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Abbott Racing Track Day

Goodwood Motor Circuit, 22nd October 2002

My first track day ever!
Possibly the wettest day of the year?

However, I had a load of fun, and so did most others. I made a couple of mistakes, but was lucky enough not to hit anything (I can't claim it to be anything more than luck). Unfortunately, of less than thirty entrants, six cars sustained damage during the course of the day, one seriously enough not to be able to make it home under its own steam. As far as I know, no-one sustained any more personal injury than dented pride and wallet damage. This account is from my own point of view. There were some impressive cars and drivers on the track during the day, so if I didn't encounter you on the track, apologies for not including you. This article will focus on only a couple of cars that I drove with and that left a distinct impression on me on the track.

I met lots of great people, some for the first time and some whom I'd met before. While the driving was great, the people were what really made the day.

MarkA (who owns the amazing 9-3 diesel) has also written an account from his own perspective, which can be found on the Turbo Team Europe website. He also has videos of the day.

This was a Saab-only event run by Abbott Racing and my car was one of the more powerful entrants, and handled pretty well too. Just as well, really, since there were many drivers there much better than me and although I didn't achieve the best lap time (measured unofficially, as it was a non-competitive event) or even come close, the only thing that kept me from embarrassing myself completely was my car's capability and some excellent instruction on the day. I didn't manage to avoid embarrassment completely, though, as you will see...

First, though, my "official" track day photograph. As well as being a good composition, I think this epitomises the weather on the day. This was just about as bad as the weather got, and it was pretty lousy.

My Aero is shown sitting down on its rear wheels while powering out of the chicane at an extremely wet Goodwood circuit (after passing a very nice 900T16S shown in the background). The guy in the passenger seat, to the right of the photo (my car is right-hand-drive) is an instructor and racing driver called Al. This guy taught me a huge amount in a single 15-minute session on the track (my third session of the day, and shortly after the slight mistake recounted below). He drove me round in my own car for the first two laps and showed me how fast my car could go when driven by someone who knew how to drive properly. What could I say but "WOW!"?

Many thanks to Al for not making a mess in my passenger seat as I hit the brakes on standing water at around 90mph and aquaplaned towards a corner, instead calmly talking me through the situation. Unfortunately, due to the particularly awful weather and lots of spray on that session, I had to apply some guesswork to follow Al's tuition, which included directing me to head for a line marker that I couldn't see, brake for another marker that I couldn't see, and so on, all whilst travelling into the unknown at an insane speed in a vehicle that occasionally felt more like a speedboat than a car, and with a clueless newbie working the controls with more enthusiasm than skill!

Sorry, Al, but I couldn't do a job like yours. I'd have to opt for something less nerve-wracking like sky-diving without a parachute...


For those not familiar with it, here's what Goodwood looks like. To set the scale, the track is a total of 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) in length.

It's easier to follow those lines with your finger on the map than with a car on the track, especially with obstacles such as lakes of standing water and other cars. It's particularly difficult when you can't actually see where you are going!

For the track day, for those who are interested, I set my Koni shocks 3/4 of the way up (front and rear) and set the tyre pressures at 38psi (again, front and rear). This seemed to work well enough that I didn't consider changing them throughout the day. There were plenty of other variables to cope with (such as my driving). The rear Konis would be too difficult to adjust at the trackside anyway. The Bridgestone S-03 tyres performed brilliantly in the ridiculously wet conditions. I noticed that some of the day's fastest cars were running on Bridgestone S-02s or S-03s.


On the first session (and the third lap), Jason spun his CD 2.3T on St. Mary's (more on the notorious St. Mary's later). The result, pictured below, put him out of the event for the rest of the day. Jason's car was only the first of six casualties during the day.

(Photo by MarkA)


Well, on my second time out, I was following MarkA's amazingly fast tuned 9-3 diesel and was closing on him into Lavant Corner. Now I know why he was going slower than me, as the rear of the Aero slowly slid out. I don't know quite what happened next, although I remember applying opposite lock. I assume I instinctively lifted off the throttle, making matters worse as the rear snapped round and I suddenly found myself spinning 270 degrees onto the grass and facing the track. I know that the correct response would have been opposite lock with some throttle to pull the front in line wth the rear and giving me a speedy entrance into the Lavant Straight, the fastest straight on the circuit. As it happened, though, I count myself lucky that there was nothing solid in my path.

However, having avoided bending the car, I couldn't possibly avoid ridicule from fellow Saabers, some of whom had cameras that they applied ruthlessly... (yes, I'm talking about you, Kevin Mc.):

Photo by Kevin Mc.


Here's the car I was following, belonging to MarkA of Turbo Team Europe seen exiting St. Mary's (he experienced his own drama at that very spot in the afternoon, and those tyres you see in the background are likely what did the damage). Specs are:
Car : Saab 9-3 TiD S Coupe.
Modifications : Abbott Diesel Upgrade, Abbott Steering Rack upgrade, Abbott Suspension Bushings, 17'' ALU28 Saab Alloys on 225/45-17 Michelin Pilots, Front and Rear Koni Adjustable Sport dampers (set to half way stiff), Eibach Progressive Lowering Springs, JR Sports Airfilter and Saab Sports Exhaust back section.
Power and Torque : Estimated at 163HP @ 3000 RPM (!!!) and 340NM @ 1500RPM

Photo by CDCarlsson


After lunch, I went out again. I spun 270 degrees on Lavant Corner yet again, but I didn't pick up so much grass this time, so I didn't tell anyone (shh! I think I got away with it...)
I think I have made a name for myself from this session, as I didn't take enough time to cool my Mintex C-Tech competition brake pads, which faded on the last lap under extreme provocation (I'm sure standard pads would have been useless long before this point). As I came off the track into the pits, there was smoke literally pouring off my front brakes, and I could see it billowing around the front of the car! The smoke had mostly subsided by the time I managed to take this photo, but it's still visible if you look carefully. Some fellow (I use the term advisedly!) Saabers claimed that I obscured the entire pit area as I drove in! Whoops!
The smell was pretty overwhelming! (Slight damage visible on the wheel-arch trim is due to my inability to drive into my own garage properly and is nothing to do with my inability to drive on the track).

A short, gentle drive around the surrounding West Sussex countryside failed to restore satisfactory braking performance, so I displayed the utmost cowardice by skipping the next session.


However, by the subsequent session, scheduled to be the last of the day for me, I decided to risk it. I had promised Pete Tandino a ride around the circuit in return for a ride in his super-quick 900 a few weeks ago (shown below). I warned him, though, that I would have to come back to the pits if I wasn't happy with the brakes.

Pete brought his video camera. I hope to be able to put some clips of it here shortly for all to see.


MarkA got his camera out as we sat in the pit lane in the afternoon waiting for the previous session to come in. Here you can see MarkA's 9-3 again, with me and my Aero behind and MarkE with "Bubbles", his blazingly-fast CS 2.3T. By this point, MarkA was becoming increasingly concerned that the most powerful cars of the day were all lining up behind him! Just behind "Bubbles" is the SaabFlight racing car and behind that, the Abbott Racing CS 2.3T racing car pulled up, bringing MarkA to the brink of despair!

(Photo by MarkA)

Me and my Aero (cue for a song?)

(Photo by MarkA)

MarkE and Bubbles.

(Photo by MarkA)

When we took off, we realised that we had been blessed with the best weather of the day. MarkA started off with the mandatory 15 second lead, followed by me with Pete in the passenger seat and 15 seconds later by Mark E and Bubbles. I think MarkE was accompanied by his girlfriend, Debbie, on this session.

I passed MarkA's 9-3 after a couple of laps, but even with 300hp available, I needed a long straight to do it. I have developed a substantial respect for diesel power!. As it happened, my brakes seemed to like the exercise and held up quite well so we completed the session. Bubbles and my Aero were a pretty even match, with my Aero being able to take a slight lead on the straights and Bubbles making the most of her AP Racing brakes to beat me into the corners. MarkE is undoubtedly a better driver than me, though, and I eventually let him past when I realised I was getting in his way. We lost sight of MarkA's 9-3, but I believe the "St. Mary's" photo above was taken around this time. CDCarlsson took some photos of Bubbles and my Aero on the way through St. Mary's, with Pete somehow managing to keep hold of his video camera throughout the entire session.

During this session, I managed to achieve a maximum of just over 120mph (indicated) on the Lavant Straight, while MarkE managed 125mph, not having to start braking quite so early.


At the end of the session, MarkA and his 9-3 were nowhere to be seen. After a while, the sound of a foglamp being dragged along the ground alerted us to his arrival. This turned out to be only a small part of the result of Mark losing it at surprisingly low speed at St. Mary's and contacting the tyre wall:

(Photo by MarkA)

Mark was philosophical enough to pose for a photo, though. Perhaps this was helped by the fact that he was covered by insurance.



So, other cars? Forgive me if I didn't get to know all the other drivers. There were some impressive ones out there!


Photo by CDCarlsson

The Abbott Racing CS 2.3T with championship driver Mark Hales. The car is pretty quick, but the driver is awesome! Watch the December 2002 issue of Cars and Car Conversions for coverage of this event in a feature on Saab tuning. Needless to say, I got out of his way and let him pass!

This car, however, suffered an embarrassing moment early in the day when it had to be towed off the track. It was soon back in action, though.

(Photo by Kevin Mc., who excels at taking embarrassing photos...)


These two cars appeared to be the fastest of the day.

Photo by CDCarlsson

Photo by Kevin Mc.


Chris Foxley's awesome 1978 99 Turbo. An immaculately-kept piece of machinery, driven as Saab intended - hard!

Photo by CDCarlsson

More fast cars (well, there weren't any slow ones...)
A third of that lovely red Carlsson bumper sadly went missing towards the end of the afternoon.

Photo by CDCarlsson


And finally (and sadly), the 9-3 Viggen convertible that couldn't drive home.

(Photo by MarkA)

(Photo by MarkA)