As a regular karter, I race at my local track (Sandown Park) on a monthly basis. I have driven at Buckmore Park and had the intention of trying out two other Kent based tracks, Bayford Meadows and Lydd. When Lydd was acquired earlier this year by the Daytona group it was seen as a positive thing, given the success of their Milton Keynes and Sandown Park tracks. So when I received an invite to the official opening of the track I was very pleased. I accepted.
A member of the Daytona staff then emailed me further details of how the day was going to go. I was informed that Martin Brundle would be there to officially open the circuit and there would be the chance for me to take part in an endurance event. This was good news as I have always enjoyed Martin Brundle’s perspective when he does commentary and respected his achievements in sportscars and Formula One.
The day arrived and the weather was dry and bright but bitterly cold. Having parked the car, I was then lead to a Mercedes M class where the driver would take me to the pavilion. I had to show my pass and sign in. As more people arrived, I heard the distinctive voice of Martin Brundle. It was pretty neat to see him and listen in on what questions people were asking him, while at the same time feeling a bit in awe and a little surreal. I sat down and put my gear on the floor and had a quick drink before the upcoming drivers briefing. I then noticed on the next table there was Sarah Moore (2009 Ginetta Juniors champion) with her family. Having watched ITV’s extensive coverage of British Touring Cars, I had seen and admired Sarah taking part in the Ginetta series that supports the British Touring Cars.
We then had a drivers briefing where all that were taking part in the team endurance race had to listen to the instructions and guidance of the Daytona staff. We watched the safety briefing video (which has Martin Brundle in it), and then shown the track layout and the ins and outs of the DMax karts we would use. I had driven these particular karts when the DMax championship visited Buckmore Park last year.
Martin Brundle then officially opened the circuit and the teams for the race were announced. I saw my name and found out that my team mates were called Tony Tobias and Simon Lester and our kart was number 116. The format of the race event was a 5 lap practice for each driver and then the 90min race which would include the driver changes and pitstop for refuelling. I headed to the pitlane and met my team mates. Once I found that Tony Tobias was Head of Business Development at Autosport and that Simon Lester was the Executive Chairman of the Daytona group, I found myself in high company! With senior staff from Autosport and Daytona I thought I had better do well in the race!
Practice started and I got back to grips with the DMax kart and started to learn the Lydd circuit. The tyres on all of the karts were brand new so the first drivers in practice needed to be a bit careful and scrub the tyres in. When practice was over and my team mates had their practice the starting grid was formed.
As part of a photo op, Daytona organised the karts on the grid in starting order and then got some grid girls to stand by the karts. Simon then headed off to his helicopter (!) and hovered about 30 feet off the ground while a photographer took some pictures looking down at the grid from the side of the helicopter. It was a nice touch and I’m sure the photos will look good.
We started 19th on the grid and Tony started the race. Twenty minutes in and we were up to 14th. Thirty minutes in and I put out a pitboard for Tony to come in and change driver. I would take the second stint. I got in and drove up the pitlane. The pitlane at Lydd is quite long and adhering to the pitlane speed limit is almost agony as you just wish to floor the accelerator and feel the performance of the kart. Out on track the kart felt very good and handled well. After a few laps I started overtaking people though I wasn’t sure whether I was lapping backmarkers or taking position, I couldn’t tell. A few laps later on I felt a little nudge from behind at turn 6. I kept position but one lap later Sarah Moore overtook me. For once I didn’t feel upset at losing a position but more of the feeling of ‘cool, I just got overtaken by Sarah Moore, as you do’.
As the laps went on I overtook some more drivers and found myself enjoying a number of good battles. Whether it was the circuit, or the karts, or a combination of both, there were a number of areas on the track for overtaking. The circuit has some good corners and the small hill/lip before turn 7 is a nice feature. Turn 8 is a corner where, and to quote Martin Brundle you “hug like your favourite granny”, where you hold the kart tight to the edge as you go round the left hand turn, balancing the throttle before flooring it on the exit and down to the last few corners of the circuit.
I saw the pitboard for me to refuel and I came in on the next lap and got out of the kart while the pit crew put in the fuel. They asked me if our team was going to do a driver change, I thought we would so that Simon could take over but I could not see anyone around and so I got back in the kart and drove back on to the circuit. With the fuel tank full, the kart felt and handled quite differently. I now experienced mid-corner oversteer. I coped with it so it was a bit of fun but did affect our lap times. A little later on the pitboard for me to come in went out. I saw Tony with a smile on his face and he took my place in the kart.
As well as the pavilion, there is also a building that sits on a small hill and overlooks the track. Daytona had laid on complimentary food and drink and was a welcome place of warmth on a cold day. My girlfriend told me I had got upto 4th place before I came in. I was buzzing, I really enjoyed the kart and the track and happy with my own performance.
I think we finished 12th in the end.
The day was very enjoyable and the event was fun and competitive. It was good to see drivers of the likes of Martin Brundle, Jack Clarke and Sarah Moore racing. I noticed BTCC director Alan Gow spectating proceedings too. The event was well planned and the staff were friendly and helpful. Big thanks to the staff at Daytona Motorsport.
Daytona Motorsport website – (link)
Some more photos: Via the Flickr album – (link)
Photos: Andrew Calder