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1st Lotus Airfield Day

...or how to loose a few mm rubber in a day.

Arno and I registered at the 1st Lotus Driving School for an airfield training day.
It was a three day trip for us (just like the Lotus driver training experience we did a few years ago), traveling to England on day 1, doing the training on day 2 and traveling back on day three.

We traveled using the Stena Discovery ferry. The good thing is that it only takes like 3.5 hours to get to England. It actually is pretty fast cruising at 75km/h.

After arriving in Harwich we first found a parking spot for Arno to adjust the Elise's headlights (mine had a sticker on them, thanks to Chris for getting me the template!!).

The weather first looked ok, but after a while it started to rain unfortunatly. But it didn't spoil the fun. We drove a route avoiding the main roads, which was good fun. Sometimes you really wonder why they allow a speed limit of 60mph on roads :). Driving on the left took a little getting used to.

We arrived at the North Weald airfield around 15:00. We saw the group Andrew working with the group for that day.

After checking out the airfield we went and checked in to our hotel which is nearby Epping. Having some time left we deceided if we could see Garfield in a nearby cinema. They only run it with dutch audio in the Netherlands, which really sucks. Unfortunatly we couldn't find a cinema nearby enough that ran it. So we found a restaurant and returned to the hotel and used the laptop for some DVD viewing.

Next day it was off to the airfield. Before that we filled up the cars and checked the tire pressure's.

Andrew was already at the airfield when we arrived just before 09:00. After a brief introduction we started of with an assesment of how the both of us drove. As we followed much of the same driving courses we both got the same remarks on the steering technique. Andrew taught us a proper one.
We had a go practicing which was more difficult than it looked when Andrew showed it.

Then we had a go at The Corner. Basicly, you drive down a straight piece of road, going past a pilon with 80km/h (for starters). You steer past the pilon and have to make a 90 degree turn before you get the the draining part in the circuit. Sounds easy, but it really isn't. If you're not carefull enough with the steering you'll spin out (as we did plenty of times).

When you practice the new techniques Andrew is in the car with you, at least for the first couple of goes and then drives with the other person. He gives you continous feedback on what you can do to improve and is VERY patient :). We got plenty of time to do the exercises without being rushed into a new one.

Oh, the cones on the airfield seem to have a special attraction force, both Arno and I hit one when doing the corner :). Pretty silly when you see how much space you have to avoid them.

It's very hard to miss..

Fortunatly the cones are very soft and only leave a dirt mark on the car.

After the corner we did a braking exercise. This is done on the worst part of the asphalt on the airfield. It has LOTS of bumps in it and it is VERY easy to lockup the brakes. Ofcourse Andrew could do it perfectly in Arno's Elise without locking them up. The ABS of my Speedster was working overtime trying to get the car to a halt. Even when Andrew wast trying to beat the ABS by applying less brake pressure, we couldn't stop the car as fast as the Elise. Andrew told me that the ABS on the Speedster kicks in very early. On the new Elise 111R the ABS seems to be a lot better. Might be something to bother Opel about.

Andrew demonstrates braking.

Arno does the braking exercise.

Then it was time for some tea (and a little break), which was very welcome.
After the break we did and understeer exercise. Basicly you set full lock and drive circles, when you go faster you get understeer. Using this technique we did the next exercise. That one allowed you to steer without moving the steeringwheel. By applying the throttle you can make the car move from one part of the airfield to the other.

The steering wheel doesn't move!.

After some more practising it was time for lunch. There is a good cantine on the airfield, which seems to take you 50 years back in time, really nice!

At around 13:00 we started the afternoon session. This basically was one exercise: The Circuit.
The circuit might seem very easy, but it isn't. With a few cones a simple circuit is set out on the airfield. As there are no strict rules on where you drive, there are lots of ways you can drive around it. Some fast, some VERY slow. The good thing is you get the practice all the technique's you learn in the morning session and get tips from Andrew on what you can do to improve.
First he took us both out on a demo lap which he also timed so we both had a benchmark time.

(Thanks to Andrew for shooting some of the footage!).

After the demonstration, Arno and I took turns driving the circuit. Each did 3 or for laps and then the other had a go. Instead of Andrew driving with us all the time, we both got into the car when driving. This was really interesting, you could see how the other was driving and could pick up ideas on how to improve your own laps or give some feedback.
Andrew would be timing the laps sitting at the side of the track. Times got better as the afternoon went by. At the end we swapped cars so Arno had a go in the Speedster and I in the Elise. Very different, but very fun to do. To close off the afternoon we made a recording from withint the cars doing The Circuit.

Arno driving the Elise.

Mark driving the Speedster.

(Never mind the cloud of smoke in the last video, screwed up the corner there :)

Tired and happy we thanked Andrew for the training and went back to the hotel. We closed off the day by having a rather good curry at the local Indian restaurant.

The last day we planned a nice scenic route to Colchester. Took a while to get there, but we found the Odeon cinema there, and they actually had Garfield schedueled for 12:30. So after getting some lunch at the nearby KFC we actually got to see it (having given up after the attempt on wednesday).
After the movie we went to Indikart, an indoor karting circuit in Colchester. From the website it looks quite ok, but it really isn't. The karts aren't very good (seat is offset to the pedals, steering wheel is not straight, tires are flat etc) and the circuit is VERY slippery. It is most like driving on ice. I really don't recommend going there.
After the rather displeasing kartsession we plotted a scenic route again, back to Harwich. After getting some dinner there we checked in and got on the ferry back to the Netherlands.

I can really recommend following this course. It has been the most usefull course I've followed up till now. The good thing is you can do it with your own car. Everything is done on a spacious airfield without any danger of damaging your car. And the exercises are done at full speed, which is more realistic than doing them on a slippery surface at a 10th of the speed.