Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plenty to report - part 1

There has been so much going on these past few months and I’m going to head back to before the epic trip to South Africa and bring you right up to date with what has been happening in the world of National Hot Rod 27.

The NEC seems like a distant memory now but it’s a good point to pick things up from.  John Sibbald’s car came home with us on my trailer and for the next 6 weeks or so we found ourselves operating a two-Hot Rod workshop.  Dad did lots of work on John’s car whilst I was away and we removed my engine and took it back to John Toovey so it could have a bit of a freshen up.

Literally the day before I was due to fly out on holiday it was the awards night being held at a hotel in Northampton.  After making a pretty disorganised last minute decision Besty flew over from Northern Ireland and the two of us headed off to check it out!  I really didn’t expect to win an award especially after the season I have been having, so to come away with ‘Most Improved Driver’ really was an added bonus.  Thank you very much to everyone who voted - it means a lot.  I can’t really go into much detail about the night as there was lots of beer consumed and I can’t remember too much.  I know about 15 of us ended up in a nightclub in Northampton though!  I think the social side of the racing is really good at the moment and there is a really good circle of friends - although it was a shame to see so few people turn up for the party, especially after so much effort had been made to organise it!

There was to be no rest after I returned from holiday and it was straight back into getting the cars ready for the start of the season.  My engine was still being finished so I couldn’t make the Ipswich practice night but it was all hands on deck getting John’s ready.  The plan was that he would come down on Friday morning, finish his car in the afternoon, practice Saturday and head home Sunday.  Now John is my best friend but he is not renowned for his organisation!  Friday morning turned into Friday 10pm and although the car was nearly finished it left both him and his cousin David rushing around getting finished whilst I was at work on Saturday morning.  Everything turned out okay though, and come lunch time we found ourselves in the pick-up and on the way a few minutes ahead of schedule!

Ipswich at night is always a great sight especially with the new lights around the stadium and the new stands towering up into the dark.  It was good to see some faces I hadn’t seen for a few months as well.  It was quite well supported with around eleven cars turning up to have a run prior to the season kicking off.  John went out and did a couple of runs with his car and came back in happy.  We made a couple of changes and he felt he got quicker each session.  Obviously Ipswich is a very long way for John and he normally only gets to run there at Spedeweekend, so it was a good opportunity for him to get a run round what is without doubt one of the best Hot Rod tracks in the UK.

Once he was happy he offered me a run in his car - an offer I gladly accepted.  His car was really great to drive and such a world away from the dirt I had been running on the weekend before at Tygerberg Raceway.  It’s always hard driving another person’s car and it took me a good few laps just to get used to the tarmac again which was so smooth and forgiving compared to the dirt . . . and the Tigra had so much grip!  I was really enjoying my run and starting to feel comfortable in the car when it started to misfire.  I pulled off into the middle but luckily it was nothing serious - the car had run out of petrol!

Once John had gone back home it was time to get my engine back and put my car back together.  We had a few repairs to do from the NEC and the new Quaife sequential gearbox to fit.  When all this was done it was time to head off to Birmingham for a practice and the first Big John’s of the year!   Straight out of the lorry my car felt better than it ever has before.  The engine seemed really strong and the new gearbox is impressive.  The sequential gives it real racing car-feel as well!  Jason was there with his car too, so we had a quick swap round and did a few laps in each other’s cars.  Now that is a weird feeling:  driving around a track and seeing your own car on the straight in front of you!

I was happy with everything and it was time to head home and get the car sorted for the Saturday night.  Now I’ve been very lucky so far this year to have already driven five different Hot Rods in various forms but I really couldn’t wait to get out and actually race my own.  I had already said to Dad that we would just go and enjoy this year and make the most of each race rather than get totally hung up on qualifying for the world final.  I have lots of things I’m trying to do at work at the moment too, and sometimes racing just can’t take priority . . . sad as that is!  But it’s not going to stop us from being there having as much fun as possible and trying our best in every race!

As it turns out Birmingham was actually a meeting to forget!  It has always been my favourite track and the car once again felt good.  The first race started well with me and Shaun having a great race for the lead.  It didn’t work out though with us both coming together in the pit turn and ending up spinning off it all directions.  The second race wasn’t any better either.  I’d got into the lead and started to make a bit of a gap only to pick up a puncture!  Try as I might I was fighting a losing battle and had to once again watch from the infield.  I enjoyed the final though...  It was a good race and again I found myself leading but it just wasn’t to be my night - and as to not break my 100% non-finish record I found myself on the centre again with about 7 laps to go.  But never mind, that’s racing.  You need to take the good with the bad, suck it up and move on!  The car was flying though so that’s something positive to take from the night.  I had a really nasty headache come on as we were loading the car so I didn’t eat anything at Big John’s - certainly the low point of the evening for me!

I think I’ll leave it there for this week, then pick it up and bring you right up to date after Friday’s meeting at Northampton.  Next part will include the year’s first road trip, a couple of nights out, and the long awaited first win for the Duratech.

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


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