Kutuka Motorsport North














Helen at Cadwell, annoying little whizzy insect cars - it's like being 5 years old all over again.










Traditionally a trackday here is our season-opening shakedown, a late March Cadwell trackday has been where the Kutukans have formally awoken for the year ever since Helen was born. Unlike our usual forays here though, this one had both no purpose whatsoever, and an important job to do.










































No purpose, in that as we’re not racing this year, we’re not exactly shaking anything down. Helen’s steering has been fixed since Brands, she has new UJs in the column, new ally mounts for the rack, so she is technically testing. Bear has fiddled with his brakes, so he too is at least experimenting with something, but this is not our usual game with 800 modifications all at once.


Tyres, well, Helen has two bald ones on the nearside. Really bald. I mean there is a photograph of tread on the rear, but that’s your lot. Brakes are whatever it ended last year with, after a good Brandsing. Weather says a dry morning, and rain this afternoon. Oh dear.










































Because we wanted to come and play, we’ve had to invent a reason, so we’re doing today for charity. We’ve had a loose association with the Rainbow Trust for a couple of years, both Kutuka North cars carry their stickers. Not the southern team member mind you, but then his car doesn’t even carry Kutuka stickers, so far removed is she from the team livery these days.


We raced for Rainbow at the Birkett end of ’09, we’ve sent them a few quid along the way, but this time we decided to have a better go of it, and with the kind assistance of Terry Dye, we arranged to carry the Brands “Hot Laps” a step further. So we’re offering passenger rides today, strap the unsuspecting volunteers in the cars and show them what Cadwell looks like from the passenger seat of a big Jag in its unnatural element. Whilst they’re still shaking from it, press the donation form into their hands, and shake the loose change from their pockets.











































With my employer Raleys offering to match whatever we raise, and a good dozen people confirmed, a healthy total was expected.


Along for the ride is Philip, trying the car at this most testing of circuits. It is our opinion that if a car handles Cadwell properly it will pretty much tackle anywhere. That car can be abused today.










































Briefing out of the way, and our guests start to filter in. A little more organisation would have helped, I hadn’t factored in the “people have free will” element that has folk not neatly line up and wait, but wander off and suddenly reappear in a demanding group, but by and large this went pretty well.


We’ve got people who we met at Brands who’ve come up for a second go, other nutters coming down from Scotland, and a host of more local folk including marshalls, JEC types, and the man I wanted to get in the passenger seat above all else, Chris Robinson. I’ve wanted to turn him a funny colour for about three years, and he’s always ducked out of it, but today, today he’s ours.










































Usual trackday heroes are out in force, the Evos, the Scoobies, the Locaterfields of varying speeds. Only one, maybe two of the Caterhams are being driven hard or indeed well, the others are all our prey today.


It’s the same deal as Brands Hatch, I have to attempt to talk to someone whilst driving. A slow outlap, explaining lines, corners etc, and then playing them up to speed, gradually faster until we're clipping along at 90%. No dramas, the car is behaving well. Steering is better, more precise, and Helen is on rails today.








































90% pace, easily enough to have won the class here last season, we’re travelling every bit as fast as I bothered to do on race day in 2010 as the Bear and I cruised home to a Kutuka 1 – 2. Only this time, it’s with commentary. We’re not really set up for it, full face helmets and a full on race car, I mean Helen is loud inside, so they only hear one word in three, but it’s actually not hard to do at all.


My first victim, King Rollo, a fella I had applauding at Paddock last month, has his own car here today. Whilst an XJS is not exactly the same as an MG ZS, some of the same principles apply, so he’s eager to learn the track. This gent is reduced to helpless and enthused laughter as we tackle the Mountain/Hall Bends complex, and this, to me, is a good sign. Those who “get” what the car is doing when thrown like that are much more appreciative of what is happening than the poor punter strapped in and bewildered by the greenery that keeps changing direction around them. The man laughing like a loon probably understands it.










































You never quite know if the silent passenger is bored or terrified. I think we had a few of the latter today. One fella managed three laps with me before asking to come in and be taken home. We hadn't hit full pace at that point. A heavy cold was claimed. I prefer to think that Cadwell claimed him.


It gets entertaining. Comer is found flashing his headlights, parked at the end of a pair of brown furrows. No damage, a casualty of too much kerb at Hall Bends. That first one on the right hand side is a doozy, only ever hit the last third of it.











































By late morning, we finally get me and the Bear out on the same tarmac, and so it begins. He’s on very worn rear tyres, I have worn nearside tyres. I can turn left very fast, but can't turn right so well, and he can’t put power down very effectively. What today did prove beyond doubt is that the R1R does need some tread to offer proper grip, and the more of it, the better.


This battle is about 5 laps long. We both have passengers, and we elevate our game. We’re now faster than I was going on race day, with someone in the damned car with me, and I can see Bear’s trying his damnedest. Which means so am I. Eventually that power does count, he closes on the straights until I have to let him by, but then he can’t escape, and his car is adopting all manner of angles as he tries to escape, armfuls of opposite lock over the Mountain, with Helen so close she's trying to take a bite of his fibreglass. The pressure, for a trackday, is pretty steep, and something has to give. It’s the bollards at the second Hall bend, he flattens two of them.









































We’re so close that they go under the front of his car and come out under the back of mine, we’re in a forty-foot XJS at this point, and then the red flags come out. I sort of worry that they’re for us, because we were racing and we're not supposed to. Indeed as we tour into the paddock I’m stopped by one of Javelin’s boys for a telling off. The mild rebuke is cut short when I explain he has the wrong car. But yes, red flags we for flattening their bollards. Try being here on race day mate, we don't leave any of them up!


Quite a few more red flags during the day, two Caterhams die. One has Gail Hill-ed it into the tyres at the exit of Mansfield and is now laid there like a drunk deer, its wheels pointing all over the place. An orange one appears with a whole corner missing. Spun cars and exploding machines everywhere as the day hots up.










































We have a steady flow of passengers now, we get nearly all of them out in both cars before lunch, and they all seem happy enough. The one thing they are all universally surprised by is not just the cars, but how tightly they are strapped in. It is something that I think even many racers fail on, but to me, the harness is meant to pull you hard into the seat, not loosely hold you. David and Dermott taught us well on this, you want to be in so you really can't move at all, arms and legs only.


It’s not an inertia reel belt, in a collision you don’t want to get moving and then have it stop you, you should be immobile to begin with. In addition, you just get more feeling from the car. I swear that the day I learned to pull them really tight I gained half a second.









































The other thing the passengers can’t quite believe is how competitive the Jags are compared to the much more exotic toys here. You’re trussed up in a 30 year-old XJS (OK, 28) on bald rubber, and your driver is shouting at an Evo IX to get out of the damned way in the corners.


As usual, my power deficiency makes this a little annoying, the expensive toys and turbo-nutters pull clear on the straights, and then hold me up in the bends. Today though we have the Bear and Christine, and he has the power to sit calmly right off their bootlid down the straights until they get the message and move over. Some of these cars are people we’ve seen before, and it must be a case of “oh no, there are more of them.”








































Rain comes in the early afternoon, and now it gets fun, because I have no grip in right handers. I still get three passengers out, but it’s an oiled track now, days of sunshine then gentle rain makes for a slick track, and on bald nearside tyres Helen is struggling for grip. Understeer, power oversteer, it feels like we’re crawling. Still murdering everything out there, except one car. I’m baffled, because it’s only a Vauxhall saloon. An Insignia, I think it said. I am only just hanging onto it, we grab a few yards on it each lap, but it’s going well, and I’m sliding around like Bambi trying to go faster, cursing my bald rubber.









































We get close enough to read the VXR badges, and suddenly the flashing brakelights doing all manner of funky tricks make sense, we’re dealing with a high-spec car with all the toys turned on. Poor old Helen is trying to chase a host of electronic driver aids, on bald tyres in the wet. I feel a little better about myself. The passenger gets told. Three times.


Finally I get that Robinson fella strapped in. It is with great glee that Helen then slides about the track. Understeer is heinous, oversteer wild, the rain is heavier, the wipers are sort of breaking, but he’s not getting away with this. He stays quiet, no signs of panic, how upsetting. The car is adopting all manner of angles trying to get the power down, but not a peep from him. We're just not going fast enough, I need some tread on the tyres to show him what it's really like. It is days later, as I’m speaking to Dean Sewell when he reveals just how good an actor Chris is, prompting a quick search of my car for the fingernail marks in the passenger seat. He did, as it happens, get the Cadwell experience after all.









































Last run of the day and it’s now suicide out here, heavy rain. Bear has proper tyres on now, I haven’t. Philip, who has mercilessly pounded round all day, also has good tread, and I elect to go out behind him, a slow game of chase to see what he’s doing in terms of lines. I’m curious, because I don’t know my lines are actually right, I haven’t yet attained that level of arrogance that assumes I know this place properly, I might learn something. Moreover, I want to see what his car is doing, get some video of it.


It’s insanity, I can barely keep Helen in a straight line, she’s aquaplaning along the pit straight, I’m lifting off the throttle for puddles or I'll just float off the road. Philip has ignored my pleas for 80% pace and gone for it, and I’m all out in pursuit, nothing left in reserve. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for Philip, that means I stay with him. Despite the rubber I am faster in some sections, but I it doesn’t feel like I have anything left to give safely, this isn’t racing, it's a skidpan session.









































I’m about to call and end to this and come in, when the little Helen devil appears to sit on my epaulettes. There is certain honour at stake here, this car cannot be outrun by another D class, no matter what the tyre situation. The tiny girl sitting on my shoulder stabs me viciously with her pitchfork, and the car goes faster. There is a lot to be said for disconnecting the brain, and I know full well that I have spent over a year now driving with my head instead of my guts, so much speed sacrificed in the pursuit of points, it would be nice to get out there and go beserk. If it can be done, it can be done.


Philip pulls over to change into the hound, and Helen splashes through the puddles to take over as the hare, then lays down the law, quickly extending a gap that was more about bravery than sense. It does make me wonder if his car is still too stiff. I love this track. If I loved it any more I’d marry it and spawn it many tiny rabbit children.











































That’s it, day over. We raised £160 from the punters, which doubles with my employer’s contribution. £320 for a charity, not far off what it costs to run the charity's helpline for a month, for the sake of a couple of emails, the kind assistance of the JEC, and bothering to include people in a fun day out we were planning to do anyway. That’s got to be the way to do it, right?


Our various passengers went home with big silly grins, nobody died, no damage, no dramas, just good clean fun and a good cause to support. And a few more people who now look at old Jags with a bit more respect.










































Our thanks to Terry Dye of JEC for his kind help in directing interested parties our way.

















Back to From the Driver's Seat. HERE






Floating down The Gooseneck, passenger's feet scrabbling for grip and looking for the "Eject" button.


Don't let the pretty wheels fool you, there's no rubber wrapped around them!


Oh no, a Bear behind!


Kutuka North have a very naughty trackday race. Passengers loved it!


Clearly I don't quite agree with the apex marker cones that are out there. My apex is that little grassy bit.


Helen defies gravity.


The Mountain really is this steep. Can't quite get the front wheels off the floor, but I'll keep trying.


Turning in at the foot of the Mountain.


Maybe a stiffer anti-roll bar needed? But is the pilot looking into the corner, or chatting to the poor sod alongside?


Chased by a Comer, trying out the new and improved Kutuka-ised car in tarmac heaven.


Looks like Hall Bends, but it sure as hell doesn't look as severe as this inside the car.


This shot always looks a bit artificial, like that's a painting, or a cinematic matte in the background.


Helen squats under hard acceleration. We do like a bit of rear grip.


A small buzzy thing annoys Helen briefly.


Find a way past me here, I defy you!


Trackday etiquette and reduced pace allows for precise lines, the tyre running exactly on the white line is my idea of "tidy." 


I bet his car cost more than mine.


Passengers at a trackday get an experience you forget about if you actually compete - the proximity of other cars at speed is not something you get anywhere else, and it's something special.




Hall Bends again. Close to the bollards, but not in danger of collecting any.


We'll leave that to the Bear today, I'm being good.




Hairpin, and it looks like I've just missed it.


A foot off line here and you lose time. It's a vicious kerb though, so take your pick.




Better this time, I must have got the braking right.


She does lean a bit in the harder corners. Must check my droplinks.




Barn corner. Officially, if you're a marshall, such a long corner that there's an "in" and an "out" marshall's post. See, I do listen to our friends in orange.




Approach to Barn, and once again, about as neat and tidy as I can manage, right on the white line, but not quite on the dirt. Driving a Jag on the road does help a lot.




To be totally honest, this Beemer never had a chance.



Another successful day at Cadwell. If only race days went so smoothly!



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