Palmer Sport Review

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thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Saturday 24th June 2006
quotequote all
Well, did this yesterday and what an awesome day it was! The weather was glorious and there were some impressive drivers in attendance.

I think my team was fortunate in the running order we got, as it gave us a chance to build up gradually (well as gradually as is possible in the circumstances), saving the mental Palmer Jaguar's and single seater Palmer Audi's until the end. Order of events for us was as follows:

Caterham head to head racing
This one's just for fun while waiting to get on the 4x4's, and doesn't form part of your final score. There are two Caterham's and two identical courses marked out by cones. You go head to head against a member of your team around a pre-defined course, which ends with a donut around a cone and stopping in a 'box' of 4 cones. You have an instructor with you, it's the best of 3 and they have water sprinklers to add to the fun! Like all the cars at Palmer Sport (save the single seaters of course), the Caterhams have dual controls and I felt the instructor was a bit over-judicious in his use of these, which made the car feel as though it was behaving strangely and on my second and third runs I felt this was causing me to spin rather than preventing it!

Caterham head to head course

Nissan Pathfinder 4x4
You go around quite an impressive off road course, and score points by hitting tennis balls mounted around the course with your wing mirrors. There are also tennis balls hanging down at various points, and you have to hit these with a target painted on the windscreen. There is also a section where they have two long telegraph polls laid on the ground parallel to each other and the same distance apart as the tyres on the Pathfinder. You have to try and drive onto them, then drive along them for as far as you can without falling off. You get points depending on how far you get. I didn't think I'd be able to even get on them to start with, but I did and by some miracle managed to negotiate the whole length of them too!

This was the most sedate event of the day and never having driven an offroader before (even on the road), I was suitably impressed with the Pathfinders off road abilities, particularly being able to take your feet off all the pedals and allowing the torque of the engine to pull you up incredibly steep slopes using the torque of the engine at idle!

There are some good pics of the course here although they were using Frontera's not Pathfinder's back then.
Pathfinder in action

Clio Cup Racers
Then it was onto the North Circuit for the Clio Cup Racer's and the Nissan 350Z's. The Clio is a stripped out racing Clio with a 6 speed sequential gearbox for full throttle, clutchless gear changes. The Clio is reasonably quick but not at all breathtaking, but it handles well and has loads of grip. Front wheel drive means no lairy back end action, although the instructor did kindly interject a couple of times with a sneaky pull on the handbrake to get the arse end around. The grip available meant that the Clio hardly understeered at all, which I was surprised by.

Clio Cup interior
Clio Cup in action

Nissan 350Z
These are standard road cars apart from the external sticker-age, so after the rawness and eardrum-threatening noise of the Clio, the first impression on jumping in here is the refinement of the leather upholstery, air con, and so on. The 3.5 litre V6's sound lovely from trackside, but are quite muted and refined from within, which is slightly at odds with the the lairy powerslide heaven available from these cars, which put the finishing touches to chalk and cheese perception of the Clio v 350Z comparison.

I had an absolute hoot in these with the easily controllable oversteer making it feel like a more refined version of my supercharged MX-5. It was also quicker in a straight line that the Clio, although the extra grip and quicker gearchanges of the Clio meant my lap times for the two were almost identical - within 3/10ths of each other.

As the session went on, I found myself grinning to myself at the number of people (lots) who were spinning the Nissans, then towards the end of my session, I got my comeuppance and blotted my copybook slightly by managing a big spin on the fastest corner of the circuit. The instructor reckoned I dabbed the brake as a felt the car getting away from me which caused the spin, but I'm almost certain I didn't. Either way I obviously screwed up, but the instructor was utterly non plussed by it; they're obviously well used to it, and the run off at Bedford is huge, so there's no real danger.

Nissan 350Z

Porsche 911 JP3
Onto the South circuit for the Porsche 911 JP3's, a 320bhp stripped out track-focussed version of the 911. The driving style required for these was quite alien to me, requiring you to lift off/brake for the corner, then once you've turned in, you need to get on the power with commitment and power through and out of the corner. If you do this, the 911 just grips and goes with absolutely no drama (or fun IMO).

Some people were raving about these, but for me these were the biggest dissapointment of the day (which is ironic as come the end of day prizegiving, I was awarded the trophy for being the fastest in the 911 of all 40 participants). Although undoubtedly capable, I felt the Porsche was quite anodyne and lacking in the fun stakes. It also didn't feel quick at all, despite the claimed 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds.

911 JP3 interior
911 JP3's in action

Caterham 7 Superlight
This was more like it! This was by far the best event of the day so far for me and took place on the East Circuit. These Caterham's "only" have a 1.8 litre engine giving 140bhp, but their light weight meant that the acceleration felt brutal, spinning the tyres on upchanges to 2nd *and* 3rd despite the slick tyres. The handling was lairy as hell. This would have been enough, but when combined with a seemingly psychopathic instructor it was a definite recipe for an interesting time!

Tom hails from Cardiff, and normally puts food on the table by racing Forumla Palmer Audi's, but today he was in full on lunatic mode, which suited me (and the car) down to the ground. Tom seemed intent on seeing if I could make the Caterham do the impossible, and then laughed maniacally when I proved I couldn't and we exited the circuit in yet another pirouette. To be fair, he also punched the air and whooped with delight when I nailed a corner or held and recovered from a particularly lairy drift! Tom was so confident in my ability to record a sub 50 second lap (completing a spin-free lap was the main obstacle here!) that I was still lapping on my own when everybody else had finished and were waiting by the minibuses to go to lunch, with Tom shouting excitedly via the intercom "Come on, let's do it! Just another couple of laps".

Despite the slick tyres, perfect conditions and lowly power, I was surprised at the lairyness of the Caterham which seemed to want to oversteer everywhere, ably assisted by an overly sensitive throttle. They were *awesome* fun, though, and I came off the circuit (eventually!) grinning and shaking in equal measure.

Lairy beast

Palmer Jaguar JP1
Onto the West circuit, the longest and quickest circuit of the four for the Palmer Jaguars and the Palmer Audi single seaters. The Kart circuit is also located next to the pitlane, and this proved an amusing distraction prior to the main event, but nothing more.

The pitlane was packed with Palmer Audis and Palmer Jaguars, which looked awesome, but did nothing to quell the inevitable nerves. After a tense wait, I was introduced to my instructor for the Palmer Jaguar who I was soon to discover was on a par in the maniac stakes with Caterham Tom! The first thing he asked me was to see my scorecard, which had a record of my lap times for the previous events, "cos I wanna see how fast you are". I duly handed over my scorecard and he perused it before delivering his verdict. "Awesome", he proclaimed, "you're really quick, we're going to have some fun". "Errm, OK" I replied, failing dismally to hide my brick-shitting nerves.

The JP1 is a 2 seater 3.0 v6 Jaguar powered beast with more than a touch of Le Mans to it's looks. The cockpit is snug and very basic, and you sit hunkered down and low to the ground. The gearbox is a sequential 6 speed number, similar to that found in the Clio Cup racer.

Immediately we got out on the (unfamiliar) West Circuit, the instructor was encouraging me with shouts through the intercom of "Power, power. More power!" and chastising me for lifting off where I didn't need to. He was obviously up for some fun and seemingly placed little value on his own life as he explained to me on more than one corner to ignore the brake board (tells you where to brake for the next corner) and that I could "just lift off and turn in". My face for the first few laps must have been an absolute picture as I was absolutely bricking it as the instructor encouraged me to go quicker than my confidence or knowledge of the circuit suggested I should. However after a couple of laps, I began to get to know the circuit, and to trust both my instructor's instructions and the huge capabilities of the JP1 and I was flying around the circuit at what seemed to me to be an incredible speed. I was soon flying through corners carrying what seemed like impossible speed, which had the instructor punching the air and whooping with delight.

Sadly, it was all over too soon, and as we climbed from the car in the pits and the instructor proclaimed "that was awesome, you've made my day", there was no doubt that the feeling was mutual!

JP1 interior
JP1 exterior
Palmer Audi
So to the final and most nerve wracking event of the day. A single seater that looks for all the world like a bona fide F1 car, no dual controls, nobody to tell you what to do, nobody to bail you out when you screw up, and nobody to hit the brakes when you forget to. It's just you and the beast!

This is the only event that required you to wear a full fire retardant race suit, and the briefing which covers such things as to how to operate the engine bay and cockpit fire extinguisher systems did nothing to quell the tension. All too soon I was inside the almost painfully cramped cockpit, and being instructed to fire up my engine. The moment of reckoning was almost upon me.

The trickiest bit of the whole drive, as it turns out, was getting the damn thing away from a standstill. The clutch bites like a rabid dog and despite holding the engine revs at 4000+ as instructed, and letting the clutch out what seems like a fraction of a millimetre, still the engine duly stalled, although I had succeeded in coaxing the car forward by what must have been almost 12 inches. After another 2 frustrating stalls, I finally got the FPA moving down the pitlane and once onto the circuit I savoured the power and soon got used to the obstructive gearbox which needed a firm hand to shift between cogs.

I started off slowly, but soon picked up from where I left off with the JP1 and was revelling in putting my instructor's advice into practice and putting in what felt like some pretty quick laps. Then disaster! On the fastest part of the circuit (actually only around 110mph, but feels like somewhere in excess of 500mph!) someone span on the right hander I was about to start braking for and I paniced and did precisely the wrong thing and fully stamped on the brake. Since at this point I was still rounding the previous, flat out, left hander, my world is inevitably started spinning around at quite a rate of knots and I was soon travelling sideways across the grass, completely wiping out one of the marker boards in the process. After what seems like several minutes I finally came to a stop about 30 yards from the track, shaken but not stirred. A nearby marshal signaled that I can continue and this time I got the better of the rabid dog clutch and got the FPA moving across the grass and back towards the circuit.

The very Palmer Audi I was soon to be piloting
Palmer Audis
It's me!

Then it was back at the function suite, and Jonathan Palmer had flown in in his helicopter to do the prizegiving. Out of the 40 people taking part, I was staggered to find out that I had won the prize for being fastest in the 911 JP3, and had finished second overall. A happy end to a sensational day!

The event was brilliantly organised and the catering was superb. I felt one or two instructors were a bit too keen in their use of the dual controls, but most were great and really encouraged you to go as fast (or faster!) as you possibly could. There were no silly speed limits or rev limits and they seem to consider spins to be an inevitable part of the fun.

If I had to rate the events in order of preference, overall I'd say:

Palmer Jaguar JP1
Palmer Audi
Caterham 7 superlight
Nissan 350Z
Porsche 911 JP3
Clio Cup Racer
Nissan Pathfinder

Edited by thegreatsoprendo on Saturday 24th June 17:25


Edited by thegreatsoprendo on Saturday 24th June 17:27

djmotorsport

471 posts

177 months

Saturday 24th June 2006
quotequote all
This thread is useless without times!

I'm surprised by your comments about the 911 - I found it to be very rewarding and quick to drive, even on a slightly damp circuit.


Edited by djmotorsport on Saturday 24th June 17:50

thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Saturday 24th June 2006
quotequote all
No problem. I'm sure they're not as good as some, but not too bad for a novice:

Palmer Jaguar JP1 80.82
Caterham 7 superlight 50.76
Nissan 350Z 39.61
Porsche 911 JP3 73.75
Clio Cup Racer 39.30
Nissan Pathfinder 42 points

No time given for the Palmer Audi, but I thought my data trace looked pretty good when plotted against the racing drivers.

As for the Porsche, I think it's an extremely capable machine, but just lacking in sparkle and excitement to me. I expected it to feel faster than it did too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but I enjoyed a few others a lot more. Perhaps my expectations were too high after all these years of subscribing to Evo...

djmotorsport

471 posts

177 months

Saturday 24th June 2006
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Oh - Another Evo subscriber :-) Know exactly what you mean! I expected the 996 to understeer and then go to snap oversteer, but I guess the Palmersport changes to the suspension have got that sorted - I just found it really rewarding - I now understand why folk spend their hard earned on one. Some good times there, and looks like you had a great day.

thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Sunday 25th June 2006
quotequote all
Forgot to add, I did a 78 point something lap in the Palmer Jaguar, but the instructor disallowed it because he said I cut the chicane "too much". Apparently you're allowed to cut it a bit, but not too much, although they don't tell you what too much is...
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tvrforever

3,161 posts

199 months

Sunday 25th June 2006
quotequote all
thegreatsoprendo said:
No time given for the Palmer Audi, but I thought my data trace looked pretty good when plotted against the racing drivers.


The time is on the bottom left of the data trace page, there is your time for your best lap and JW's time for a good lap...

thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Monday 26th June 2006
quotequote all
tvrforever said:

The time is on the bottom left of the data trace page, there is your time for your best lap and JW's time for a good lap...

So it is: 1:19.27. Quicker than my best Palmer Jaguar time even though I was taking it easier in the single seater than I was in the Jag...

Who's JW, by the way?

toltec

5,479 posts

157 months

Monday 26th June 2006
quotequote all
Great review.

Does anybody know how much this costs on one of the non-corporate days?
Or it a case of, "if you have to ask..."?

thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Monday 26th June 2006
quotequote all
toltec said:
Great review.

Does anybody know how much this costs on one of the non-corporate days?
Or it a case of, "if you have to ask..."?

I think you got it right the 2nd time...

I think it's probably the best part of a grand, but I don't know for sure. Here are the contact details if you really want to find out:

info@palmersport.com
www.palmersport.com
01403 733 999

J.T.

294 posts

174 months

Monday 26th June 2006
quotequote all
toltec said:
Great review.

Does anybody know how much this costs on one of the non-corporate days?
Or it a case of, "if you have to ask..."?


It's £795 inc VAT & all the extra damage waivers - I've been lucky enough to have been a couple of times with clients and I took a couple of mates last year. I've had a brilliant time on each occasion and they are v clever at continually refining/improving the activities.

In my opinion it's he best value driving day purely due to the instructors attitudes - I'll never forget the 1st time I got into the Clio and the instructor asked if I'd ever stolen a car - of course not I replied - well drive this one like you've just nicked it he says and we were off - outstanding fun!

I'm going again next week with 9 other friends so am expecting mucho comedy when the competiive juices start flowing!

JT

BrianJ

256 posts

176 months

Monday 26th June 2006
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JW = Justin Wilson

thegreatsoprendo

Original Poster:

4,891 posts

183 months

Monday 26th June 2006
quotequote all
J.T. said:

I'm going again next week with 9 other friends so am expecting mucho comedy when the competiive juices start flowing!

JT

Must... hold... back... jealousy...

Do let me know if you have any places going free, won't you?

powelly

484 posts

216 months

Monday 26th June 2006
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I've been lucky, had 4 days there in the past 6 years.. awesome day, highlights for me: Clio Cup; Palmer Audi in the rain; JP1..... all depends on the instructor.. I had some mad little italian (i think) guy in the clio... kept screaming at me gas-gas-gas!!!! dunno but it worked!! You can get last minute places I think slightly cheaper.. but only maybe 10% off..

toltec

5,479 posts

157 months

Tuesday 27th June 2006
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Somehow I thought it would be "Ah that much", suppose I could sell the wifes car.

I think I had better review some of the suppliers - I have have had Silverstone GP & F3 freebies before but gimme a PMD and the contract is yours.

Not that I take bribes of course

francisb

15,168 posts

197 months

Tuesday 27th June 2006
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awesome. just been invited to go on monday

custardkid

2,224 posts

158 months

Wednesday 28th June 2006
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Brilliant review,

i was also there on friday but only managed 9th, which wasn't bad for a trackday virgin. even picked up the trophie for the fastest lap in the 350z (guess cos its the only standard road car!)
best bits:

JP1 - insanely quick, it even tries to rip your lid off at speed! perhaps a bit too edgy on tyres that has been smoked all day long, didn't stop the instructor ordering "keep it flat" on the neverending sweepers of the west circuit which half the time ended up in a spin

formula audi - the sensation of looking for the brake board only for some one in front to lock-up, leaving me my own little cloud guessing where the corner is!

Caterhams - makes you feel like a hero, driving it on the limit, 150bhp is enough on the small circuit. ultimately the most rewarding as its slow enough for you to feel your self improve, with out being out classed by the cars grip and ability in the 20min session

350z - hooligan, so forgiving and easy to get extream slip angles on the hairpin... just keep the throttle down and wind on more lock. so much better than it is on the road


biggest disappointment:
911 jp3 - after reading about 911s for years and being the car i was most looking forward to it disappointed. it didn't like being thrrown about and rewarded a smooth comitted driver, i didn't manage to find this in the session. also didn't like the lethargic paddle shift box. i managed to save it in the hair pin, apparently very dramatic as it was in front of the pits, many others took lengthy trips into the fields! perhaps i would of got more out of the car after a couple of hours with it. (still a fantastic experiance tho)



overall an amazing day. your given the opertunity to drive hard in a set of completely different cars with great instructors that make you push your self

sell your gran to get on a day!

custard

francisb

15,168 posts

197 months

Thursday 29th June 2006
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custardkid said:

i was also there on friday but only managed 9th,


i won last time without actually winning any individual event. pi55ed off the team from williams no end haha. im going with a load of people from work and customers, ahem, so no pressure there then! its going to be silly competetive.

BARRISIMO

70 posts

170 months

Tuesday 4th July 2006
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Agree with others experience this is a truly fantastic day and the best track day experience I have had. I enjoyed all the cars when I did it back in May and loved the fact that you could really push the cars to the extent that we were being told if you don't spin you are not pushing hard enough. All the instructors were good with a couple of them fantastic. I had a complete mad man in the Palmer Jaguar JP1 who managed to get me to do a 76.85 and the track was still drying. At one point I spun and caught it and carried on this appeared to please the instructor more than anything - a complete mad man!! I think when you consider the amount of driving you get the number of different cars and the level of instructing it is good value for money. I would recommend it to anyone.

jwyatt

569 posts

155 months

Wednesday 5th July 2006
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Great review! I'd love to do a day there, the more so now I don't have a track car

Jack Blag

941 posts

147 months

Wednesday 5th July 2006
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I went a few years ago (Caterham, Clio Cup, Exige, VX220, Prokarts, Evo VI, FPA, FPA passenger "change of pants" ride and ...Frontera) It was a great day! I came 2nd overall (just as my wife prefers it). If anyone has still got their kart lap time (while they were waiting for the FPA) I did a 24.63secs!