Last weekend was interesting (for me, at least. Hopefully for you, too): I took my Alfa Romeo GTV6 to Baskerville Raceway for the Club Motori Italia 2012 Regularity event.
This was my first event in the GTV6 and the regularity style of competition was the perfect format for what I wanted to do – learn how to drive my car better.
There will be a few Saab blog readers who might be familiar with the term ‘regularity’ as it’s one of the classes used in the Midnight Sun rally in Sweden. This is a little different, however.
In the Midnight Sun type of regularity event, the drivers have to drive each stage at an average speed nominated by the event organisers. In recent years it’s been an average of 60km/h, if I recall correctly. So, each stage has to be driven to that average and variations from that average count against the competitors’ stage and overall times.
The regularity event I participated in on the weekend is based on the entrants’ own nominated lap times. You do timing runs in the morning and based on those times, you nominate a lap time that you think you’ll be able to drive consistently during the afternoon. Capisce? You’re not competing against anyone else. The only objective you have is to match your own nominated time.
I had three timing sessions in the morning. The lap times in each session were as follows:
1st session: 83 seconds, 89s, 82s
2nd session: 79s, 78s, 77s
3rd session: 78s, 77s, 79s
The first session, as you can probably tell, was a ‘getting to know you’ session for me, the car and the track. The second lap was slowed by a very fast Honda CRX blowing an engine as it passed me. Not fun for him. Even though I’ve driven this track before, it’s always been with an instructor and I had to get used to picking the right line on my own, which took some effort.
The benefits of the first session came through in the times for the second and third, as you can see. I got to know my braking and shifting points a bit better, as well as getting a little more familiar with the proper ‘racing’ line.
I got some good advice from the guy who ended up winning the event: pick one of your faster times as your goal for the afternoon. The theory behind this is that as you get to know the track better, you’ll get faster and hopefully more consistent in your ability to achieve the nominated time.
Based on my times and Rob’s advice, I picked a target time of 77 seconds for the afternoon sessions. And Rob’s theory about the potential for improvement turned out to be true.
The one thing you can’t have enough of when it comes to driving around a racetrack is confidence in your car. I didn’t have that at the start of the day but as I got more laps under my belt, I began to get a feel for how the car moved, how it responded to different inputs. I learned how late I could brake, where the tyres would start to break traction, and I got a feel for the speed I could carry through various corners. By the end of the day I’d had an absolute blast throwing the GTV6 around the Baskerville track.
Remember, my nominated lap time was 77 seconds. My four afternoon sessions yielded the following lap times:
1st session: 78s, 78s, 79s, 78s
2nd session: 78s, 76s, 77s, 77s
3rd session: 76s, 77s, 76s, 76s
4th session: 75s, 75s, 76s, 75s
For someone who nominated 77 seconds, I didn’t do 77 very often. And with double points lost for each second under your nominated time, I certainly wasn’t anywhere near the front of the field. In fact, I came third last in terms of consistency-based points score.
In terms of taking what is a new car (to me) out to a track and getting a feel for what it could do, the day was an absolute blast. When you include -in and -out laps, I probably did around 40 laps on the day and I learned more about my GTV6 in those 40 laps than I’d learned in my previous two months of ownership. I wasn’t consistent in the manner that the competition demanded, but I think I got consistently better as the day progressed in terms of knowing my car – and that feels good.
Things I learned:
- I haven’t driven RWD for around 20 years so for me, it took some getting used to. The GTV6 isn’t necessarily an easy car to drive fast for someone who’s not used to it, but it’s an intensely rewarding car when you do manage to figure it out.
- Buying a well sorted car is its own reward. My Alfa ran perfectly from the time I drove it out of the garage in the morning until the time I drove it home again. Magnificent.
- There’s nothing quite like participating with an experienced car club. They know all the bases that have to be covered in order to run a successful event. Thanks to Club Motori Italia for another wonderful outing.
- I’m really pleased I bought one with a sunroof as I wouldn’t have fit in the car with a helmet on my head otherwise 🙂
If you’ve got an interest in track days then I’d encourage you to find a) the right car, and b) the right car club to get involved with. There’s nothing else in this world that will improve your driving awareness and skill, aside from designated driver training from experts, than some good tuition and safe competition amongst experienced drivers.
I hoped to have video, but camera 1 was mistakenly set to photos rather than video and camera 2’s audio failed.
And finally, congratulations to Rob, driving one of the other Alfas on the day, for taking first place by driving just two laps (out of 16 timed laps) outside his nominated 76 seconds. An outstanding effort.