Successful racing driver, instructor, writer and publisher, Mark Hales has over 30 years of on-track experience to call on. Having raced or tested almost every type of racing car ever built, from NASCAR and Formula One through to Touring Cars and rare classic machines, he’s a real authority on track matters.
Cars, bikes and aeroplanes, or almost anything with an internal combustion engine, have been an essential feature of my life for longer than I care to count. I have made a living racing them and writing about them for a while, too, so there’s no doubt that they are a lifelong passion. A fascination with high performance gave an early steer towards the race track, and like a lot of youngsters at the time, I learnt car control at the wheel of my Dad’s Cortina.
A set of 155-section Pirelli Cinturatos meant every roundabout became a sideways challenge – but you can’t do that now. Most modern cars drive via the front wheels and the faster ones have too much grip and are too quick to mess with on today’s crowded roads. There is also the minor detail of legality. Going too fast is?not only dangerous and irresponsible, it’s liable to get you locked up.
A track frees you to enjoy the performance of your car in relative safety. It’s the perfect answer to those who will ask where is the point of a car capable of exceeding the legal limit, and there is more opportunity to visit a track now than ever before. In the days when I started, the only way to experience Silverstone or Brands Hatch was to get a race licence, join a club, build a race car and compete. Now, anybody can take their car to one of dozens of track days in the UK and Europe. It’s a brilliant way to learn a whole new set of skills while you delve deeper into the reserves of a modern car.
Writing about cars also meant I got to drive a huge variety of different models. That, in turn, gave a lot of experience, which has equipped me to drive some very interesting (not to mention valuable) historic cars. At this year’s Goodwood Revival, I once again shared Pink Floyd musician Nick Mason’s Ferrari GTO, this time with former Ferrari grand prix luminary Jean Alesi. Nick has turned down 35 million dollars for the car, so he could probably name his price – but there’s no way you can put a tag on the experience. There have been many more like it, though.
I will also be taking a look at driving technique, which has become a particular interest over the years. Why do some people find older cars more rewarding to drive? How do you get the best out of them? Why should you learn to heel and toe? Questions, questions… stay tuned and the answers will be revealed.