Sat 23 Apr
#MSD catches up with the TDC drivers ahead of the 2016 finale
#MSD catches up with the TDC drivers ahead of the 2016 finale
Mon 03 October 2016
Motorsport Days again took some time away from their busy 2016 schedule to meet the drivers of the Trackday Trophy at the Brands Hatch BTCC:
"Last weekend we got invited by MSVR to Brands Hatch circuit and met some of the drivers competing in the Track Day Championship.
This is a championship that we have kept a close eye on, as the concept of helping Track Day drivers get into racing is something we are keen to encourage. What started as the MSVT Track Day Trophy – and still continues – now also has a championship.
MSVT helps you go from enthusiast to racer, affordably . We managed to catch up with four drivers who have been competing for a while and hear about their experiences and battles so far.
Laughing as he admitted that he’d been doing Track Days for “too many years”, Simon told us that eventually he joined the Dunlop Race Academy in 2010. And despite being decked out with a race kit and ARDS licence after winning there, it was only last year that he entered the Track Day Trophy competition. He jumped at the opportunity of trying out MSVT’s Track Day Championship in 2016, especially after the success of his first season.
Simon cruised into 2015 with his Renault Clio Class B, but some reliability issues forced him to start looking for other options. Luckily, he managed to convince the owner of a Porsche Boxster to sell it, and, after power testing, it came out at the top of Class A without being too far off Class S.
Switching to front-wheel drive
Although he prefers it, Simon did tell us that “it’s a bit more challenging; you have to be a bit more measured, especially in a car with a bit more power. It’s funny cause when I started racing this a few months ago, I didn’t feel like I was driving it as well or as hard…but I realized that with a front wheel drive car you’re either on the power or on the brakes, and there’s kind of nothing between the two.” He went on to say he’s discovered, especially in the wet (although out of six rounds so far, only Snetterton has had rain!), that to be quick in a front-wheel drive car is much trickier than he thought; “I always thought ‘oh front-wheel drive’s easy’, but we’ve been really struggling with the front-wheel drive cars in the wet because they’re better on the line…off the line its weight is on the rear tires so it just absolutely flies.”
So no change of car next year?
Simon doesn’t see the need for a different car at the moment, and is planning on giving his Porsche a refurbish over the winter. “I’ve been running the car myself which is quite challenging because I’m not technically-minded – I must admit that that’s one real benefit of doing this is that you end up learning a lot pretty quickly. But it does need a spanner check”. On top of this is the added fun of figuring out its weight. “At the moment, it’s got 32kg of ballast in the nose…so over the winter we’ll run it around and do some testing and see…we definitely know that the corner weightings aren’t on par, but I was of the opinion that I’d take it out and drive it as it was, so that at least you’ve got a starting point”.
The next race
As November’s Round 7 at Brands Hatch Indy approaches, it’s interesting to imagine what the race will be like, as if the track is damp the front-wheel drive cars could definitely benefit, but rear-wheel drives could get competitive in the dry too. “I think it will be a real mixed field,” Simon remarked, “for me it’s going to be about defending my second place…I’ve got nothing to gain, if you like, by taking risks – I just need to drive a sensible race and make sure that I retain second place position”.
Sitting in his striking green SEAT, Darren opened up – “I get a lot of grief from my competitors cause the problem is, it looks fast before we’ve even got on track!” After struggling with his AUDI S3’s repeated problems, Darren heard about SEATS and decided to buy an MKII. “I enjoyed it: really good in the series, did quite well, and then they – it was last year – changed to the 250 per ton, and my car wasn’t man enough to do it…so I bought another.” This time it was an ex-Britcar with the right horse-power, but this too kept failing – to the extent that last year he didn’t finish a single race! “I just thought enough’s enough, I want a reliable car: sell these two and buy a new one. And that’s what I’ve got. I’ve made a big up-front investment in-between races…in the long run it’s actually cheaper than some of my competitors! It’s a nice way to do it!”
And just to clarify, Darren assured us that he isn’t planning an Irish takeover – he chose a green car because, in his own words: “we looked out on track and nearly every car is orange, black or white and the one car that wasn’t out there was green…and ‘I said I’m not superstitious – let’s have a green car!’”
First motorsport win
Although car issues disrupted last year’s season, 2014 saw Darren win four out of seven races, and so he is no stranger to the podium. “For the record, I have the fastest race lap in every single race this year – I’ve just not finished the race,” he remarked.
“I’ve had a big up-front cost…but for List A tyres I use one set over two and a half races. What we do is switch fronts to rears and then on the third race we throw away the rears and we switch the fronts to rears again”, Darren told us. This method is paired with an oil change every two races, and apart from that the only other outstanding cost is fuel. “We don’t even do an end-of-year strip-down,” Darren remarked – “I only do the six races a year…so it’s an affordable way of doing it”.
Competing with your team mates
When asked how it works to race against your team-mates, “not very well” was Darren’s initial response! He went on to explain that him and team mate are very close on track and have a lot of race battles, with no allowances being made between each other for even the slightest slip. He did sum up the relationship nicely, though, as he told us that “on track we’re rivals, off-track we’re good mates. And of course that’s the best way to work”.
The next race
As the heaviest car on the grid by far, Darren’s battle throughout the year has been with the M3s, and it’s certainly been a closely-competitive season. “Kester [Cook] and I are on equal points, James Britton, because of reliability, is at the top, but if I beat Kester I win Class S”, the driver himself explained. Darren only needs to be seven positions above Britton to win overall, and sounds optimistic – “the only race we’ve had to train in in rear-wheel drive…I was twelve positions above him, so everything’s possible!”
Kester started off with a MKII Golf in the Track Day Trophy in 2010 – after building it himself – and although it served him well, he was on the look-out for something a bit faster and it was at this point that his current Ford Fiesta came up as an ex-German track car. “It’s able to eat up that SEAT, and the BMWs,” Kester told us, adding “it’s definitely different – people don’t expect a Fiesta to be racing”.
“For the amount of time you get on track for the money, you know – half-hour qualifying, 45 min race…it [MSVT’s Track Day Championship] is great value for money,” Kester explained.
The next race
Kester’s plan for Brands Hatch next month was nicely summed up in the three words “pray for rain”! The wet Snetterton race earlier this year was a win for him, and so he has high hopes that some more rain will even things out a little with the SEAT.
Racing with friends and family
It’s not uncommon for amateur racing to be run by friends and family members, and Kester’s set-up is very much along these lines. “Well it’s a big part of it,” Kester told us, “the friends side of it is literally just friends who come along on the day”, and while this might sound like a minefield to some, he seems to have it under control: “you’ve got to give them jobs that you know they can do, but a lot of them come along literally just to support rather than help out.” He also admitted that he does get “organized” by certain family members too!
Perry races in a Proton Satria, which its previous owner ran in the BRSCC Tin Tops. “He’d done all the main things on it and we just tidied it up and finished it off a little bit”, Perry told us, and went on: “the idea of the Track Day Championship is that it’s an affordable race series: road cars that have been converted on a budget – that’s what it’s meant to be about”.
Perry had always done a bit of go-karting, and started circuit racing in 2007 in Formula V with the 750 Motor Club, which continued for a few years. After that, he moved to the Historic Super Vs with the Formula Ford 2000s and HSCC, and eventually it was Barcelun endurance racing that eventually propelled him towards the Track Day Trophy, (now the Track Day Championship).
MSVT’s 45 minute race for its Track Day Championship was one of the main reasons Perry chose it, as he explained: “the pit stop was obviously something you don’t get in sprint racing, and so it’s just an extra little bit of fun and something I’ve never done before”. “It’s close door-to-door racing”, he went on, as we spoke about the competitive aspect of the championship, and this is definitely a factor that makes the whole experience great fun.
The general consensus among the racers we spoke to is that the MSVT Track Day Trophy is among the more affordable race series to get into, and Perry was no exception here, explaining that “value for money is what you want – a club race driver who gets his maximum amount of time out on the circuit for the least amount of money. So it’s what it costs per lap; that’s what it all boils down to…and certainly with a 45 minute race per lap it’s the most cost-effective way to go racing”.
“No matter what motor racing you’re doing…we’ve got some of the best tracks in the world…Brands is always our home circuit and our most favoured one; it’s where we do all our testing and stuff like that so I suppose we feel more comfortable here than anywhere else,” Perry told us, also mentioning Silverstone as well as Cadwell Park. If it was his last ever race, though, Brands Hatch Indy is his choice – “it’s just a fantastic little circuit, and I think every driver loves it”.