Apr 21

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Bristol Motorsports Club Trackday At Castlecombe Circuit

One of Castlecombes first events of the year is “The Great Western Sprint” which is hosted by the Bristol Motor Club. The Bristol Motor Club who were the club that turned Castlecombe from a World War 2 airfield into the race track we all know and love today.

As you can imagine their ties are steeped in history so its a big event in the Bristol motor club calendar and this is perfect for us since it brings out some of the most stunning, rare and powerful cars  within the club. Better still they aren’t afraid to get them out on track and push the limits of what the machines can do.

The Great western sprint was started at Castlecombe in 2008 and was the result of UK sprint championship competitors wanting a longer faster course to push the upper limits of their cars. Castlecombe is now the biggest, longest sprint course in the uk with a total of 3.3 miles of track to get around as fast as possible, and I have to say some of the speeds that were attained on the straights were pretty impressive in the proper sprint and super tuned cars!

When I arrived, I parked up next to the starting line to get the best  view and straightaway was greeted by the sound of bouncing limiters and tyres clawing at the tarmac to find some grip off the starting line.

single seater hill climb cars

hill climb car

The first lot of cars I saw were a load of single seaters with big fat rear tyres. There was a large variation among these cars. There was a couple of formula fords there. Some Vauxhall powered single seaters and one of them had a nice fat v8 in the back aswell. This was closer to an old school formula one car than anything, sounded brutal, and carried ridiculous speed on the straightaways.

While watching these cars on the straightaway and various other points around Castlecombe, you could very clearly see how bumpy the whole track is! To the eye it appears very smooth, and of course the more normal road cars absorb alot of this. It was quite dramatic to watch! You could just hear the car touching the rev limiter at points as the back was bouncing off the ground, this was often accompanied by huge explosions of sparks coming out the back as the diffusers and underside were bottoming out on the ground.

hill climb

motorsport cars

The most interesting part for me though was seeing the down force of those big wings and aero packages working hard on the car round the corners and straightaways. When watching formula one, or  formula ford on tv. You don’t really see how fast these cars are going since the cameras smooth pan to follow the cars round. It almost creates an illusion that its quite slow and not alot is happening.

In real life its a  more static view. So you see everything and the true speed these cars carry round the corners. This is further emphasised by the sparks and sound of the car scraping the ground. Sometimes for periods of a few seconds on the straight near the top speed of the car, you can see and hear the whole underside scraping along the ground as the car is pushed down, For those of you that have been to Castlecombe, you also know the start straight isn’t very straight. Its like a steady right turn heading up to the first proper tight corner which is quarry, more normal road cars are braking and letting off the loud pedal at this point. These single seater sprint cars are still accelerating hard and carrying even more speed out of the corner.

castle coombe racing

castle coombe circuit

You could really see the competitive nature of alot of people on track once they really were pushing hard, competing with the clock. Its a bit different to your more usual track day where people are just driving quickly round the track. You could see these guys properly fighting the steering wheel on track and teetering on the edge of grip and drift at some points.

Naturally this led to quite a few offs in the morning! Fortunately there was nothing serious. But it was quite inconvenient when these cars went off because something would still usually break or the car would stall-alot of these engines aren’t simple turnkey jobs so they’d have to be trailered back to the pit. So if a car went off round the other side of the track. Sometimes it would be a good 40 minutes or so before things started again!

castlecombe race crash

castle combe race circuit

It’s  all very well seeing these specialist one seater cars, but the big draw definitely has to be the road cars and classic cars. This is a good opportunity to look back in time at track days of old and classic british sports cars. There was plenty of healeys and sprites out on track. There was some very vintage one seaters, your usual array of minis and hatchbacks. But all with something to differentiate from the others.

One of the most startling cars though was an all aluminium, unpainted Austin Healey. This was beautiful to look at , incredibly shiny and in the sun, incredibly spectacular. You could just see every bit of detail on the bodywork perfectly. I just could not stop looking at it!

austin healey 3000

aluminium austin healey

austin healey interior

Another interesting car was the mini…or should I say Minis? Each one was different and alot had engine swaps. This made for some very quick cars out on track! One of the tidiest ones had what looked like a Honda 1.4 or 1.6 block in it. I thought this was perfect for the car. It still had its retro looks, sounded like a normal mini aswell but went with just a bit more poke than most.  The Engine swap looks to of been done no expense spared either, it was sat in the little engine bay perfectly and didn’t look at all out of place in there.

mini cooper honda engineClassic mini track day

There was also more usual road cars there aswell, i especially liked the Renault 5 turbo and Suzuki swift turbo. These cars remind me of the big turbo era where lag was part of the thrill..because suddenly the car would come on boost and you never really know quite when..but before you know it your thrown back in your seat and the cars bouncing off the limiter!

Renault 5’s are getting very rare and thin on the ground but Suzuki swift turbos are even rarer and harder to find. These are little 1.3 dohc turbo engines. I love the fact its like a “bitesize” version of your usual 2.0l dohc engines…it also revs to around 8500rpm which puts it in vtec territory with the turbo aswell.

Renault 5 turbo track day

renault 5 turbo on track

The road car to see steal the day though was definitely the Audi Quattro Rally Car. The car definitely had an energy and presence about it. Alot of people would be running to the start line to see this off. There was definitely faster and better cars there that day but this was the most special. I thinki this was the genuine Group B car that competed in the world rally back in the 80s.

The sound is a big part of the experience with this car, its so unique and distinct. Its a big inline 5 engine with a fat turbo bolted on the side. Its pops, crackes fizzes and screams. Everything a group b rally car embodies and a big part of why it was just so exciting to watch.

audi quatro s1

The driver and co-driver combination of this car Hannu mikola and Arne hertz was probably one of the best at the time, winning 8 rallies between them from 1981 to 1985 in a series of quattros.

So what were looking at here is a big slice of automotive history. I think thats what adds to the feeling when you see this car for real.

As I was walking round the course it was sometimes impossible to tell the difference between the competitors cars and spectators cars, there was some very rare and expensive cars parked up in the paddock area. There was everything from an Aston Martin DB7 to a old skool cool Ford Capri. There was also a really nice new Aston V8 Vantage that parked up behind me. While this was an absolutely gorgeous car to see it just somehow wasn’t that exciting compared to everything else around me.

audi R8 track dayAston Martin V8 Vantage trackdodge viper gts-rtvr t350i and aston martin db7aston martin db7 vantage v12Db7 volante convertibleford capri

All in all it was a beautiful day, not to busy, lots of sun, awesome cars and decent action out on track. Definitely one to go to next year.

volvo 340 track day

Permanent link to this article: http://carsandcoolstuff.com/2012/04/bristol-motorsports-club-trackday-at-castlecombe-circuit/

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