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 www.tygerbergraceway.co.za

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


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