Thursday, August 21, 2014

A much-enjoyed break

Sorry you haven’t heard from me for a while.  What started out as a little break from the racing turned into a hectic few months of work and weekends away.  I think over the three months since I last drove a National Hot Rod, I’ve visited ten different tracks and attended five different weekend race meetings.

If I were to tell you about them all I’d be typing way into next year and you’d be bored to death of me.  They all followed a very similar structure though: great racing, great friends and usually plenty of beer!  I’ve always said I’m not a huge fan of watching racing but the BriSCA F1 and F2 Stock Cars have really got me hooked and I’ve had lots of enjoyment watching them, although it’s no substitute for racing myself.

This year’s Ipswich Spedeweekend was the first time for many years I’ve been there without a car, and although I helped John I couldn’t help but feel a bit lost.  Saying that though, when I saw the weather on Sunday I’ll admit I was quite glad I wasn’t out there for the big race.  It was still a very enjoyable weekend and a great time to catch up with people I only see once a year.

With lots going on at work the plan was for my friend Besty to come back from Ipswich with me and stay for a week to help us out while we got the new computer system set up and running.  Now, this plan was flawed from the start, with Besty spending most of Spedeweekend in hospital after a Red Bull drinking session went badly wrong.  Then everything veered off course even more when instead of flying home after Skegness he decided to stay a while longer . . . eventually heading home after the National Championship weekend at Hednesford a month later!

While he was here we went to a different track each weekend starting with Skegness, then Northampton, Mildenhall and ending up at Hednesford to see out the summer weekenders!  Racing or not, it’s impossible not to enjoy National Weekend, and although it wasn’t as mad as it has been on previous years, it was still a great weekend.

Once again I found myself helping out on the 629 car and just making a general nuisance of myself around the pits.  This was followed by the usual mad Friday night in the bar, and ended with me sleeping in John’s van with my boots and hat on and a bottle of Budweiser still in my hand.

Saturday was a different story altogether and as soon as the Hot Rods had finished racing it was off with big Les Waller to Coventry to watch the BriSCA F1s do some shale shifting!  It actually turned out to be a really good meeting and certainly worth staying off the beer for.  Not being one to miss a party though, Les dropped me off at the track afterwards so I could see what was happening - although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have a single beer all night.  I must be getting old!

With all this going on, my poor car found itself stripped out and neglected in the back of the workshop.  The week after Hednesford I headed up to John Toovey’s to pick the new engine up, only to find we had to make a few chassis adjustments for it to fit.  I’ll tell you now, the one thing you don’t want to see six days before your first meeting is a bare chassis having bits cut out of it with an angle grinder!  After a few late nights it was all in and ready to go.  I do remember saying last time that we were going to be organised and get everything sorted so we didn’t have a last minute rush.  I should have realised this was slightly ambitious and I found myself finishing it before I went to work on the day we raced, and Jay having to sticker it in the Foxhall pits between practice and the first race!

I would like to thank everyone who helped get us back on track, especially everyone at Toovey Race Engines for the great new engine, Brendon Smith for cutting bits out of the chassis, my Dad for some very late nights in the workshop and Kym Weaver for the endless texts and phone calls about set up and general Hot Rod stuff!

After such a long time without driving a Hot Rod I really couldn’t wait to get out on track at Ipswich, although as soon as I’d completed a lap I knew we’d made several very big mistakes in regard to setting up the car.  We’d cured one problem but in doing so created an even worse one.  The entire night was spent making changes and slowly improving it but I spent each race plodding around at the back, just making up the numbers and retiring half way through the final as I was rapidly going backwards.  Regardless of all this, I still absolutely loved being back racing again and it has really given me the bug for the rest of the year.   However, it’s back to the drawing board with regard to set up.

I have an exciting few weeks coming up with lots of racing planned and a little 100 mile walk across the Scottish Highlands slotted in between!  This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I can’t wait to set out on what I know is going to be a great adventure with brilliant friends.

I just want to say thanks to everyone for making it such an excellent few months.  I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons - the main one being “don’t believe a man from Northern Ireland when he says he’s just staying for a week”!

Thanks as ever for reading.  I promise to be more frequent now I’m back in the racing seat again.

Until next time.


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