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Episode 44

Hiring A Brands Hatch Caterham:

The Best First-Taste of Motorsport?

If you’re thinking of getting into motor racing, this could be the best commitment-free method of finding out if it’s for you…

This week, as a 21st Birthday present for myself, I decided to go for a track day along with a friend of mine. In a normal situation, this sounds like a fairly run-of-the-mill idea. There was one small problem, though. Neither of us own a track-worthy vehicle. What we were able to do though was hire a car, so that’s what we did. The question is, then, was it worth it? Let’s take a look.

The car in question was a Caterham. Precisely, a Caterham CDX, which is purpose-built for a variety of abusive activities available at Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. These activities include a car control/drifting day, track-day tuition, or the option we chose: track day car hire.

Specification-wise, the Caterham CDX utilises the 1.6-litre Sigma engine found in most Caterhams. In this car, it was producing 135bhp, and was transported to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual and an LSD. The car also featured a roll-cage, however was the ‘wide’ chassis for ‘extra comfort.’ I can tell you now, it’s still not wide!

Having experienced it, I’d say the Caterham is pretty much exactly what you’d want as an experience car. It was by no means the quickest vehicle on circuit, but by far wasn’t the slowest either. There was plenty of grip from the Yokohama tyres, and the car was powerful enough without being so powerful it could spit you off if you were too throttle-happy on corner exits. A very good sweet spot that allowed us to gain confidence quickly despite driving a completely new-to-us car on an unfamiliar circuit.

The vehicle was ours for the full day for unlimited usage, with the only caveat being the car must be rested for 20 minutes per hour. Other than that, unlimited fuel, tyres and a garage space are all thrown into the upfront cost. What is that cost I hear you ask? £895, plus the cost of the track day itself on top. The second driver slot we added was an additional £100, which bought the total for our day to £1,164 split between us. Quite an expensive day out, then.

Whilst it certainly is an expensive day out, the best aspect was the knowledge that, as long as we didn’t bin the thing, no unexpected additional costs would spring up on us. For example, the throttle cable actually snapped whilst I was driving down the start/finish straight in the middle of the morning session, but even being stopped halfway up the hill towards Druids was relatively stress-free. Once we were towed back to the garage, the resident Brands Hatch mechanics came to investigate, fixed the issue, and we were on our way once again within half an hour, without spending a penny and completely hassle-free!

On top of that, our host Will was an awesome person to deal with. He was extremely friendly and cheerful, made sure we were welcome, helped with refuelling the car, and was just an overall top, top person to deal with. When he was giving passenger laps in the other MSV Caterham, he showed that he wasn’t bad behind the wheel either!

In short, if you’re thinking about wanting to race in the future but want to experience a track day first to work out if it’s for you, I’d thoroughly recommend hiring a Caterham at Brands for the day. It was a great way to dip our toes into the water of fully-grown motorsport rather than just karting, with it being relatively cheap and commitment-free. The only thought I’ve got now, is should I buy a Caterham of my own..?

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