The Guild of Motoring Writers (GoMW) is the largest organisation of automotive editorial professionals in the world. Founded on 9 October 1944 at an informal meeting of seven influential journalists at London’s Press Club, the GoMW now has a membership of over 400, in both the UK and overseas. Its members are not just motoring writers either, but a wide range of automotive editorial professionals in many different roles and media.
On Thursday 22 August, the GoMW held its first Big Day Out (BDO) at Rockingham Motor Speedway. A chance for members and non-members to drive their own cars on the British Touring Car Championship circuit, the idea behind it was to bring together like-minded auto industry professionals to enjoy their road cars in a controlled environment. And also to show the changing face of GoMW itself, and promote its younger membership.
As well as driving their own cars around the circuit, attendees could also take models from Ford, Nissan, Kia and Mitsubishi out on road routes outside of the track itself. Ford brought along the Fiesta and Focus STs among others, while the new Kia Pro-Cee’d GT was in attendance, as was the ’90s rally hero, the Mitsubishi Evo Tommi Mäkinen Edition. The Japanese manufacturer also had a diminutively cute 1974 Lancer at the event, along with a Lancer Turbo from 1981. Both were crowd-pullers.
Before that date, I hadn’t taken my 2001 Polo GTI on the track before. I’d taken part in around five track days before with previous cars, yes, but both the car and the Rockingham circuit were new to me in terms of on-track experience. The day started damp, the heavy rain on the way to Northamptonshire from Essex gradually easing. Following a briefing in which we learned that the circuit was the slipperiest in Europe (made even worse by the morning’s rainfall), we were off. It was time to drive.
Sighting laps over, I was very cautious. Not wanting to damage the car, or anyone else’s, I was very wary. The car had given me a fright early on in the day, when the rear end sailed out on a greasy roundabout. I wasn’t driving fast, but the unnerving feeling made me doubt the car’s and my capabilities. The same thing happened on the circuit – the first corner saw the Polo spin, and luckily another track-goer managed to skillfully avoid the silver obstruction slowly pirouetting in front of his car.
As the day wore on, though, the circuit surface dried, and I could trust the car more. Grip was certainly not an issue, and although it felt like it was leaning lots in the corners, our Polo R-Line correspondent John, who runs EngageSportMode.com, stated that in in fact, the GTI was quite flat in the bends. The last corner offered many opportunities for some fun tyre squeal, and all in all, the GTI acquitted itself quite well. No, it wasn’t and isn’t the sharpest tool in the driving box, but I had fun.
One bonus to the day was meeting up with colleagues in the industry, and catching up with fellow Tweeters. You may have been in contact with these like-minded enthusiasts online, but never actually met them, but you could at GoMW BDO. Contacts and introductions were made. Another attraction was the attendance of the manufacturer vehicles, and it was genuinely pleasing to see some old metal among the newer products. I had drives in both the Ford Fiesta ST and Zetec S EcoBoost, something I probably would have gone to a dealership to try otherwise. Both were satisfying for different reasons.
There was a mixture of cars ready for track action, too. A hardcore Vauxhall VX220 mixed it with Renault Clios of varying vintages, a Honda Hybrid and numerous BMWs. There were Polos, too; mine was joined by John Redfern’s 2013 Polo R-Line TSI, and Alex Grant’s Polo G40, which also won the award for the best car representing the spirit of the day. With both an open pit lane format and pit garages for the early risers, BDO really was excellent value for money.
‘The idea behind the Big Day Out was to show the industry that The Guild of Motoring Writers isn’t a stuffy organisation or closed club, but something that is open to the entire industry,’ said organiser and GoMW committee member James Baggott. ‘We wanted to give current members the chance to enjoy their own road cars at a heavily subsidised track day, plus show potential members and the rest of the industry what we’re about.’
Despite the not-ideal weather, the day was hailed a big success. Guild Chairman Richard Aucock said: ‘I am absolutely delighted with how the event went. We had a great turn-out, some interesting cars, top-drawer standards of driving and many happy reports from all attendees.’ (Read more here.) Plans are already underway to make the BDO an annual event. GoMW – you can count me in. Check out the official gallery of the day and search for #GuildBDO on Twitter for related tweets.