Tuesday 3 May 2016

Folembray - A Cracking Trip

Way back in 2014 (during the build), I was aiming to get away on a weekend tour of France with a track day at Folembray included.  Due to various reasons, the car wasn't ready, so I missed out. 

I made up for it last year, and really enjoyed myself... The trip was organised again for this year, but as I'm not on Facebook I didn't really get the heads up until Arnie contacted me to see why I wasn't going.

I naturally booked up as soon as I could... The only thing was my usual blatting buddies (Andy, Tom, Steve, and Alex) couldn't make it, so I was going on my own... that was until I contacted James Malley, (who lives just around the corner) who jumped at the chance to come along for the ride.

We made our arrangements, (I bought a boot bag from Soft Bits for Sevens for obvious reasons) and we agreed on a 6am pickup time...  With rain forecast, there were the usual frantic hourly online weather checks performed, but however many times I checked - it was looking ominously wet, torrential rain in fact, but I decided to throw caution to the wind, so off we went.

-1c, 6am, no windscreen and a long way to go - at times like this I'm happy to have a heater in my R500
-1c, 6am, no windscreen and a long way to go - at times like this I'm happy to have a heater in my R500
After a slow-ish drive to our first meeting point (Maidstone services on the M20), we were the first to arrive, so took the opportunity to go inside, warm up, grab a coffee and waited for the rest of the guys to turn up.  About half of the attendees of the trip met up at the services - quite a few faces from last year, and a few new faces too... 
A few Sevens meeting up at the Maidstone services on the M20, ready for a few days of blatting and track action!
A few Sevens meeting up at the Maidstone services on the M20, ready for a few days of blatting and track action!
A fun thirty minutes on the motorway later, and we met up with the rest of the guys at the Eurotunnel car park - Sevens as far as the eye car see (well nearly!)
Sevens as far as the eye car see (well nearly!) at the Eurotunnel car park
Sevens as far as the eye car see (well nearly!) at the Eurotunnel car park
Our timing was good, so we didn't have to hang around for too long and swiftly boarded the Eurotunnel for the short trip to France.
On the Eurotunnel
On the Eurotunnel
Having 'landed' in Calais, we had a little blat to get to our Lunch destination - La Fregate and with all the Sevens parked up nicely it was a great opportunity to get the drone out!

After lunch we went for the main blat, about three and a half hours over some great French roads, and at a decent pace too.  Not too fast this time, as I didn't want to get another speeding ticket!

We arrived in St Quentin around 16:30, found the hotel (Hotel Memorial), parked up, checked in, had a quick shower and it was off for a beer and a bite to eat.  Dinner was at Le Grand Cafe de la Universe in the Central Square of St Quentin.
A few quiet pre-dinner beers on Thursday night with the James, Ed, Mike and John
A few quiet pre-dinner beers on Thursday night with the James, Ed, Mike and John
Woke up early, and full of excitement on Friday morning... The drive to the circuit was a touch longer than I remembered (over half an hour) and the weather was looking great, but the Forecast said torrential rain in a few hours...  The organisers were well aware of the looming weather, so opened the circuit slightly earlier than the 10am time, and we got underway... 

The morning session was (for me) about getting in as many laps as possible before it rained, so there were plenty of passenger rides, and a few quicker laps on my own too.  We stopped for lunch and it was still dry, but the skies were getting darker...

With the two-foot-long ham and cheese baguette fleeced, it was time to try and get a quick lap... At every track day it's usually a case of starting from a base road setup, and slowly dialling in the settings until the end of the day where the fastest times usually come... My final settings (before the rain set in) were:-
  • Front ZZR tyres at 17psi (warm)
  • Front Nitron (one-way) shocks on eight clicks from softest
  • Rear ZZR tyres at 20psi (warm)
  • Rear Nitron (one-way) shocks on fourteen clicks from softest
  • Rear ARB one from front
With big rain storms forecast and the skies looking greyer every minute, I noticed there were a few rain spots appearing on my visor during this three lap stint, so it was time to put the pedal to the metal and try and get a quick lap in:- 

54:667 LAP
The third lap in the video above was a 54:667 and you can see from my glance at the lap timer that I was dissapointed (figuratively speaking) as according to the fastest laps website the unofficial circuit record is 54:390 set in a Ferrari 458.  Here is the 54:667 lap:-

Having lapped around 2 seconds faster than I did last year, I will put it down to a few things in order:-
Not content with the above, I've decided to put together a 'last year vs this year' fastest lap video to see where the differences are made up:-

And that was the track day over...
Crossing the finish line at Folembray - cheers for the pic JV!
Crossing the finish line at Folembray - cheers for the pic JV!
Dinner was at L'Edito also in the Central Square of St Quentin and next door to last nights restaurant...  We met around 6pm, discussed plenty of potential car upgrades, blats and had a few beers.  Dinner consisted of Beef Fajitas (I seem to remember them being better last year) and a couple more pints. 

After a few beers it was always going to seem like a good idea to move onto 'something stronger' JV suggested the best cocktail in world was a margarita so we ordered 'a few' which were actually pretty strong... About half an hour later someone came to grab a shot of us drinking margaritas, and I thought it was a brilliant idea to do the good old 'finger willy tongue out' pose!
Obviously someone had one too many of those 'things' on the right of the picture!
Obviously someone had one too many of those 'things' on the right of the picture!
With a bit of a thick head from the night before, and thinking 'I hope I didn't do the finger willy thing (but vaguely remember doing it)... However... I'm not on Facebook, so no-one would post it, even if I did...' Anyway, they did - see above!  It was time to leave the hotel and head back home.  Another drone moment, but this time - for a still of the group.
The 'No Trailer Trash Weekend' Folembray 2016 attendees
The 'No Trailer Trash Weekend' Folembray 2016 attendees
With the goodbyes out of the way it was time to head home...  We (James and I) decided to head directly back as I had a karting race the next day, and James had a family event to attend on the Saturday night - so the quickest way back to the UK was a fairly dull slog up the French toll roads for about two hours... 

About one and a half hours into the drive back, the fuel light came on (which is a 10 litre warning) and with only around 50k to go, I quickly done the maths and worked out that I'd have just enough fuel to be able to push on and fill up in Calais.  

The fuel was very close to running out, having practically arrived at a petrol station near Calais on fumes (my readout was alternating from 1L to 0L left)... I filled up, went to pay and then heard a LOUD BANG - I turned around to see James talking to a short, 'less than athletic' Romanian courier driver who managed to crash into my stationary car!
A short 'less than athletic' Romanian courier driver managed to crash into my stationary car!
A short 'less than athletic' Romanian courier driver managed to crash into my stationary car!

Considering how terrible our communication was (I didn't speak Romanian and he claimed not to speak any English) I gathered he was trying to suggest he didn't see the car, so we exchanged contact details, I checked over the car and the only real damage I could see was the front cycle wing was utterly destroyed.  

Cracked and destroyed front carbon cycle wing on my Caterham R500 :-(
Cracked and destroyed front carbon cycle wing on my Caterham R500 :-(
Upon closer inspection the cycle wing stay was pushed into the tyre meaning the tyre wouldn't rotate.  Luckily there was a workshop attached to the garage and in my greatest impression of an English person who can't speak French, trying to speak French; I shouted, pointed and made hand gestures until he understood I was after a crow bar.  

With quite a lot of force I managed to prise the cycle wing stay away from the tyre enough so we could get going again-phew... On the short drive to the Eurotunnel I worked out my options, and thought:-
  1. I don't stand a chance of getting the money off that Romanian bloke
  2. It'll cost me heaps more in insurance premiums if I do start a claim
  3. I may as well take it in the a$$ like a good ol' stiff-upper-lipped british chap and pay for it myself.
So I checked on Caterham Parts site, and freaked!  £286 for a carbon cycle wing, plus £14 delivery!  OUCH! for me, and the courier driver got away scott free. Very irritating - I should've just asked him for the money there and then, but I couldn't be sure there wasn't any chassis damage until I got home.

I've now checked the chassis, and thankfully there are no signs of damage - whilst driving it didn't feel like there was damage, and luckily I usually park my Seven (in petrol stations when filling up) out of gear with the handbrake off - no idea why I do that (until now), as I don't do it any of my other cars...  I'm guessing it was just the impact that shattered the wing, and any real damage was negated by the car being able to roll forward.

So now, that's two accidents in my car - BOTH by other drivers crashing into my wings, leaving me to sort it out. Nice.

With all the excitement slightly jading my memory - I tried to keep an note of the costs on this trip, just so I know for future, and this is (roughly) what I spent:-
  • Return Eurotunnel Fare - £132
  • Hotel - £104
  • Petrol - £150
  • Track Day - £55
  • Tolls (Dartford and French tolls) - £15
  • Food and Drink - £100
  • Beers / Margaritas - £150
  • New car Cover (one-off cost) - £50
  • Soft Bits for Sevens Boot Bag (one-off cost) - £187
  • New Carbon front cycle wing (one-off cost) - £300 inc shipping!!!
  • Total Cost approx this year (excluding one-off costs) - £700
Yes and no... It's not leaked at the tail of the gearbox, but it is quite thick and gunky there, and there is some clear fluid underneath the gearbox towards the front... I'm hoping this is just perhaps overfilling, expansion due to temperature or something else, but I'll keep a very close eye on it.

Yes, tomorrow - it was a 'cracking' trip!  Joking aside, it was an awesome weekend.


  1. ha , ha , ha te Englezul prostesc cu masina sport sclipitor, cum îți place aripa ta acum .... Am plecat să mănânc plăcinte franceze și vin în partea din spate a van meu alb .

    1. Cheers Jon and for those of you who much like myself don't speak French, the translation is:-
      "ha , ha , ha 're stupid Englishman with flashy sports car , you like your wing now .... I went to eat pies and French wine in the back of my white van ."

  2. Hi Daniel,

    Cracking read that!!

    I've been following your quite brilliant blog and 'video diary' for a long while now and finally picked up a mint, low mileage R500 D (manual) this week, after a year of looking for the right car!

    Whilst I don't plan on doing much in terms of modification, (suffered enough 'upgradeitus' during Wesfield ownership), I have bought a cat-bypass pipe and new damper / springs set up (to replace the stock Bilsteins) and will be heading off to Track and Road for a mapping session at the end of May (for peace of mind) and then to PGM for a flat floor set up and full alignment for road and track-day use.

    However I have a few questions.

    I am worried at exceeding track noise limits, more drive-by than anything else. (Bedford?) Car has the Caterham track day silencer and Caterham Race carbon air box but I've ordered the quieter fully enclosed air box / filter just in case it's required albeit I don't necessarily like the way it would effectively draw hot air in from the engine bay. (At least not without a mod) I see you have used one? How did you find it in terms of noise reduction and impact on performance. Would be good to know as it'll be a mapping consideration for Steve at T&R as my preference will be to map the car with the Race airbox on.

    Have you extended your gear lever to stand more proud of the tunnel. It's early days I admit but I do find the gear knob very snug to the top of the tunnel and I'm worried that I'll miss a gear or select the wrong one in the heat of battle. It may just be a case of moving it up the shaft (if there's enough to play with) and tightening the grub screw but I haven't looked to be honest! :)

    Finally, do you run the standard brake master cylinder or did you upgrade to the AP Race version with a dash mounted adjuster? I've heard that the stock set up is pretty good so don't want to upgrade if pedal feel and application is good anyway but I'll find that out for myself in due course. Would also be interested to know what brake pads you upgraded to.

    My apologies for the questions!

    Keep up the good work. I'm off to have another watch of those Folembray videos!



    1. Thanks for the feedback Steve - probably best to email me using the contact form on the top right of the blog (in future), but in answer to your questions:-

      1. It sounds like you are already suffering upgradeitus!

      2. Yes I use a carbon airbox and raceco silencer at Bedford, otherwise there's no chance.

      3. I think you may find the ECU is locked, which means they won't be able to map it - which is where I ended up with the whole mapping saga... New board is required then map from fresh. One thing I am considering is a switchable Emerald ECU, so you can have a different map for each airbox / exhaust config, however the car's lambda sensor and ECU should be able to sort out the different breathing configs even with a decent base ECU map.

      4. No I've not extended the gear lever, mine is the newer black variety, so I'm not sure if this is a little taller anyway as I don't struggle with it... And to be honest you won't have many track 'battles' in an R500 :-)

      5. I have the upgraded brake master cylinder, and from what I understand most people who have a brake bias fitted usually don't adjust it and just leave it where it is!

      6. Not sure what compound the pads I've got - apparently Rob @ RatRace's own formula... They seem good though.

      Hope that helps and hopefully see you out there at some point!


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