Voices

Track days and why I like driving in circles on Sundays

Some people just don’t get the appeal of driving flat-out at track days. So, in an attempt to explain, here’s why I like driving in circles on Sundays.

“I DON’T KNOW WHY you go out and drive in circles all day.  Don’t you get bored with the scenery?”

Some people just don’t understand.   They don’t get the primeval thrill of approaching Turn 1 flat-out, knowing it’s just you, the car and your skill as you dance once more on the edge of traction, relishing the risk, feeling more alive than you thought possible, leaving all your worries elsewhere as you focus on the here and now of the car and the track.  
 
They’ll never experience the satisfaction of a perfect heel’n’toe downchange, or a subtly gentle drift on the perfect line through a corner.  Lost to them is the comradeship and joy of following, passing and being passed by an equally matched driver, and they’ll never experience the adrenalin rush of a mistake and save.
 
And they’ll never see the bills for repair or running costs either, to be fair.  And I’m not sure I’ll ever experience perfection of anything, but that’s the point, if it was possible to be perfect all the time there’d be no challenge, no deep satisfaction as you edge closer.
 
But there are people that do understand.  A circle of like-minded enthusiasts to whom a word association game with ‘apex’ does not mean a response of ‘predator’.   Who understand that cars are not just for A to B.  Who understand that driving in circles isn’t boring.  They are trackday enthusiasts.
 
Their cars may be pretty.  Or not so pretty.  But all have the practical elegance that comes from their purpose of speed, and all bear the little signs of hard use that bestow a noble dignity mere showponies cannot match.   I have no brand allegiance, just a resolution that no car I buy will ever be the equivalent of kitchen whitegoods, and the average track day paddock is full of vehicles I’d let in my garage.
 
But the the day is all about driving, as while I appreciate a beautiful car I spend my money on trackdays, not on car polish.   That’s because while a gleaming car may look good, it doesn’t give you a memory you can relive and retell for years to come.  Cherished memories are born not of things you buy, but experiences you have, and that is why I drive in circles.
 
Slowly catching an open wheeler in the wet at Winton, reeling him in, corner by corner.  Being passed by a red Nissan-shaped blur at Sandown, and watching it disappear like a wheeled comet.  The last session of the day at Phillip Island, uninterrupted running, lap after lap, into the zone, corner after corner, faster and faster, deep into the drive like a trance and then…where’d that goose come from?
 
A save at Winton, self-congratulations, then followed by a spin in the exactly the same place the following lap after pushing, unwisely, that fraction more.   Overtaking a 911, not often you do that in an unmodified Toyota 86.  Being overtaken by same 911 in the next session, so back to normality.  Being first out in a fast group and watching everyone stream by on the straights, failing to keep up.  Another time overtaking seven or eight cars on the first lap past the yellows.  Frantically changing brakepads in the pits, holding tools for someone else while they work on their car for the next session.
 
Every lap, every experience is something to savour, something to remember, perhaps for the rest of the day but perhaps for a lifetime.  And that’s why I like driving in circles on Sundays, all day long. 
 

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!