Once again trackday weather forecast was dire, it would be my fourth day in a row of pretty much 100% rain coverage expected during the day
Had a bit of rain on the way up the A1 but it wasn't heavy and there was a fair bit of warm breeze so I had hope that things would dry up quickly if the rain let up. (spoiler alert, it did!). On the drive up I gave myself a good talking to and committed to spending time on the wet track to really start learning the car in those conditions. I typically get really hyper sensitive to any kind of lateral movement in the car and end up driving as if I'm sat on top of the car rather than sitting in it, weird thing to explain - but it basically means I'm terrible when it gets wet.
Sighting laps were indeed wet, but after the third time around a dry line was already appearing. Despite the damp the circuit also seemed pretty grippy, especially 'off line'.
The first proper session was still quite damp, but critically the higher speed section of the 'esses' and barcroft had nice dry patches under the trees, I certainly wasn't fast in this session but I was leaning on the car in the damp bits and getting a feel for it, generally the car had loads of grip and the only time it really got unsettled was on the off-camber turn in point of Tower. Once pushing through the initial understeer on entry the car gripped up nicely and would rotate on demand, this really gave confidence that carried through the day.
I then had to stop channelling my inner Senna as by mid morning the track was completely dry
Just before lunch I had a couple of good sessions, I never felt like I carried enough speed at Croft in the past - it's one of the fastest local circuits around and I would previously fall into the trap of "stop/go" driving it like I was at Blyton for example, but most of the corners are quicker than they look and I started to really enjoy it.
I had my dampers set (from hard) 10 clicks at the front and 8 clicks at the rear, and never really got the feeling I needed to mess around with it once the track dried out. The front was biting nicely (unlike at Blyton) and the car would gently understeer through a corner if getting on the gas too quickly, just enough so that the car goads you on a bit as it feels 'safe', then the back would telegraph rotation through to you well in advance if you have a slight lift at the point you need the thing to turn - really good feeling.
One of the biggest improvements to the car since my last Croft outing was the brakes, even though the RS14s went some way towards spoiling my fun at Blyton due to vibration they came alive here and made the 115-120mph braking zones feel well under control. Barcroft particularly was a bit hairy when I came last year on RS4-2s because you're tempted into taking the corner at the best part of 100mph then you've got to get straightened up and on the anchors really quickly afterwards for Sunny In. With the RS14s it felt like I had all the time in the world to get slowed down, and if anything I was overbraking for it for much of the day.
With similar gains to braking made at the end of the pit straight and on entry to Tower, my peak speeds were 5-10mph up on my previous visits which is quite something.
Towards the end of the day I felt like the car was struggling a little bit on the faster stuff, turning in to the Jim Clark Esses started to feel a bit floaty but I think this was just tyre pressures creeping up. If anything I should have taken some time out here to play with my damper settings a bit - I could have gone much stiffer but as I was having so much fun I didn't want to waste time chasing my tail with settings. In hindsight I should have gone up to 8F/6R at least for one session to see how it felt in the faster stuff - With a few more minerals and a stiffer setup I think taking at least part of the Esses flat is within reach of my car which is pretty terrifying
By far the weakest part of the track for me was the final hairpin for the start/finish straight. Spinning the inside rear was the order of the day and it just pegged me back so far against other cars that I was sharing track with. The V6's seem to have enough traction from the chunky rear tyres to pull away from me here and I followed an LSD furnished Elise for a couple of laps which had a similar advantage. Again I probably could have mitigated this through suspension tweaks, softening up at the rear perhaps but as that may have come at the cost of stability in the faster stuff I was happy to live with it. I used the hairpin as an excuse to have a bit of fun, some nice "one tyre fire" skids through there and an almost-spin mid afternoon allowed me to turn a negative into a bit of fun. On most of my video'd laps it's really messy through here, with a bit of discipline I could do it a bit quicker by just being patient.
During the final session the track suddenly got very moody, black rolling clouds on the horizon and some very keen wind made for a quiet track and some good laps to finish with. The wind was catching the car a fair bit through the Esses which was... fun, but in all the car finished really strong and I went home grinning like an idiot.
I've enjoyed all my visits to Croft circuit, but this was easily the best. I had that great feeling that the car was being pushed but still felt 'safe' all day long, and I've been able to identify many opportunities to go faster here next time I come. If every trackday felt like this I could probably make an attempt to justify how expensive it all is
Can't wait to go back to Croft, shame it seems to be an annual event at best with Lotus on Track -but superb organisation/social distancing etc and great pricing for one of the country's best circuits!
Only got two videos uploaded so far, as a slight negative I did have gopro issues mid afternoon and lost some really good sessions - but hey ho.
Laps with some fellow NYLOC member cars:
Couple of clear laps in the final session: