Monday, March 7, 2011

Testing times

This year has seen us do more testing than ever before with three sessions all within a couple of days of each other.   As the car needed so little work doing to it after the NEC it seemed an ideal time to get out and have some track time with it.
The first session was a trip to a very wet Northampton last Wednesday.   There were several things Dad wanted to try on the car, and as he wasn’t going with me to the other two sessions this was going to be our only chance to do it.   We loaded the car into the trailer and Dad, Ross, my cousin Eddie and I all set off for Northampton hoping the weather would improve as we got closer.   It didn’t!   It rained from the minute we left home until the second we left the track.   Just as we left, the sun poked its head through the clouds and tried to shine . . . typical!   The track was obviously soaking and seeing as everything Dad wanted to try was for the dry this meant we couldn’t do any of it - but we were there so decided to go out on track nonetheless.
There were no other cars out there so we decided to see how the car would run in the rain on slicks, just in case we get caught out in a race one day.   Initially it was going okay - it was very slippery and you had to be so gentle with the throttle and brakes; overdo it the tiniest bit and you were all over the place with lots of wheelspin.    After a few laps I came back in and checked everything over and headed back out.   This time wasn’t going to go so smoothly.    I did a couple of laps and as I got faster I found myself struggling with the car.    As I came into the bottom bend I braked a bit hard and locked the front wheel making the car push on and slide straight at the Armco.   Luckily I wasn’t going very fast so it was only a low speed impact but it was enough to take a couple of lumps out of the panels and worst of all bent the lower compression strut.   We didn’t have any spares at all so had to borrow a steel tube, put the compression strut in the vice and hope it didn’t split as we straightened it.   Luckily it came straight again and Jay was on hand with a spare rose joint, so that was everything to get us going again.
We decided that it was just too wet for slicks so headed back out again on a set of wets.   As you would expect, this totally transformed the car, turning it into something you could control and was actually enjoyable to drive.   I did a few sessions on the wets, making a few changes and improving it as I went.    I suggested Jay take it out for a few laps to tell me what he thought of it.   It was nice watching someone else have a go in the car and seeing how it reacts through the bends.   When he came back in he said I should have a few laps in his new Oval Legend to see what I thought of it.    I literally had to squeeze myself into the seat but I got in and belted up and set off turning left for the first time on an oval.    In fairness it is a quick little car but I wasn’t going fast enough to show it.   The Ministox were probably going faster than me!   Jay was really flying round in it and there was me pottering round fearing for my life.  Certainly more of a handful than the National!    After surviving the Legend experience it was back into the Tigra for one final run, before heading home to get the car cleaned and checked ready for Friday.
Friday was the Haird Motorsport test day and seeing as Dad had to work, my friend Terry dropped me at the track and Gav Murray said I could stay with him Friday night and then he’d take me to Ipswich on Saturday.    Mum and Dad were coming up after work on Saturday afternoon with the trailer to fetch me home.   I really need a trailer licence now!
Friday saw eight cars take to the track on a nice dry day.   Without Dad there, I was reluctant to make any changes, and in truth was really happy with the way the car was performing - especially as it still had the bent compression strut fitted.    I didn’t time any laps but the car felt good and Jason Cooper and myself had a good thrash round at one point, nearly trading paint on several occasions.   It was a really good atmosphere at the track and it was great seeing all my friends and having a catch up.  Sonny Howard was there too and it was good to meet him and have a chat.   He has so much knowledge and experience with Hot Rods and I’m sure it will be a good thing to have him back involved with the Nationals.   I’ve said it before but I enjoy the social life as much as racing and this was just one of those sociable-kind of days.   The car did quite a few laps through the day with various drivers and when we loaded it back into the trailer at the end of the day I was really happy with how it felt.   There were some quick cars out on track, and George Turiccki is certainly going to be one to watch in the ex-world-winning car, as is Jason in his new Tigra.
The plan was to go from the track back to David’s house, head out for a meal, then go to Gavin’s for the night.   We went for a Turkish meal in Newmarket, and although I was unsure what it would be like it turned out to be really nice.   Yes, there was a belly dancer. . . I’m sure half the world has seen the pictures on Facebook.  Thanks Chris! Going out with Hairds and the Murrays is always a good laugh - albeit with most of the jokes usually aimed at me.   It’s all in good humour though and I’m storing it all up until the day I get them back with some ingenious prank!
We spent Saturday morning in Gav’s workshop changing diffs and getting the cars sorted for Ipswich.   It had been raining when we got up and didn’t show any signs of stopping but being optimists we both took our cars to the track on slicks!   When we got there it soon became apparent that we needed outboard motors rather than slicks.  The scoreboard bend was completely flooded and there was a river running through the pits right under my car.  The set of wets I had in the trailer were far from perfect but I bolted them on the car anyway and set out for the first session of the night.   It was still raining but a lot of water had been swept off the track.   The car felt really good and everything was going well except for the amount of spray coming up at me.   I was pulling the film on my goggles every lap and after a handful of laps they jammed up as they ran out of film.   I left it a few laps but visibility got worse and worse so I decided to pull off - it was only practice after all.
My Dad arrived in time for the second session and after sorting my goggles and making a few small changes I set off for another go.   It was still raining, but this time I could see!   Again the car seemed to be really good and went exactly where I put it.   I was a long way off being the fastest car but everything was working as it should.  When I returned to the pits I was wet and cold so decided to call it a night and put the car away.
All in all it had been a brilliant weekend with some good friends and the car had been great.  Thanks to everyone who helped me out and made it possible to do it.
We are now getting the car ready for the first meeting next weekend.  It’s come round so quickly and I must say I’m looking forward to getting out on track again and seeing everyone.  I’ve enjoyed writing this blog through the winter and intend to keep doing it.   Thanks to everyone who says they enjoy reading it; that makes it all worthwhile.   See you next weekend.

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