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10 things I learned in the VLN test day

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Last weekend I drove 'my' car for the 2014 VLN season - the Rent4Ring Mazda MX5. It was an action-packed Saturday in which we saw rain, sun, snow and red flags. Here are 10 things I learnt that day.

1. The Mazda MX5 is a very simple sports car

Engine at the front, drive at the back. Low weight and low centre of gravity. What the MX5 loses in power and fancy technology, it makes up for in handling. It might be 40hp down (a whopping 20%) on the GT86s, Clios and Civics in our class, but you'd be daft to bet against it. The Rent4Ring car benfits from brilliant custom-specced KW suspension, wider Rota rims and, of course, that fully welded-in safety cell. The chassis is pure sportscar now, totally stiff and the bolt-on roof makes it more like a coupe than cabrio.

2. You can't predict the weather at the 'Ring

I have three weather apps on my iphone. One radar app and a whole bunch of weather-related sites bookmarked. Not a single one accurately described the rain, hail or snow we saw throughout the day.

3. Rain seperates the men from the boys

Or at least, it seperates the drivers into two groups: those that still push and those that give up. I'd like to think that I'm respectful of the northloop, but I'm not really afraid of it. Some guys really are. To know where the limit really is, I find it's best to go over it, then slow down a little bit and try to keep the car as 'on the limit' for as long as possible. Of course, if you're not confident of catchng the car as it exceeds the limit, then you're stuck making baby-steps towards the 'limit' of traction, until the back of your head says 'no more'. And those are the guys that found themselves beiing overtaken by a little Mazda MX5 (which is probably 10 times easier to take over the limit than any GT3 car).

4. Safety workers put their lives on the line just so that we can enjoy the racing

5. Red flags are both worrying and depressing.

When you're flat out, sticking in a good laptime, and the red flags pop out, it's a hard moment. My emtions conflict like a teenager. Selfish me is pissed that my fast lap is ruined. Selfless me is worried about the driver(s) involved in the accident. Are they OK? Is it a death or just a bent car? And this leads me onto my next point...

6. The race will be won or lost in my own head

mx5 me

When I'm fast the back of my brain does the driving and the front of my brain just shuts up and enjoys the ride. But when thngs intrude on that system, like red flags, other drivers or any one of a thousand random emotions, I get slower. Must learn to FOCUS!

Mmhh... donuts.

7. GT3 cars are on a different plane of existence to the production cars

Maybe it's the power. Maybe it's the downforce, the big slicks and the suspension that costs more than my whole car, but damn those things are FAST! Under 100kmh they might have similar cornering abilities to the little Mazda, but as the speeds rise so does the grip.

Check out this onboard of the Leonard Motorsport Aston Martin Racing GT3 car to see what a high-downforce setup looks like:

Note the top speed on the flat. Barely 160mph from around 500hp!

8. The Mazda will run out of gas eventually.

mx5 fuel

 This is what test sessions are for, after all. ;)

9. Red Bull should immediately pull their sponsorship from Felix Baumgartner

mx5 jump

...and spend it all on our little Mazda. Because, damn, this car has wings! ;)

10. I can't wait for the first VLN race this Saturday!

Anthony and me will be lining up for the first qualifying session at 8.30am this Saturday. The race will be broadcast live at http://www.vln.de/tv

Who's coming? Who's watching online?

Photography by frozenspeed

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Comments   

 
#1 driescuit 2014-03-26 21:36
I'm watching online. Good luck to everyone and I hope it will be a safe race.

One more thing; I think the marshal post @ flugplatz deserves more protection. That SLS incident was a near-miss. It be a shame to see a Marshal hurt whilst trying to protect privileged people racing cars.
 
   

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