The Ben Evans Column: The truth about testing

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McLaren-Mercedes, Red Bull-Renault, Jerez, pre-season, 2007As the F1 pre-season testing continues apace (or, if you’re Honda, slowly) it seems a good time to share my 10 unbreakable rules of testing – and top tips.

These will apply to every test session you ever attend in the UK. Certainly they have been true at each test day I’ve been to.

It will either be very cold or very hot

This is the absolutely unshakable truth of testing and racing in the UK. There has never been a racing meeting held on this fair isle where it has been pleasantly warm.

No it’s either so cold you can’t feel you’re feet, or so hot you return home a lobster shade of red.

For test days this is pushed to the extreme as the glamour factor is notched down. Neither Snetterton in February nor Pembrey in July are climatically appealing

Handy Hint – Marry a girl with enough money to bankroll winter testing in Spain, or make sure you buy a decent jacket

There will be an idiot in a Formula Renault who thinks he’s Michael Schumacher

They will arrive at the circuit in their own Golf or their Dad’s Porsche, they will have blonde tinted hair, they will ponce about the paddock all day hoping you’ll admire their new Fortec overalls.

On-track they will drive like they’re the bollocks, even though the guy in the Stock Hatch is carrying more corner speed, and attempt to race everyone on the track cutting them up on the straight and going for do or die gaps into the corners.

Finally they will either take you out, or ping it into the gravel after three laps.

Handy Hint – Ignore them or misidentify them for their team-mate. Petty but extremely satisfying

There will be some exotica

I’ve seen some truly beautiful racing cars at the general test day’s I’ve attended. Group C Jags, WTCC Chevrolets and ex-F1 cars have all been on track at the same time as my humble Formula Vee.

A walk down the pitlane is never wasted, although it may result in crippling, mouth-foaming jealousy.

Handy Hint – If you stand around long enough and ask enough questions you may get to sit in the car of your dreams.

The canteen coffee will taste like soil

And it will cost ???2.50, but you’ll be so cold you won’t care.

Handy Hint – Drink lots of beer the night before so the coffee only washes away the taste

There will be endless, interminable delays

Usually caused by the muppet in the Formula Renualt (see point #1), if not it will be competitors from the local Formula Ford 1600 series deciding to have an unofficial championship round and then crashing into each other.

Handy Hint – Wait until after the inevitable accident 5 minutes into the first session of the day before venturing on-track.

There will be a ‘jobsworth’ getting up everyone’s noses

At some places it’s the guys on the gate, elsewhere it’s the circuit office, and at Pembrey it’s everyone.

While I appreciate F1 practice needs some security, testing in the middle of nowhere in the back end of February, petty rules and officialdom do seem somewhat unnecessary.

Handy Hint (for Silverstone) – to comply with various championship regulations there is a petrol station in the paddock that sells ultra-high octane fuel.

Part of the deal is that it is a public petrol pump which means that you have to be allowed access. Pitch up at any time with some jerry cans in the boot and they have to let you in.

It will be hugely expensive

This is motor sport, after all. Circuit hire costs have gone up exponentially in recent years and test days can be very pricey.

Motorsports Vision circuits are ???200 for 2007, Castle Combe is ???270 but is good value due to the limited number of runners. Although ???200 can be reasonable if you do a full day’s running, it is an awful lot of money to try out a few setting changes.

Handy Hint – Ask around a couple of your local airfields and one of them will probably allow you some out of hours time on one of the runways.

There will be someone there you know

Absolutely guaranteed, either a fellow competitor, former race school instructor or glamour model from Zoo doing portfolio shots. I’ve seen them all, although I only asked one to do photos perched on my car.

Handy Hint – Try to pretend you like them, even if the last time you met was in the Clerk of the Course’s office following an ‘incident’ at Paddock. Of course if you were the aggressor pretend you’ve never seen them in your life before

Something will break on the car

No-one in the history of the world ever has got through a test session without a failure – minor or major.

From personal experience this has ranged gearbox gremlins to shortening the car by a foot in a shunt. Either way at some point in the day you will be crawling over the car looking for a fault.

Handy Hint – do not put the car into the gravel on the last lap of the day or you will be given a toothbrush with which to clean out the car

It will be fun

No matter what the weather, your mood or the car, when you pull out of the pitlane for the first time you will be wearing a massive grin. The key is to be wearing the same grin at the end of the day

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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