Alex Soar prepares for his racing debut

Rob Boston (right) briefs Alex in between sessions at Donington last week.

Having won the Go4It Racing prize of half a season in the Mk1 Championship, Alex Soar began his preparations with a test day at Donington last Friday. Here he talks us through how the day went....

Following my ARDS test and confirmation of my race license, the next event was driver training on a test day at Donington Park circuit, which meant being out on track under full race conditions.
The Go4It Racing guys, Kevin and Martin had very kindly offered their hospitality to save me from the classic track tradition of sleeping in the back of the car.
Arriving at 8am we unloaded the cars and I met Jeremy, Daz and Liam who provide the trackside support for the team. They were all very friendly and helpful with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm.
Essentials setup (kettle) I then met my Go4It instructor for the day - Rob Boston.This chap not only runs a top notch race car preparation and support company, but is a multiple championship winner spanning Mazda and Lotus cars, as well as being a force to be reckoned with in the Ginetta Cup.
As a complete novice I don't mind admitting there may have been a bit of hero worship!
We were running two cars for the day. As passengers are not allowed on a test day, Kevin had brought his for Rob to use while I used the car Martin and the team had just finished building with MX5 City parts and Creative Touch Design only a few nights before - which explained his pallor when I was advised to "really attack" the essess chicane with concrete walls on both sides of the exit!
So, with both of us kitted up and cars ready, we headed out onto the track with me following Rob to learn the lines, braking points and behaviour of our MX5 race cars.
There was a lot to learn very quickly and it was essential to keep an eye out for the much faster cars overtaking on entry into the corners. The key, as ever, was keeping the inputs to the car as smooth and progressive as possible while Rob began progressively upping the pace around the track. It was not long after this that I had my first spin.

Coming out of the esses chicane I cut the corner a little too much and caught the raised inner curb which resulted in punching the car's left side up and spinning me 180 degrees. Luckily I'd wiped off enough speed to not hit anything and came to a halt in a shower of grass beside a bemused marshal now waving a yellow flag.

Fortunately I was directly opposite the pit entrance, so chose my moment to cross the track and went in for a debrief using the on-board video footage. The use of the on-board Go-Pro footage proved to be invaluable as Rob was able to provide tips and pointers based on the replays.
Following a couple more sessions the general feedback was that my track line, braking and car control were fine - needing the polish that comes with experience, but nothing was wrong. This was great news to me and reassuring to hear what I was doing right as much as what I could do to improve.
So after a brief interlude for the solar eclipse, it was now all about improving those lap times, which meant braking later (but not harder), carrying more minimum speed through the corners and being earlier on the power. The challenge was to focus on the tachometer and keep adding 100rpm upon each successive visit to each respective corner.

Inevitably this resulted in three more grass cutting exercises as I learnt both the limit of me and the car - given the number of red flags on the day, I was relieved to have avoided the gravel traps and only cause brief yellow flag conditions.
My most notable "off" was coming out of "Redgate", the tight corner at the end of the main straight.
All morning this corner had been a pleasure to navigate and I felt comfortable with it, but adding too much entry speed I ran slightly wide, caught the grass and was fired off to the right of the track.

Fortunately there was nothing to hit, but upon re-joining the track I noticed the rear of the car felt extremely lively - not a good sign! Limping it slowly back to the pit I was greeted by Martin who started laughing (much to my relief) - I'd forced the rear left tyre inboard off the rim during my side-on grassy travels!

The whole tyre was beyond recovery, but the man of the day was Jeremy who generously (and bravely) volunteered the wheel from his own MX-5 road car to get mine back out on track.
For this show of faith I was very grateful, as the afternoon session was much quieter and gave me the chance to really learn the car without constantly compromising lines to avoid faster machinery.
The tuition was showing through where, previously coming into the "Craner" curves I had been braking and cautiously re-applying the throttle, now I was briefly lifting the throttle before Craner then going flat-out through them before braking for "Old Hairpin".
A mixture of advice from Rob and Martin saw me loading up the car's suspension earlier into corners, hooking the inner curbs on others and using all of the available curbing on exit.

By the end of my last session when the fuel gauge was touching empty, I felt as though I was lapping much faster and with a better understanding of the car.
My thanks go to the whole team and its sponsors for building the car, making the day possible and all of the support. I was scared, thrilled, adrenaline drunk and most definitely hooked!
Next stage:  Race 1 - Go4It at Silverstone for the first round of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship on the 4th April!

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