A Caterham Day at Silverstone
By Jason McGarry.
The first Saturday of October I was fortunate enough to be able to do a track day with Book a Track at Silverstone. Driving a well setup Caterham race car on a F1 track had been on my radar for some time. I arrived at the Silverstone around 7am. It was cool and very foggy. Book a Track was able to secure space in Pit Bays 1 and 2 – used by teams during the British F1 race.
We were sharing the track with a Porsche driving experience day so the usual artillery of 911, GT3’s and Caymans were out in force. There were also Aston Martins and Ferraris using the track at the same time. Being at Silverstone with this sort of company just added to the wow factor!
We were using the Academy’s Caterhams that were in the S3 and SV chassis so the engines were around the 140hp with the 6 speed gearbox. After the normal briefing session and waving all your legal rights away it was time to hit the track. I was there for the full day and shared the car with two other guys who also owned Caterhams, but had never been on a race track.
On track days, Silverstone only allow people on to the track with an instructor sitting in the passenger seat, so it was time for my first session. Driving out of the pit lane and up the hill onto the track for the first time was an experience that I will never forget. My heart was pumping and sweat seemed to be pouring out of my body. Adrenalin was high. The track was beautifully smooth and wide, but this was deceptive, as the corners that seemed to be quite wide were in fact very tight, especially as you came onto main straight. This run was to be my only run in the dry for the day – a shame as I hoped the English weather would be nice to me.
From 10am to 4pm the rain set in and at one point the track was closed due to the volume of water. Although it would have been good to have a dry day on the track, if you were ever going to be instructed how to drive in wet this was the moment. The instructors were very patient with us all and showed us how to pick the lines that would provide the most grip and taught us how to squeeze the power – avoiding spins.
The Aston Martins, Porsches and Ferraris were going a lot quicker than us, however we were driving these Caterhams with none of the modern aids those cars have.
I would recommend anyone that loves the thrill of driving a Caterham or Lotus to give it a go. They run many different types of driving experiences including drifting days, which I hope to do in May. You can also hire a 620R for track days, as long as you book it well in advance.