"The thing you need to remember about the tyres," says Caterham's motorsport manager, Simon Lambert, just before we fire up the Caterham Seven Academy car, "is that I think they were last used as standard on a 1.4-litre Renault Clio". Right. Possibly not the best tyre for a cold, damp November track day at Oulton Park, then.
Peering at the writing on the sidewalls of the Avon Envoys I can make out the word 'economy'. These are not going to be the most grippy of tyres. "They'll last you a season," says Simon, "and everybody else on the Academy grid is stuck with them too".
I'm at Oulton for my first go in Caterham's entry-level racer before lining up on the grid as part of the 2010 PistonHeads.com Caterham Academy, and my fellow trackgoers are not Academy road cars. They're rather a mixed bag, actually. There's a pair of wings-and-slicks Ginetta G50 racers, a gaggle of hot hatches, a few Evobarus and a host of Caterhams, ranging from Roadsports to R500s. And all of them have stickier rubber than me. Gulp.
The wobbly start to the day has made me a little cautious and I'm nervous at first of going beyond the car's modest limits of adhesion. As a result the Seven, with its rollerskate tyres and relatively lowly 125bhp 1.6-litre powerplant, is swallowed up by almost everything else out on the track.
It is an almost inexcusable cliché to describe a Caterham as handling like a go-kart, but I dabbled in the karting arts as a teenager and, once you begin to trust it, the Caterham Academy car does feel a little like a racing kart. The direct steering and back end that often actually rewards a tail slide, in particular, lend it a certain air of kartiness.
Having satisfied himself that I'm not going to turn the car into a lump of scrap metal, Simon points us back into the pits, where he hops out and, after a few words of advice along the rough lines of 'be brave and try to brake later and harder, you wuss' sends me out again, this time on my own.
I come back in to the pits unable to wipe the grin from my face. The track has been slowly drying out as I've been careering around Oulton, with even a dry line emerging on some corners. The result has been a treacherous but thoroughly enjoyable session, with the circuit changing on every lap.
At the end of it, I've been through everything from the satisfaction of a bang-on line, to the terror of alternating understeer and oversteer through the still oh-so-slippy Druids, to almost reaching the lock stops after choosing an over-ambitious entry speed for the sweeping downhill left-hander of Cascades (see pic below right). And when I come in, the tyres are still cool to the touch - you certainly can't fault their longevity.
By the time the sun begins to dip over the Cheshire horizon a dry line is once again appearing, so I ask Simon if he wouldn't mind passengering me for a few laps. He agrees to get in, which is a good start at least. I'm still braking too early, and still following the 'trackday line' - wandering into corners rather than making a positive turn - but apparently I'm 'getting the idea'.
For the last few laps of the day I get back behind the wheel and try out some of Simon's more aggressive lines. It immediately feels quicker, but before I can get used to this new tactic the chequered flag waves and the session is over.
The Friday night traffic on the M6 as I head back south is stifling - I want to be out on track again flinging the little Caterham around. But I shall have to wait until January before my own Academy car is ready, and even longer before I can get it on track. Believe me, that day really can't come soon enough.