Friday, 22 July 2011

Accelerate into the turn!

So, off to Goodwood today, an historic motor racing circuit in West Sussex. Those who might have thought it has something to do with horse racing would be partially right, as Goodwood also has a horse racing track. However, that was not why I was there.

Goodwood's glory days were really in the 1940s and 1950s. A former RAF fighter base during the war, it was converted into a motor racing track in 1948 by, I believe, the Duke of Richmond. Famous names from British motor racing like Stirling Moss and Graham Hill competed there, in the days before the focus of British motor sport shifted to Brands Hatch.

It is obvious why this happened. Goodwood's setting is idyllic, particularly on a beautiful day when the sun is blazing down out of a cloudless Sussex sky, the EU has managed to put together a last minute deal on Greek debt, and Mediterranean holidays are looming! but it is a small circuit, almost cosy in feel. When you're bombing round it at 80-90mph it is amazing how fast you can use up your lap allowance. In addition, it is not as broad as some of the power circuits of motor racing. You do worry a bit about going off it, but apparently my driving style is a bit too tight and I'm not making as much use of the width of the track as I could. Go figure.

The interesting thing about driving sports cars round a racing circuit, however, is just how counter-intuitive it is. By this I mean when you brake and when you accelerate. When road driving the tendency is to brake into the bend, while on the track they like you to brake once you're already in the turn, and even then, some turns seem to be braking turns and some are not.

The dynamics of the car are such that you really need to accelerate hard into the bend, then brake, then open the throttles on the way out. But the subconscious part of the brain which has been driving road cars for 20 years is screaming at you all the time as you're flooring the accelerator into the turn. High performance cars do hug the tarmac though, surprisingly well, compared to my Vauxhall Astra!

Goodwood has a nasty little chicane right at the end of the circuit as you come accelerating out of the Woodcote Bend, and it does not leave much margin for error. Screaming round Woodcote on my first lap, I thought this was a joke at first, but managed to line it up all the same and get through without a scratch. Had to lean on the brakes a bit first, mind you.

All in all, a very nice morning out. Good to get out on the track first thing, and with weather so fine it was just superb. I'm going to book myself in for September as well, before the weather in England begins to take a turn for the worse. There's a nice Dodge Viper I didn't get a chance to try which would be good to have a go on.


  1. Part of me would love to have a go at this, but another knows that it would only end in a fiery wreck.

  2. I've done a lot of laps of Goodwood - approx 250 over the years (I used to be far more into performance motoring than I am now). It's a very tricky circuit to master, especially in wide modern cars.

    I've been idly wondering how my Volvo V70R would do round there with suspension in Advanced mode. Can't afford the tyres, brakes, and wheel bearings though - not to mention the petrol.