I've wanted to take my Exige on track ever since I got it but, after spectating at a few events and seeing cars get written off I was a little reluctant.
I've seen some horrendously bad driving on track, often contributing to the previously mentioned accidents, and unfortunately there often seems to be little vetting of who is allowed out. In fact I've only been on track about 3 times before and have seen at least ten cars totalled!
A while ago now, a friend of mine put me in touch with a chap he knew who ran track days where everyone was sort of invited or referred by other people in the group. That way people felt comfortable turning up in cars which they might otherwise be reluctant to take out for fear of being punted off by some loose cannon. After spending a weekend at the Nurburgring in the Civic without incident a while ago, and having another friend who had also been on the days previously, I decided to take the Exige and booked on a few months ago.
Bear in mind, for most people the aversion to the risk of tracking a car isn't only about the monetary value of their cars, it's about personal value. It doesn't matter whether it's a comparatively affordable 80s hatchback or a £100k Porsche, all of these cars are someone's pride and joy. From what I had heard, anyone who didn't respect that mentality had been whittled out and all the other attendees were considerate out on track, with that in mind I felt comfortable about going out.
My enthusiasm was slightly curbed during the morning drivers briefing at which we were told that roughly 25% of all track accidents in the country happen on one corner at Combe! I haven't fact checked that but it was enough to keep the red mist at bay for most of the day…
After a couple of sighting laps with one of the instructors leading the pack, I got in the queue for the first track session.
I was apprehensive at first, expecting everyone to be a lot quicker than me, however I soon found my rhythm and felt comfortable pushing on.
Interestingly I found that the cars that were quicker than me would get past and head off, in the same way as I would take some distance out of the cars behind me. Because the number of cars on track at once is quite limited, this meant that after a short while I'd find myself on a fairly empty circuit. I wasn't quick enough to lap the majority of the other cars and the faster cars weren't quick enough to lap me. This meant I could do lap after lap without running in to much else which was perfect for my first time round Combe.
After a few sessions more people were on the circuit but by that time I'd settled in and felt confident in what I was doing. One of the things which was particularly good about the day was the courtesy extended by other drivers. Slower drivers were quick to let you past, and faster drivers never pushed you on.
Overall the day was excellent and I ended up doing about 120 miles worth of laps which I was pretty happy with. I’ll definitely be booking this same day again next year and will look forward to taking the Datsun when it’s finished.
The Exige is an amazing car. Drive it conservatively on the road (I have tried once) and it's like a normal car. It's not too loud, it has air conditioning and it even has a boot. However get it on track and it's amazing. I felt like I got past quite a lot of other very respectable cars quite easily and that was much more to do with the car's competency than my own. I also found that I didn't take it anywhere near it's limits. I braked too early, I never revved it much higher than 7,000 RPM and I didn't run to the edge of the track. I was well aware of how easy it is to fall in to the trap where inexperience and a false sense of confidence lead to running wide at camp corner and ploughing into the wall. I learned a bit more about driving this car and am looking forward to my next track day, hopefully I'll learn a bit more and get a bit quicker.
I had the GoPro with me and have cut some of the video together. The pictures of my car were taken by a professional photographer at the track and are clearly a lot better than my rather weak efforts of all the other cars.