Kemble airfield day, 4 October 2002

Peripheral annoyances didn't spoil a good day out.

My brother, Neil, and I arrived an hour and a half late. For some reason traffic for the A329(M) had queued back into the housing estates, so we turned around and traveled by a convoluted route which was probably no quicker, but a hell of a lot more entertaining, than just sitting in a jam.

Nev from Motorsport Events was very good about giving us a quick briefing, and taking me for a few quick sighting laps round the circuit. The main tricky bit seemed to be a funny-shaped 180 degree bend which he said could be taken with constant lock all the way through. I had problems with this... More later.

The organisers had fortuitously decided to abandon the sessions and have an open pit line, which was great news, meaning that all we'd actually missed was one half-hour session.

The circuit layout was very tight, and a bit too Noddy even for my car. I didn't see higher than third gear all day. I couldn't get that 180 bend right, so when it was time for my pre-booked tuition I asked 'Ginger' Dave to concentrate on that, and carrying more speed through the corners. I'd checked before booking that Motorsport had intercoms - I've had a instruction before without one, and it's almost a complete waste of time in a Caterham.

Dave suggested a different line for the 180: stay quite wide until about 3/4 of the way around, bring the nose in by lifting, then floor the throttle. This worked much better for me, although it highlighted the fact that my car was understeering quite a bit. Time to play with my new adjustable front anti-roll bar... Up until then I'd been focusing on messing with the dampers, and had been running the bar fully soft. I tweaked it to 4/6 stiff and tried again. Just about perfect! I tried going a little further with 5/6 stiff, but it made very little difference, and was possibly tending slightly towards oversteer, so I put it back to 4.

After lunch in the control tower we went to fill up with Shell Optimax. Unfortunately I'd left the filler cap key in my bag at the circuit, so that was a 45 minute round trip wasted. After that I filled up with boggo unleaded at the nearest petrol station and then set about making the most of the remainder of the afternoon.

I tried to take Dave's advice to heart. Something worked well because I didn't get overtaken all day (apart from warm-up and cool-down laps). The highlight was near the end when a tuned Westfield Megabusa with a claimed 220 bhp got blue-flagged to let me past because I was so much quicker. I heard later that he may have been asked to take it easy because the noise police were in attendance, but I'll keep quiet about that...

Neil seemed to enjoy himself. He's about as mad about (original) Minis as I am about Sevens, and he's now started thinking about what he'll need to do to his new car in order to get it on the track. My advice was to concentrate on the brakes and tyres rather than the engine, but I'm not sure he chose to hear me :-)

This page is It was first published on Wednesday 9 October, 2002 and last updated on Wednesday 9 October, 2002.