Mingling with MINIs at Mosport
A day at the track is probably one of my favourite types of days at the "office." A day like this is usually significantly enhanced by some over-the-top fun vehicles to drive, and the company of my colleagues.
The vehicles available at a recent event I attended at the Driver Development Track (DDT) at Mosport just happened to be MINI Cooper John Cooper Works (JCW) cars. And they are a hoot to be behind the wheel of.
There are currently 5 JCW MINI models on the market. There's the original hatchback, the Clubman (with three doors), the convertible, and the recently launched coupe and roadster. Each of these JCW models has 208 horsepower under the hood and a 6-speed manual transmission. They feel like little go-karts taking on the turns, with the added benefit of airbags and traction control.
All of that is definitely a recipe for a good time.
I don't think I could ever tire of being on a closed circuit with professional instructors. Why? Because there is always something to learn. Regardless of how many -- or few -- times I get to go around, there are techniques to be built upon and skills to hone. Think about any kind of racing: Drivers never feel like they've taken enough laps or feel they could have done even better if they just had some more time or set up the corner a little more efficiently.
That's the beauty of the track: It's a closed course, and a controlled environment. If you screw up (knock on wood), you'll usually be in far less trouble than out on the open road. There's no oncoming traffic, nor are there pedestrians. While I know some women are apprehensive to participate in a track day, I assure you it's not as scary as you think.
There can be a slight intimidation factor, especially if you're a first-timer, but keep in mind that everyone is there to learn. Furthermore, a good track day with a good instructor will give you lots of guidance and help you feel at ease -- or at least you should try to feel at ease! Speeds generally increase throughout the day, not because instructors want to push and push, but because you will feel more comfortable and willing to take a little more risk as the day progresses.
Trust me, it's an amazing feeling when you have a great lap and say to yourself: "Wow! I just did that? That's pretty awesome."
Another component to track days, other than great cars, is the company.
A good friend of mine, Brian Makse, is a championship-winning racer. He's also an auto journalist and we like to pair up when we're on these kinds of events. When I'm not concentrating on the proper line I'm supposed to take, we're laughing our heads off or making silly jokes. On press events, we are always partnered up; that's why there are two people in a car. Safety in numbers, right?!
Learning is supposed to be fun, and it is. That further adds to the dynamic of a track day.