A few weeks before joining CAR magazine, James Taylor was lucky enough to somehow win the want2race competition, a brilliant initiative aimed at giving novice drivers a route into serious motorsport.
First prize was a seat in a proper Ginetta G40 racing car in the final three races of the one-make Ginetta GT5 Challenge, supporting the British GT and F3 championships at Donington Park’s GP circuit.
As well as being an incredible experience, it also conveniently gave James something interesting to write about in his first feature for CAR. You can find out how it went in the December 2014 issue of the mag, and watch some of the action captured by the G40’s on-board camera in the video above.
Read on for five things James learned when he went racing for the first time.
1) Racing’s thirsty work
Nothing prepares you for just how toasty warm you get during a race. After all, wearing a multiple-layer nomex race suit, balaclava, full-face helmet and thick gloves you’re effectively dressed for near-Arctic weather yet sat in a largely metal box without much in the way of heat insulation. Never has a post-race bottle of water been so welcome.
2) Slick tyres feel weird
During the qualifying stages for the want2race competition at Blyton Park we drove Ginetta G40s on treaded road tyres but racing in the GT5 Challenge means bolting on a gummy set of slicks. They feel like driving on ice when they’re cold (full opposite lock in fourth gear during testing brought that fact home quite effectively) and the opposite when warm. You can carry huge speed into corners and get on the power very, very early but when the car does let go, there’s not much warning. You don’t get the nice blurred edges of grip like a road car – it’s all the grip in the world, then none at all. I found this out to my cost during the weekend…
3) You need to brake really, really hard
That’s another thing about slick tyres. No matter how late you think you can brake, it’s almost certainly later, and no matter how hard you think you need to punch the pedal, it’s much, much harder. You really have to put some serious pressure in to get the tyres anywhere close to locking. No wonder proper racing drivers train so hard.
4) Sequential gearboxes are amazing
The Ginetta G40 uses a Quaife six-speed sequential transmission with a hydraulic clutch. No need to use the clutch pedal on upshifts; just ease off the throttle by 20% or so and pull the lever backwards. Push forwards to go down the box, and this time use the clutch to avoid locking the rear wheels – unless you’re able to match the revs perfectly every time. It swaps gears incredibly quickly and is hugely satisfying to use. Doesn’t half make a racket, though. Even wearing a helmet, a 10-minute race in a car with straight-cut gears can give you a 20-minute headache.
5) Racing drivers are really nice people
Everyone involved in the want2race competition was hugely supportive, from the instructors at Blyton Park (including BTCC hotshoes Adam Morgan and Jack Goff) to Ginetta Supercup drivers Luke Davenport, David Pittard and Max Coates who offered plenty of tips and advice over the race weekend, along with everyone at Reflex Racing, the team who prepared and ran the car. Thanks guys.
Photography by Thomas Butler
Click here for a digital preview of the latest issue of CAR magazine – featuring the full six-page feature.