Tuesday 27 April 2004

Cone Dodging Trackday

Download Windows Media Video: 2 Mb version or 10 Mb version

I got a speeding ticket last week and figured it was time for a trackday. So while searching on UK Trackdays, I discovered Cone Dodgers and quickly signed up for their event which I attended yesterday. Slalom and Drifting!

The venue was a large tarmac square out in the middle of nowhere (near Andover) used by the Ministry Of Defence for helicopters. The concept is simple. A slalom track is layed down using short traffic cones and you drive your car as fast as you're able to around them. It's not competitive as the primary challenge is to drift your car sideways around as much of the course as possible linking your drifts. All the time is spent is first and second gear.

Cone Dodgers is the brainchild of a fellow named Declan and this was the first event he had ever put on. Slalom and Drifting is not a popular kind of event in the UK but it has lots of potential for catching on. It's very popular in the US. There were staff from Retro Car Magazine on hand taking pictures for an upcoming article (watch for it in the June or July issue).

There were twelve of us in all and about half of us had never done car drifting before. It was a young and friendly crowd. All devoted petrolheads. I was driving my Porsche 911. There was also an old M3, MR2, MX5, NSX and some older cars. The more dedicated drifters generally had junk cars purchased for as little as £150 which they just thoroughly trash without a care.

I figured the Porsche could easily take the beating and I've always wanted to learn more about how to handle the car when it loses traction. As an extra service, a tire fitter was on site and swapped off my Pirelli's for some junk rear tires that I could trash. With only tarmac to scar and cones to hit, I was ready for a bit of fun.

I started on a simple slalom run trying to get the car to oversteer. I have now learned that a Porsche 911 is very hard to oversteer at the low speeds we were doing. It understeers instead. It's very, very hard to break the traction of the rear tires and they were even more narrow than usually - 245's rather than 255's. I also learned that it's exhausting work driving a car this hard.

I let a maniac named Rob try and help me learn how to oversteer the car. I even let him try driving the car. Mistake! He did indeed manage to unsettle the car enough to break traction by jabbing the clutch. Nasty method but it worked and we burned quite a bit of tire sliding around. Unfortunately, after the run, I discovered we had shredded the rear left tire. I learned later from the tire service fellow that the tire probably wasn't hot enough when we tortured it which is why layers of it started coming off.

I consulted with a few of the guys and decided I didn't want to risk body damage with flying bits of tire so I called it quits. However I did ride passenger three times with a guy named Nigel in a souped up M3. That was a good laugh. I also got to take Declan's MX5 out for spin on the track. Very easy car to drift.

It was a great day. Lots of fun and a friendly crowd. We all went down to the pub afterwards before parting ways. I would highly recommend trying it out. Declan has three more events lined up and only charges £60. The tire service cost £30. That's much cheaper than a track day and it's safer. A track days teaches you about smooth handling and braking. Slalom and drifting really teaches you about how your car handles.

I'm now looking around for a spare set of wheels and trashy tires I could take to one of the next events.


  1. Ben Broke-Smith1 May 2004 at 13:29

    Hi Ian,

    Ben here, the driver of the smokey silver 525i! :) I was wondering if you've got any more footage of me?? If you do would it be possible to upload a file on your server with all the footage you got of me?



    e-mail: astonmartinv8@hotmail.com

  2. Ian, very sorry that the run caused the shredding, and the end of your runs! Great day though

    Love the car, but understeer is a pain, so getting the back to initially break traction takes persuasion. once gone, the car is amazing, the handling gives amazing feedback!

    Hope to see you at the next event on the 9th of May to appologise in person, and to let you have a go in the MR2 as compensation.



  3. No worries Rob. Unfortunate that the tire couldn't take it. I will take you up on the offer to have a go in your M2 though!

  4. The July issue of Retro Car magazine has a full article on this event. No pictures of my car; guess a '97 Porsche just isn't retro enough :-(