The Academy Day is run at an airfield base. This seems to be mainly unused now, and empty hangers surround the runways.
The MSE Academy Days are run slightly differently from their normal airfield/track days. There are a number separate events dotted around the venue, where different aspects of driving are explored. All the events are tailored towards learning about you cars handling, and driving quickly and safely on road and track. Small groups of cars rotate around the courses, taking it in turns with each one.
During the lunch break there is a small written 'test', which covers a lot of the aspects that were covered during the 'practical' sessions earlier. This light-hearted test is then marked, and added to scores given by the instructors on your driving. These are all added up and at the end of the day a prize is awarded to a number of people, including 'Driver of the Day'.
This is all done in a very friendly way - it should not be seen as a serious test day, and should not put anyone off. It is all done for fun, but at the same time everyone will learn something about driving and about car handling.
At the end of the day a small circuit is laid out and each group has a 20 minute track session, which gives the instructors another chance to assess what you have learnt throughout the day.
As usual at these events one always finds friendly banter amongst fellow petrolheads.
There was a good mixture of cars at the Academy Day, which is aimed at all drivers.
Tessa and I line up ready for the first event.
On our Academy day we took part in 5 different events, followed by the track session.
First was a slalom course. Having been shown the correct driving position we set off down a course with off-set gates, mini-roundabouts and tight corners.
Second event was the timed auto course. All about car control and not over-cooking it, I really enjoyed this event - and got the fastest time of the day - apart from Mark that is.
Third event we took part in was an emergency stop exercise. This involved driving flat out towards a cone gate, and then braking heavily to a stop into a curve laid out in cones. An exercise in cadence braking and controlling the car as it tried to lock up and slide.
Fourth event was a larger, longer slalom. This time we weaved in between cones that had been laid out in a straight line. At one end of the line the cones started to get closer together. This was an exercise in smooth rythmn and maintaining speed though the cones.
Fifth event was learning about lift-off/power oversteer. This involved driving up towards a 90° corner and throwing the car into a slide. We did this by lifting off the throttle at the same time as turning sharply into the corner. Once the rear of the car started to come round it was back on the power to convert the lift-off oversteer into power oversteer. One or two spins were inevitable, but in this safe environment it was huge fun!
Fellow Sevening friends included Mike with his famous furry nose cone. This was one of the first outings of the new 'ladybird' look, replacing the previous pink incarnation!
Mark was there with his slick-shod, 220bhp Vx engined car. Easily the quickest car here, Mark's day was interrupted by a broken accelerator cable, and was finished by a terminally slipping clutch.
Andrew was there with his ex-racer Vx powered car. Credit to Andrew - this was his first day with the car, which he had bought only that week!
We were put into groups so that we could run through all the individual 'events'. The Caterhams were put together, as we all knew each other, and because the cars would all perform similarly, making instruction easier. This sort of event is ideally suited to Caterhams - understandably they were easily the quickest cars around such courses. Here we are all lining up for our first slalom course. Driving between off-set gates we also learn about the importance of a good driving position. Again, we were at an advantage as the Caterhams position is pretty much spot on already!
Before each run we got individual instruction if required. After the first few runs we were allowed to just get on with it, with additional hints and tips if and when required.
Our turn soon!
Mark begins to focus on the task ahead...!
After the slalom event we moved on to the auto-test. This was the only event that was timed. A course was laid out with cones and we ran individually.
The course involved mini-slaloms, tight corners and brake test stop-boxes.
Awaiting my run...
Ok - spot the odd one out in these 3 pictures! Someone (clue - the blue car!) did not get this first stop box right for the first few occasions - note the 90° difference in the angle of attack! This section required you to come to a stop within a coned box before carrying on round the course. You had to come to a complete standstill to avoid time penalties.
Ready to go....
See - I got the direction right later on!
Tessa also had a go. A nice relaxed atmosphere is ideal for drivers who are perhaps less confident in a track situation. There was no traffic, sand traps, tire walls or competitive cars to worry about.
Plenty of space to play! In the background another group were learning how to power oversteer.
Really enjoyed the timed aspect of this event. It gave you a target to beat. I was pleased to get the fastest time...except I didn't really. Mark went quicker in his much more powerful SLICK-shod car. Such was the advantage, his time was not counted on this occasion!
Mark and I exiting the stop box!
With only 4 or 5 cars in each group there was never much of a wait between runs...
...and anyway, it is always fun to watch the others compete...
...especially when people are really trying to better their time! Here Andrew checks to see if the grass is quicker then the black stuff!
See the concentration!
Slicks, 220bhp and cycle wings!
A048's, 135bhp and clams!
At the end of the course there was a long straight - at the end was another stop-box. The stopwatch was stopped when the car came to a full stop in the box.
This part of the course was probably the hardest to perfect - judging when to brake hard from a high speed so that you stopped in the box without locking up and flying right past, or braking too hard too early and loosing time.
Judging by Tessa's face I have probably just gone sailing through the box - all 4 wheels locked and smoking!
Another blended shot made possible by Mark taking pictures from exactly the same place on each run.
The two individual pictures that make up the one above.
Ed, who runs MSE with Tash, about to go for a run in Mike's car.
Not sure what Tessa has just said, but Mike obviously thinks she is mad!
Car resting - briefly!
One of the other events was learning about lift-off and power oversteer. Easily my favorite event, I am looking forward to the next day as we now have an LSD fitted!
Other members of this group wait while the caterham Academy car slides round the oversteer corner.
The lift-off/power oversteer section of the day is enjoyed by everyone. It is perhaps the one thing that you cannot practice in any other situation safely - the chance to hoon round a corner at high speed, unsettle the car and then see what happens!
So popular is the event that MSE are going to run a special day which will concentrate entirely on the art of drifting. We will certainly be doing this event. Just got to sort out the oldest, most worn out tires for the day! Since we did this Academy day we have fitted a LSD, which will mean proper powerslides and donuts! I can't wait!
It's either "Here come the Monkee's" or one half of the "Dirty Dozen" - you decide!
Brief rest for the cars before moving on to the next event - a fabulous day was had by all! Highly recommend this event to anyone, regardless of what car you have.
I cannot finish without mentioning that on this occassion I won 'Driver of the Day' and my prize was a free track day at another MSE event sometime in the next year - can't wait!
For more details about MSE events, have a look at their website: www.motorsport-events.com