Friday, February 6, 2015

NEC 2015

I’m sure time is going faster the older I get.  Not only has the NEC been and gone but we are now well into February and the first meeting suddenly seems a lot closer.  Sorry it’s been such a long time since you heard from me but life has been pretty hectic and I’ve been struggling to find time for anything non-work related.

Many of you will have already seen my car and I’m really pleased with the new colour scheme.  I want to say thanks to TPR Signs for all the hours they put into getting it finished.  The colours worked so well and it’s certainly different from anything we’ve ever had before.

After Christmas I headed north to spend New Year with everyone in Scotland and as expected it was a party filled affair.  We did find time to spend a few days working on John’s Hot Rod too - albeit without any electricity in his workshop.  Painting a panel kit with a generator and a few LED lamps is something of an experience.

Back home and it was time to get the few finishing touches done to my car.  Lee had originally come over for a week and ended up staying for a month (something that’s becoming quite a habit!) but we were pretty organised by my standards and everything was finished and loaded up ready for us to leave on the Wednesday night.

Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan though and my dad had an accident on his way home from taking the lorry up to the NEC.  A car pulled out of a side road without looking and hit my Discovery in the driver’s side door, resulting in a very poorly Land Rover on its side in a field and my father not in the best of moods about it!  Thankfully he wasn’t hurt and very lucky to walk away from the car without any injuries.  We see smashed vehicles every day and just take it for granted but it’s not till it happens to someone close that the dangers of driving actually hit home.

Obviously after my initial panic and realising that he was fine, we decided to stay at the show.  So many hours had gone into the car it seemed a shame not to use it.  Dad reassured me everything was spot on so we set about making the most of my favourite weekend of the year.

I think the Live Action Show was really good this year and having the legend that is Petter Solberg there really upped the attraction of it.  I will just add that Petter is a seriously cool guy.  He only has one setting in the car and it doesn’t matter if he’s on the track or in the pits, he’s going flat out.  Over the course of the weekend his car had a new clutch, a turbo and a gearbox - and on one occasion a tip into the wall backwards!

The Thursday consists of a few practice sessions then one show at 2pm.  After this there’s chance to wander round the show for an hour before rushing back to the hotel for some food, a shower and then off into town!  It’s very rare to get this many of my friends in the same place at the same time and chaos always follows.  Everyone is full of enthusiasm too and a great night is always guaranteed.

Again, Friday is only one show at 2pm so you get the rare treat of a lie in.   Everyone has found their feet with the strange surface of the arena by this point so confidence and speed are starting to grow.  It’s a pretty unforgiving place if things go wrong though with concrete barriers around the outside and big concrete pillars in the middle that have the ability to do lots of damage to a Hot Rod - something poor John very nearly learnt when I accidentally leaned him up against one!

Friday night was another messy night, this time with the addition of a few more people.  We took over O’Neal’s on Broad Street before heading off into the various clubs of Birmingham.  There’s lots of stories that aren’t really printable here but one thing I did learn is that apparently two cubes of ice isn’t classed as a mixer for vodka!

The racing steps up a gear on the Saturday with six shows throughout the day.  These shows are always packed out and the atmosphere is absolutely incredible.  The noise and smell of the cars under the lights is second to none and every year it just keeps me going back for more.  The racing is always good too with everyone having a bit of a run out front.  Unfortunately we lost a few cars with mechanical problems but there were still enough of us to put on a good show.

The plan was for a chilled out night on the Saturday.  We headed off into Solihull for some food before heading back to the hotel for an early night.  These things never work out though and I soon found myself in a taxi on my own heading to meet Chris Lehec and a few of the boys in Pop World (the world’s cheesiest night club) for one last party before it was time to go home again.  I must admit I’m starting to get old and just can’t hack the pace of it like I used to, and three nights out in row certainly took it out of me!

The Sunday always produces the best racing but has a tinge of sadness to it.   Everyone is getting ready to head home and living the dream of being a racing driver for a few days is coming to an end. Luckily I managed to survive right up until the last lap of the last show before getting any damage, but unfortunately I banged wheels with Dave Longhurst, bent the only new wheel on the car and cracked the wing!

What had potential to be such a bad weekend turned into one of the best ever thanks to all my amazing friends and the frankly brilliant Live Action Arena.  Thank you to everyone involved with making the car look so good and everyone for their comments.  It’s great to hear such positive feedback.  Thanks to everyone for all the amazing memories and to my dad - even now at 25 I would never be able to live my dream of racing a National Hot Rod without his help, support and countless hours in the garage!

Since we’ve been back from the show the car is in bits again and is undergoing a few changes.  There’s also been a truly epic trip to Northern Ireland for Besty’s birthday, which involved drinking from kettles and digging big holes . . . more on that next time.

Thanks as ever for reading.


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