Just a couple of pics for this post, I’ll explain why in a minute.
As you know, my 2003 Mini Cooper S needed enough expensive surgery to warrant me putting her down. While I was looking for something around my figured budget (about $12,000) my wife asked me about a 2016 John Cooper Works Mini she’d found in St. Catherines.
Here it is here, so you know how that turned out.
Now as anybody who reads this blog knows, I’m a fan of Mini and the JCW is the pinnacle as far as a factory built car goes. My Gen 3 is a far cry from my other Gen 1s. I went from 163 HP with a supercharger to 240 HP with twin turbos.
Ever since I bought the car back in June, I’ve been looking to get it out on a track. It took me a bit to track down a group I wanted to go with but I finally found it in Infinite Motorsports. I just missed their last lapping track day back in August but I signed up for their October session at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park).
Because I’m a Novice, I would have an instructor in the car with me for every on track session and there was also a thirty minute class after the day’s initial safety briefing. The safety briefing was thorough and sombering as the flags and what your in vehicle response to them were explained. Even though you’re out there for a day of fun, it’s all very serious business.
In the classroom, I learned my hand position on the steering wheel had been wrong my whole driving life as well as my seating position and mirrors. They have since been adjusted.
The first on track session, your instructor takes you round the track to show you the speeds, lines, entry and exit points to the corners. The noises your tires make are alarming because on the regular road, those sort of noises mean it’s all going Pete Tong. On the track you learn to understand those howls of protest mean you’re doing things right. This, and I can’t stress this enough, is not an easy lesson to learn. Everything to do with what’s going on outside your windshield, your instructor is telling you. It’s a lot to take in, it requires all of your attention and this was not a day where I wanted any distraction from the task at hand.
This is the layout of the track. Damn near every corner with the exception of the Esses (turns 8,9 and 10) have an elevation change prior to or just after them. Going in blind was pretty scary but to help you out, there were cones placed at the entry and exit points of the turns. At turn 2, you brake (just a touch) at the high point, just before the pedestrian bridge, then you turn in and aim for the inside of the turn. As you pass by that you aim for the new tarmac strip at the base of the turn. As you pass the start of that, you turn in to pick up the end of the inside of turn two and aim for the end of the turtles (trackside indicators) that your now considerable velocity is propelling you towards. As you hit those, you turn towards the outside of the start of turn three, then brake and turn into the inside of turn three. Then you hold it on the new tarmac round turn three while giving it some throttle etc. etc. Up until lunch I was fighting my instincts to slow down through all of this. It took my instructor continually saying, “Stay off the brakes, stay off the brakes, keep it steady,” to break me of my bad habits.
The only place on the track I could check my speed was on the Mario Andretti Straight and that was usually to gauge what my entry speed into the braking zone after the Canadian Tire sign at corner 7. Which is why I can tell you my top speed but not my general speed for each turn as my focus was not on my instrument cluster, it was on not muffing my gear change or entry point.
Twenty minutes on track goes by fast. Because you’re only up once every hour, you spend at least two laps warming your tires and then the rest of your laps are about getting round that track as fast as you can. There was a passing etiquette but there were a few drivers who were slow to indicate the safe pass but this was pretty rare.
The whole time, my instructor kept guiding me through the twists and turns with a calm steady voice. Even when we hit a slippy patch during some light rain and slid sideways on all four tires before I found grip again.
I saw some very cool cars. I met some very cool people and I got to drive my car like it was meant to be driven. All in all a pretty great day. Once I get the pictures back from the photographers who were there to shoot the whole thing, I’ll post them up.