EVENTS
 
 

GOODWOOD TRACK DAY AND PHOTO SHOOT

Article by Tom Wood

What better way to spend a hot sunny day than at the legendary Goodwood motor circuit?

Earlier this month we took a couple of cars down to the iconic Goodwood circuit for a photoshoot, our much loved white Retro Touring R and our new Classic Touring Series II. As we were going anyway we thought it would be rude not to also bring one of our track-prepared, lightweight 911’s to stretch its legs a bit. Someone’s got to!

The day began at 5:30am on Friday morning when I left to make it to the circuit for drivers briefing at 8:00am. This wasn’t as big a drag as you may think as my mode of transport was a Paul Stephens Retro Touring R. Comfortable and capable would describe the driving experience of this car on the journey.

The suspension had been set with touring in mind so it absorbed the bumps nicely, the engine even cruising at 75mph+ for over an hour didn’t feel like it was close to breaking a sweat. The interior is very comfortable, seats are nicely padded and the steering wheel is brought forward nice and close to the chest. The roads were fairly deserted meaning we ended up getting to the circuit an hour earlier than I expected. The car didn’t miss a beat!

As is the case at most track days there were some nice machines in the paddock but it was mainly Porsche populating the circuit. Track conditions were spot on, warm dry weather meant heat could be generated in the tyres quickly and this combined with, rather unbelievably, a fairly quiet track resulted in some fast, uninterrupted laps.

My first go on track didn’t end up being in our little 911, but in a Caterham which was brought along by a friend. My first time driving a Caterham as well, first impressions came from the experience of getting in the car, being 6’0 and as flexible as raw spaghetti meant it was a challenge, but I did fit, just! I did feel the bottom of my shirt fold up at the back, but due to the very snug fit, I couldn’t do anything about it until I got out! The pedal box was cramped, and due to the fact my shoes were quite wide I found it pretty challenging to pick out the pedals individually, shouldn’t be a problem on a race track should it? More on that later.

The first lap was spent warming the car up a bit so nothing too reckless, but I was getting a feel nonetheless, the steering wheel felt like a saucer compared to a conventionally sized one, but the steering was just wonderful. I’ve never driven anything quite as direct as that little Caterham. Being so light as well just meant that it changed direction instantly and the firm ride ensured there was little to no roll through the corners. The gearbox felt very solid and mechanical, combined with a very short shift suited track use perfectly. Being sat on the rear axle you felt absolutely everything the car was doing and when it was doing it, responsive and communicative would be an understatement describing this car.

After going through Woodcote and the chicane, the car was warm, so I buried it up the start/finish straight, it screamed into life and shot up towards Madgwick corner at quite a pace, being a very short ratio’d gearbox meant you were thinking of changing up a gear as soon as you selected the previous. This was driving! Going round Madgwick demonstrated the level of mechanical grip it had, which was phenomenal. It also demonstrated the complete lack of aero grip, which was hilarious. The rear end twitched with the occasional slide, this was video game stuff!

Heading towards St. Mary’s my pedal box issue, which I had forgotten about until I needed to brake, resurfaced. As I lifted off the loud pedal to brake, my shoe was getting caught on the brake pedal meaning I couldn’t press the brakes, this was interesting. I did manage to come up with a technique to lift off the accelerator, move my foot to the right as much as I could, then lift it over the accelerator to then press the brake. This farce meant it took quite some time to go from accelerating to braking which in turn took a bit of the spark out of the experience. Had I been wearing more appropriate footwear, perhaps some racing boots, it would have been far more enjoyable. Next time!

After some very enjoyable laps, it was time to break for lunch. We took the opportunity of a deserted track to get some glossy photographs of the two show cars we brought along, which were beautifully captured by Alex from thewhitewall.co. We started with some tracking shots where I was piloting the black Classic Touring whilst our friend Tom of tomshaxson.com was driving the Retro Touring. The results speak for themselves.

You come to appreciate the size of a track more when you’re participating in a photoshoot as most of the time you’re traveling no faster than 30mph, a slight contrast to 10 minutes earlier when reaching 125mph down the Lavant straight before dropping the anchors wouldn’t even be considered particularly fast. We finished with some static shots of the cars on the start finish straight. Not a bad backdrop really.

As lunch came to an end and cars started making their way back on to the track, I managed to get a go in our black track prepared 911. I’m very familiar with this car having driven it sporadically for over 3 years. Fundamentally it’s a heavily modified 911SC. We’ve bonded well. I hopped in and it immediately felt familiar, the driving position is absolutely spot on, the seats hug you just enough and the steering wheel is just the right distance away. Plus, I could press each pedal independently!

On track I felt very at home, the car did feel heavy after getting out of the Caterham, but the drama that comes along with an air-cooled 911 made it worth it. The 3.0l flat-6 pulls wonderfully and the 915 gearbox has a good long throw. In fact the 915 is probably my favourite of the 3 classic gearbox’s. It’s not as vague as the 901 but still retains the classic feel which the very refined G50 box doesn’t (for me anyway).

Ordinarily you may have concerns about driving a rear-engined 911 in anger due to risks of lift off oversteer, but the amount of grip this car has means you would almost have to intentionally do something stupid for it to bite you. Within the first corner it gave so much confidence to push on and catch other drivers (definitely not racing though!) Similar to the Caterham, the Porsche rides quite firm but is set a bit softer to still be usable on the road.

There was some roll through the corners but the Recaro’s hold you in place perfectly. There was also some spare space in the cabin to wiggle about and get comfy after some hard cornering! There wasn’t much on track that the 911 couldn’t catch and overtake. I did have to admit defeat to a £260,000 McLaren 675LT once however, which was fairly quick. The difference between the 675 and the 911 is that I imagine I was closer to the capability of the 911 than he was in the McLaren, the joys of such capable, modern cars.

I pulled into the paddock and parked up next to the Caterham, both very exciting cars to drive on track, both very iconic in their own right and both make brilliant track day cars. However, the fact that I’d have to plan the trip and dress appropriately for the Caterham, albeit fine for a scheduled track day, would take the spontaneity out of the experience.

Plus, you could drive the 911 some distance but I’m not sure I’d be too eager to do the same in the Caterham. I was glad I had the keys to the 911 for the two and a half hour drive home!

 

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