“Beginners luck” is an expression I’m sure most are familiar with and something that everyone is sure to have experienced at least once in their life. Sometimes things just fall into place on the first attempt and, no matter how hard you try to duplicate the same conditions, the results are never as good.
It was the notion of beginners luck that was foremost on my mind as I began the long trek North to Curborough Sprint Circuit for the second 6R4.net track day. Last year’s inaugural 6R4.net meet was unquestionably one of my personal highlights of 2015 and rated among the most enjoyable days I have ever spent at a track. I had zero expectations for last year’s event though and, with the bar raised so high, could a repeat event prove as memorable?
The allocation of invitations in 2015 had been carefully monitored and, although not everyone invited had been directly connected to the individual drivers or cars, all shared a strong passion for rally cars, especially the boxy hatchback from Longbridge. The result was a day that straddled a fine line between enthusiast’s convention and club track day.
Speaking to 6R4.net event organiser Nicky Lindon before the event, it was clear that retaining the balance of last years event had weighed heavily on his mind. Although there was a strong temptation to open the doors to a wider audience, doing so would clearly have resulted in a very different day. By sticking to the same format as before, the relaxed atmosphere for both drivers and spectators would be preserved.
Upon arrival at Curborough something that quickly became apparent was an increased air of confidence from the organisation team. I mean that in an entirely positive sense as, when I first arrived at last year’s event, there was clearly concern that some – or perhaps even none – of the drivers who had expressed an interest in the track day would actually show up. Thankfully many of them did and, after the success of 2015, a strong turnout seemed assured this time around.
With a basic event structure established last year, more attention had been paid to the little details for 2016. The circuit configuration was better defined to drivers, cars heading onto track were now individually numbered for ease of identification, programmes were issued to everyone and (most importantly I would say) bacon sandwiches were now available on site. These were all minor improvements, but all served to make the experience that much more enjoyable.
The familiarity of proceedings (or perhaps it was the bacon sandwiches) seemed to put the owners at ease as well. Some drivers had seemed hesitant to christen the track in 2015, but there were no signs of reluctance this year. Cars were on track from the moment the circuit opened right up to the minute the gate was closed. There seemed to be a lot more enthusiastic driving this time as well, with many drivers making the most of the wide exit on Fradley Hairpin.
In the weeks building up to the track day I had been tipped off that a handful of non-MG’s would once again be invited in order to add a bit of variety to the paddock. However I had wrongly assumed that these would all be Group B cars, thus I was rather surprised to see an icon of the Group 4 era unloading in the paddock.
The Lancia Stratos is one of the great shapes of rallying and Nigel Wilkinson’s replica looked absolutely stunning. I thought the choice of colours was absolutely spot on, with the white, red and green scheme reminiscent enough of the famous Alitalia livery to seem familiar, but different enough to give the car it’s own unique look.
After an overcast morning and a brief spell of sunshine during lunch, the skies turned grey and the track was saturated by rain. Given the rarity of the cars in attendance (and the fact that most of them were shod with slick tyres) I had been expecting things to go quiet once it got damp. These owners had bought their cars along to drive though and, despite the heavy precipitation, that’s exactly what they carried on doing.
With a steady flow of cars on circuit throughout the afternoon, I quickly lost track of time and, when I realized how late in the day it was, I had run out of time to roam around the paddock and pester drivers for a passenger ride. Fortunately owner David Seaton happened to spot me trackside and, despite being saturated from the rain showers, offered me the passenger seat of his RS200S. My long standing love affair with the RS200 is something I touched on in my last blog and, after experiencing the passenger seat of a competition specification RS200 at last year’s event, I was very interested to see how the road version compared.
Considering the road variant of a Group B car purely by it’s numbers and you could be forgiven for being a little underwhelmed. 300 BHP certainly isn’t anything to be sniffed at, but it’s far from an unobtainable power figure by modern standards. Judging these cars on numbers alone is rather missing the point though. The production versions may sport interior trim and carpets, but that doesn’t disguise the fact these are raw competition machines at heart.
Yes, you could go out and buy a car tomorrow with similar power figures, but nothing available in a showroom can offer you the same motorsport pedigree. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the expression “race car for the road” used in marketing blurb, but said cars will always be based on compromise. Merely road cars with some race inspired extras tacked on. The Group B era was a rare moment in time, when the race car came first and the showroom model played second fiddle.
On the subject of race cars on the road, it would be rude not to mention Rob Hill. Rob was one of the most entertaining drivers on track during the inaugural 6R4.net gathering, so I was glad to see him back again for 2016. As with last year Rob drove his car to the circuit, gave it a damn good thrashing on track and then drove it back home again at the end of the day.
As committed as Rob was, Mark Holmes had to take this year’s prize for most entertaining driver of the day. Wet or dry I don’t think Mark drove a single run without at least one big slide. I am appreciative to all the owners for showing their cars off, but I am particularly grateful to those who are willing to push them up to (and occasionally beyond!) their limit.
Sequels that are better than the original are a rare thing, but I thought the chaps at 6R4.net absolutely nailed it. Although it would have been fantastic for more people to be able to experience the event, opening the gates to the public would have immediately changed the atmosphere, effectively turning a unique track day into just another car show.
So can they master the challenge of the difficult third album and make it three in a row? Fingers crossed that I will get an invitation again next year to see for myself!
Want to see more of the Metro 6R4 track day? Click here for a full image gallery,