Well, the start to the 2021 Track Day season was everything but plain sailing! Who would have thought our lives would still be almost put entirely on hold by the COVID-pandemic...
After we had to cancel our first Track Day of the year scheduled for March in Dijon, our day in Mettet was equally on the brink of being cancelled. On top of that, we had to deal with Belgium's strict travel restrictions which led to many of our non-Belgian drivers having to cancel just a couple of weeks before our Track Day.
As a result, we probably received more messages in the weeks prior to the Track Day than in the whole last year combined. So we definitely had some very long evenings in the office managing countless rebookings and refund requests as well as constantly adjusting our participant list. To be honest, we are still working on the accounting behind all the refunds today, as the sheer volume is just crazy...it is definitely not the most fun part about organising Track Days - but we will get through it!
In the end though, everything went well and we were able to find replacement drivers for everyone that had to cancel their day and processed all refunds that were requested - even if it sometimes took longer than we initially hoped!
We cannot thank all of you enough for being so incredibly patient as we sometimes took quite long to reply to all your messages as well as getting the refunds going!
But let's get to the fun bit now - the first GP Days Track Day of the 2021 season!
THE DAY BEFORE THE TRACK DAY
We packed up our cars and made our way to Mettet on Thursday (8th April) afternoon. As we took delivery of our GR Yaris earlier this year, we of course had to take it as well!
Upon arrival, we were briefed by the Circuit Management regarding the current COVID-rules and had a little chat about our upcoming events in July and October. Afterwards, they handed us the keys to the facilities and left us to ourselves for the evening to unload or equipment and welcome the first participants dropping of their trailers.
Most importantly though, we also met Max who supported us with setting everything up as well as managing the pitlane throughout the Track Day itself. Some of you might have seen him tearing up the track in his white MINI!
After having hosted several Track Days at Mettet, it's definitely the most familiar track for us - I would almost say our "Home Track", so preparing the Track Day usually goes quite quickly!
Once everything was set up for the day, we made our way to our little apartment, ordered the obligatory Pre-Track Day Pizza and handled some last-minute cancellations which again kept us up quite late into the night.
THE TRACK DAY
Our alarms went of at 5:30am in the morning. After getting ready for the day with some coffee and a very light breakfast, we headed over to to the circuit, which is luckily just a five-minute drive away from our Airbnb and made ourselves comfortable in the check-in booth right at the entrance to the paddock.
Due to the COVID-restrictions, we had check-in all the drivers right at the entrance to ensure that contact between all the participants is kept to a minimum in the paddock.
The first drivers arrived around 7:30am. As the entire Check-In Process could be completed digitally (E-Briefing and E-Liability Waiver), we just needed to know their name and handed them their numbers, wrist bands and as a little goodie, some branded masks to wear throughout the Track Day.
Right on time - at 9.00am - we opened the circuit and the first drivers took to the track for some warm up laps. Finally, the GP Days Track Day Season 2021 was officially started!
Usually, the first 30mins are quite busy on track as everyone wants to get going. As people were able to check-in online though, we had quite a few late-arrivals making for an extremely relaxed start to the day!
Unfortunately, the first but luckily only incident involving a car and a barrier i.e. small crash, happened quite early in the day. Despite being unfortunate, it ended up as the "Hero-of-the-Day" story: The driver quickly loaded the vehicle on his trailer to drive home (~2h) to get his other car to join us again for the afternoon session!
The rest of the pre-lunch session went smooth and we only had a few breakdowns and little offs, as for many of our drivers it was the first Track Day of the year and some of the winter modifications did not work out as planned and everyone had to get back into the groove.
While some were searching for their limit...
...others were optimising their lines and using every available inch of the circuit...
...and some of us also had a bit of a noise issue and had to speak to the circuit officials - but all went well in the end!
Unfortunately, the current restrictions meant that the restaurant at the track was closed, so everyone was getting a quick lunch from a food truck in the paddock.
As usual, the start to the afternoon session was quite busy as everyone wanted to get on track. But after around 10 - 15 minutes, the track cleared and an amazing afternoon session was underway. There were on average around 15 cars on track, the weather was great and we had no incidents.
At the end of the day, I finally managed to do some laps in the MINI as well (During the last two Mettet Track Days it never really worked out). After a little mishap with the oil-cooler in Spa two weeks earlier (Yes, I spilt a lot of oil on the track...), it was more about building some trust again and making sure everything was working as planned.
While I usually do not have much time to enjoy driving during our Track Days, the 8h track time in Mettet often allow for some fun, as the afternoon hours are especially quiet! Though quite short, the track is just crazy good and way more challenging than you may expect - especially in a small and light car like the MINI it is just epic.
We can't wait to be back in July and maybe improve my laptime a bit. There is definitely lots of potential left as you can see in the video above.
A comparison to the GR Yaris, which I did not drive this time around, would sure be interesting as well! I already have the feeling that it is going to be very close!
As there was a motorbike Track Day the following day, we had to pack up everything quite quickly as soon as our day came to an end at 6:00pm.
Yet while we were getting everything cleaned up, there were still some hardcore drivers out trying to maximise every minute of track time showing that Mettet does not get boring even after hours of driving!
We are already looking forward to our Track Day in July! Let us keep all fingers crossed that by then, the restrictions will allow for a "normal" Track Day with lots of petrol-fueled chats in the paddock and great on track action!
See you soon!