Mini Cooper S JCW

The children booked me a track day at Pau circuit for my birthday this year…

Booked a cheap hotel in Pau for Saturday night. It’s about 3.5 hours from here so can’t do it as a day trip.

Will probably just do the morning session and then head back in the afternoon. Pod has to be at work on Monday and he has a 5 hour drive to get home.

Spoke to the organiser last week as I have had no communication other than an email confirmation of my registration.

It seems that if there are no “single seaters” it will be an “open pitlane”, which means you are not organised into groups and sessions but just a free-for-all. In theory I could get on the track and drive round for 3 hours !

Not what I’m used to. The track days I did at Goodwood were organsied into sessions with similar cars/people. We were sent out at intervals with only a few people on track at a time and only 5 lap sessions. One warm up, 3 fast laps and one cool down.

Have been looking at YouTube videos of other track days etc at Pau and I’m feeling nervous….

1. The free-for-all format encourages overtaking (not to say racing) and there seem to be some banzai drivers in pretty fast cars. Can’t see any overtaking rules but maybe the driver briefing will shed some light.

2. Seen some crashes on video – just due to losing one end of the car on a corner and not having enough run off to gather it up again.

3. A couple of corners are very fast and partially blind which will require BIG BALLS to get round at a decent speed – apparently flat for the fast guys?

4. I don’t know how the Mini handles at the limit. Power on understeer for sure but they are apparently pretty sensitive to lift off oversteer – which is what you naturally do when overcooking a corner entry. Might be wet as well, which will lower the limits dramatically. Planning to use it as much as possible this week to get used to it again.

Watched more youtube on board videos last night so getting to know the track. These are from normal cars as well as single seaters.

This gives you an idea of lines and corner approaches – but on two of the worst (most dangerous) corners I still haven’t got a turn in point mapped out.

The videos also don’t show braking points and it’s hard to tell when and how much a driver is braking.

One obvious thing I realised is that the faster you go the less room there is for error – ordinary road cars don’t go that fast round a track and have quite a bit of lee way on different lines round a corner. The fast people in single seaters and on fast bikes have much less room for error – they have to be on line to get round the corner.

I think I scared myself a bit looking at some of the faster people. Ordinary people seem to bumble around with a bit of tyre squeeling and lots of room for error.

Forecast is looking cold and damp which will make things interesting. My new Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres may not be ideal. Probably better than the semi bald Pirelli run flats that were on it though.

Track Day

Long drive down to Pau (over 3 hours). Stayed overnight at Pau in a budget hotel. Up early and fortunately my phone adjusted to the clock change, otherwise we would have been late. 20 min drive to the track.

Got there and queued to sign up – compulsory insurance and club membership as well as a disclaimer and the fee for the day. Paid for a half day 85 Euros as I thought that would be enough and we had to get back home – with Pod then going on to Limoges.

Turned out there were some single seaters there so the morning was split into sessions. In theory we had 4 x 20 min sessions available. We were in with normal road cars which was mostly hot hatches, plus some 300+ HP 4WD Subarus and Mitsubishi Evos. The next class was track cars and finally single seaters.

Driver briefing was very brief and not a word about overtaking – free for all it is then.

Feeling incredibly nervous as we went out for the first session, cut short as it was late starting. Just using part throttle and light brakes trying to tip toe my way round. Not many people out.

Second session much more lively and the mid part of this is on the video. Chasing down a couple of other cars and later being overtaken by some of the fast guys.

Track very wet but not many puddles. Surprising grip levels from the Mini even in the wet.

The two corners I was worried about before were the hardest and scariest. Car sliding at the front especially under power but very benign so easy to control. Had a four wheel slide on the entry to one of the fast corners – not really evident on the video but you do hear Pod say “shit”.

Looking back I can see that I have a tendency to go into the corners too fast, fight my way round and make a mess of the exit so not able to get the power down for the next straight. Fortunately the Minis handling allowed this type of behaviour, but not the fastest way round the track. I was not using all of the braking apart from in a couple of places and need to brake more to get to a slower entry speed to get a better exit. Pleased with my speed on the fast corners compared to some other cars though. On the other hand I always seemed to mess up the slowest and tightest part – the downhill chicane. Cars always pulling away on the exit from this corner.

The second session nearly went the full 20 mins but was red flagged when someone went off at the chicane on the main straight – this was the third corner I was worried about but was OK for me.

The third session was starting to dry out and faster. I did a couple of laps on my own and was getting a better rythym, but then had to overtake slower cars and get overtaken so there was too much traffic to concentrate on proper lines etc. I preferred it when the tarck was less busy.

After a full 20 mins in the third session I was knackered and decided to call it a day and not push my luck further. Still had the 3 hour drive home to do.

Hitting just over 100 mph at the fastest points.

MINI performed perfectly – what a great car.

Possible mods if I was to do this regularly…

Camber plates for the front supension to allow some negative camber.
Adjustable control arms at the rear to take off some of the negative camber.
Some proper track tyres.
That’s about it.

Really need to get a trailer if I do it again – it’s a long way from home to be taking risks with a car you have to drive home again.