Motorsport is a game of fine margins

Published on Friday October 06 2017

MN reporter Stefan Mackley with a Ginetta G40 at Goodwood for a track day. Pic by RedMxx.

“Brake. BRAKE. BRAKE MORE!” Those are the shouts from my driving instructor Bradley Ellis as I come within inches of colliding with another car during a track day at Goodwood on one of the circuit’s fastest sections.

Things had been going so well.

I was driving a Ginetta G40 having been invited down by JBR Capital – a finance company for high end vehicles – who had organised the track day.

Having never driven at Goodwood or a Ginetta before, I was keen to listen to Ellis – a former British GT champion who has also raced at the Goodwood Revival – during my first run of the track.

Throughout he was constantly talking of where to brake, turn in, when to get on the throttle, even to the point where he knew exactly how the car was balanced without being behind the wheel.

“You came on the throttle too early and you see how it pushed the car wide,” he tells me as I try and get into the groove.

By the end of the first session I feel comfortable with the car, speed and turning in points and I’m excited to get back out.

Moving forward to the next session and the fast right and left of St Mary’s, where I’ve reached just over 100mph.

A Porsche has moved across from the right-hand side towards me on the left and although I’ve braked in the same place as previous laps it’s not enough this time.

Without sounding clichéd time seemed to slowdown and I felt the wheel being pulled to the left as Ellis grabs it and pulls us over towards the grass at almost 100mph.

Miraculously we avoid contact but it knocks my confidence and offers a stark reminder of how quickly things can go wrong, how easily I had misjudged what I thought was the Porsche letting me through (we’d been told to only overtake on the left).

My near-miss and the result of what happens when it goes wrong were about to become even more clear only minutes later, though.

Instead of seeing a chequered flag to end the session we saw a red and as we made our way around to the exact scene of my own near-crash, another Ginetta was off on the grass with heavy damage to the front having collided with the barriers at seemingly almost unabated speed.

Thankfully both the driver and instructor were unhurt but unsurprisingly severely shaken – the accident seemingly a misjudgement by the driver with severe consequences.

As I made my way slowly back to the pits I couldn’t help but feel that could easily have been me had it not been for Ellis.

He tells me that getting to a level of comfort in a race car is not the hard part, but pushing further to find that extra few tenths is and there is a fine line between success and failure.

I’d learnt more alongside Ellis from two sessions than I could ever have driving the car on my own for a whole day.

The professionals really are a class apart.

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