A posting I made on our Facebook pages recently attracted a comment that we advertise open pit lane but don’t actually run open pit lane. The reason given was that sometimes during the day drivers had to wait in a queue for circuit access whereas for open pit lane the customer considered that drivers should be able to drive straight onto the circuit at any time with no queue at all.
Although this is the only criticism (albeit meant in a minor way) about the format of our events in 13 years of operations, I think it’s worthwhile just clarifying a few things. It’s also probably useful, especially if you are new to track days, to read an earlier article about track day format here.
What constitutes an ideal track day?
We’ve developed what we do and how we operate over a number of years by asking our customers what they want and, where we can, taking their wishes on board. The majority by a large margin want a track day where the circuit always has a good number of cars on it to make driving interesting. It’s frankly a bit boring driving on a circuit where you don’t see or interact with other traffic.
At the same time, customers said they don’t mind a short queue, but didn’t want to stand in long queues of cars waiting for circuit access. The ideal would be no pit lane queue and a good mix of cars on circuit all day.
The only way we could guarantee no pit lane queue – even after a stoppage or the lunch break – would be to limit the entry list to equal the maximum number of cars permitted on the circuit at any one time. In the case of Castle Combe this would be 12 cars. Let’s be a bit more realistic and say 18 cars tops signed on for the track day.
Are you prepared to pay £450 for a track day place at Castle Combe?
Clearly this is a ridiculous extreme and practically speaking would actually result in a circuit that was so under utilised as to be essentially empty most of the day.
At the other extreme, the only way we could guarantee to keep the circuit full all day would be to book lots of cars in order to have a continuous pit lane queue. But a continuous queue becomes self-perpetuating because psychologically people feel they need to secure their place in the queue or risk a long wait for circuit access. So bang goes the opportunity to socialise in the paddock or have a relaxing break in the restaurant over a slice of cake and coffee.
So a short but continuous queue is not really a good option in keeping with running a high quality day – what BHP as a company sets out to offer to it’s customers. The short queue would, by its very existence, generate a long queue.
So what’s the answer?
Well, we’ve adjusted numbers by gradual trial and error to arrive at a happy medium. We allow sufficient numbers to book in order to keep the circuit busy for most of the day. Customers tend to start to drift off home late in the afternoon, often because they’ve had so much track time they decide to quit while they are ahead, so the last hour of the day is usually quiet.
There are occasional short queues when the track is running normally – queue time typically around 5 minutes but you can expect no queue for the majority of the day. Exceptions are of course after a stoppage or immediately after lunch but these queues usually clear quickly.
Customers know there is no pressure for circuit access and can enjoy a relaxed track day with us having plenty of opportunity to socialise in the paddock, or fiddle with the car and get more track time than they can handle!
That’s how we run our track days after 13 years of successful operation, and that’s what open pit lane means to us.
I hope you agree.