: Wow! What a great day out racing!

11-25-06, 07:56 AM
Got a free ticket to a days driving at Bedford Aerodrome yesterday, the Palmer Sport run event.

I must say, it was a very well run event from a customers perspective, certainly a lot more slick and well organised than a similar day I've been to at Silverstone. There was 56 of us there, split into 7 groups and you just rotate around to each different activity (my finishing position in brackets) .

We got to drive 7 different cars and the instructors really encourage you to push the cars to the absolute limit (or rather, your absolute limit!), no silly rev limiters set well below peak power etc:

1. Nissan 350Z (6th)
They teach you to drift in a standard road going 350Z. I must say it's a very impressive car and if I was in the money for a coupe at around 25k it would be on my shortlist. Relatively torquey 3.7L 6 pot with 287BHP.
I span this one 3 times in 15 minutes! Very difficult and drifting definately has the highest cockpit workload of all of the events. I was dripping with sweat when I got out! We then realised that they had forgotten to turn the heated seat off and combined with my multi layers of clothing it made for slippery hands on the steering wheel which wasn't helping my cause.

2. Renault Clio Cup (4th)
Basically you drive a stripped out Clio around the same track as the Nissans and you're encouraged to literally throw it into a bend too fast and then power out with the front wheel drive. One of the most enjoyable events of the day as you get to be a complete hooligan! http://www.mkb.cc/forum/img/smilies/up.gif
I gave it such a portion into the second to last corner on one lap that it took half the following straight to sort it out and even the instructor was impressed as he was a complete hooligan himself. I span it out (big style!) on the last lap on antoehr do-or-die effort which was a shame.

3. Caterham 7 Superlight (9th)
This was the first manual car I drove on the day, getting back into that took some getting used to, trying to downshift a couple of gears coming hot into a corner in the rain... http://www.mkb.cc/forum/img/smilies/shame.gif
Didn't actually spin out in this one but did lose it in a chicane and ended up broadside. Good laugh but not my sort of car, there's nothing in it, not even a proper seat and I could hardly get my foot onto just one pedal (ie brake OR throttle) as the pedal area is so tight and that made it trickier than it needed to be.
On the plus side they later held a head to head competition (kind of like autocross but much simpler). I won mine 2-1 (I lost the first race as I came off the gas and went for the brake at the end of a straight bit but instead of finding the brake, found the gas again and almost put it head on into a tyre barrier but through sheer skill (alright luck!) managed to sling the arse around and nail it away.

4. Porsche 911 (4th)
Had a lot of fun with this one, once I decided to forget what it was worth and fair play to the instructor for enouraging me to kamikae it into the bends. The ass end isn't as skittish as I expected and once I overcame that and trusted the instructor ("you can do it flat, go for it, trust me, trust me, go for it, go for it!!!") I really started getting my lap times down. The only thing I struggled with was getting it around the tight hairpins as you're supposed to keep your hands stationary on the wheel and just cross your arms, but between a jumper, fleece and leather jacket it was kinda tough!
Span it out into the grass at about 80mph in a do-or-die effort on the last lap. *almost* managed to get it under control and recover but not quite...
Straight line performance didn't feel amazing, got to 110mph or so on the short straight after coming out of a hairpin but to be honestm if I had spent that sort of money on one of them and then had a drive in the 350Z I'd be taking it back to Porsche for a refund...

5. Palmer Jaguar (2nd)

Suposed to give you an idea of what a LeMans type car is like, frankly I didn't think much of it. It's a completer brute of a car with an on/off switch for a throttle and it's not at all forgiving and feels like a lumbering heavy beast to me, probably due to the lack of power assistance. Damned quick though! I had a good instructor on this one and he really pushed me hard on it. Span it on one of the first laps but then made real good progress and thus needed to do lots of overtaking (which doens't help laptimes sadly) but got one good clear run in. This was actually the first car I drove on the day and I got a rep for being a hooligan and/or downright determined/fearless. People watching could then spot which car I was in on later events due to driving, erm, style...

6. Formula Palmer Audi (time positions not recorded so as not to encourage you to stack it http://www.mkb.cc/forum/img/smilies/down.gif )

This was the second car I drove on the day and I was a bit nervous as they give you a whole seperate booklet of rules and seperate disclaimer to sign for this one. After my difficulties with the Palmer Jaguar I figured it wouldn't be fun, but oh boy it was! A completely differnet car, very forgiving with loads of grip. The only thing that lets it down is the gearbox which is downright nasty to use and spoils the experience. In the end I heeded their advice and just kept it in 3rd and concentrated on braking (amazing brakes btw!) and my lines instead. This did leave the turbocharged engine bouncing off the limter towards the end of the straight though...
Didn't spin this car at all!
Proper boys toy this one!

7. Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 (8th)

I enjoyed the off-road stuff I did at Silverstone so I knew this would be fun. The course wasn't as good though and the instructor just guided you around the course as opposed to teaching you about off roading. There were 3 parts to the challenge, you had to do a certain timed section in bang on 30 seconds (ideally) which I managed in 29.31s so not far off at all, quite pleased with that. You then had to drive it probably 50 feet lenghways along 2 logs, ie left wheels on top of one log, right wheels on top of other log. Managed that one easily enough, 10/10 ! The final aspect was hitting tennis balls that are hung from a piece of string on one of 3 targets on the car a bullseye painted on the windcsceen or the 3 door mirrors. Didn't do so well on this one, managed to hit all but one of the balls on target but only got 2 of them in the actual bulls eye. This is what let me down on points as a bullseye is worht 5 points, the rest of the target only 1...
The seesaw stuff and some of the REALLY steep climbing stuff is quite scary as you can't see where you're aiming the vehicle, only sky! Off-roading is great fun though and the vehicles are far more capable than you can ever imagine.


Yours truly giving it some:


11-26-06, 04:38 AM
Looks like major fun.

11-26-06, 11:19 AM
Very cool!! :thumbsup: