Rolling my car at Knockhill

Colin McRae is often quoted as saying “If in doubt, flat out.” That’s incredibly fitting when you’re behind the wheel of a 109bhp hatchback and you’re sharing a race track with a Huracan Performante, McLaren 570S and a Fireblade engined go kart on steroids. The closing speed on the straights can be alarming and you feel overly conscious about being a rolling road block for the faster cars. On the other hand, dialling it back a bit is seen by a few as being more responsible but I paid good money, took time off work and drove up to Scotland to explore the limits of my car. If I spent the day pottering around at 7 tenths it would have been a pointless exercise. A quick blast down a local B road would have scratched the itch.

The calm before the storm

The day started off feeling more frantic than what I’d been used to. There were no sighting laps and with a technical first part of the lap, you felt like you had to be on the pace right away. In the Ignis it takes a few laps to get heat in the rear tyres, it’s lack of weight over the rear axle and lack of speed mean you need to build up confidence in the balance of the car, which once up to temperature is actually quite predictable (he says).

After about the third stint I was starting to get comfortable with the track layout and began attacking the corners more aggressively. The Arnold Clark chicane proved the most challenging part of the track for me, as the final apex is blind but get it right and it’s a great feeling letting the car drift out wide on the exit. Unfortunately for my mate Chris who brought his Clio 172, a mechanical problem put an end to his day early, so decided to jump in with me for a stint and then watch from the sidelines. At around 1130 with half an hour to go before dinner break, I decided to head out for a few more laps. Everyone else must have had the same idea, as there was a decent queue in the pit lane to get out on circuit. Not wanting to waste my GoPro battery on a handful of laps dodging traffic, I decided to not record this run (epic fail!).

Some of the other cars out on the day

Gaining in confidence with every stint, I pushed hard after finishing the out lap and began to explore the limits of both car and circuit. From Duffs dip all the way to Hislops, it’s about nailing the apexes and carrying as much momentum as you can. What I was about to learn is that you don’t clip them apexes too much!

Sounds a bit better than my 1.5 four cylinder

At Knockhill, on some corners there’s raised sausage kerbs behind the usual rumble strips. Going into Scotsman, I misjudged my entry and clipped the sausage kerb with my inside right, the car was already at the limit of traction at corner entry and I was sent into a slide at corner exit. From this moment, I’ve been replaying in my head what I could and couldn’t have done differently to change the outcome but what’s happened has happened. Anyway, with the nose of the car facing the inside of the clockwise circuit and the back end trying to follow it around, I caught the slide but only once the steering was on full lock to the left. Too fast for me to react, the car snapped back and span around the opposite direction, at this point I was a passenger, the car was facing the wrong way and then rolled onto its roof, settling on the grass facing the right direction but still upside down.

My first thought was to check Laura was ok and she’d kept her arms in tight, some people reach up for the grab handle only to get their hand crushed. My next thought was to kill the engine that was still running and get out. We both quickly climbed out through the smashed windows and made our way over to the side of the track. Glass was absolutely everywhere and apart from the windscreen that was held together by the laminate, only the rear passenger side window survived. What saved us was a combination of the Cobra Suzuka Pro-fit bucket seats being mounted very low and directly to the floor and the TRS 5 point harnesses holding us in place. Had the car still been fitted with normal seats and 3 point belts, I think the outcome may have been different.

Credit to the medical staff too, they were very quickly on the scene and we were sent for a check up so a big thank you to them. I was completely unscathed but Laura had some small cuts from the glass and bruises from her legs being knocked around. For this reason I won’t be taking her out on track with me again. I’m happy with the risks myself but if anything happened to her I couldn’t live with the guilt.

How it ended

As with any mistake, there’s things you learn from it, the actual on track mistake that lead to the accident, was just one of those things. I took the corner too aggressively and was unlucky it wasn’t just a spin. Did the tall body and short wheelbase layout of the Ignis contribute to it rolling? Possibly. What I did take away from the crash was that I’d never wear an open face helmet on a car not fitted with Lexan windows. I had a full face motorcycle helmet on and it did a reasonable job of keeping the glass away from my eyes despite the visor being ripped off. I also wouldn’t go out on track in a car fitted with a standard 3 point seatbelt. We could have rolled multiple times in which case, it might have been a lot worse. And finally you probably need a roll cage. In all fairness the Ignis held up well around the B pillar but in a faster car where the forces would have been greater, again, it could have been worse.

Can I go back out again on track after dinner break please?

What now for the emoji car? It’ll be stripped for parts in the coming weeks. I’ll hopefully claw back some money that I lost on all of the costs of the crash. £400 recovery home, £229 on a missed track day at Croft, £30 to cancel insurance and obviously the car itself. You often hear the phrase “don’t take on track what you can’t afford to lose” I lived by that and thankfully this crash hasn’t ruined me! I’ve decided to keep the cars drivers door as a memento. I was building a collection of stickers of all the tracks the car has completed on it and a kind lady who works at Knockhill saw that on the way in, she was also the one who helped arrange the flatbed to get the car home and (probably feeling sorry for me) gave me a free sticker.

A memento that’ll be hung up in the garage

With a house move currently in the works and the Jag needing a few quid spent on it, the search for a new track car won’t be commencing right away, although my mind is made up about what it’s going to be. I’m a bit of a Honda man and after previously owning an Accord Type R that I took on track and loved but was annoyed at the lack of off the shelf parts availability for it, I’ll be going down the EP3 Civic route this time. I feel that is a platform that has solid potential for track use and potentially some Time Attack entries if I have the spare funds. Either way, I’ve not been put off wanting to get back out there, if anything it’s made me more eager to prove I’m a better driver because of it.

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