Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A big number, a long trip and a very wet day!

According to my calculations this is my 100th blog.  It doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing them that long but when I look back the first one was in November 2010 - so thank you to everyone who has read them for the best part of four years.  There have been plenty of good times, two World Finals, countless crashes, thousands of miles travelled, lots of new friends made and far too many hangovers along the way!

I can’t think of any better way to celebrate the 100th milestone than with a trip to Lochgelly for the European Championship.  Now, my last attempt at the European was Tipperary in 2011 when I took the journey over to Ireland with Gavin Murray.  It was a complete disaster of a weekend ending with me ripping a wheel off in the final and leaving us chasing our tails to make it back to the ferry on time!

Before I could even set off this time I had a problem though as Dad wasn’t coming and my pickup was for sale at a friend’s garage - so I had no way of actually getting there.  It was getting to the point where I was considering taking the work Transit!  Those of you ‘in the know’ will understand why I wasn’t exactly excited at this idea!  Luckily I had the call just in time to say the new car was ready so it was a quick trip to Exeter to collect it before quite literally folding the seats down and loading it with spares, and hitching the Hot Rod and trailer on the back.  Criminal I know, but all part of the things we do for Hot Rod racing!

My plan was to leave around lunch time on Thursday and take a slow trip up the road arriving around 7pm.  This wasn’t the case though after I was running late anyway and then found I had no lights on the trailer.  I finally managed to leave around 3pm causing me a very slow trip up because of the traffic, finally arriving around 10.30pm.  It’s a long trek at the best of times, but on your own - and with a trailer - it seemed never-ending and I have never been so glad to pull up outside John’s workshop as I was that night.

The next morning I was up early to go and pick up my friends Chris (Lehec) and Steve from the airport - they were flying up for the weekend to sample the Scottish beer and somehow got roped into helping me the entire time.  Thanks guys, it was much appreciated.  From the airport it was straight back to John’s to get sorted ready for practice.  My car was ready but John was as disorganised as ever and we still had a few things to do before we could go.

Although I have been to Lochgelly many times before it was actually the first time I had driven a car around the track.  It was a horrible day and the track couldn’t quite decide if it was wet or dry, and the car couldn’t quite decide which way it wanted to point, so after a few tense laps I decided a few changes were in order and pulled off into the middle.  We made these changes and I had a few more practices until the car started to feel a bit better.  John didn’t have a great afternoon either ending it with a half shaft snapped in the diff.

We’d arranged a trip to the Speedway on the Friday night with a bus picking everyone up from their hotels and the track, but just as they arrived the racing was cancelled due to the rain so the only option left was for everyone to go to the pub!  This was never going to end well and although I left feeling a little worse for wear I can guarantee I felt a lot better the next morning than Deane Wood!  It was a good night though and I enjoyed chatting and catching up with everyone.

The weather for the next day looked horrendous and everyone seemed to be waiting for the inevitable downpour.  Thankfully it never came and although it constantly threatened the track actually stayed dry for the entire weekend.  Now I’ll just add before I go any further just how good a track and venue Lochgelly actually is.  Mix this with what can only be described as the best drivers in National Hot Rods (plus me!) and you were always going to be left with a really great meeting . . . as Graham Brown said “Possibly the best of the decade.”

If I’m honest I was a little out of my depth and struggled all weekend.  I had a mid-pack draw and although I finished both heats I think they were both in around 14th place.  I was getting frustrated with myself though as I felt I was trying but just couldn’t get it to come together.  However, the two finishes were enough for me to qualify 15th for the European.  Now I must admit the buzz before any big race is amazing but the parade lap on Saturday under the lights was electrifying.  It was worth the drive up just for the atmosphere of driving round on the two rolling laps before the green flag dropped.  Although not an exciting race for me, the 45 laps seemed to fly by and I was just happy to get to the end in one piece and tick it off the list of championships I have finished.  Massive congratulations to John Christie on his win, and 10 out of 10 for commitment to Robert McDonald!

Saturday night was very tame really by Scottish standards, and although I didn’t go to sleep very early, very little beer was consumed.  In hindsight this was probably a good thing as I woke up feeling fresh and ready to go the next day.  Once again the weather was being kind but it was very quickly going to turn into the wettest race meeting of my life!  Looking back I wondered why I was getting so many funny looks as I went to sign on . . .  Just as I walked out of the office Deane pounced and emptied a large and freezing cold fire extinguisher over me.  It turns out I was the only person who didn’t know about this planned revenge attack dating back to South Africa, and now we’re square it looks like the race is on to see who can get the other first.  If you see either of us with water over the next few months it’s probably best to avoid us . . . and I must remember to take spare clothes racing with me for a while as I know this isn’t over yet!

After that incident I was going to be soggy all day so it was time to get unloaded and get back on with it.  Once again I had a mid-pack draw and had very similar results to the night before.  For some reason I just couldn’t get it to come together at all.  The car is brilliant at the moment so the only other option is down to driver error!  Once again two finishes saw me qualify 12th for the Scottish Open, and I think out of all the 6 races this was my best one.  I finished 11th and was happy knowing I had a complete car to take home with me.  Robert was totally in a league of his own and flew round on his way to victory.

I decided to stay the Sunday night, get some sleep, then head for home at 4am on Monday morning and go straight to work.  The drive home didn’t seem any quicker and I have huge respect for the guys and girls who come down week in, week out either racing or supporting - it’s a huge amount of commitment, let alone a gargantuan fuel bill!

Scotland is like a second home to me and although I didn’t do very well it was great to get up there and race.  I want to thank all my friends for their hospitality and help, especially John and Kylie who I’m sure will be changing the locks to keep me out soon!  Also thanks to Chris and Steve for travelling such a long way and helping me, especially when they had such a mammoth car re-building task on back at home.

I still enjoy my racing as much now as when I started writing these blogs and have no intention of packing in just yet.  A huge “Thank You” to everyone who takes the time to read them and share in my hectic little life.  Here’s to the next hundred!

Until next time


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