It’s not exactly a secret that the Grip & Slide boys like a good drive every now and again. You know the sort of drive I mean, we call it fun, the police call it ‘spirited’, and they don’t like it all that much. An excuse to drive to your limits is always a good thing, and in my mind, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to driving fast. The solution? Track day, bro.
First off, let me introduce you to Frank.
Frank owns a chip shop in Matlock Bath, go visit it if you’re in the area. I can personally guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
For our international fans, the British staple dish of fish and chips is something that you MUST sample if you visit this rainy isle, it goes a long way to making up for the dreary weather.
What might not be quite so apparent, is Frank’s love for anything with 4 wheels and an engine, and I do mean pretty much anything with 4 wheels. From trucks to cars, it’s a passion. and if you really want to see him dissolve into a quivering mess, just pull up in a 60’s Mustang…
It was from this passion, and the desire to do a bit of good, that Frank’s Charity Track Days was born. Good times for good causes is the group’s motto, and with almost £26,000 raised for a wide range of charities such as (deep breath…) Macmillan Cancer Support, the Olivia May Phillips fund, The Showman’s Children’s Charity, Paddington Children’s Ward at Northampton hospital, Izzy Weall/Team Brit, Neurocare, Blesma, Firefly Cancer Charity, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the Elora Jones fundraising page, Ronald McDonald House Alder Hey and Blyton Memorial Hall. That’s quite a list.
It’s also worth pointing out the Frank doesn’t take a penny from these days. 100% of the proceeds from the events go towards charity; I bet there’s not too many places that can boast as such. Having personally had cause to use the services of more than one of the listed charities, I reckon that makes Mr Hall a pretty top chap, so, thank you Frank. You’ve probably helped my family without even knowing it.
Held at the Blyton Park Driving Centre (a great little circuit), FCTD has evolved into somewhat of a community, with a regular group in attendance, and a mega relaxed atmosphere throughout the day.
The day always starts off with a quick glance around the pits, and there’s always something interesting to look at, whether that’s a semi-naked Lotus, or just what problem Frank’s Mercedes has developed recently. Drivers swap stories and laugh about recent outings, or look forward to the day ahead. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve attended before, the atmosphere in the paddock is mega friendly, and everyone seems really approachable, even those with the most serious machines.
Unless this is your first ever track day, the drivers briefing is one of the most boring, yawn-worthy points of the day. Important, but tedious. This one, however, is pretty chilled out. Richard, the track manager, takes the job of making people aware of the right way to drive around the track pretty seriously. But all this seriousness is dented slightly when looking at Frank who, also standing at the front, is simultaneously batting back banter from Richard, while also staving off severe sleep deprivation.
Richard goes on to mention Frank’s ever reliable Mercedes, and throws some shade at the French. Or at least their hatchbacks, speculating that if anyone was going to find out how solid the new barriers are, it would be a Clio. Time would tell how accurate his seemingly passing quip would be.
Briefing over, sighting laps were next. Except for a couple of reliability issues, they went as you’d expect sighting laps to go, trundle round the track following a car that would show you the rough racing line, with drivers trying to memorise them.
Blyton’s a reasonably flat track, no real elevation change to speak of, unless you count some of the larger kerbs. Having said that, if you’re driving a Yaris, you won’t really need to worry about the kerb in the middle of The ‘Ump, corner number 2 of the track. Have a gander below, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not sure that Punit, in the Megane RS, wanted to follow the little hatch’s line exactly. I know I wouldn’t…
What always surprises me is how helpful people are. The fact that there’s proper race car drivers from the MAX5 race series, like Lee Hollin and Jonathan Greensmith might lead you to believe that they’d be wrapped up in data loggers and telemetry, but truth be told, they’re super helpful. To give you an example, I’d just had my engine built by MX5 guru Paul Roddison, and had been told to do a few miles and do an oil change before properly stretching its legs on track. Yeah, I’d got the mileage in, but hadn’t had chance to get the oil changed yet. Something about a last minute invite to the C1 Racing Club 24 hour race the night before and an unwillingness to work on an unlit driveway at 4am.
So me, being as prepared as ever, had the grand total of an oil filter, 5L of Halford’s finest 5w/30 and a cheapo trolley jack. Not exactly prepared.
The amazing thing is, despite my idiocy, other drivers, passengers and random spectators were more than happy to lend a hand, (mostly) helpful advice, or a tool. Not quite as big a tool as the driver, but that’s besides the point. Those who knew me before the event decided to point out how inept I was at spannering, and helpfully looked on and laughed. Remember those vultures from the Jungle Book, voiced by the Beatles? Yeah, that was pretty much it.
Anyway, oil change was completed, along with a test lap confirming that I was in fact mechanical Stig, I was set. Thanks in no small part to the incredibly friendly stranger from whom I borrowed the world’s biggest pair of pliers. I never did catch your name, but if by some small chance you’re reading this, thank you so much, you’re a true gent.
By this point, the action was well underway, and Richard’s earlier prediction about the brace of Clios that were present came true. The first car backwards in a plume of its own tyre smoke? You guessed it, a blue Clio who was determined to find the limit by blasting right through it and working back from there. I’ll let you decide if that’s the way to do it or not. I just hope he was wearing his brown trousers that morning.
Then there’s this. Affectionately named the Death Buggy, this monstrosity is 50% MG, 50% building site and 50% sheer terror. Trev, the buggy’s owner, even offered me a drive. I use the term ‘drive’ in its loosest possible form, by the way. Although I did chicken out of passenger laps, mostly because I’m a bit of a pansy, but also because I wasn’t really certain about the thing’s structural integrity…
I couldn’t really tell you what speed I got up to, I was mostly concentrating on not dying. I can, however, tell you that for the first couple of laps my lines were awful, as was my braking and, well, everything. And just as I started to overcome the terror and started to understand the go-kart like nature of the beast… I ran out of fuel. Gutted. Oh, and there’s video too. It’s not fast, it’s not pretty, but it was unbelivable fun.
You’ve got to say though, not only does the event reflect Frank as a person, but the people who attend the event time after time, rain or shine, really do make the difference between the event feeling like ‘just another’ track day, or feeling like a close-knit community who embrace anyone daft enough to ask for a go in their Death Buggy. Or even just rock up for a chat. Everyone’s welcome.
So if you’re looking for a chilled out track day, with a great selection of cars and the best group of people you could ask for, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one. It doesn’t matter if you’re a track day pro, or if it’s your first time out, jump on the Frank’s Charity Track Day Facebook page, have a chat with the people there, and find out what you’ve been missing.