running errands in this. Belonged out on the field!
I have no clue what this was. A Volkwagen of some sort. The engine/exhaust sounded phenomenal.
Here is the trusty chariot. All I will say about the Benz is that it is comfortable, but I cannot get over the mundanity of it.
Thats a wrap. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and the photos, log on next time and you might see the Caterham in a more competitive environment. Thanks to Luke for trusting me to drive his new machine a few laps around the exciting circuit. It was eventful, but I learnt a lot in the limited seat time I had. The car isn’t so much twitchy, but the controls take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the satisfaction of tracing clean lines on a racetrack is unmatchable. More car fun!
Last summer on a visit to Cadwell Park, I joined Luke who, at the time, owned a homebuilt kit car. Now, I have never been keen on kit cars, especially the Lotus 7/Caterham “style” variety. It must be something to do with my awkward feeling towards replicated designs. This topic is something I could write on and on about, so I am going to stay on course for this one.
This particular machine Luke built in his garage is an MNR Vortx, space-frame tube chassis, fibreglass lightweight body, driven by a 1.8 BPZE engine from a Mazda MX-5 NB/MK2. The basic concept is excellent though, as I experienced in the passenger seat that day at Cadwell Park, which nestles in Lincolnshire, UK.
This blog post won’t revolve around his car however, as I did not get the best of shots in retrospect, but other cars were out there blasting around the 2.18 mile course which is actually designed for motorcycle racing; picture narrow track width and grassy runoff areas.
Waiting game… Okay, I am going to have to open with this beauty. The FD RX-7 you see in front of you is a full RE-Amemiya GT kitted spec. The highlight of the car was the colour and unfortunately my photos do not do its aesthetic quality any justice in my opinion. It was well put together and style like this is rare to come by, definitely in the UK anyway. But it sure is a treat when you witness something as wild, but simultaneously disciplined in the way it stands. I chatted to the owner briefly, I can remember him having some teething issues with a new single-turbo setup, which is a shame but I manage to catch a glimpse of the rotary ripping out on the field. I do wonder what the status/condition the car is in at the moment… Good luck trying to find a trackday where an MX-5 isn’t present. I mean, how could you NOT want to drive one of the purest sports cars ever created, on a racetrack?! Future historic legend; flipped the FF (front-engine front-wheeled-drive) game on it’s head. There were two EP3 Civic Type-Rs out that day, both equipped with this hatch mounted GT wing. Part of me sees the appeal in it, part of me realises it kind of looks out of place… Maybe here, with the trimmed rear bumper, the spoiler’s toned down wing-stands suit the chassis more so. Downforce times call for downforce measures I suppose. Luke getting a feel for the track more than the car, as he had already made some familiarity with it at a previous shakedown which did not go quite as he planned. Good to see him stretching its legs with confidence, albeit the day cut short because of an electrical gremlin… The highlight of the car’s performance was most definitely its ability to change direction almost immediately. The G-forces you experience are atmospheric, and made me wonder what on earth F1, or even entry-level Formula cars for that matter, feel like. One off incident occurred that day, which luckily was not too serious, driver was intact and physically sound after bouncing his Ariel Atom off the tyres midway through the day. Taking a wander in the paddock area where both drivers and cars take a breather, I took a closer look at some of the motors attending. This K20 swapped EK9 was very nice and cleanly done. What is most impressive though, is the fact that the driver had one prosthetic leg, so the car was kitted to enable the driver to operate the clutch by hand control! Incredible. This ‘RWB’ styled Porsche was cool. I know very little about these German powerhouses, but I have always felt that they have been held with high regard and respect as sportscars, so there must be something to them… It did/does look good out there though, and it sounded even better. One-make duel. For French cars, these hot hatches are not all that bad. This Starlet Glanza is a very uncommon sight, so it was a breath of fresh air seeing it being thrown about. The deep turquoise colour suits it perfectly. Track check up; the safety/pace-car M235i BMW for the grounds made its rounds.
I hope to return to Cadwell Park in the near future. The entire place has a cool vibe about it. That wraps up this “throwback” post. Getting out there and shooting more track events is one of my aims this year, so, until next time…