You might be wondering now if I ever get bored of driving the same few circuits over and over again. "How hard can it be, surely you know them now", I hear. Well it's not quite that simple. You have to spend hours upon hours around a circuit to really begin to understand it. As I discovered at Silverstone a few months ago I found new ways of going faster, and that was somewhere I definitely thought I had a good grasp of.
Brands Hatch is no different and I know I've still not got it quite right. I've only really had one dry day in the Caterham and that was a long time ago now. Unfortunately that wasn't about to change as today's trackday was very cold and very wet. So much so that I decided not to bother with the Caterham at all...
A Toyota iQ is probably not the first car you'd think of when picturing yourself driving around a race track. In fact when I turned up in the morning, I don't think anyone could quite picture it. Sat in the pitlane amongst various high powered Hondas, a Skyline, a Caterham, and the MGs that were sharing the day with Hondas On Track, the iQ didn't exactly fit in. But you know what they say - "it's not what you drive, but how you drive". And I do like a challenge.
Before going anywhere I knew I was going to be a bit of a mobile chicane along the straights and I'd probably spend a large portion of the day looking in my mirrors and jumping out of the way. But I had a little voice in the back of my head saying, "we can have them in the corners". The iQ has a really nicely balanced chassis and eggs you on when it probably shouldn't. After all it's just a city car. It's only got skinny tyres and 67hp. It didn't belong here.
So I think it was to everyone's shear astonishment (including mine) when they saw just how good the iQ was. I pushed hard on the cold, wet circuit, where others were being very careful on their stiff suspension and dry weather tyres. The iQ would take everything I threw at it, hopping across the curbs and drifting through the corners. I even managed to catch and pass a couple of Hondas, which really made my day.
The passengers I took out were equally impressed, both with the car and my ability to extract far more from it than should have been possible. The traction control and stability control systems were having a coronary and the flashing lights and beeping noises did get a little annoying. But it was such good fun! Hammer down the pit straight, late on the brakes for Paddock Hill, turn in and feel the car slide, the back end starts to step out of line. A dab of 'oppo and a bit more power and it drifts through the apex beautifully.
There really is something about driving an under-powered car on the limit. I think I had more fun larking about in the iQ than I've ever had before in any other car on any other track. The Caterham is, frankly, useless in the cold and wet. I was given the chance to pilot a 270hp Caterham CSR while I was there and yes, it was lovely to have the power in a straight line, but a nightmare to find traction coming out of the bends. One particular sideways moment had me briefly facing the pit wall at 90mph, and by that point I was practically on a straight bit of track. Utterly insane.
So there you have it. The best trackday car of 2009 is, the Toyota iQ. You heard it here first.Permalink