Wednesday, August 28, 2013

National Weekend 2013

The weekend after the World Final was the Skegness Speed Weekend and with the car needing to head that way too I decided to miss the Friday night chaos and head up to SHP early on Saturday morning with the Hot Rod so it could have the chassis repaired.  I then cut across country to pick my cousin up and we went straight to Skegness.  Along with a couple of friends, I’d rented an apartment right on the seafront at Skeg and once I’d found a place to park the recovery truck for the weekend we headed off to watch what I think is some of the best racing of the year.  As much as I love my racing I’m not a huge fan of watching it.  I can, however, get into the F2s at a big meeting as it’s pretty much ‘all action’ right from the green flag.  It was a great weekend and certainly not one I like to miss.  Hopefully next year I’ll manage the Friday night too.

I seem to have spent a lot of time in Scotland recently and I think poor John is sick of the sight of me.  After a single weekend at home it was straight back up so we could head out on our friend Bob’s stag night in Edinburgh.  Because of my flight times I missed the go-karting (probably a good thing!) but arrived in time to partake in all the other antics.  It was as chaotic as you would expect when a group of racing guys head out into town.  Bob was very much ‘worse for wear’ the next day so it was definitely mission accomplished!

After all the partying it was time to get down to the serious business of the National Championship - we had the car back from SHP and were well on the way to getting it ready to go.  Now as much as I’ve never finished the World Final, I’ve never been able to qualify for the National either, so I headed off with some serious determination and some unfinished business so to speak.

Seeing as we’d done a lot of work to the car we decided to go up on the Thursday night and stop at Birmingham Wheels to give the car a few laps and make sure I was happy with everything.  Jason was there too so he took the Duratech out to see what he thought of it.  I’m 23 now and have been racing cars in some form or another since I was 10, and in this entire time - although he used to rally - my dad has never once driven any of my cars around a track.  I don’t know what got into him this particular night but he decided to have a go.  I feel nervous watching video playback of myself racing when I already know exactly what the outcome is, but watching dad go round was a tense moment for me!  I will admit though, he did well and kept it pointing the right way with all four wheels still attached - something I regularly struggle to achieve!

It would have been rude not to stop at Big John’s after going to Birmingham so after a satisfying feed we continued on to Hednesford and joined the queue waiting to be let in.  Dad jumped in my car and went home as he had to work next morning and left me there to fend for myself.  I’m lucky to have such good friends though who are always prepared to help me out over the weekend.

Before I could practice, the car needed a diff change so it was lifted up into Jason’s lorry and we set to work.  It was the standard National Weekend practice procedure - three runs throughout the afternoon.  Although I had no real problems with the car I wasn’t happy with it and was feeling very down and convinced that I wouldn’t qualify.  This left me miserable and generally unsociable for the first couple of hours on Friday night.

The social side of the weekend is always as big a deal to me as the actual racing.  I like to see everyone and have a laugh and it’s the only time I get to see some of my friends throughout the year so it’s good to make the most of it and have a catch up.

The weather forecast for the whole weekend was terrible, and sure enough Saturday didn’t disappoint with on/off rain soaking the track, then letting it start to partially dry and making tyre choice an absolute nightmare!  It’s almost always guaranteed that I get tyre choices wrong and I headed out for my first race of the weekend on four wets.  It became obvious after about half a lap that once again I’d got it wrong and was left struggling with the car for the rest of the race.  The next two races were dry, but whether it was me or the car, I found myself fighting the car again.  I’d set myself high standards for the weekend and was struggling to live up to them.  I finished all three with no damage though and enough points to get into the big race on Sunday.   After all these years trying, I had finally managed to qualify!

This put me in a much better mood for the Saturday night and a few drinks in the bar and the thought of a hotel bed and a hot shower left me looking forward to Sunday.  It looked like it was going to be a nice day when we got up in the morning.  My mum and dad were coming up to watch and bringing our new puppy and my aunt and cousins were there too.  I just wanted to stay out of trouble and finally finish a championship.  Just as we lined up the weather had other ideas though, and as the race started so did the rain!  All the cars were running full dry setup on slicks which was making them hard work to drive.  I was still determined though and despite my goggles falling to bits on the first lap I managed to limp round slowly at the back for the full 75 laps and cross the finish line.

32 cars started the race, 14 finished.  I was 14th and had been lapped countless times and even though it was probably one of my worst drives ever it was also one that I am proudest of.  I’ve been racing Nationals a long time and this was the first championship that I’ve managed to finish.  It was pretty hard going in the heavy rain and I was thankful that I didn’t spin out or park the car in the wall.

Once again I made a tyre choice error for the NHRPA Championship and pulled off after just a handful of laps when it became obvious that wets weren’t the tyre to be using.  All in all it was a great weekend though, every year I say I’m not going to do it, then come away saying how glad I am that I did.  I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped me with the car, fed me and supplied me with drink!

I’m running a bit behind with my blogs, for which I apologise.  Plenty has happened since National Weekend and I’ll bring you up to date next time.

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time.


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