Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ten days, four meetings, three countries and a very long walk.

So much has happened since you last heard from me that I don’t know where to start.  One thing for sure though, I’ve been really busy!

After a terrible first meeting we decided to go back to the drawing board and make some more changes to the car.  With these all done we headed off to Birmingham to do some testing and see if we’d managed to make any improvements.  After lots of fiddling around and changes we got the car to a point where I felt happy with it and we came home feeling pleased with ourselves.

I was really looking forward to racing at Hednesford the following Monday but the only thing the rain brought for us was more trouble!  No matter what we did to the car, on the wet track it just wanted to spin the wheels.  This, mixed with the fact I kept breaking my goggles leaving me unable to see, made for another pretty disastrous day.

This left me with a big decision to make on the Saturday because I was heading up to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way with my friends - a 96 mile walk from the edges of Glasgow to Fort William spread over 5 days.  The big decision being the British Championship over in Northern Ireland the day after we finished walking.  Any sensible person would have decided against it - but not me.  Not only did I decide to race in Ulster but thought it might be a good idea to go and tick off my dream of racing at Cowdenbeath as well.

So at 4am with the car loaded up with wheels and tyres, spares, clothes and several pairs of walking boots I headed off to Scotland.  I’ve wanted to race at Cowdie ever since I saw the place.  It has an atmosphere all of its own and in my eyes is the best track anywhere in the UK.  Although I was slow on the night it’s still up there with one of the best experiences I have ever had in a race car.  You have to forget everything you’ve ever learnt about racing lines and be very brave if you want to be fast round there.  When you’re going up the straight flat out and couldn’t get a sheet of paper between you and the infamous Wall, it’s exciting to say the least!  Robert McDonald was racing and completely in a class of his own.  Watching his speed out of the corners was scary and I can only imagine what it felt like in the car.

I definitely have the bug for Cowdenbeath and can’t wait to go back - hopefully with a bit more bravery next time so I can be quicker.  The only downside being the fact it’s 400 miles from my house.  I have always been a big fan of Hot Rods in Scotland and the welcome I got from everyone was great.  I know I keep saying it, but it has potential to be such a good series and it would be a shame to see it die off.

The next day was spent getting John’s and my car ready for the British before heading off into Edinburgh to see the fireworks in the evening.  I just want to say thanks to my mate Richard who gave up his entire day to help me get the car done, and also to John for letting me use his workshop and for storing the car all week.

I won’t bore you with lots of details about the walk but what a great experience and sense of achievement it was.  You really felt you’d earned every pint and at times the effort required just to put one foot in front of the other was huge.  It was worth it though as the scenery and the laughs along the way were second to none.  The highlight for me was spending a night in a converted train station and a train coming through and stopping in the middle of the night!  It was a brilliant few days with a great group of friends and I would do it again in a instant . . . regardless of what my feet think!

From here on in things got a little hectic.  Our train left Fort William at 5pm and we arrived back at John’s around 11pm.  By the time we’d sorted out and gone to bed it was midnight and we had to get up and leave for the ferry at 3am.  Luckily I managed to borrow our friend Kev to drive to the ferry so I could get a little sleep on the way.   The ferry itself was a good laugh and I was excited about my first time racing in Ulster.

Once off the ferry we did have some time to spare so headed off to Ronnie McMillan’s where John changed his diff.  Ronnie went on a fuel run for us all, so thank you big man!  From here we set off in a ten vehicle convoy to Aghadowey, the only track anywhere in the UK that Nationals race on and I haven’t been to.

Although it looked as if it was going to rain a few times it stayed dry all night and I drew a middle of the pack start in both my races.  I didn’t perform any miracles but finished both and managed to qualify for the British Championship the next day.  After the racing I had one pint (how times have changed) before heading back to the hotel . . . after a ten minute panic looking for the car keys.  Turned out I’d left them in the car all along!

The next day we set off to Tullyroan for the big race.  I was starting quite near the back and just wanted to finish so I could cross it off the list.  It wasn’t to be though with the prop-shaft coming loose after just a handful of laps.  Never mind, it’s just one of those things and it could have been a lot worse.  Although I wasn’t fast I really enjoyed the experience and want to thank everyone for all their help.   It’s tough going racing on your own and I really appreciate everyone helping me - Deane Wood was even filling the car up with fuel at one point!  I also want to thank Rodney from PC Paints & Components for the hotel and Big David for driving the jeep all weekend.

I don’t like it when holidays end and to add an extra day I was intending to head back to John’s from the ferry and go home Monday lunch time.  The plan quickly changed though when there was a road shut and the diversion took you the route I would use to head home.  With the help of Brendon Smith and James from team 174 we all drove back through the night and I arrived back at home completely knackered at 6am.

Overall it was an amazing ten days, getting to race at 4 tracks in 3 countries, an awesome walk in between and spending time with all my friends and seeing new places.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  I think it’s fair to say that I really do love to travel!

One last thing before I sign off: I want to congratulate George Macmillan Jr on winning the F2 world final at Cowdenbeath.  The one time I don’t go and that happens!  Still, it’s great to see T&B Motors down the side of a world champion’s car.  I’m so pleased for you mate and I’m gutted I missed it.

This is a pretty rubbish time of the year now with all the good summer stuff over with but we still have few meetings left so I’ll have plenty to tell you about, including the annual trip to Mendips.  I’ll leave that until next time though - don’t want you getting bored!

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


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