Tales of a Race Instructor

Another airport, another security queue, another plane journey and another race circuit. The glamorous world of a race instructor. The big difference this time though is that this trip is not out to just another circuit, I am on flight to the monstrous Spa-Francorchamps. A circuit hated but mastered by Jim Clark. A circuit that when leaving his house to travel to Spa, Jackie Stewart said he would always glance back down his driveway and wonder if he would ever see it again.

'The monstrous Spa-Francorchamps'

As the jet engines of the plane scrabble away from the runway and climb away into the afternoon sky I rest my eyes and think of the drivers who have conquered this circuit and the ones who sadly the circuit conquered. Archie Scot Brown a driver who conquered so much including disability and the incredible “Knobbly” Lister Jaguars. This true Brit of a race driver when once asked about the possibility of the notoriously bad brakes failing on his Lister replied with a bristle of his moustache, “ one would just carry on without them old boy!” On May 18th 1958 Spa took claim of this great character. Duelling for the lead with Masten Gregory, Archie crashed and was mortally injured he was just 31.

The original circuit wound through hills, buildings, ditches and trees for 14 miles, a circuit that demanded respect and still does. Oh to meet the drivers that battled on the original circuit. As I walk through the arrivals gate at Amsterdam I am delighted to be able to shake hands with just such a driver, the ever green and incredibly experienced ex BRM Formula One driver Mike Wilds. It is great to welcome Mike to the team of BookaTrack race instructors. If you get chance to get Mike into story mode get yourself a brew, get comfy and enjoy.

The shortened Spa we are presented with today is still a driver’s circuit that’s on the ‘must-do’ list for any motorsport enthusiast. On the first day we were met with glorious weather. Jonny and Sarah are very keen to maintain discipline and driver respect so that everyone (regardless of their car or experience) can have a great day. My first assignment was as Chief Instructor. As fellow instructors Sarah Reader, Tim Witham and Mike Wilds took to the track it was my job to maintain communication along the pit lane and driving standards out on track - a job made so much easier by the great attitude displayed by the drivers. Although I was working Jonny, honest, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the painfully beautiful Ferrari 250SWB as it made i/ts majestic way out on track. I/ts exhaust note should be bottled and sold! My mind did drift back to when Jonny had the opportunity to drive a twelve million pound 250 GTO at Donington. The sight of a very worried Sarah checking through the company insurance was certainly one worth seeing.

'The painfully beautiful Ferrari 250SWB'

Monday afternoon was my turn to venture out on to the sweeps and swoops of Spa whilst the chief instructor role was placed into the very capable and firm hands of Sarah Reader. Instructing around Spa I find very rewarding as drivers respond and gain confidence and enjoyment round this special place. Monday evening saw me agreeing to go for a run with my son Joshua, a strange decision! I am sure Red Bull have been working on his trainers and found some special tweak.

Tuesday saw another hot day at Spa! I didn't have to use my spare boxers I keep in my kit bag once. I really can't cope with soggy boxers.... Hence my ROC campaign... Roofs On Caterhams! Yet again we saw excellent driving standards with minimal stoppages. Actually two of the stoppages were for cars I was instructing in, sorry. Not one but two mechanical failures, both involving wheels and suspension... now you know why I am so grey! Tuesday was finished with a great Barbecue put on by the fine BookaTrack crew. The stories, the escapes, the near misses, the humour, the fantastic pictures and in car footage summing up that these trips are so much more than just driving trips.

'The dutch seem to lose interest when building bridges'

Wednesday was spent running on the front door of the rather tall BookaTrack trailer spotting low bridges. The Dutch do seem to lose interest when building bridges and so they end up a few feet lower than the bridges in the UK. Navigation into Zanvoort can be challenging with poor Scott (BaT truckie) having a few tense momen/ts. These momen/ts made worst because we had Mike Wilds in our car and he was in story mode. A life time as a pro racing driver and 9000 hours as a helicopter pilot and instructor does ensure that stories come thick and fast. Unfortunately this did mean we were so engrossed that we forgot to check only a few bridges Scot. Oops!

Zanvoort. By the sea this time and again - superb weather. A challenging circuit with very little room for error. I had a few commen/ts from the Lotus Elise / Exige drivers on how well suited their cars were to this technical circuit with i/ts mix of old and new. Driving standards were again top drawer with no red flags all day. I am pleased to say all the cars I was in stayed together, so no blame this time. Away from the circuit the evening walks down the beach as the sun se/ts are so romantic....Ok, I am just trying to help you just in case you are trying to justify a trip out there. The beach restauran/ts are well worth a visit. It is hard to imagine Formula One cars jousting on this tight circuit but joust they did. Check out John Wa/tson trying to overtake round the ou/tside of Tarzan on you tube. If you have not experience this treat of a circuit yet make space in the diary you won't be disappointed.

Bar a delayed flight coming back I could look back on a great week. Testing at Oulton park on the Friday. Racing and winning two races on Saturday then straight off to Spa and Zanvoort. Not quite living the motorsport dream but certainly having a great time. Back to my other job designing eye wear for Jones & Co for a few days now while I catch my breath; then off to Donington for two days with BaT - how great is it to have so many Donington dates back on the calendar. I am really looking forward to the next BookaTrack Spa trip in November. Somehow think those spare boxers will be in use though unless ROC takes off!

'Winning on Saturday then straight off to Spa on Sunday'

Hope to see a few of you there.

Stuart Jones
Chief Instructor
11 August 2011

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