BaT Member of the Month - August 2012

I first went along to a track day back in 1998. I didn't drive, just went as passenger in a friend's Elise (as I was scared of being too ham-fisted and damaging mine), but it only took a couple of laps before I was wishing I'd driven myself. As a result, it wasn't long before I took my own Elise along to my first track day as a driver (organised by Jonny even before he set up his own track day company) at Cadwell Park (not usually most people's idea of a great place for a first track day!). Needless to say I absolutely loved it and I've been hooked ever since.

Over the following few years I did more than a few track days and the Elise was progressively modified to cope with the strain that they were putting on it. The first thing that changed was the seat belts which I swapped for harnesses. After that I changed the suspension (swapped for a Leda kit), then the brakes (swapped for endurance race spec steel discs with Pagid pads - I still miss the wonderful pedal feel from the MMC discs but having the bell separate from the rotor a couple of times was too scary to risk repeating again!), then the engine (for a QED built ex-race engine that I later discovered had split a liner), then the seats (for 340R items - way more comfortable!), then the engine again (for a Sport 135 engine, complete with CR gearbox), then the suspension again (Nitrons this time with Eibach springs) and then the engine yet again (Honda K20A this time - the engine the car should have been sold with, in my opinion).

In 2006, on a day at Spa, I ended up having a go in one of BaT's Caterhams - the then BAT6 - and enjoyed it so much that later that evening (after a few beers in the bar at the Beau Site) I offered to buy it. Jonny sobered up remarkably quickly at that point, the deal was swiftly done and I became the happy owner of what is still my current track toy. The Caterham has had its share of work done on it too, courtesy of Fauldsport who've looked after it since I bought it. It had a cage fitted as soon as I bought it, it's needed a couple of engine rebuilds over the years and one of my friends (the one who introduced me to track days in the first place - thanks Pete!) was kind enough to buy me a Stack dash for it as a birthday present last year. It's not the fastest car in the world (it hits the rev limiter in top at 127mph!) but it is absolutely fantastic fun.

As a result of my track day addiction, I've been lucky enough to have driven many of the UK circuits along with several European ones and have some firm favourites - my top 5 at the moment is:
1. Nurburgring Nordschleiffe (but only on a private day - the Touristenfahrten days scare me!)
2. Spa
3. Dijon
4. Oulton Park (International circuit)
5. Anglesey (GP and Coastal circuits)

These days I don't get on track as much as I used to. I set up my own IT services company in 2008 - - and, as I can't invoice for days I don't work, I tend to be restricted to weekend dates and the annual summer trip to Spa. That said, I would make an exception for another BaT day at the Nurburgring Nordschleiffe or a trip across the pond to Laguna Seca! If I had an ultimate dream track day it would be on the Isle of Man TT circuit but I suspect that will forever remain a dream and I'll have to make do with memories of driving the mountain section of the course on Mad Sunday a few years ago!

Over the years I've become good friends with the BaT team and to say they are my TDO of choice is a bit of an understatement - I don’t think I've done a track day with anyone else in the last 10 years! I enjoy the informal atmosphere, coupled with the no-nonsense attitude when it comes to dealing with the occasional customer who doesn't (or won't) understand the rules, and I love the social side of the more long-distance trips.

Despite doing fewer days than I used to (I think my record was 17 days in one year), I have no intention of kicking my track day habit any time soon. I'm lucky enough to have a wife who not only doesn't object to my hobby but actually seems to enjoy being dragged off to circuits in Europe every now and then so I'll keep going as long I continue to enjoy it and, if I'm still enjoying it after more than 100 days, I don't think I'm going to stop in the foreseeable future!

In Pictures

JJ's Honda Elise at Donington Park in 2006 - one of its last track days before buying "the Caterham formerly known as BAT6". More recently in the Caterham at Zandvoort earlier this month. Finally, a rather sinister looking picture taken at the 2007 BaT Christmas party, reminiscent of the Bryan Adams Album cover "Reckless".

Click thumbnail to view image.

Jonathan Bill
BaT Founding Member
30 August 2012

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