Thursday, November 15, 2012

Up in smoke

That’s it . . . racing is officially over for this year.  It didn’t end as I‘d hoped it would, and the last two meetings were disappointing for me.

When we got to Hednesford after driving through some pretty horrendous weather to get there, we were all geared up and expecting a day of racing in the rain.  But almost as soon as we pulled off the motorway the rain stopped and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the day.  This left us with a dry track and slicks for the first race and it was a great feeling to get in the car and join the line up.   It was only to be very short lived though as a ‘coming together’ on the first lap left me with damaged suspension, a bent wheel, and an Armco ringside seat to watch the next 25 laps!    For once I will actually say it wasn’t in any way my fault - it was just a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’.  That’s racing after all, and it’s just one of those things.

After the race it was “all go” to get the damage fixed, and I just want to say a big thanks to Gavin Murray who was straight over to help get the car sorted and back on track.    Now let’s say I’m not really the best in these situations and I think Dad despairs at times, so it was really good of Gav to come over and help - and a reminder of  just how loyal my friends really are.

Now the next two races were a lot more successful with a 6th and a 9th respectively.  Not the best results I know but it was still two finishes with points, and I managed to escape picking up any more damage.   Everyone seemed to have some complaint over the meeting but I actually thought how well the N.H.R.P.A. handled things.  Like everyone out there I have had my complaints and times when I think things haven’t gone my way, but it’s easy to forget a lot of the people running the meetings and putting in hours of their own time do it for very little reward, and quite often get handed the rough end of the stick - not to mention putting up with a lot of whining from the drivers!

With only one week between the last two meetings, it left us with a few busy evenings in the garage.  When we loaded the car up on the Friday it was looking pretty sorry for itself.   I was looking forward to
Birmingham, and with good weather forecast for the night I was keen to give the car one last blast before its winter break.

We got to the track early enough to do some practice, and when I went out on the track the car was absolutely flying.    It always does exactly what I want it to at
Birmingham and I was really pleased with it.    But just as I was coming into turn three, disaster struck and the little red light on the dashboard flashed up saying ‘no oil pressure’.   I pulled off into the middle to find the belt driving the dry sump pump had come off.

After much swearing, sulking and conversing back in the pits, another belt was fitted and the car seemed to run fine.  Looking back now what we did afterwards was completely stupid.   Rather than take the sensible option and load the car up we decided we would try our luck and race it . . . foolish I know, but I needed some points.

To start the race the car was absolutely flying, but after about six laps coming out of turn three, the car went sick and started rattling.   By the time I’d reached the end of the straight there was a bang and a lot of smoke, and it really was ‘game over‘.    I’m absolutely gutted because it was a brilliant engine and the situation would have been completely avoidable had I not been so desperate for points and just loaded it up in the trailer.

With everything packed away we watched the rest of the racing.  Some of my pals had headed down from
Scotland, and Ross had come along to his first ever Birmingham meeting and managed to watch me do the grand total of 6 laps!  So we set about drowning our sorrows on any beer we could find and actually managed to have a really good laugh.  This was topped off by the final visit for this year to ‘Big John’s’ for a feed.

So that’s that - all finished and the winter rebuild can begin.  The engine will be heading back to John Toovey who I know will send it back even better than before.  The car will be getting a freshen-up and we have quite a few little changes we want to make.

It’s also the end of an era, because after many years we are changing our lorry over the winter.  Although I have moaned about it in the past, we have done thousands of miles in it over the years having used it since my early days of racing Minis.  It’s been a faithful friend.

I’ll be back over the coming weeks looking back over the year and talking about the winter rebuild.  I’ve had a great time this season and want to say a collective ‘thank you’ to everyone who has shared it with me.

Here’s to many more!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


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