A car maker would call it an abuse test. Every March, PalmerSport’s doors open for drive events at Bedford Autodrome. People come, they thrash cars around for the day, encouraged to drive as fast as they can by Jonathan Palmer’s race instructors, and go home, happy and knackered.
By the end of each year, 12,000 people have taken part, with each of Palmer’s track cars covering 25,000- 30,000 miles – the equivalent of seven racing seasons. They might spend 60% of their time at full throttle and, when they’re not, it’s full braking or full cornering with varying levels of driving finesse.
At the heart of it all – in a fleet made up from BMW M2 Competitions, Renault Clio Cup cars, Formula 3000 single-seaters, JP-LM open-topped sports-prototype-alikes and evergreen Land Rover Defenders – are Caterham Sevens.
Palmer has used Sevens for virtually all of PalmerSport’s 27 years. “We used to run them at Bruntingthorpe [the proving ground/airfield where PalmerSport began],” says the boss, Jonathan Palmer. “Then when we came to Bedford, we designed each circuit around a particular type of car. The East Circuit is the tricky, sinuous one, which was designed for a Caterham.”