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Thread: Caterham 620R in Portugal and Spain - Bookatrack Iberia 2017

  1. #1
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    Default Caterham 620R in Portugal and Spain - Bookatrack Iberia 2017

    Continuing on my series of exploring tracks of the world driving a Caterham, this month saw me in Portugal and Spain enjoying Bookatrack Iberia 2017.


    A nicely paced week of starting in Lisbon to drive the Estoril Circuit followed by a 3 hour drive south to the Algarve region of Portugal to try out the Portimao Circuit. Then it was another 3 hour drive south east to Jerez in Spain for the Jerez Circuit.

    This trip I rented a Caterham 620R SV. 310hp Rotrex supercharged Duratec with the Sadev 6 speed sequential. Here is the trusty beastie:





    Bookatrack makes an annual Europe trip. 2015 for me was France. 2016 was Eastern Europe. Next year maybe Italy if the dates work? They run the best track days of any operator. Disciplined while still allowing a level of flow. All passing is on the left with point by. Passing in corner is acceptable by consent (i.e. point by).


    There are a range of cars on this trip – probably 50% Caterhams, quite a few Porkers, Eliges, and Evora plus this trip a couple of Audi R8s and a couple of RX8s. All have driven track days before even if they have never driven the circuits we are visiting on this trip.


    The accommodation package is an optional add on but worth it. Quality hotels in prime locations. A group dinner drink night at the beginning and end are included. This helps you meet people and makes the whole trip very social. In the evening after a hard days driving you could always enjoy a drink on the hotel terrace with members of the group before migrating into dinner.




    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:24 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  2. #2
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    Estoril Circuit is in the outer suburbs of north west of Lisbon near the seaside resort town of Cascais. It was the home of the Portuguese Formula Grand Prix from 1984 to 1995.



    It’s a fairly free-flowing circuit although the track map makes clear that various kinks and chicanes were added over time to slow the F1 cars down for safety.



    Its setting is in a valley bowl which allows plenty of elevation change. Here is looking towards the mountains where Sintra is located:



    The downside of those mountains is the wind. The day I was there it was howling through. The car was quite active in being blown around down the main straight at high speed.
    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:26 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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    Here is one of the slow down measures implements – a Z turn, which was so tight as to be absurd. But it worked – I was slow there.





    The 620R was fast, as you would expect. Plenty of grip from the 13 inch Avon ZZRs although it was very easy to break the tires loose coming out of the corners. The torque effect on the wheels as the supercharger spools up did not assist the task of minimizing wheel spin while trying to put the power down.

    The Sadev sequential is pretty easy to use. Lift the lockout ring on the gear stick and pop back to get into first. Let go the clutch and you are away. Then just hammer it up the revs and drag the gear lever back for next gear and on you go. Going down is just the reverse – pop the lever forward. No clutch needed. The electronic gubbins cut the revs and allow the next gear to slot home. The only downside was the race clutch. On/Off in nature it was difficult to get away smoothly. I solved the problem by just getting 4000rpm and just dropping the clutch.





    Here is some video of an afternoon session to give you a taste of what the circuit is like. The sound is just as it was – supercharger whine and all.


    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:29 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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    And it was during my day at Estoril that I discovered an unfortunate side effect of a Caterham 620R….heat. The chassis tubes transfer so much heat that my racing boot heels started to melt. Breaking out the trusty duct tape worked on a session-by-session basis but you had to keep reapplying as it melted each 30-40 min session. At Jerez where it was a stinking hot day – call it close 100 degrees F – then even the ball of the foot sole area started to melt. Trust me you feel it on the soles of your feet





    Then it was off to Portimao in the Algarve region of Portugal.

    I picked up my trusty rental from ‘Uranus Hertz’ for this trip and this time it was a beast…worth killing. It had a 1 point something 4-cylinder piece of shit engine. Six speed gearbox – I am sure they were labeled slow, slower, quite slow, really slow, effing slow… It had 7 seats but I doubt the engine could have got it rolling with 7 average people inside.

    But…somehow…I managed to see [censored]kmh on a downhill motorway stretch in some country with the engine ferrets screaming their lungs out with my foot mashed through the firewall and out by a headlight. So technically it was not slow but it took several hours to build up to that speed.

    Portimao Circuit was built in 2008 for nearly US$250 million and it shows. The circuit is impressive. Big money has clearly been spent even since then. Big grandstands. Impressive viewing areas. Decorative ponds outside the cafeteria. There were even sensors under the curbing to monitor when you exceeded track limits and crossed onto the curbs – something I am badly guilty on all tracks (as the video shows).



    The track is used for Superbikes. It has hosted Le Mans cars and a test session for Formula 1.




    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:33 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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    The track map really does not reveal the essence of this circuit – it has elevation.



    Its very old school in feel – blind corners, rollercoaster nature, very fast and unforgiving. It is an intimidating track – one of my top 2 challenge tracks. There are corners where you are committing to corners without knowing what’s in front of you and without being able to actually see the apex or track out. It requires big balls for bravery in key corners and a lot of active thinking to avoid the mind games the circuit plays on it. This is one of the great new circuits of recent times. This is one circuit I need to go back to.






    The elevation change is the key to Portimao. The video flattens out the true elevation feel but look at the altimeter height changes to get a sense of how quickly you are changing elevation. High speed understeer was a real issue on many corners. The last corner coming onto the straight was particularly bad as you popped over a “ledge” the car dropped and the front just scrubbed away from you. You had to ride through it until the grip returned then you could apply power otherwise you just understeer off into the gravel if you apply power too early. It was one hell of a ballsy corner.

    Apologies in advance of this video. The GoPro audio adapter for the external mic broke and so sound comes and goes with static crackles in between.

    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:34 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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    So then it was on to the last circuit – Jerez in Spain. Built in the mid-1980s it has hosted the Spanish Grand Prix in the 1990s plus host to touring cars, Le Mans prototypes and MotoGP.



    This is an unusual circuit. Not as much elevation change as Estoril or Portimao. Its specialty is head games – the corners trick you visually so that you need to be on your game. I thought it was ok but it was the third best of three superb circuits this trip.



    It was a stinking hot day. I went through 8 liters of water while at the track and needed more to properly rehydrate. This was the circuit where I started melting the shoe soles over the ball of my feet.

    The tires were all slimy too – I had to be extra careful given the grip was compromised.



    Now there are some very fast drivers on Bookatrack track days but their ‘gung-ho’ style often comes back to haunt them with unfortunate incidents. Jerez brought out the worst of these.

    So Hotshot Shane is coming up behind me rapidly. I am on my first lap out for the session and I see him coming. I was timing to let him past next corner however I never had too. The video shows what happens if you go into a fast sweeper too fast.

    1. The rear steps out
    2. Our erstwhile driver counter steers to offset the rear
    3. He comes off the power to get the car rear end back under control
    4. Weight transfers to the front very very quickly
    5. Weight applied onto front tires with a ton of lock applied suddenly grip and the car shears in the direction you are trying to avoid going
    6. It’s all over very quickly.

    But in many European circuits you have gravel traps to slow you down. These are not good as you get bogged down and have to be towed out. Gravel can get into belts and dislodge them or truly upset the timing creating a very expensive engine problem. More concerning, if you go into a gravel trap spinning then a wheel or two can dig in and you are rolling at that point.

    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:36 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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    The video has second class sound thanks to me having to bodge a microphone and mix it in separately as a result of my equipment breakage in Portimao. Still it gives you an idea of the circuit.




    So who is joining me next year? Next years schedule is not on the Bookatrack website yet but there is hope that the dates will work for Italy as they plan next years events.
    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:37 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  8. #8
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    Great stuff Croc! Its pretty toasty when the heat melts your shoes! How does the 620R compare to your high hp CSR? The speed jumps between 30-90 mph seemed instantaneous! What a beast. But it sounds like you expended much concentration on when and how rapidly to apply power, rather than on the fun of just wringing the car out and flinging it around, lke you can with a lower hp Caterham.
    Kitcat:AKA, Sir Spinsalot
    '97 Caterham Super Sprint, 1700 Crossflow-sold
    '09 Birkin S3, Duratec-sold
    '03 Caterham Zetec track car
    '19 Honda Type R, sold
    '19 Miata Clubsport

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    Terrific write-up Croc. Thanks for sharing with the group. This looks like a vacation made in heaven. yes, curious to hear more about how the 620R handled compared to your CSR. When Simon tried Matt's car at our NJMP event, i remember him mentioning how difficult it was to get rear end grip.. unsure if it was only because of the torque or because of suspension setup.

    Italy next year you say? Could be quite a bit of fun.. I'd love to learn more about logistics, cost etc

    Talk soon
    Caterham R400 TBs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitcat View Post
    How does the 620R compare to your high hp CSR? The speed jumps between 30-90 mph seemed instantaneous!
    Its a very different engine feel to the 2.3L Cosworth. My CSR builds up speed through torque quite progressively. Its impressive but the 620R with its supercharger really takes it to another level. It just spools up so much quicker - nothing low down like the 2.3L engine. I suspect some of that acceleration comes through the sequential gearbox too.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kitcat View Post
    But it sounds like you expended much concentration on when and how rapidly to apply power, rather than on the fun of just wringing the car out and flinging it around, lke you can with a lower hp Caterham.
    Hi Mike - You have to be careful. There are lots of examples on the videos of me coming out of a corner, applying power and then when the supercharger spools in having to catch it with opposite lock. Throttle modulation of the power effects is critical to be smooth and fast. I got the hang of it and enjoyed it but it is a different style of driving to the CSR where i have a better grip across the rear tires and less issue with it breaking loose. Both are fun in their way. I would say the 620R is the purist choice because its more frisky beyond 9/10ths than the CSR.


    Quote Originally Posted by SK400 View Post
    ...curious to hear more about how the 620R handled compared to your CSR. When Simon tried Matt's car at our NJMP event, i remember him mentioning how difficult it was to get rear end grip.. unsure if it was only because of the torque or because of suspension setup.
    Hi Seb - Matt should probably chime in here but as I heard it on the day, his car had a suspension set up issue which he only discovered after being able to get other owner inputs at the Sevens event. He inherited that from the dealer he bought it from. It was locked down hard which means any bump is going to skitter the tires and make it more likely to break rear end grip under power application. Bulk power and a supercharger just makes that worse. My CSR is at the other end of the spectrum with a quite soft long travel suspension which is alarming to look at in photos but when driving inspires confidence and trust pretty quickly. The 620R is set up somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum - just like any other de Dion Caterham I have driven is like - slightly soft bias, good ride, quite compliant. The Bookatrack team sell and maintain Caterhams - they know how to set them up very well. I have never driven a bad car of theirs. My personal view is that a Caterham responds best to a softer suspension set up as it accentuates the weight transfer in a lighter car making it more nimble and maximizing grip at the same time.

    Quote Originally Posted by SK400 View Post
    Italy next year you say? Could be quite a bit of fun.. I'd love to learn more about logistics, cost etc
    Getting the turd on the table out of the way first - its not cheap but for me I want to drive the race tracks of Europe. You have to hire a race car that is fully maintained with fuel, consumables, etc. You bend it you pay to fix it. So I drive with a reasonable safety margin. You have accommodation costs plus food/drinks. You can organize your own accommodation but I prefer the offered package since it makes it really social to all being at the same hotel and regrouping in the evenings. You are flying in to Europe to join this. I had a one way rental car this year - Lisbon to Malaga so that was expensive in one way service fee. I refuse to add up the total cost as man math does not work that way!

    Each trip is organized differently so you will just need for it to be announced in early 2018, get the details and sign up early. Rental Caterhams go quickly. Your driving has to be good standard and respectful of other drivers ontrack - drive like a dick and you will be kicked out (so no dive bombing slower cars....)

    Jonny at Bookatrack has dreams of doing a US West coast trip for the company anniversary in 2022 - Laguna Seca, Sonoma, and one other to be determined. He came close to doing it once before but the 92db limit at Laguna Seca caused issues. I suspect he will have to modify the standard Donington muffler set up (two mufflers - one on the side and a second under the fuel tank at rear) to get it consistently down to 92db. Too many cars out there were louder than that, including my 620R rental.
    Last edited by Croc; 09-20-2017 at 11:20 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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