Porsche 944 S – Track day 1+

What a rollercoaster ride it’s been the past week or so with the Porsche. Last time we spoke the first few changes has been done including transmission fluid and some stripping ahead of mine and Adrian’s first track day.

Pre track day shenanigans

Ahead of the first track day the plan was to fit some performance pads and brake fluid as well as get the cambelt done and happy. Sounds pretty simple right? Well it’s turns out that on taking the front of the Porsche apart a few of the tensioners and idlers were covered in oil, as was the cambelt itself. We’ve been pretty lucky up until now it hasn’t flew off due to this unwanted lubrication! As a result a front seal kit was needed as were new tensioners and idlers. Porsche would take a week to deliver all this but fortunately the great guys at JMGarage had the parts and shot them out the same day to the local garage for use. Top draw work from them to deliver so fast.

Second off I had pads and fluid coming from Porscheshop. Now they had promised me a timeline of a few days to get the pads and then a day or so to deliver so they would be on time. A week later not a peep from them so I called up. Hadn’t even got them in from the supplier. This was a big disappointment for me because I hate being let down when you give money based on their promise. Fortunately it seems I have dodged a bullet because I order EBC red stuff pads and it seems that they are generally regarded as, well, brown stuff. So they will be returned in favour of some Pagid pads.

Cobra bucket seatsOn the bank holiday before the track day I was down south for one reason or another and managed to sneak in a viewing of some bucket seats. £250 for both Cobra Monaco S seats and three point harnesses. Bargain.

Finally, tyres and wheels. I great guy called Steve couriered some teledials the same size as our current ones up to me so we have a set for track and a set for road. The track set were then shed in Yokohama rubber from HomeTyre a fantastic mobile fitting service. Went for 205/50/R15 which is thinner and lower profile than the rubber that was on there giving it better gearing (I think?) – whatever it’s called it feels faster and more responsive!

The day itself

So the day arrived – on the 1st June 2011 our little Porsche had (some) of it’s first track day. We were on an RMA track day at the great Oulton Park. The metal there was very, very serious. Our car by a very long way was the slowest and least expensive. Many Porsche 911s of the RS variety, and Britcar BMW, an almost touring car like Avensis, a Gulf super low fast thing, two Caterham Xbows, Ginettas, a track prepared Merc SLS, a Carrera GT and a couple of Renault Clio Sports. Amazing stuff here’s some pictures:

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So, the point of this first track day was two fold. One to see whether the car was OK and could cope, and two, to start getting some tuition and learning how to be a race car driver. Exciting stuff.

First hurdle was that after a few sessions, the Porsche developed a nasty clunking noise, up on the ramps it went, reasonably sure it’s the driveshafts. For safety it was retired and my S2000 became our track car for the day so we made the most of the time we had paid for and especially the tuition too. It’s a real shame the Porsche only did about 10-15 laps total but it will be seen to and live to fight another day (at Silverstone our next stop probably).

So, here’s the track. Morning session was the internal circuit, afternoon was the island circuit, both good and different and things to be learnt. There’s also a great aerial shot here that just misses Shell Oils.

Oulton Park International

We’re being tutored by Sarah Hutchison of Prestige Track Club. Sarah is trying to make us take all the right lines and get the car in balance before we try going anything approaching fast. This makes good sense intellectually however I have a compulsion to go as fast as possible which doesn’t help Sarah with her teaching style! We had a few sessions with Sarah, some tuition with Leighton a GT driver, some more sessions then lunch. After lunch more sessions then some time on our own on track then more tuition with Leighton. All in all about 130-150 track miles between us.

So, I thought that, turn by turn I’d talk you through my thoughts and what I’m learning.

Old Hall corner: Coming off the straight where you’re going pretty quick in 4th gear this one slows you down to 3rd gear and the aim is to hit the apex just between the two sets of bollards. This isn’t too difficult to achieve and then roll out the steering to make use of the whole track width. I found myself braking a little too much hear meaning I never needed the full extent of the track and could do more speed.

Dentons: Although it looks like a nothing corner it’s worth keeping to the far left of the track until you see the rumble strip of Dentons. On sight a single turn to hit that apex sets you up nicely for Cascades, it’s only a little turn, more like a tweak of direction if anything.

Cascades: One of my favourite corners. It’s a long sweeping third gear corner where you can really feel whether you’re on the edge of your grip or not as you sweep round. I also round it’s easy to use the whole track on this corner. The only thing slightly difficult is hitting the apex. It’s much later than I thought it was and you can go deeper than you expect into the corner. I didn’t quite nail this all day.

Lakeside: A good long straight down towards island bend.

Island Bend: There’s an access road joining the track and the perfect turn point is the furthest join point of that road to turn in, works really well. It’s a fast corner and you just need to make sure you end up on the left hand side of the track to get a balanced and steady braking zone into Shell oils corner.

Shell oils corner: Another favourite of mine this highly banked corner is great for going in deep to hit the apex and be able to power out the corner down towards the chicane. Just a great feel good third gear corner that’s quite easy to figure out.

Foulstons: In the afternoon we did the island circuit. This is the only second gear area on the track. The chicane on the full track is tricky to master. It’s all about carrying enough speed through the first turn so that you can brake a little more for the second turn and position yourself to power up the hill in a relatively straight line. Tricky. Where it’s the island circuit you should miss the first apex and aim to hit the second one, and again power up the hill in second gear. It was really easy here to slide the back end out by putting on the powr too early or carrying too much in.

Fosters: From here it’s a fast sprint down towards Fosters. It’s easy to overcook it here and not leave enough time to brake sufficiently to make a clean entry into Fosters. I more than once was carrying far too much speed and so really bogged down and lost time. Scrubbing off enough speed to have a controlled entry makes it feel much better and allows you to bring the car back around to the left hand side of the track in preparation for the next corner, Knickerbrook.

Knickerbrook: Again, easy to overcook if you accelerate too hard out the previous corner and carry more speed than needed here. Keeping it steady between the two corners gives much greater smoothness and feels a lot faster than being choppy.

Clay Hill: A fast run up the hill keeping to the right hand side of the track before a slight corner to bring you over to the left hand side for a steady braking zone into Druids, the tricky double apex corner in 3rd gear.

Druids: Another corner that I think will be very satisfying to nail but I didn’t quite get there. Advice is two fold here. Some think you should have a single turn on a single arc through both corners, almost going deeper on apex one to hit apex two sweetly. Others say to miss apex one by about a metre and then straight up a bit to then hit apex two again – so actually do two corners in succession. I didn’t master either but it’s one of the most difficult British corners to master apparently. Also the rumble strip on the left as you exit cuts in, meaning you have slightly less track than you might think.

Deer Leap: A swift jaunt later and you’re here which is a third gear corner and easy enough if your turn in is on target so you can make best use of the track and power up towards the start finish straight, keeping straight on almost clipping the left hand fence and powering to the right of the S/F straight before tucking in left for Old Hall.

So what did I learn?

That’s a great questions. Here’s my top 5 learnings:

  1. The corners are what matters: If I get the corners right, the straights look after themselves. Bombing down the straight anyone can do. Plus, it’s good to let people overtake who are faster here so you have a clear, hassle free corner to learn with.
  2. I steer oddly: Sarah noticed a great thing. I put forward pressure on the steering wheel as I drive. This makes easy steering and light touches harder as I’m almost using the wheel as support. Bucket seats and harness will help this, and I’m also purposefully not doing it on the road right now. Concentrating on lightly moving the wheel around in a left to right way only, not pushing forwards.
  3. Make sure car is OK: I cooked the S2000’s brakes – it needs discs and pads all round. Although we were not planning to use the Honda, more care and checking should of been done so we didn’t do so much damage.
  4. Don’t copy the car in front: If you do have a car in front it;s tempting to do what they do. What I noticed though is that not everyone is doing it right and so to concentrate on your own lines and learning.
  5. Concentrate on doing each corner a little better each time: Sounds simple but hard to remember. I nailed one corner so well and then completely overcooked the next due to overconfidence from the previous – consistency is key.

So what’s next?

  • Fix drive shafts
  • Performance Pagid pads and fluid
  • Fit bucket seats and harnesses (might be a pain)
  • More stripping (another 9.7kg was lost tonight with bottom of rear bench and some trim, total now 54.6kg)
  • Promax chip
  • Check out Silverstone corners before hand

Phew! That’s a long post – hope it helps!

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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.