Silverstone track day report

What a day. I’ve never been to the actual Silverstone circuit before, let alone the grand prix circuit. What a monster it is, many more corners than Oulton and also many more corners that are stringed together meaning looking ahead better. For me, it was a day of ups and downs. After a 4am get up myself and Adrian motored down taking my S2000 due to poking the Porsche.

Another day of serious metal where we were the slowest car there (power wise anyway) with Radicals, Ferraris, GT3s, Ginettas and the mighty Merc SLS that was at Oulton.

Learnings

Silverstone was completely new to me, so one of things I learnt a lot about was learning a track, and how I do it. We have an Autosport guide that shows you all of the tracks and corners. I have to say I didn’t feel like I learnt a lot looking at it before or even during – I learn corners much better by driving them and linking them up steadily.  Especially true for me was that in the guide the corners are shown on their own and I have real trouble without seeing the whole track in one go – see later.

My second learning is a major one that I already knew really. That learning is that I need to stop overcooking it. Too often I carry far too much speed into a corner, and so I have to brake poorly, go wide or something similar, all of which slows me down.

Third, concentration. Silverstone demands that you concentrate on where you are every second and know not just what the next corner is, but also the part and how to string them altogether. When I was calm (see next point) all seemed well, but if I got out of shape or lapsed in concentration for a second a whole string of corners could go wrong and that slowed me down too.

Fourth, for want of a better word, getting in a tiz. I had a half hour of tuition with Calum Lockie later on in the day after lunch. I hadn’t been out on the track for a few hours and had forgotten a few of my lines and the corners. This made me pretty nervous which made me forget more, and it all started to get out of shape. Down to spinning 180 degrees at Brooklands because I was carrying a ridiculous amount of speed. This was the worst part of the day because I know Calum’s a great instructor (and I def. learnt a lot) but I know that Adrian learnt even more than me because he kept calm and followed his instructions to the letter. By the end of the day I know Adrian was going faster than me which is annoying.

The overall outcome is that I need to calm down. Calmer braking, calmer steering inputs, calmer thoughts about upcoming corners, greater concentration on my driving, not anything else. I learnt a lot more here at Silverstone than I did at Oulton that’s for sure. Bless my S2000 also, it did 200 track miles without skipping a beat then took me home too.

Psychology of track driving

This got me thinking to the psychology of track and race driving. In a recent bond movie, Mr. Bond says that M expects him to be ‘Half monk, Half hit man’. That’s what I feel a driver needs to be. Clam, unshakeable command over the car and the knowledge of what corner needs what; combined with the ruthlessness needed to overtake, hold your line and push a tiny bit harder. This is an area that’s going to fascinate me I know and I look forward to learning more here.

Corner by corner

This is one of my favourite parts of my write up. The reason for this is that it forces me to deconstruct it in my head and I think it’s an important part of my learning process. So here’s the circuit in all it’s 3.66 mile glory:

Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit

Beautiful track. It’s not that interesting in terms of camber or hills or dips really, so it’s not quite as interesting as Oulton in that way. It is challenging though and an exciting track to drive.

Copse: quite a fast corner off the straight. Some braking, down to fourth, gradual steering input to hit the apex nicely and let it taper out to the left edge of the track under power. The pit lane exit appears on the right had side and that where you need to cross over the track too in preparation for…

Maggots & Becketts & Chapel: A couple of corners close together that form a sort of single entity. As you’re on the right hand side of the track you can aim the car and also almost run straight over the entrance to maggots and brake in between the two to hit the apex and set yourself up for becketts. These three flow together a lot and I didn’t feel like I got them completely sorted out. It’s a series of short braking points and smooth curves before powering onto the straight.

Hanger straight: A nice long straight that flies you down to Stowe.

Stowe: a fast right hander (need to move over to the other side of track after Chapel). Again a gentle turn through to hit the apex nicely and then enough power to use all of the track to get the car over to the kerb on the left hand side and hit your exit.

Vale: After a quick mini straight you’re down to Vale, a hard left hander where you’re down to 3rd gear. You don’t want to go too fast on exit of this corner though. Adrian uses trail braking here.

Club: this corner appears where you want to hold a steady line coming out of Vale and not accelerate too much because you need to get round the end of the corner and power onto the international straight.

International straight: A lovely long straight where you want to keep to the left in order to get down to Abbey on the right line.

Abbey: A fast right hander where you can carry a lot of speed from the straight. When you get it right it almost feels a little too fast but works really well.

Farm: This is a nice long curve where you need to maintain as much speed as possible from Abbey and keep your line right to be near the middle to left hand side of the track to enter Village.

Village: You scrub off a lot of speed coming into Village and you want to make sure you hit the apex and end up near the middle of the track. Adrian uses trail braking here.

Loop: Now here, a lot of people go wide to take a long turn to hit the apex. Calum suggests staying in the middle of the track, turning almost at 90 degrees and power straight towards the edge of the track. It seems to work, you need to cover less ground and can still accelerate out easily.

Aintree: I tried coming out of the Loop in second gear one time. I accelarated quickly, but then add far too much speed for this corner. It’s not a difficult corner, but you want to get it right to carry as much speed into Wellington.

Wellington: Straight down to Brooklands.

Brooklands: A reasonably hard left hander where you want to be on the right hand side and really hit the apex nicely to carry speed back over to the exit point. Adrian uses trail braking here.

Luffield: Whatever you do, don’t accelerate after Brooklands like I had a habit of doing. If you do, you knacker Luffield and so are slow to the straight. Hug a very tight line until the exit appears and then power straight through.

Woodcote: Snatching 4th between Luffield and Woodcote enables you a nice smooth exit onto the straight. Too often I would leave it in third and it felt a bit too snatchy trying to do Woodcote smoothly.

National straight: Banging down to Copse.

So there you have it. That’s a lot of corners that’s for sure and I can’t really remember all of them really well and I’m slightly uncertain of some of the lines as you may have been able to read into.

Conclusion and next steps

Right that’s it, lots of learnings, a complex track, a lot of fun. A major frustration point just after tuition. The knowledge that Adrian is slightly faster right now. Really looking forward to Donnington when I’ll have my zen on.

About Rob

I'm an average petrolhead - I love cars and get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.