After Silverstone I gave the Golf a once over, swapped the Isolator switch, washed it and put it back on the trailer. That was the extent of the prep required and knowing it was just sat on the trailer weeks before the trackday waiting to go is a very satisfying feeling indeed.
I had a look at the weather forecast the day before and it was supposed to start off dry, rain around lunchtime and then hopefully dry up again. Yeah, that didn’t happen
I towed the Golf and Matt drove his E36. Lou & Cat were following us up later as Cat was going out straight from the circuit so it made sense to drive up and go from there rather than travelling home and then having to drive back up here.
The sky was dark and looked worse so we put up the Gazebo I picked up yesterday. I can park one car completely inside it lengthways or if we reverse in we can get a good 2/3rd of 2 cars inside. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I`ve made recently as the rain started shortly after and didn’t really stop until late afternoon.
After picking up our sticker and drivers bands we queued for noise testing which I passed easily again and then went out for the first session. By now the rain was falling heavily and there were puddles forming in several places.
After the first lap I let Matt past so I could follow for a while whilst we tried to get some temperature into the tyres. That was to prove a challenge all day. These conditions used to put me off going on track and I’d sit in the paddock waiting for it to ease off but now I don’t really care what the conditions are. Sure, I prefer the dry for the feeling of speed but it’s arguably more rewarding in the wet where you have to really feel the grip under the car and make the most of what’s available.
What I don’t like are puddles where you aquaplane whilst going in a straight line. That’s no fun at all and despite being recently resurfaced, Croft still has several of these puddles that don`t drain away properly.
This is the first session from Matts car with the Golf ahead giving you a really good idea of just how bad the conditions were.
Following another car, even with the wipers on full can be a challenge. This is halfway down the pit straight, Matt is ahead (in the blue oval) and I`m doing 80mph. I’m on part throttle and am looking as far ahead as possible so I can see when his brake lights come on. I know where I expect him to brake but you’re looking for them coming on enexpectedly and need to be prepared to respond accordingly.
The headlights had packed in for some unknown reason. The rear lights were working fine and after the session I found the fuse had gone. Swapped it and it was fine for the rest of the day. Weird.
Lou & Cat arrived and decided to shelter in Cat’s car rather than stand outside and watch. It really was appalling conditions out there.
Matt and I swapped places a few times during the session. I was really struggling to get heat into the rear tyres but after 4 or 5 laps they started to warm up a little. Matt was able to get his up to temperature much quicker with his E36 being RWD and I struggled to keep up with him early on in the session. Once the tyres were warm and I could lean on them a bit more without fear of the rear stepping out every corner I was able to close up.
During a routine downshift into Sunny-in, Matt heard a loud bang from the rear of the car and experience massive vibration. He limped back to the pits to investigate.
Whilst we were investigating I downloaded the dash logs to check everything was OK as I’ve noticed low temperatures whilst on track. Sure enough, the engine oil was running at around 80 degrees when on circuit which is too cold.
I don’t run a thermal sandwich plate so ALL the oil is forced through the cooler, regardless of ambient temperature. It isn’t usually a problem apart from in the middle of winter but the huge amount of water gave additional cooling to the already oversized oil cooler.
A quick solution was required, I settled for the simplest of all by covering 1/3 of the cooler with an old towell squeezed into place between the cooler and bumper.
Back on track and whilst it wasn’t the most elegant modification I’d ever done to the Golf, it served its purpose.
The next 25 minute session saw oil stable at 99degrees which is perfect. Version 2 will be a black towel so it doesn’t stand out as much
Lou is much more relaxed on track now and unless I’m following someone close she’s happy to sit there and enjoy the laps. We always play ‘spot-the-photographer’ and she spied Nick on the outside approaching Tower.
The rain kept coming and going and you had to be on your toes in the areas where the standing water built up. I had more than one moment through this puddle on the inside of the first corner where the front tyre would lose grip for a moment as I drove through the deepest part of the puddle.
I was really enjoying the conditions though. Being able to really feel the small differences your inputs make can significantly improve your driving if you take the time to listen to the signals and the wet is excellent for that.
In answer to the question that’s asked at pretty much every trackday ‘does all that Aero stuff actually do anything?’ Yes. Yes it does.
The rain was falling so heavily that the tyre tracks in the water only lasted for a few seconds before they disappeared. This was a day where deeper tread was a significant help.
Matt’s car wasn’t fixable today. He was extremely grateful to Cat who allowed him to transfer over his car sticker to her road Z4. Who says brother and sister can’t get on
Cat had recently fitted Pilot Sport 4S tyres which both Matt and I agree are phenominal in the wet. A completely stock Z4 with normal pads and PS4S driven by Matt meant it took me ages to catch up. So much so that I had to drive as accurately as I could to close up the gap.
Obviously in the dry it would be a different matter, but in these conditions where soft suspension and good brake feedback is important, he was able to really hustle the Z4 along.
Cat was delighted to be able to drive herself for a session. She was only going to be a passenger but seeing as the car was now registered on the day, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
She has driven on track a few times now and absolutely loved her laps. So much so that she came in and said ‘That’s enough !, if I go out again I’ll start trying to catch and overtake people. This is my daily road car and I don’t intend to spend all day thrashing it round the track’
Wise words and a sensible attitude.
She still managed to get enough cornering loads to get a fair bit of bodyroll.
The rain stopped mid afternoon and for the last session of the day I swapped to the Direzzas. The kerbs were still slippery but I was able to attack them more now and yet again sufferered no issues from the driveshafts or CV’s when doing so. So much so that I didn’t actually think about it until driving home when I realised all I’d done was put in fuel and swap tyres. Shove a towel infront of part of the oil cooler and replace a headlight fuse !
Nick Vaughan is racing there in a couple of weeks and he`s never been. I offered to do a ‘live voice over’ lap like I did at Snetterton last year for him to try and give him a heads up on the track. By doing so, it REALLY made me concentrate on WHAT I was doing and WHY. You do so many things subconsciously that I didn`t actually realise everything I was doing, but having to articulate it focussed my thoughts on everything I was doing any why. Driving those laps where I was having to drive whilst thinking about the next corner so when I talked about it, it was relevant actually taught me more than I realised. It`s hard. At first it`s very hard, the extra mental capacity required can be surprising and I had to restart several times but after a while you start to be able to drive at the same time as talking.
The first video didn’t have subtitles and it was hard to make out what I was saying at times. I added subtitles to the Croft video and it’s far better for it.
Is it the perfect lap ? Of course not but what I do believe is it gives you a good starting point if you’ve never been before about some of the areas you need to focus on and can then tweak accordingly depending on how your car feels and drives.
I was on a trackday, in a fully working Golf with my daughter in the car enjoying herself. This is why I do trackdays.
The last few laps of the day and it actually started to dry. Still damp in places but a definite drying line was there and I could finally press on which turned out to be a fantastic way to end the day.
After seeing the chequered flag I parked up and all I needed to do was add fuel and I was ready to go out again which is a great feeling. We packed everything up and left the E36 at the circuit. We’re lucky Croft is one of the closest circuits to us as it meant that the next morning we could unload the Golf and then Matt and I made the trip back to Croft to collect the car.
Blue skies and a dry circuit. It was only 24 hours too late !
We knew there was something amiss with the E36 diff and as soon as we removed the cover it was obvious what had failed. The question was why.
The crownwheel retaining bolts were loose, several had backed out and were finger tight, with a couple still being fully torqued up as they were when we last looked 8 years ago.
We found the missing bolt in the oil and from the damage we had our cause of the bang and the noise.
The bolt had dropped out of the crownwheel and bounced into the teeth. Breaking a tooth and damaging several others.
From what we’ve been able to find out the issue was all down to oil temperatures. When we built the diff 8 years ago the bolts were locktited and correctly torqued. Matt didn’t run a cooler and the oil had run so hot it broke down the loctite we’d used, allowing the bolts to loosen over time. How long ago that happened we’ll never know.
With Anglesey booked in a few weeks, there was no time to waste. Matt ordered a 3.91 CW&P from the USA that arrived in under a week. Drove to JC Racing who rebuilt the diff with their custom double clutch setup after machining to suit. It’s the same as the OEM setup but with twice the number of clutches per side and different preloads set after discussing the car setup and Matt`s driving style. He collected it a few days later and refitted it that evening.
From my perspective it was yet another huge success. I achieved everything I wanted to do apart from some fully dry laps where I could really push on but that’s down to the weather and is the only thing I can’t change. This makes 3 trackdays in a row where I’ve been able to drive the car as hard as I could without a problem. I no longer drive to a circuit worrying what might need looking at during the day and simply look forward to lapping until the chequered flag.
This is where I’ve been striving to get the Golf for the last several years and I can only hope my preparation is sufficient to allow that to continue. Time will tell…
Somewhat surprisingly I`ve had a few messages from people asking if they can support me in some way. I`ve set up a buy-me-a-coffee page for those of you who would like to do so .