Words by Michelle Evans
Photos- Darren Teagles/Steve Bostock
Have you always longed to do more behind the wheel than stare at the number plate in front of you on your slow daily commute to work or the school run? Then buckle up and come along to one of our BMW Car Club Trackdays. As the Club’s ‘Trackday’ office official I had taken many bookings for our Trackdays but I had never actually attended one. All that was about to change when Alex and I decided to take a road trip to the picturesque island of Anglesey for the Club’s first Trackday outing of the year.
The journey up was beautiful… the crisp winter sunshine was reflecting off the Snowdonia mountains and there wasn’t a breath of wind… it was perfect day for driving. As we turned into the car park we both said “Wow”, as the scenery surrounding the track was spectacular with the snow-capped mountains of Snowdonia heading up one side and the unusually calm Irish Sea the other.
We had been nervous before we arrived and I hadn't slept well the night before. We had no idea what to expect from the day. We parked up and made our way to the registration office. The registration sign on began at 7:30 am and the first briefing started at 8:00 am – we arrived at 9:30 so sat in on the next one. “Trackdays are not races and there are no timed laps,” we hear. Phil Brough, one of the ARDS instructors, turns and greets us with a smile. He gives us a rundown of the track and talks us through all the safety aspects, the overtaking rules and what the different flags mean, especially the ‘Black Flag’…. Basically, if that’s waved at you, you’re off. Hearing this, I shot a wry smile at Alex; having been in a car with her there was no way she would last more than 30 seconds out there!
Outside in the crisp winter sunshine there is a fair smattering of men and one or two women, putting on their helmets and cracking jokes. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and everyone is friendly. The early birds are already out on the track. The sound of the engines roaring and tyres screeching reverberates around us like an aria. It’s a spine-tingling sound. We climb up to a viewing point on the side of the track to get a bit closer to the action. We must have looked like a couple of meerkats as we tried to keep up with the procession of cars tearing past. A Red Z4, then a Green M3, a MINI, a Porsche, a Honda, a Seat – you get the picture.
Alex decides her first experience out on the track will be as a passenger. We laugh uncontrollably as Neil sizes her up for a helmet, as for a very petite woman she has, in Neil’s words, a surprisingly large head! She ends up wearing Neil’s helmet as it’s the only one that fits. Resisting the attempt to make for the exit, Alex takes her place in the passenger seat of Neil’s E30 M3 and lets out a nervous laugh as Neil tells Matt the driver to “Make sure you bring her back in one piece”. The car rolls out of the garage, heads slowly up toward the track, pausing briefly before the light turns green, and in the words of Murray Walker it’s “go, go, go”. I next see them whipping down to the church, disappearing out of sight on the rocket and then back into view off the corkscrew. As the car roars majestically past me I find myself waving to Alex like an overexcited parent, and she gives me the thumbs up sign. Several laps later the car returns to the pit lane and Alex climbs out with a huge grin on her face. “That was absolutely fantastic, I loved every minute of it.”
With the day slowly drawing to a close we head over to the café for a warm cup of tea. We chat and laugh with the other drivers who are all so welcoming, friendly and keen to hear what we thought of our first Trackday outing.
The day was rounded off with a raffle where you could win a free Trackday, and a presentation of the ‘Driver of the Day’ award, followed by Neil giving a brief speech thanking the instructors, the staff and all the drivers for coming along and supporting the day.
As we say our goodbyes and start our journey home the setting sun is slowly painting the blue sky with glorious shades of red, orange and gold. It’s the perfect finale to a day that was, as we say in Wales, Lush.
With our trackdays becoming increasingly popular we took time out to ask our members a few questions as to how they caught the ‘trackday bug’.
- At what circuit was your first trackday with the Club?
Croft in July 2017. That's when I got the bug and I’ve been attending Club trackdays ever since. – Nick Thomas
- How long you have been attending trackdays with the Club?
26 years, first one at Cadwell Park. – Nick Wright
- What do you love most about the trackdays?
The sense of trepidation when waiting for the pit lane marshal to let me out onto the track for the first time, which turns into an adrenaline rush halfway round the first corner. The helpfulness of other trackdayers. Laughing when I get a corner totally wrong. The ability of an 18 year old BMW to perform so well when pushed so hard. – Nick Thomas
Definitely the safest place to drive a little faster and learn the art of race track driving, which will make you a much better driver on the roads. – Richard Weir
Having fun with the car but meeting other petrol heads and just watching the cars, listening to the noise and breathing in the smells of cooling metal/rubber etc. – Mark Means
- Do you have any funny or interesting experiences when attending one of our trackdays that you can share?
Not at the moment. Just had my first proper romance and connection with my car at Anglesey last Sunday. It was something special. Still showed my lack of ability and the huge amount of ability in the car. So proud of her and I just keep pinching myself how lucky I am to have her. – Mark Means
- What would you say or what advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of attending one of our trackdays but has never driven on a track before and may be nervous or unsure?
Great day and Club to pop your trackday cherry. – Shane Doherty
Just sign up and come along. You don't need any special knowledge, you will get training. You don't need a clever fancy car, there are plenty of road cars there. Just ask, and people will give useful information. – Nick Thomas
You are better off starting with the Car Club and asking for help and of course taking advantage of the free instruction. Better driving days are a great way to start anyway…– Alan Wills
Get time with an instructor. Don’t be afraid! Go at your own pace and don’t worry about being slow vs others. – Piers Fox
Come along to one. Talk to us all. Get a passenger ride or two. See if you like it. That’s how I started. – Nick Payze
Have some passenger rides first, then go out with a friend/instructor with you the first time. Also try and pick a quiet day when the track is less busy. To me this recent trackday was good in that regard as the numbers on track are low and people are also polite. – Nick Williams
I am still a complete novice. My first track day was at Snetterton. This was with BMWCC. I was advised to join a careful but enjoyable track day group. The main point was no-one roaring up on your inside and taking the corner and line. Manners were great and respect for everyone’s pride and joy was brilliant. Also choose a track to start with which has some good run off areas. This is not to mean you can use them but just takes the pressure away. Last thing why your Club is brilliant is the instruction. Come early in the morning, and book once early on and then later. You then have a perfect first trackday experience. – Mark Means