After substantial preparation for our first paying customers running at the PalmerSport track in Bedford, we were ready for a great day on track. The team was up early and we were on the road in glorious sunshine, at 6am. Never having been to this track before we were a little shocked at being greeted at the entrance by four guys demanding to noise test us before we’d even hit the car park or pit garages. The car was in a closed trailer so we couldn’t just unload in the middle of the road for their noise tests. They told us to drive to the car park (about half a mile from the entrance where they were) unload and warm up the car and then bring it back for testing. It was very strange that they’d posted themselves at the entrance and not at the pit garages – but whatever – we did what we were told! The car was unloaded and the usual sports exhaust was removed and replaced with the quietest exhaust we could have purchased. After being warmed up and sent for testing – all seemed ok. How wrong we were!
Upon getting the car to the pit garages – which was quite a ways from the car park – we were set upon by a senior Marshall who was quite het up about telling us that a Radical had been on track there the week prior and was sent home after only 3 laps due to excessive noise. He almost seemed to want to throw us out before we’d even gone out on track! It was very odd. We were very calm and just politely asked that they ‘work with us’ and communicate so that we all had a good day on track. We also explained that our car was running a 1300cc engine ((not the bigger 1500/1800)) and that we’d put on the quieter exhaust system to comply with their Decibel regulations. We told them that this was our first day with paying customers and we would work with them to do whatever necessary, so as to avoid cancelling their paid for experiences ((and potentially ruining our reputation!))
Our driver Bradley Ellis and the owner of the car, Dave Tilly, then took the car out on track to be noise tested at speed – having already passed the static tests. After about 15 minutes and numerous laps, none of the marshalls seemed to have a problem with us and it was clear that some of the other cars – notably the ‘Clio Crew’ (3 boys and their polished turds) were much noisier than us.
Right then – it was time to put our first paying customer in the car… and off they went. Customer at the wheel and Bradley Ellis giving instruction. The car whispered by as it went down the straight in front of the pit garages. It was a beautiful sight! The customer had been given the experience as his Christmas present and should have been in the car for half an hour non-stop on track. But after only 15 minutes the Marshalls flagged the car in sighting that it had exceeded the noise regulations which were surveiled by various beacons placed around the track. It beggared belief!
The car went off for another static test and passed. But the Marshalls stated that whilst on track the car had gone over by o.8 of a DB. Despite our engineer saying he might be able to work on the exhaust system to make it a little quieter – the Marshalls would have none of it and outright said the car was banned. No chance was given for us to do anything. It was disgraceful – and had our customers not witnessed it, we would have been very red faced indeed. As it turned out they couldn’t believe that one minute it was fine and the next, banned.
Luckily our Driver, Bradley Ellis, had a lovely Ford Focus RS that he was able to bring on track. He kindly took our customers around the Circuit in that to placate them – and gave them a drive they probably wont ever forget. As a little ‘up yours’ to the Marshalls, Bradley did a beautiful long and very loud Drift around the last corner, before the straight, in front of the pit garages. Apparantly there was a Marshall who hastily held up a sign saying ‘No Drifting’ whilst his mouth was agape at what his was witnessing. Bradley gave him a wave, mid Drift and carried on. We were all watching from the Pits in hysterics clapping and cheering. ((oops!)) Shortly after he was black flagged for that session.
Needless to say we will never be using Bedford again – even if we did manage to sort out the noise issues. It was disorganised and not really set up for Trackdays. Whilst we’re not slagging off PalmerSport - it’s a perfect place for their business model. After all it was designed specifically for their business – never for trackdays. But due to the downturn in Corporate bookings they decided to let EasyTrack pimp it out for trackday use. The track layout is unpractical for paying trackday enthusiasts and unsuitable for serious sports cars.
Disappointment aside, we are re-running the day for our customers at Silverstone as soon as we can. Thankfully they were all sympathetic to the situation. Lessons learned!!