June 2013

Ben and Carolines Spa Report

Caroline had her 911 Turbo booked into a trip to Spa as soon as the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC) sent out this year’s track day diary.

The plan was that Caroline, my dad and myself would have a nice little trip to Spa, spend a couple of days driving and head back after tackling one of the world’s best circuits.


The 911 Turbo has spent a vast amount of time in Nine Excellence (9E), being tweaked to produce some enormous power and having its suspension and brakes uprated, whilst all this work was going on I didn’t have chance to sit in the back seat and see if I could cope in there for a six hour trip to Spa.


Once we got the car back from 9E I jumped in the back and said ‘I say old chap, it’s a bit of a tight squeeze in here’ (or words to that effect).


Plan B was put into practice. I got hold of Graham Clarke from RMA who were running the day for the GRRC and asked if they had room for another car, Graham was very helpful and said that if I give him the details everything would be put into place. This included the track time and EuroTunnel crossing. Result!


As we had already said to Rob (our host here at SprintSpeed) that we we’re going to Spa in the Porsche, I thought I’d rub his nose in by saying ‘hey, Rob, I’m taking the Sprint to Spa, ner, ner, de ner, ner’ but as soon as I said to Caroline that I was going to phone Rob and do the dirty, she piped up, oh, that’s nice, ask Rob to come along and you won’t be all on your lonesome in the car. Women, ay!.


Plan C was put into practice, got hold of Graham at RMA, accommodation for Rob and a driver’s pass was duly sorted.


What was going to be one car, with one squashed person and two happy people turned into two cars and four happy people.


We had two days track time booked, Monday 13th was for road cars on road tyres only. Tuesday 14th was for road and track cars and Wednesday 15th was for anything, slicks etc. I chickened out of running on Wednesday. We had to be at the circuit for Monday 8am so we travelled on Sunday and would return on Wednesday, no rushing to and from the circuit and plenty of beer time.


Sunday arrived with a slight drizzle and I shot off to collect my Dad in the Sprint, Caroline would pick up Rob in the Porsche and we’d meet up at Clacket Lane Services on the M25.

The Flexiplus Eurotunnel ticket meant we drove straight onto the train and we’re the first off (at Folkestone an Audi driver commented on how lovely the Sprint looked and he was also going to Spa, as it transpired this man was the McLaren test driver). We had a great run to Spa, only one 40min traffic jam and arrived at the Hotel de la Source just as the drivers briefing had started. No problem, beer time!


Monday – after a light breakfast we headed to the circuit in a constant drizzle, we drove around a bit looking for the F1 pits and parked up the Porsche and Sprint in our own pit garage. The drivers briefing was brief, main bits were, it’ll cost you £100 to be recovered and £1000 if you dent the Armco, so don’t get recovered or dent the Armco. RMA track days also state you can overtake either side, and it’s down to the faster car to do a safe overtake.


The first 30mins were set aside for familiarisation laps, Caroline and Rob set off in the Porsche and me and dad waited until last in the Sprint so as not to slow anyone down.

Those 30mins were quickly over and we had a great time, dad hanging onto the grab handle and the Sprint handling superbly. In the rain I was not sure that I really wanted to go much faster than during those familiarisation laps, but it was great fun. Five mins into the full session and a Porsche GT3 knocked both ends off, luckily the driver (daughter) and passenger (dad) were fine after a short hospital trip. I won’t name any names here but the passenger owns the group 2 Dolly Sprint seen at the Festival of Speed on many occasions.


Monday was spent having fun in the rain, Caroline and Rob taking turns in the Porsche with some instruction from the RMA instructor, Leyton, who is a great chap.

I kept mucking up Rivage and the entry into Bruxelles, until late in the day where I’d seen a few people leave the turn in point as late as possible, that’s much better and the car was not washing out so much. From Bruxelles down, gravity helped the little Sprint along where she would sit at the limit of adhesion on those skinny 175 tyres.


During the day lots of cars we’re racking up the £100 and £1000 charges, a lovely Ford GT, a few Lotus’s and a BMW destroyed. One German Elise driver even managed to run into the pit garage wall!


On Monday evening we had a meal with the GRRC\RMA guys and got talking to David – the McLaren test driver (Audi driver at Folkestone) and the McLaren mechanics\truck driver, and we’re offered a drive in the MP4-12C. Woo Hoo!!


Tuesday was a bit brighter with just a few light showers. Rob turned the traction control off on the Porsche and had great fun. I had a little drive in the Porsche and used all the kerbs! God that thing is quick. And Dad, Rob and Caroline had a go in the MP4-12C – Rob hitting 150 down the Kemmel straight.


Leyton took me out in the Porsche to show me the lines, I think he liked Caroline’s car. We hit 157 down the Kemmel straight on the second lap.


Tuesday was good fun, the Sprint having a fair few outings and Rob and Caroline enjoying the Porsche. The Porsche was doing 7mpg – so plenty of trips to the petrol station were in order!


Overall I really enjoyed driving the Sprint around Spa – what a circuit and the Sprint was great fun. OK the Porsche is much faster with five times the power, but driving the Sprint on this fantastic circuit has really made me look at what I can do to make the Sprint a fun road and occasional track car.


Caroline also wants to take the Porsche back to Spa!

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Ben and Caroline Tomkins