If motorsport is nothing more than a bunch of blokes driving around in circles, then this is racing in its purest form. The European Late Model Series is the closest thing to NASCAR this side of the pond, with huge silhouette stock cars running unsilenced 5.7-litre V8 engines and chassis designed to only turn left. Most of the season takes place on a banked quarter-mile oval in Warneton, Belgium, and over the Easter weekend I joined the 19-strong field for what was one of the maddest weekends of racing I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve not driven a US-market Ford Fusion saloon, but my guess is the regular version is nothing like the one I found myself clambering through the window of here. Flick the ignition on, thumb the starter and a thunderous 450bhp erupts in the most brilliantly un-eco-friendly way imaginable. Moving away is a little strange because the clutch is ‘upside down’, so you have to depress the pedal to engage the transmission, but second (the only other gear) has direct drive, so your left foot then becomes gainfully employed by the brake pedal. Oh, and to drive in a straight line you need to turn the wheel to the right – let go and the car pulls to the left…
Subscribe to evo magazine
It feels very weird at slow speeds, but everything falls into place once the pace builds. Series organiser Tony Roots spent an afternoon teaching me the lines, and then I was ready. Well, as ready as I was ever going to be. It’s a busy track when 19 of these things share it, especially when a lap takes just 13 seconds.
Lap timing is irrelevant – you race for inches rather than tenths and it can take five circuits to complete a pass. And it’s relentless. There are no straights where you can catch your breath. It’s like one constant corner and usually you’re side-by-side.
It’s a world away from what I’m used to, but all six races were as heady as anything I’ve done before. Particularly race four, where Tony and I touched and triggered a monumental NASCAR-style pile-up. ‘I didn’t think you were still on my inside,’ he said afterwards. ‘I must have taught you too well!’
Cars are available for hire and you don’t need a race licence to take part. Check out www.rootsv8racing.com for more details