Magny Cours, Dijon and Zandvoort ReportThe week of 18th-21st May marked the start of a bumper two weeks here at BookaTrack, with our next European adventures. The first destinations were Magny Cours and Dijon. This would be the first time for 10 years that the BookaTrack name had visited both circuits, but it was a first time adventure for much of the BaT team.
As usual it was an early start for many of the team, with all 10 members of staff opting for a driving option rather than flying. With various routes mapped out to ensure everyone was accounted for I was one of the fortunate few who enjoyed a chauffeur driven experience, albeit faced with 13 hours in the BaT pick-up. 4.30am Monday morning, Event Organiser Kirsty, Mechanic Dan, Photographer Melissa, instructor David and myself piled into the Hilux and set off for France.
After a quick stop for an essential McDonald's and Krispy Kreme breakfast on route we arrived in time for our Euro Tunnel crossing. A few tense games of Uno later and we had arrived on the other side - next stop Magny Cours.
Arriving to the tune of glorious sunshine made for a great start to our French adventure, and after a catch up with some of our clients and a welcome dinner everyone was ready for the first day on track.
As usual it was all hands on deck first thing as the BaT team signed on drivers, set up catering and prepared the Bat Cats for action. With the briefing complete shortly afterwards, attentions turned to the pit lane, as the drivers lined up to sample Magny Cours, some for the first time. With sighting laps completed we quickly switched to open pit lane, and I made myself comfortable at the pit exit, complete with a marshal who only spoke French (not a good match for my extremely limited memory of high school French). Hand signals proved essential and very helpful.
The sun continued to shine throughout the day, and aside from a few passing clouds we enjoyed a dry day. On track it was very quiet, and after being lucky enough to sample the track from the passenger seat a number of times, it was very rare to see another car whilst lapping the 2.741 mile circuit. Together with the fact we only had one red flag made for the ideal day - especially when it ended with a passenger lap in our new Caterham 620R for Kirsty and myself with Jonny behind the wheel, what an experience!
As soon as the chequered flag came out at 5pm, as we packed up and got back on the road, this time destination Dijon.
After set-up, a quick briefing and sighting laps on Wednesday morning we were ready once again for a good day on track. I took my spot at the pit exit, and was pleasantly surprised to see the circuit had their own gazebo there, complete with seats (something I may have to put in the BaT suggestion box!). It came in very useful, especially during the five minute hail shower mid morning.
With a longer than normal lunch break, Kirsty and myself decided we'd use our time productively and decided to walk the circuit. And what a good idea it was! I had heard Dijon was famous for its elevation but you need to see the circuit firsthand to experience just how much elevation it has. I was glad we'd walked the circuit, as after feeling unwell during the day I had to (painfully) decline an offer from Jonny to see the circuit from the passenger seat of the 620R.
Despite a threat of thunderstorms, we again enjoyed a dry and sunny day, and with no stoppages this time it was a resounding success. After packing up the trucks it was time to return to the hotel where we looked forward to a finale dinner, giving staff and clients the chance to relax and socialise with one another.
Thursday was another travel day for the BaT team, as we piled into our cars for the long journey home. 14 hours later it was nice to see my house, if only for a few days. With just enough time to do a bit of washing and re-pack it was time for the BookaTrack team to hit the road once again, this time we were heading for Zandvoort.
The week of 25th-27th May saw the BaT staff make the trip to Birmingham Airport for the short flight to Schiphol.
A few hours after leaving the BaT cave we had landed in Amsterdam, collected our hire car and were on route to Zandvoort, complete with an amusing (if not slightly scary) sat nav. Upon arriving we went straight to the circuit to unpack and set up ready for the first day on track. Feeling accomplished we headed to the hotel to check in before venturing out for the all important evening meal at what has become our Zandvoort 'local'.
Tuesday morning we were greeted by a few clouds and a bit of a breeze, however, were promised a dry day on track, and we weren't disappointed. Our drivers were once again set to enjoy a quiet day behind the wheel, with a select number lucky enough to have booked a place.
As the morning progressed the clouds cleared and we were enjoying the Zandvoort sunshine. Just one stoppage meant the day ran with ease, giving everyone plenty of track time.
Tuesday evening saw the BaT team join forces with good friends Speedworks Motorsport and a few of our platinum members for a nice meal to celebrate the birthday of newest platinum member James Thomas. After a short walk we settled in a lovely restaurant on the beach, with beautiful views of the sunset over the sea.
Following good conversation and delicious food we headed back to the hotel. At this point Kirsty and I seized the opportunity to walk along the beach (had to be done!).
Wednesday presented us with similar weather to the previous day, but again as the day went on the clouds cleared and we were basking in glorious sunshine. Many of the same cars returned for a second day on track, as well as a few new cars. From an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 preparing for the Zandvoort 12 Hour race that weekend to a pair of Ferrari 458's, a collection of TVR's and some Caterhams, we had a vast selection of machinery to play with.
After a stoppage free morning we arrived at the lunch break, and similar to Dijon Kirsty and I decided to make full use of our break. We again walked the circuit, however with a twist. After hearing about the view over the circuit from the sand dunes we opted for the scenic route. The views were indeed fantastic and it gave us a great perspective of the entire circuit, however after being pushed for time we did need to sprint the last mile or so - great fun when part of that was through the sand.
Back in the pit lane we were poised and ready for action. My afternoon started with Jonny pulling up in front of me in one of our Caterham R300's and a spare helmet in the passenger seat. A passenger ride around Zandvoort was a great way to start the session.
Before we knew it we had steered our way through a stoppage free afternoon and had arrived at the chequered flag to end another successful trip. Our setting up and packing away is now a well oiled machine here in the BaT camp, and within no time we were back in the hire car and waving goodbye to Zandvoort, as we headed back to Schiphol.
As we enjoyed some pre-flight pizza we reflected on the last two weeks, including a chat about the biggest quarter pounder we'd ever seen and which circuit we preferred between Magny Cours, Dijon and Zandvoort. Personally, Magny Cours was very different to what I had expected, but it was certainly enjoyable. Dijon was spectacular and Zandvoort is always a favourite of mine, so it was difficult to choose a stand alone winner.
I'd just like to say a huge thank you to BaT team and all of our friends who looked after me in France when I wasn't feeling well - very much appreciated. And of course not forgetting Giles, Craig and Jonny for the passenger laps - I stand by my diplomatic decision to refrain from making any comparisons.
BookaTrack's next European adventure will take us to Spa and Zolder in July, and as ever it promises to be fantastic - you don't want to miss it!
See you all again soon,
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09 June 2015
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