Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plenty to report - part 1

There has been so much going on these past few months and I’m going to head back to before the epic trip to South Africa and bring you right up to date with what has been happening in the world of National Hot Rod 27.

The NEC seems like a distant memory now but it’s a good point to pick things up from.  John Sibbald’s car came home with us on my trailer and for the next 6 weeks or so we found ourselves operating a two-Hot Rod workshop.  Dad did lots of work on John’s car whilst I was away and we removed my engine and took it back to John Toovey so it could have a bit of a freshen up.

Literally the day before I was due to fly out on holiday it was the awards night being held at a hotel in Northampton.  After making a pretty disorganised last minute decision Besty flew over from Northern Ireland and the two of us headed off to check it out!  I really didn’t expect to win an award especially after the season I have been having, so to come away with ‘Most Improved Driver’ really was an added bonus.  Thank you very much to everyone who voted - it means a lot.  I can’t really go into much detail about the night as there was lots of beer consumed and I can’t remember too much.  I know about 15 of us ended up in a nightclub in Northampton though!  I think the social side of the racing is really good at the moment and there is a really good circle of friends - although it was a shame to see so few people turn up for the party, especially after so much effort had been made to organise it!

There was to be no rest after I returned from holiday and it was straight back into getting the cars ready for the start of the season.  My engine was still being finished so I couldn’t make the Ipswich practice night but it was all hands on deck getting John’s ready.  The plan was that he would come down on Friday morning, finish his car in the afternoon, practice Saturday and head home Sunday.  Now John is my best friend but he is not renowned for his organisation!  Friday morning turned into Friday 10pm and although the car was nearly finished it left both him and his cousin David rushing around getting finished whilst I was at work on Saturday morning.  Everything turned out okay though, and come lunch time we found ourselves in the pick-up and on the way a few minutes ahead of schedule!

Ipswich at night is always a great sight especially with the new lights around the stadium and the new stands towering up into the dark.  It was good to see some faces I hadn’t seen for a few months as well.  It was quite well supported with around eleven cars turning up to have a run prior to the season kicking off.  John went out and did a couple of runs with his car and came back in happy.  We made a couple of changes and he felt he got quicker each session.  Obviously Ipswich is a very long way for John and he normally only gets to run there at Spedeweekend, so it was a good opportunity for him to get a run round what is without doubt one of the best Hot Rod tracks in the UK.

Once he was happy he offered me a run in his car - an offer I gladly accepted.  His car was really great to drive and such a world away from the dirt I had been running on the weekend before at Tygerberg Raceway.  It’s always hard driving another person’s car and it took me a good few laps just to get used to the tarmac again which was so smooth and forgiving compared to the dirt . . . and the Tigra had so much grip!  I was really enjoying my run and starting to feel comfortable in the car when it started to misfire.  I pulled off into the middle but luckily it was nothing serious - the car had run out of petrol!

Once John had gone back home it was time to get my engine back and put my car back together.  We had a few repairs to do from the NEC and the new Quaife sequential gearbox to fit.  When all this was done it was time to head off to Birmingham for a practice and the first Big John’s of the year!   Straight out of the lorry my car felt better than it ever has before.  The engine seemed really strong and the new gearbox is impressive.  The sequential gives it real racing car-feel as well!  Jason was there with his car too, so we had a quick swap round and did a few laps in each other’s cars.  Now that is a weird feeling:  driving around a track and seeing your own car on the straight in front of you!

I was happy with everything and it was time to head home and get the car sorted for the Saturday night.  Now I’ve been very lucky so far this year to have already driven five different Hot Rods in various forms but I really couldn’t wait to get out and actually race my own.  I had already said to Dad that we would just go and enjoy this year and make the most of each race rather than get totally hung up on qualifying for the world final.  I have lots of things I’m trying to do at work at the moment too, and sometimes racing just can’t take priority . . . sad as that is!  But it’s not going to stop us from being there having as much fun as possible and trying our best in every race!

As it turns out Birmingham was actually a meeting to forget!  It has always been my favourite track and the car once again felt good.  The first race started well with me and Shaun having a great race for the lead.  It didn’t work out though with us both coming together in the pit turn and ending up spinning off it all directions.  The second race wasn’t any better either.  I’d got into the lead and started to make a bit of a gap only to pick up a puncture!  Try as I might I was fighting a losing battle and had to once again watch from the infield.  I enjoyed the final though...  It was a good race and again I found myself leading but it just wasn’t to be my night - and as to not break my 100% non-finish record I found myself on the centre again with about 7 laps to go.  But never mind, that’s racing.  You need to take the good with the bad, suck it up and move on!  The car was flying though so that’s something positive to take from the night.  I had a really nasty headache come on as we were loading the car so I didn’t eat anything at Big John’s - certainly the low point of the evening for me!

I think I’ll leave it there for this week, then pick it up and bring you right up to date after Friday’s meeting at Northampton.  Next part will include the year’s first road trip, a couple of nights out, and the long awaited first win for the Duratech.

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


Friday, March 14, 2014

A Great Adventure - Part 2

The second week of our Cape Town trip was just as wild as the first and by the time we’d dried out from our antics on Saturday night it was time to head back to the track and draw our grids for the second meeting, where this time we would be competing in the faster Hot Rod class.  The car I’d been using had to go back to its owner for him to use so I had to swap cars for this one.  I was very lucky though as my new friend and drinking buddy Carlo offered to let me race his brand new car!  Once again I drew a mid-pack starting position for the races . . . unfortunately I didn’t seem to have taken the luck I have for grid draws in the UK with me!

Once again Monday was a pretty wild night and in their wisdom a lot of the guys found themselves agreeing to play netball for the Tygerberg Raceway netball team.  Somehow I managed to remain sensible and avoid getting myself roped into this . . .  something I’m glad about as it was much more fun watching them run around without a clue what the rules were!  Deane and I also managed to fill the time between games by going upstairs and pouring water over them to help them cool down.

Wednesday saw us heading out to practice and I couldn’t wait to give Carlo’s car a run.  It had a 2.0 litre 16v under the bonnet and felt a lot more like our cars here.  Instantly I felt much more at home and headed off to the bar afterwards feeling much happier.  Kym had carried out some pretty big changes to his car, Trevor’s car had been repaired, Deane had bagged himself another one, Paul and Stu kept the same ones and Hughie had managed to secure a car as well so we now had a team of seven.

It would have been rude to go halfway round the world and not go night clubbing so Thursday night saw Leone (the promoter’s daughter) take Stu, Kym, Smiffy and me to a club in Cape Town.  Everything in South Africa is really cheap and it’s easy to get carried away - something we seemed to do most nights!  Another good thing is that due to it being so hot at night you sweat all the drink out - leaving you hangover free in the morning!

Saturday saw us head off for our last meeting and it was also the hottest day of the trip with the heat rising to around 39 degrees in the middle of the day!  Carlo picked me up early and we headed off to get the car ready.  The bodies on the cars are held on with ten bolts and literally just come off in one piece.  My body had to be fitted onto his car and I went mad and bought a new set of tyres for us to use.

Because it was so hot they had to really water the track to make sure it would be ok to race on.  This was fine but it made the parade laps very hard work!  We managed to make a bit of a mess of it with all of us pointing in various directions and stuck at one point!

Carlo was also racing in the 2.1 class so the car had plenty of work to do on the night.  This, mixed with the fact that the track was wet, meant we were kept busy scraping mud off from underneath the car so it didn’t jam the wheels up and stop them from turning, and keeping the radiator clear so the car didn’t overheat.  I’ve never seen so much mud - it was piled up in great heaps everywhere.  Although I was much quicker than the first week I didn’t have any results to speak of.  Apart from Deane who was again unfortunate with engine problems we all managed to finish the races.  Kym drove a blinder in the final and came third, so collecting the third overall trophy and the international driver award.  Carlo also flew in his car collecting first place in the 2.1 class.  He’s won two more finals at different tracks since we have been home, showing that he really is the man to beat at the moment!

The night that followed for me was the best night of the holiday.  It was great seeing Kym get some silverware to bring home and the drink was flowing freely all night.  Everyone signed my overalls and they are something I will treasure forever.  When we arrived everyone said that we would watch the sun come up at the track and sure enough after partying all night I stood in the stands and watched the sunrise.  It was amazing.

I can honestly say that it was one of the best times of my life.  It was a fantastic holiday with a brilliant group of guys.  The racing was incredible and a fabulous experience . . . going sideways flat out is such a good feeling.  We met so many great people and have forged some lasting friendships.  The weather was brilliant and some of the nights will go down in history.  SAF Motorsport really went on tour!

I would like to say thank you to a few people – firstly to Leone and her dad Chris for everything they did for us and making the trip happen.  I know we must have been very hard work!  A special thank you to Carlo and Hilda for letting me use the car and for your hospitality; I just hope you can come to the UK and race my car now!  To everyone at Tygerberg Raceway for making us feel so welcome, Chris at Hyundai for the minibus and Herman for letting us cause complete chaos in your bar every night!  Also to Neville Loosemore and his family for flying down to support us both weekends.  Finally thanks to all the new friends we have made - you guys are awesome.  The only question now is “When will we be back?”

After pouring a bottle of wine over Deane one night I now have to spend the next year living in fear as I have no doubt there will be a very cold bucket of water heading my way at some point when I least expect it!

Thanks as ever for reading.

“Tot n volgende keer”


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Great Adventure

Trying to condense what was arguably the best two weeks of my life into an acceptable size blog is going to be a hard task so excuse me if this turns into a bit of an epic.   Even finding a place to start is proving difficult!

Obviously going somewhere new and so far from home was a little daunting but as soon as I stepped off the plane in Cape Town and felt the heat I knew my decision to leave a wet and dark UK behind for a couple of weeks was the right one!  Due to being the most disorganised bunch of people in the world we couldn’t all manage to get on the same flight so the first two hours was spent doing several runs to the airport to collect everyone.  Altogether there were eight of us on the trip; the man himself Deane Wood, Paul Frost, Stuart McLaird, Kym Weaver, his father Hughie, his mechanic and friend Smiffy , Trevor Dibnah from the 2-litre Stock Cars and myself.

Our first port of call was to collect our transport for the week, a brand new minibus lent to us by the local Hyundai garage.  It had been sign-written with our names and UK racing team down the side.  From here it was straight to the track offices to meet everyone and let them see exactly what they’d let themselves in for!

The racing in South Africa is run very differently to here and the Monday before every race meeting all the drivers have to go to a meeting at the track to draw grid positions and just have a general briefing about how the race will be run.  After getting lost a few times we finally managed to arrive pretty late!  It was a good chance to get to meet all the other drivers and find out a bit about what we would be doing.  What anyone failed to tell us was that after the meeting finishes the bar stays open and everyone stays and gets drunk, something that surprisingly enough suited us all down to the ground.

The next day it was time to have a look at the cars we would be racing.  Now the principle of the cars is similar to ours but obviously as they are racing on dirt they have lots of differences too, the biggest of these is the tyres.  Although there are no rules on tyres everyone chooses to run a 15-inch Dunlop road tyre.  The cars had Corsa shells which had all been painted and sign-written to look like our cars from home.  The car I was going to race had a Mazda rotary engine under the bonnet but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Practice was arranged for the Thursday evening so we could get a bit of seat time in the cars.  The track isn’t dissimilar to something you would see Sprint Cars racing on in America - it is much bigger than any track we drive on in the UK and is made up of clay.  As the meeting goes on and it dries out it packs down like tarmac giving more and more grip each race.  Due to the heat they spend all week watering the track so it doesn’t just rip up into one giant dust cloud as soon as a car puts a wheel onto it!

Now as soon as I pulled onto the track I scared the absolute life out of myself!  The noise and speed from a rotary is incredible, it sounds like there are twenty engines revving as soon as you touch the throttle!  This coupled with the fact they don’t slow down when you lift off the throttle makes it an altogether very scary experience!  I’ll be honest with you all and say that in truth I was pretty rubbish at the whole racing thing and struggled a bit to adapt to the flat-out sideways driving style of the dirt racing . . . but what an amazing experience it was to drive round that track.  I will just say that Deane was on a mission and having only done a few laps he was throwing his car around the track as fast as any of the South African guys!  We do all forget that he was actually a world champion on shale - albeit before most of us were even born!

After the practice it was straight into the bar for another night of chaos.  Unfortunately we had made a reputation for ourselves on the first night so we could hardly let it slip now!  The way of life is so different there and although everyone takes the racing very seriously they always meet in the bar afterwards for a chat and everyone gets along without any of the nastiness we seem to get here.

Saturday arrived and it was time for race day.  I know we have some keen fans at home but these guys were mad for it and the stadium was packed out by 1pm.  Lots of the spectators were keen to chat so we spent a long time talking to folk before it all got started at 6pm.  In the international race there were twelve South Africans, three Namibians and the six of us.  After the grand parade we all headed out on our parade laps before stopping at race control for the national anthems to be played and to meet the South African Minister for Sport.  Looking around the stadium you could see it was packed and the atmosphere was like the World Final at Ipswich.

You line up for the race in the pits, then pull out onto the track and do one rolling lap before the green flag drops.  Now one thing I will say is the drivers have so much more respect for each other than we do back at home and there is very little contact because they give each other enough room to pass cleanly.  It’s also the only time I have ever felt old at racing as some of the guys out there racing us were just 14 and 15 years old.   Watching them throw the cars sideways through the corners was pretty impressive.   The car control they will have when they get older will be something amazing.

I kept myself out of trouble and finished all the races but like I said I didn’t perform any miracles.  Deane was flying only to be hampered with an engine failure, Kym was on a mission as well but also suffered a few car problems, Paul was flying and ended up fifth overall at the end of the night.  Stu was having a good night as well but unfortunately Trevor had to retire due to a snapped steering arm.  One thing I did have to show for my night though was a very burnt leg! The exhaust of the rotary runs right up the tunnel and I have never felt heat like it in my life!

After the meeting there is a big trophy presentation in the bar and I’m sure you don’t need to be a genius to figure out where this is all going!  It turned into a very epic night that ended up with lots of water and ice being thrown around and a very wet ride back to the hotel in the minibus!

We didn’t just spend two weeks solid racing and drinking - we went out and did the tourist stuff too.  We took a trip up Table Mountain (something I would recommend to anyone), visited Robben Island and went on boats trips and spent quite a bit of time at the Cape Town Waterfront.  We had a great time but if I was to go into detail about everything we did we would be here all week and I‘d miss the first meeting at Birmingham!

That in a nutshell was our first week.  Instead of making this too long I’m going to split it into two parts and come back next week and tell you all about the second week of our trip and more exciting racing.

One thing I would like to say before I go is “Thank you so much” to everyone who voted for me to win Most Improved Driver at our awards night recently.  It really means a lot to me.  That was another very eventful night and I will no doubt get round to putting that into a blog soon!

Thank as ever for reading.

Until next time


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A great start to the year

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday season. I had a quiet Christmas at home before heading off to Scotland to stay with John for New Year.  We spent a fair amount of time in his garage getting the new panels ready for their paint job.  Not complaining though, Im as happy working on Hot Rods as I am doing anything, especially if I can have a beer whilst Im doing it!  John had a small party on New Years Eve, which in true Sibbald style went on until six in the morning.  I started the year in Scotland so it seemed right that I end it there too!

I must admit that even though John and his guys always turn out a good looking car, they have really excelled themselves this year.  The new paint job is brilliant and a real credit to Bob who painted it . . . it really wasn
t bad for a second attempt!  I had to head back to the airport just as he was finishing it and I really had to fight with myself not to stay and see the finished product!

As soon as I was back home it was all systems go to get my car finished for the Autosport Show and I went straight off to Ipswich to pick it up from TPR Signs.  Each time it goes to be sign-written I think it looks amazing, but this time Jay has really outdone himself and the new stickers along with the freshly painted white wheels from Dale at Paint Dynamix has left me with what I think is my best looking car yet.  We didn
t have that much to do but found ourselves short of time as usual!

I love the NEC weekend and whenever I think about it I always end up smiling.  I have some really great memories from the years I
’ve been going but I think this year came out as one of the best.  It was more of a week than a weekend though, as my two friends Besty and Norden flew over from Northern Ireland on the Wednesday morning and didn’t head home again until the following Monday night.  I can honestly say that from the minute I picked them up until the minute I dropped them off I didn’t stop laughing!

I picked them up from the airport with a car and trailer and then we drove to Bristol to collect a van.  After them being scrap men for a day we headed home to load the racing lorry and set off to meet John so we could go in convoy into the show and park together.  Me not having a lorry license made things difficult with dad driving the lorry to a lay-by 20 minutes from the NEC then driving my car home, leaving us to fend for ourselves from there!  The plan was John would leave at 8pm, drive to the same lay-by, wed all get a few hours sleep then head off early together all driving whatever vehicles we had licenses for.  This wasnt to work out though as Johns trailer had a blow out before theyd even crossed into England.  With no spare they had to wait to be rescued putting them several hours behind and resulting in them having no sleep at all and everyone having a mad rush to make it into the show!

With everything sorted and in the arena it was time to concentrate on the practice. The only way I can describe the live action arena is like the world final in a night club; the lights and the fact that you
re inside makes the atmosphere absolutely out of this world.   I love driving in there, the cars are great fun and you just touch the throttle and the back is sliding all over the place.  With three practice sessions and one show we had plenty of time to wander off and look round the main halls of the show before retiring back to the hotel ready to prepare for the madness that lay ahead!

Birmingham is renowned for some legendary nights out but I think the events that followed will be very hard to beat.  What started as a pretty standard night out turned into one I shall never forget.  Not for any one reason except everyone was having a good time, as they would say in Northern Ireland the craic was mighty!  Considering it was a Thursday night and all the sensible people in the world had work the next day, we wandered between a few bars before ending up in the world’s cheesiest night spot - a club called Pop World.  Its known for being full of racing folk and sure enough over the weekend it didnt disappoint.  I would hate to think how much drink was consumed and rumour has it that the world champion himself had to have a little sleep in the corridor of his hotel because he couldnt find his room .. (sorry John!)

Friday was a pretty slow day for us with only one show in the afternoon. We decided to take the car out to the lorry and just check everything over.  It was a good job we did as a joint holding the axle in had snapped completely leaving the axle free to move around at will.  Had we not changed this, the outcome doesnt really bear thinking about!  Friday night was a lot more subdued.  I planned an early night and headed off to get some sleep but my friends had other ideas and after almost knocking my door from its hinges they dragged me back downstairs.

Saturday and Sunday were a lot more intense for us with 13 shows over the two days.  Everyone was getting a lot more confident too so the racing was getting better.  The stands looked pretty full each time and I think it gave the formula really good publicity.  Everyone made a big effort with their cars and tried to do National Hot Rod racing justice - it is the best formula in the world after all!

Saturday night saw us all head out for a meal then back to the hotel for a quiet night.  Things were going well until 1 oclock when I decided that its the last night and I really should be heading into the town.  So after rounding up the other hardcore members of the squad we got in a taxi, bound for Pop World.  Now I wasnt drinking so I saw all this through completely sober eyes and I can honestly say I have never seen so many racing folk in one place at one time.  I remember looking over the balcony and onto the dance floor just to see it packed full of familiar faces - I counted nine National Hot Rod drivers alone, not to mention other formulas and mechanics!

Sunday was much the same as Saturday with 6 shows to do before heading home.  It really was such an amazing weekend with great people.  I saw all my friends and made plenty of new ones.  I cant thank Besty and Norden enough for coming over, both for the laughs and helping with the car. . . and of course to everyone else who just made it such an amazing few days.  It will always be remembered as the birth place of S.A.F. Motorsport (best you dont ask!).

Back here in the real world things are back to normal.  Johns car came back from the show with us and has been and had a new exhaust fitted by Edwards Motorsport.  It now needs a few little jobs doing and then it will be ready for the test night in February.  My car is in bits again and the engine is with John Toovey for some fine tuning.  It also has a shiny new Quaife sequential gearbox waiting to go in and I cant wait to get out and try it!

Im heading off to Cape Town next week to try and do the UK proud in the International Challenge at Tygerberg Raceway.  Its going to be such an experience and I really cant wait.  If anyone is interested and wants to keep up with how its going, please check out their website

Things are set to be pretty hectic when I get back too - in fact, its shaping up to be another amazing year!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Organised, for once

I can’t believe that it’s Christmas again - another year has flown past.  The fact there’s not been any racing for a few weeks hasn’t slowed things down at all and I’ve been busy working on the car and visiting friends during the run up to the holiday season.

I’m delighted to report that for once I’m pretty well organised and the bulk of the work on the car is actually done!  It’s currently at TPR Signs getting its stickers and when it comes back here we have to change the diff, check everything over, set it up and it’s ready for the Live Action Arena at the Autosport Show in January.  Oh, and the wheels - well, I keep putting them off.  The idea of stripping them all down, painting them and rebuilding them doesn’t exactly fill me with Christmas cheer!

As the Tigra has been blue and silver since it was built in 2009 I decided to change things a little for 2014.  I really like the blue and have a garage full of spare panels that colour, so I’ve kept that the same, but the top half of the car has been spayed in a crisp frozen white.  Our company colours are blue and white, and my dad’s rally cars were always that colour too, so it just seemed a natural choice really.  There are a few little details left to do whilst it’s at TPR but I’m really happy with the result so far.
With December being my birthday as well as Christmas there’s always plenty of celebrating to be done, and so far this year has lived up to all expectations.  A pretty hectic weekend in Scotland for my friend’s 21st was followed by an even more hectic night in Northern Ireland for my own birthday.  What was meant to be a quiet country music concert was turned into a pretty rowdy event when twelve of us arrived . . .all I’m going to say is the twenty-foot Christmas tree was very lucky to survive the night unscathed after it was nearly brought tumbling to the ground!  It was a brilliant night though and a birthday I won’t forget in a hurry.   Thanks to everyone who made it such a good couple of weekends.  I managed to travel thousands of miles, visit three airports and drink beer in three countries all in the space of a week!  Pretty proud of that one - although maybe I’m now old enough to know better?

I’m very excited to say that I’ve been given the opportunity to head out to Cape Town in South Africa to race next February.  It’s a large shale oval which races Hot Rods similar to the cars here, although they run larger engines.  It’s a once in a lifetime chance; my flight is booked and I can’t wait to head out there.  Two weeks of sun and Hot Rods sounds perfect to me.

With lots going on at work it’s going to be a short Christmas this year, but I’m looking forward to spending a few days with my family - without any mention of racing cars or van spares.  These are pretty much my dad’s and my only topics of conversation and I think at times we must drive my poor mum mad.  I’m heading off to Scotland for New Year to spend it with John and all my friends.  He’s having a party . . . he just doesn’t know it yet.   Oops . . . he will now!

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year.  I’m sure I’ll be blogging again before the NEC but if not I’ll see you all there.  Make sure you all drink far too much and party way too hard - I’m sure I will!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time



Monday, November 25, 2013

Another year over

Well, that’s that - the 2013 racing season is over.  It’s certainly flown by with all the expected highs and lows that come along the way.  Overall, the first season with the Duratech has gone well and has left me in a good position for next year.  I have a few small changes planned for the car over the winter but nothing too major.  Although I am unfortunately sitting outside of the top twenty at the moment a good meeting when we start back will put me straight back in the mix of things.

The last two meetings didn’t go to plan at all for me and although nothing went seriously wrong, nothing seemed to actually go right either!  I could look for all sorts of excuses but don’t really think there are any valid ones - it was just racing and it didn’t work out!

It was a glorious November day for the Hednesford meeting and although it was cold it stayed dry all day.  The car carries so much speed round that track and it always feels like you’re going so fast.  It was just one of those meetings with nothing to report and although I got points in each race with a tenth, an eleventh and a twelfth it wasn’t anything to write home about!  Due to some good organisation by the Incarace staff we were able to load up and leave straight after the final even though it meant we missed the fireworks.  It’s not a bad run for us either so we found ourselves back at home nice and early.

With only five days to get the car ready for the last meeting at Birmingham we were lucky that we didn’t have much to do; a good check over, a diff change, a quick set up and a general tidy up and we were ready to go again.  I’d been complaining that the brakes had been feeling inconsistent all day though so a deeper investigation was needed into what was causing that.  It didn’t take long to find the problem - the pads had overheated and started to separate.  A quick phone call to SHP soon had this sorted and a new set of pads arrived next day ready to be fitted.

Birmingham was a disappointment for me.  I love Birmingham and I had talked myself into a good meeting before we even arrived.  The car felt great in practice but once again when the racing started I couldn’t get it to come together.  Looking back this was down to the driver more than anything else.  I did manage points in the first two races with a ninth and an eighth but from where I was starting I wasn’t happy with these results at all.  I vowed to make the final count but this plan was over before it had really begun with me ending up getting spun just a couple of laps into the race.  This put me last but I kept going and was catching the main pack but still ended up outside the points, a really disastrous way to end the season.

I came off the track in one of those moods every racing driver has where everything is for sale and if I ever saw the car again it would be too soon!  Of course I’d calmed down again by the following morning and the car was unloaded and I had all the panels off ready for its winter rebuild by lunch time!

I’m racing in the NEC again in January 2014 so the next few weeks are going to be spent getting the car ready for that.  I have some new panels ready to go on and a slight colour change planned just to make things look a little different.  The paint has very kindly been supplied to me by PC Paints and Components of Ballymoney, Northern Ireland.  The chassis has all been cleaned off by my neighbour Chris who runs EasyLife Valeting and we have a couple more little jobs to do before everything can go back together.  The biggest decision at the moment is what colour I should paint my precious wheels!  I’m also in a dilemma as to whether I should show everyone the car or keep it under wraps until January!

I do just want to stop now and say “Thank You” to everyone who has made my racing possible; my family, my friends, my sponsors and everyone who supports me.  Without everyone’s help, especially my dad, the racing wouldn’t happen - simple as that!  I also want to thank everyone who picks me up when I’m feeling down and convinces me to get back out there and do it all again.  I’m very lucky and do appreciate everything.

I am really determined to have a good go next year.  We are so close and I’m going to make that final big push just to get up to speed with the top boys.  I love my racing and one day I am going to crack it!

Over the coming months I have a few exciting things in the pipeline and I’ll keep you all informed of what’s going on.  By my calculations we’re getting towards the 100th blog mark now so I’m thinking of something special for that one.  Thanks to everyone who keeps reading my musings - I still enjoy writing them so you’re all stuck with me for a while yet!

Finally, before I go I just want to say congratulations to Neil Rowe, the webmaster himself, on his marriage to Eimear.  Sorry I couldn’t make it to your big day but I have such a lot happening here at work that I just couldn’t get over.  I wish you all the best though and many happy years together!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Time to dry out...

I’m just starting to dry out from the meeting at Northampton on Saturday.  I can honestly say I have never been that wet in all my life!

I am lucky enough to be able to spend a fair amount of time in Scotland.  I love the Hot Rods up there and try and get to as many meetings as I can.  I’ve managed to get to each of the four tracks this year.  My friends Bob and Leeann got married recently and after a few beers on the stag do I agreed to wear a kilt on the big day.  This seemed like a great idea at the time until my flight to Edinburgh was delayed for two hours and I found myself getting dressed rather hurriedly in the car going up the M8 with the surprise Mini Bob had bought for Leeann on a trailer behind.  It was a great night from what I remember and I woke up next morning at Robert’s house with a pretty sore head!  It was straight from there to Lochgelly for what would turn out to be the last meeting for John in his 206, although none of us knew this at the time!

Typically, John flew in the old girl and was on the pace all day.  At some time during the day the deal was done in secret with Graeme Callender to buy his Tigra, and I have never seen anyone look so surprised when it turned up on John’s drive later that evening.  This new car left me with no choice but return two weeks later for the Sibbald anniversary party and a trip to Knockhill for his maiden run in it.  The Sibbald party turned into another pretty epic night and when we arrived at Knockhill I had actually driven the car more than John had - just by doing a few laps around his yard.  I think Knockhill is a great track and the Hot Rods look awesome going round there.  The day started with disaster though as the prop snapped on the way down to practice.  This meant we missed the first heat but it was sorted and good to go again for the second heat.  John had a couple of good races and picked up a few much needed points.

I decided to jump in my car last weekend and go to one last meeting at Lochgelly before the end of the year.  John is well and truly on the pace now and is flying in the new car.  After a small adjustment in practice the car was running round like it was on rails, and he had a good day getting a second, a third and then another second in the final.  It was good to watch the Ninja Karts too . . . some of those little guys are absolutely mental!

Between everything else going on I took a trip over to Northern Ireland to watch the British and Irish open.  As usual the Irish hospitality lived up to its reputation!  It was a complete riot of a weekend starting with Room to Race in Bangor, the racing simulator that lets you race around all the tracks we race at week in week out.  I think the lads treated me a bit unfairly here and wouldn’t let me finish a lap let alone a race without being rolled or turned into the wall.  The madness started later at the Ballymena Social Club then progressed to 15 of us crammed into Glenn’s lorry singing songs and having a good time.  I found myself helping Robert on the Sunday and after a quick diff change spent the flight home stinking of diff oil!  It was a brilliant weekend.   I always love heading over the water to see everyone and I can’t wait to go back.

My own racing has been pretty exciting too, with our first ever trip to the Mendips Raceway down by Bristol.  In all my years of racing I have never been racing in the West Country before and it was good to go somewhere different.  When we arrived in the morning you could barely see your hand in front of your face - let alone the track - due to thick fog.  When it cleared it turned into a lovely day and left us with a brilliant little track.  It’s relatively small, maybe Birmingham size, and it’s on a hill.  You drop down into a tight turn one and two then climb up a steep hill with a hump in the middle of the straight heading into turn three and four.  The speed you carry around it is incredible though and I have never come off from a race feeling so physically worn out!  I had a really good day though with a fifth in both heats and a ninth in the final.  It would have been a fourth in heat one, but me being stupid slowed down a lap before the chequered flag!  I really enjoyed the day and hope it becomes a yearly fixture for us.

Saturday night at Northampton was more suited to boat racing than cars but after 6 years of racing Hot Rods I can finally say I’ve found a set up for the rain that I’m happy with.  It started off dry in practice and for a while it looked like it was going to be a nice night.  That soon changed though and as the start got closer the rain moved in.  I headed out on wets and for once had actually made the right tyre choice.  The race started well but a bit of contact saw me heading towards the wall.  I managed to lock up and avoid any damage but it put me right to the back.  I got going again though and worked my way back up to thirteenth.  Luck wasn’t on my side for the next race either as I got involved with a spinning car and ended up stuck on the kerb; this brought the yellows out and unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to restart the race.

The weather worsened before the final and was more like a monsoon than a rain storm.  I could sit and give you all sorts of excuses as to why I didn’t finish but I just couldn’t see anything.  My glasses steamed up, my goggles steamed up, even my mirrors were steamed up, and I was struggling to see the corners let alone the cars around me.  If I’d kept going it would inevitably have resulted in an accident so I did the sensible thing and pulled off.  It’s left me with a car that needs very little work so that’s a good thing.

With two meetings left to go there’s still plenty that could happen.  It’s been a really exciting year so far and I’m really enjoying it.  Just typing this has reminded me what a great few months I have had!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time