Friday, November 4, 2011

It’s a long way to Tipperary

This is one of those blogs where I just don’t know where to start!   There is literally so much I could tell you about.   The racing might not have gone to plan but what a laugh we had along the way - and I’m sure the European Championship 2011 is going to be a weekend I’ll never forget.
It all started Thursday lunch time when my Aunt and I set out with the trailer to meet team Murray in a lay-by on the side of the A14.  The car was swapped into Gav’s lorry and the long slog to Holyhead began.  Within the first hour it was obvious we were going to have a laugh all weekend and the banter helped make the seemingly endless trip fly by.    There were five of us making the trip; Gavin, his dad Graham, the mechanic and general comedian Carl, Mr ‘Cattermoles of Ipswich’ Andrew Bigmore and myself.
We encountered our first issue when we arrived at the port and possibly the most miserable woman in the world refused to let us on the boat because they had raised the decks.   After several more trips to her little kiosk the answer was still a firm “No”.    So that was us stuck on the side of the dock for the next 6 hours until we could get the next boat to Dublin at 2.30am.  We did what any group of guys having to wait for 6 hours would do. . . we went for a Chinese (one of the best I have ever had) and slept!
The ferry journey passed a pretty uneventful few hours.   We had a couple of beers and lost a few quid in the fruit machines and tried our best to sleep.    We docked at and drove to Clonmel to check into the hotel.   Gav hadn’t slept at this point and had driven from one side of England to the other, been on the ferry and then driven half way across Ireland!
At the hotel it was straight off for breakfast, get the bags into the rooms then off to the bar, where we remained for the next 12 hours!    It was in truth really nice to do nothing for a day and I can’t remember the last time I sat in a bar having a drink in the afternoon.    Kym Weaver and his team were in the hotel too and we spent the rest of the day just having a few drinks, or a lot of drinks, depending on how you look at it!    We ended the evening with a few Jager bombs that I can still taste now and headed up to bed nice and early.
After getting everything sorted Saturday morning we had breakfast, checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the track.   We arrived just as they were opening the gates, got parked up and unloaded the cars.   There was a very long wait then before practice began.   As soon as I drove onto the track it became apparent how awesome it is.   The speed you carry is unbelievable and the straights seem to go on and on.    The banked corners are good, meaning you can carry so much speed through the bend and literally just floor it half way through the turn.
The meeting finally got underway and I lined up for my first heat.   I was starting near the back and all the races were a rolling start, an idea that I thought was really good.   When the lead car got to a set point on the track the green flag dropped.   Everyone knew when it was going to be and there was no jump starts.   The race was going well for me - I was at the back but challenging the cars around me.  My car was flying and then the driver’s door came off!   It went up in the air like a kite and luckily came to rest on the outside of the corner where it remained untouched for the rest of the race.
Understandably I was told to pull off and that was my race over.   Gav had been flying in that race and finished with a 4th. 
The second heat was to be no better for me either.   Things had been going well and I’d been trying to make some passes work on the outside but seemingly got turned into the wall every time I tried.   I wasn’t to finish this race either as a spin coming out of turn four left me parked on the centre green.
With my heats over I was able to watch Gav in his second race.    Once again he was flying and making good progress up the grid . . . only for his race to end in disaster too when he got run into the wall taking all the outside suspension out in the process.
Gav and his team rushed to get the car repaired and we both headed out for the championship race. I was starting last and Gav was somewhere mid pack.   It all ended in disaster for me after about three laps when the rose joint in the bottom arm snapped causing me to hit the fence.   Luckily I was hard on the brakes and managed to slow it down enough for the damage to be minimal, but it was still another championship I was out of, meaning I’m still waiting to actually finish one!    Gav finished the race and came home with a 7th.    After the race was over we set about getting my car rolling again so we could load up and get going – we had a ferry to catch.    It was nothing a few hammers and swear words wouldn’t sort out, and although we lost a lot of time and it was like working in a swamp, we did get it in the lorry and headed off to catch the ferry.
The trip home was as funny as the trip there and a valuable lesson were learnt; don’t fall asleep in the presence of Gavin Murray!    I won’t go into the reasons why.   Even when we arrived back at the motorway services to meet my Dad the car had one more trick to play.     The strap holding it in broke and it came hurtling out of the back of Gav’s truck and halfway across the car park!
All in all another great weekend with my mates and another experience and ambition fulfilled.   Sadly I didn’t get the finish I so badly wanted and Gav didn’t have the luck he deserved either but I can still say I’ve been across and done it, learnt from it and enjoyed the experience.   No doubt I’ll be back again!
Massive thanks to Gavin, Carl, Graham and Andrew for putting up with me, helping me and making it possible for me to do it.   Thanks to everyone else who offered to help and everyone who just came over for a chat.   There is so much more I could tell you about the trip but most of it is completely unprintable!
I’ll see you all at Hednesford.

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