Curborough Sprint Day October 2016
A damp, misty morning in late October was the start of another sprint day at Curborough. The Peugeot 306 being joined this time by a BMW 323i and a Clio 182 for the event, which was run by a different organiser to the previous days.
After sign-on and a very cautious two parade laps in the wet to familiarise the drivers with the course, the track was live. An over enthusiastic first launch of the day on the start line saw the AD08Rs on the 306 light up and the engine almost at the limiter, with traction being very limited on the shift up into 2nd as well.
Some slightly more appropriate application of the throttles in the Clio and BMW produced much more forward propulsion than the 306’s loud but slow attempt!
The various concrete and tarmac surfaces gave varying levels of grip, which along with Curborough living up to its reputation for being very greasy with moisture meant that all cars struggled for traction upon turning in. The rear-wheel drive BMW proved remarkably good at accelerating out of low speed corners with gentle throttle use considering the conditions. However, the 306 was hopeless on corner exit with dry-weather tyres; with any lateral force still applied or without the steered wheels being dead straight even a small amount of throttle resulted in torque-steer, scrabbling for grip and ultimately slowing down.
Towards the end of the morning a nice break was had watching the other cars on track, with some of the more powerful rear-wheel drive machines sliding at the slightest hint of being on the power. After some excellent burgers and bacon sandwiches had been polished off, the conversation over hot coffees soon turned to the subject of how on earth we’d go about hunting down what little traction might exist among the various surface types and go a bit quicker!
Fortunately, as the humidity dropped during the middle of the day a dry line began to be carved out. All 3 cars were getting faster and faster with every additional lap; the Clio was turning in smoothly and being remarkably well-behaved when straightening up upon corner exit.
Not all was going well for the Clio however, as the higher speeds and higher lateral loads provoked the exhaust into knocking quite violently against the tunnel in the floorpan. Despite sounding excellent combined with the Clio’s famously loud induction roar, this clearly needed some attention.
In the drier conditions, the BMW really picked up the pace. Particularly impressive was its ability to rocket itself out of low-speed corners; a dab of opposite lock after getting on the power was enough to tame the back end trying to step out too much, whilst the 2.5 litre straight six provided great low-end torque to shove the car forwards and straighten the direction of travel out as the slightly slipping rear wheels found grip.
Once into the higher revs on the straight the classic straight six induction sound then really came to life. The BMW definitely had some brown trouser moments though- first a huge wobble on the crossover which was very well caught in the nick of time, and an unintentionally provoked 4-wheel slide under hard braking and a slightly late turn-in!
In the dry the 306 could start to push towards the limits of the tyres in some cases, getting a bit of heat into them and squealing on some of the drier corners. Being one of the faster sections of the track, the crossover had really dried out and with a slight light-off and a dab of the brakes the 306 would rapidly rotate and oversteer all the way through at considerable speed before being tamed with some opposite lock.
Unfortunately, some of the exits on the low-speed corners didn’t dry out very much, and the 306 continued to struggle with understeer and lack of traction when trying to put the power down upon corner exit which did not set it up well for accelerating up the final straight.
The twin oil cooler system made a huge difference- keeping oil temperatures at sensible levels for the duration of the day.
Another brilliant day was had at Curborough, with some good marshalling and two new cars featured. With the wintery weather well and truly settling in, a dry outing in the near future doesn’t seem very likely. Either way, it’s all good fun!
Thank you to Track Day Drivers for organising the day and for the photographs, website: trackdaydrivers.com