If you’ve already scrolled through the pictures that go with this blog, you’ll know there's a happy ending.
My first bit of ‘light’ competition in the Radical SR1 Cup car ended up with me taking home not one but two trophies. Go me, or something - but more on that later.
Bedford Autodrome was the location for the second day of my racing 'career' (I haven't handed in my notice at Autocar just yet…). To recap, I’ve been invited to do a season in the guest car in the SR1 Cup, an entry-level, low-cost, one-make race series for novices that’s a stepping stone onto the Radical motorsport racing ladder.
After a test session at Snetterton a couple of weeks ago, it was off to Bedford for what’s called a ‘How Fast’ session. This is an hour of free practice on Bedford’s West Circuit, followed by three laps against the clock in a shootout to see who’s fastest when a bit of pressure is applied.
I've never been to Bedford before. The site encompasses four circuits and is used solely as a test venue and for track days. That means there’s no need for it to meet race regulations, so in turn there are no trackside barriers or gravel run-off areas. That means you can really push the car up to and beyond its limits if you so choose, and the worst that can happen is that you'll end up in a field with a bit of damaged pride.
At Snetterton, I’d had the whole day to get to know the car and the circuit, and there was no competitive element at the end. The reverse was true at Bedford: the pressure was on this time, from the clock as well as the competition. And the car now even had its full Autocar livery on it, so there was no hiding this time.
After a pep talk from my instructor Roger Bromiley, with whom I was reunited after he helped me through my first day Snetterton, I set out for a few sighting laps.
Luckily, I’d remembered all the controls and subtle nuances required to get the car going (so no stalling in the pit lane or first lap spins this time), but I was struggling to get back up to speed while having to learn a course that was completely alien to me.
After half a dozen laps I knew my lefts and rights well enough to try and push a bit more. So, conscious of time and wanting to make the most of the expert tuition on hand, I got Roger into the passenger seat to help me with my lines and use of the pedals first-hand.
It was a qualified thumbs up from Roger as we chatted in the pitlane after a few laps in the car together, but some bad habits from Snetterton had carried over into Bedford. Namely, I was turning into corners too early, setting myself up on the straights too early for the next corner and missing some apexes.