Category Archives: I Like Cars

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Hethel (Round 3)

2014 05 03 hethel track day chairs

I spent the entire weekend pretending to be a racing driver and it was absolutely awesome!

On Saturday Adam and I both took part in a track day organised by Lotus on Track Racing Drivers Club. It was at the Hethel Test Track in Norfolk, the home of Lotus Cars, and the ‘birthplace’ of our car, Steve.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the site, photographs weren’t allowed (possibly because they are busy developing too much awesomeness there!) I did manage to get this photo of the lovely chairs in the drivers lounge though, I sat on a yellow one and had a cheese and onion sandwich.

In other amazing news, I had a driving lesson from ex F1 driver Martin Donnelly! How cool is that? I’m not sure Martin thought it was cool, as pretty much ever time he got hold of the wheel I let off the throttle! “Why are you taking your foot off the gas, Karen?” in his fabulous Northern Irish voice. “Because I’m finding it a bit hard to accelerate when I’m not in control of the wheel, Martin!” in my confused wimp voice!

On our way home I started reminiscing about the lovely Mallard we’d seen walking across the track whilst I was driving round, the lovely Mallard that I’d got excited about and exclaimed “Look at the beautiful Mallard!” Adam didn’t see a Mallard, he wasn’t there when the Mallard was there. Which can only mean one thing… poor Martin! I’m not used to having ex F1 drivers as passengers.

2014 05 04 lotus speed championships hethel 01

Sunday was Round 3 of the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship, at Hethel. I thought that doing the track day on Saturday would give me an advantage, but they changed the layout and everything felt different.

I struggled to get the line right on the first part of the track. I did a pretty slow first run, knocked a few seconds off my second run, and then on my third and final run I got that first part right and I was going really well. I felt pleased, this was good, hooray for Karen, and then, the red flag came out. Someone had gone off into the gravel and they had to clear the track.

I did get a re-run, but by now I was all flustered, I had to rejoin the queue, my head was really hot too! I tried to get it right, but it just wasn’t good enough, and then I braked too late for a chicane and punted the cones. I carried on, but that lap was disqualified because by hitting the cones I’d technically had an off. Disappointed – again!

I was stuck with my second run time of 169.55, which was an okay time in comparison to other people’s second runs, but over 5 seconds slower that the next person on the best timed runs.

And, to top it all, look what I did to my poor little car! Two nasty breaks in the front of it. I’m so sorry Steve!

2014 05 04 lotus speed championships hethel 03

2014 05 04 lotus speed championships hethel 04

I’d best go and find the gaffer tape.

Helmet Shopping at Demon Tweeks

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 08

Did we really drive 180 miles to buy a helmet? Yes. Was it worth it? Most definitely! My head is important to me and I need it (I use it everyday!) It makes sense to put a little bit of effort in to make sure I look after my massive head and get a helmet that fits properly.

Demon Tweeks superstore in Wrexham is amazing… soooo much stuff! I donÂ’t think there is anywhere else in the UK that stocks such a wide range of helmets, race wear and hard parts. In the helmet department theyÂ’ve got everything from Arai, Bell and OMP to Sparco, Simpson and Stilo. And, prices to suit everyone too. Hooray!

I had a few criteria I needed to meet: the helmet had to be Snell 2010, it had to be full face, and it needed to fit comfortably. The good thing about Demon Tweeks is pretty much everyone there takes part in, or has a strong interest in, Motorsports. I was lucky to get fitting advice from Gareth Evans, heÂ’s the Sales Manager there, but also a karting expert, having run his own team and now working in places like Dubai with other teams.

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 10

The first helmet I tried on was the Race Safety Pro (£179 ex / £214.80 inc VAT). I found it very similar to the Hedtec that I’d tried before, it just didn’t fit right. The Race Safety Pro had a nicer pad on the top of the head, but I found the back of the helmet too shallow, and even when it was done-up I could shift it up and down far too much. If you’ve got a short head (is that possible?) then you might find the Hedtec fits, it was certainly cheap at around £150 all in, but I am learning that price isn’t everything!

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 02
Since I was about 10 years old IÂ’ve felt the ultimate helmet was the Simpson Bandit. A cross between something from Mad Max and The Predator, I couldnÂ’t wait to get my hands on one.

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 11

What an incredible bit of terrifying design! I was convinced that this is what I needed, until I got it on and thought about how much I could see. After my wonky bog eyes affected my clay shooting ability (marvellous excuse!) I realised that I didn’t need anything else to stop me from focusing. Im easily distracted. Can you imagine the shame of crashing your car because you accidentally started looking at your helmet? Well, that’s something that isn’t going to happen to me! The Simpson Bandit (£403.08 ex / £483.70) is beautiful. Awesomeness, but, not for me.

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 09

Gareth was a great help, he had a huge amount of knowledge and he really guided me well. He asked me questions which encouraged me to think sensibly and make the best decision to suit me. He didnÂ’t try to up-sell or get me to buy something that I didnÂ’t need, he was just really helpful, interested and informative. Top bloke!

The Bell KF3 Sport SV (£362.50 ex / £435) looked pretty cool in matt black. The little ‘duck bill’ lip around the bottom added to the styling, but more importantly adds a practical aspect for drivers of open top cars where the aerodynamics of the helmet help keep it held down (and on the head!)

Although I tried the largest size on for my big head, it just didnÂ’t fit right. I found it very tight on my face and after saying this out loud I found that I couldnÂ’t actually close my mouth – it was being squeezed from the sides and was stuck open! (I felt a bit like Barbara in Beetle Juice!)

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 03

The Bell Sport 5 (£299 ex / £358.80) is a good entry level helmet. Well made and well padded inside. It fitted smoothly and comfortably. I had really good visibility and it didn’t feel awkward. This was the one for me!

Gareth suggested I add a balaclava, and although I was reluctant to put it on, it actually made helmet wearing far more comfortable. Even if I looked like a egg whilst wearing it… I totally did!

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 01

I’m really pleased with my new helmet! I was so convinced that I would die of joy when I saw the Simpson, and I did behave like a bizarre child when I put it on, saying, “Look! I can see it on my face!” But after the initial excitement I realised that visibility is actually more important than looking menacing!

I canÂ’t stress enough how important it is to get a helmet that fits you, and if you are not sure then get help with fitting. If your helmet is at all loose, just imagine where it could go in an accident. If youÂ’re getting bashed about then really itÂ’d be better if your helmet stays on your head, rather than whizzing off!

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 05

If youÂ’re looking for racewear (or possibly the best rain coat in existence!) and need advice itÂ’s well worth giving the team a call and having a chat. They can get stuff out to you for the next day if you need it. IÂ’d recommend a visit to the showroom in Wrexham though if you are after a few things or just want to get up close to lots of great kit.

2014 04 24 demon tweeks helmet shopping 04

Thank you to Gareth, Dee and Matt from Demon Tweeks for all your help and niceness. (I took some Dee some eggs from Sandra and Cheryl – is that weird? I hope not!)

Find Demon Tweeks online here, or visit the super duper superstore at 75 Ash Rd South, Wrexham, North Wales.

Czecheap Challenge – The VW Polo of Your Dreams

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 13

… or nightmares. Depending on how positive/negative youÂ’re feeling. When my friend Liz said she was selling her (t)rusty old car because she needed the money to have a donkey gelded (boy bits removed), it seemed totally appropriate to buy it. She thinks its going on a magical journey, and she’s right!

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 03

Although it was winter and we didnÂ’t need out Czecheap Chariot until May, I thought IÂ’d just knock about in it while the roads were icy and I needed to lug random junk from place to place.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 05

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 23

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 24

ItÂ’s been great, apart from the knocking, the mis-firing, the engine bay being pretty much varnished with Damp Start, the broken HT leads, the mis-matched spark plugs, the broken central locking, the non-functioning handbrake, the wheels being totally out of balance and the steering wheel being on sideways, the broken gear knob, the bald tyres, the bent wheels, and the seats, the uncomfortable seats. It actually needs adult sized seats I think! They seem really short, like people in the mid-nineties were really short! Adam says its an old ladies car and they are smaller.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 20

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 18

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 08

Adam took the car to the £10 carwash (and vacuum). The first thing the chap there said was, “Where did you find this car?!” followed by, “Have you been keeping chickens in there?” and then, “I’m going to have to charge you £15!”

They did an excellent job of removing the grit and gravel, moss, mould and hair.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 16

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 12

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 07

The best thing about the Polo is that you can park it anywhere. You know those tiny spaces at the end of the car park, next to the big lumpy wall, that nobody ever parks in? Yeah! I can park in them.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 04

The worst thing though, is that although I can lock the doors from the drivers side by pushing the button down, I canÂ’t open it from that side. ItÂ’s not really a problem, until you park in one of those spaces at the end of the car park, next to the big lumpy wall, that nobody ever parks in. Then you find you canÂ’t even walk along the passenger side of your car, so you have to launch yourself in the right direction, key in hand and arm outstretched, and then just kind of lie there, sideways, halfway up the car, wedged between it and a lumpy wall, trying to work out how you are going to get back on your feet.

ItÂ’s okay. I donÂ’t think anyone saw me.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 11

Last year I got too attached to Lisa the Tigra (it was so comfy, like being on a bed!) so this year I need to hate the car! ItÂ’s happening., although for the first week we had it I felt a lot of glee whilst driving it!

IMG_6612

WeÂ’re doing the Czecheap Challenge to raise money for the Stroke Association, IÂ’ve written more about it here, and if you are feeling kind/generous/sympathetic then weÂ’d be really grateful if youÂ’d pop over here and sponsor us, thank you!

Czecheap Challenge – It’s Banger Time!

05 08 13 glitter mitten barcelona bangers

In May, Adam and I are going to be joining a group of total loons, in very crap cars, and driving to Prague. Czecheap Challenge is a banger rally organised by the Rally Events team. The idea is that you spend less than £400 on a car and drive over 1000 miles. We’ve spent £150 on our car. You know the saying? You get what you pay for!

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_005

We’ll be driving from Bruges, across Belgium to Frankfurt (via the Nürburgring!), down to Innsbruck, then across to Prague via Salzburg. But first we are going to get the overnight ferry from Hull. Euuurrgghhhhh! I’m not so sure that’s going to be the nicest experience, I’ve seen the pictures of the cabins, look at those beds, they don’t even look like beds.

971255_10151625946055813_1209423062_n

Last year we joined the team on the Barcelona Bangers rally and had the most amazing time. We drove our awesome £205.80 Vauxhall Tigra (Lisa!) through France, through Andorra, over the Pyrenees and into Spain. That last day was just epic, it has to have been one of the best days of my life.

382691_10151625955170813_732548834_n

We made some great friends and felt total freedom. Everything was so new and fun. We travelled a total of 2088 miles, raised over £1700 for EACH, and I had to break my way out of a public toilet in a Steven Seagal stylee.

2014 01 29 czecheap challenge mittern mobile banger vw polo dirty 13

This year we are driving around 1100 miles in our VW Polo (Liz!) and fundraising for the Stroke Association in honour of Adam’s brilliant aunt, Ciocia Mary, who died last year. Mary lived an amazing life and was an incredibly strong, intelligent and caring woman.

The work the Stroke Association does is very important. Most of us will know, or have known, someone who has been affected by a stroke, and you’ll understand how important it is to help the Stroke Association not only deliver research, but also support those who need help to rebuild their lives.

Ciocia Mary’s stroke took us all by surprise, and even though she was a proper tough cookie, the stroke was just too severe. We were very lucky to have a couple of days with her in hospital where we could talk to her and know that she understood how much she was loved and valued. A very sad time.

Please help us celebrate Mary’s life, and help other people who are affected by stroke, by sponsoring us. We’d be grateful for any amount that you can spare, and if we reach our total you’ll be able to vote on whether we get the Spandex outÂ… or burn it!

http://www.justgiving.com/GlitterMitten

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Snetterton (Round 2)

2014 04 05 lotus snetterton 300 02

Sunday was Round 2 of the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championships. My second event ever… at Snetterton, with commentators, TV crews and some rain. No pressure! I packed the essentials.

2014 04 06 lotus speed championships snetterton 01

First practice was pretty wet, I locked up on the first hairpin, at first I thought, ‘Uh oh! I’m going in a straight line!’ then I thought, ‘Oooo! I’m going round the corner!’ and everything was okay. I felt a bit rubbish that I’d made such a silly mistake, but apparently a lot of people spun on the first corner, so I’d actually done okay, and was sitting at 17 out of 24, and 7th in my class, which to me is very respectable. 

2014 04 06 lotus speed championships snetterton 04

It all went downhill from there really! My second practice was slow, it was much drier and everyone else had picked up speed, but I was still really confused about where the second part of the track went! We’d walked to track the day before with a lovely driver called Emma, but we’d taken a short cut and missed half of the track – I won’t do that again.

2014 04 06 lotus speed championships snetterton 03

We had two timed runs in the afternoon, and luckily Stuart from LOTRDC found a map of the course for me and gave me some help with remembering where I needed to go. I think that after that lap I was 21 out of 24. That’s not really good enough is it?

2014 04 06 lotus speed championships snetterton 02

My second (and final) timed lap needed to be much better. I looked at my map, made some squealing wheel noises with my mouth, and set off. I felt good, I was hammering it, I got all the way round to Oggies and went through there so well, ‘I’m driving like a demon!’ I said out loud, and then, ‘I’m driving too fast!’ as the back end went out on the last corner (Williams) I tried to correct it but it just went, one full spin and it snapped back. ‘Ouch!’ I banged my head on the window. I was surprised that I didn’t get disoriented, or cry! I tried to restart the car, but the bloody immobiliser had come on. ‘Argh!’ press the little button in the key, press, press, ‘Argh!’ The button is missing its rubber cover, so my gloved finger wouldn’t fit the hole to press the smaller button inside. I whipped off my glove, got the button pressed, started the car and floored it. By now the yellow flag and the red flag had been out. I’d been faffing around for ages. Soooo frustrating. I ended up 12 seconds slower than my previous lap. Since then I have spent my time trying to work out how long I spent spinning, trying to start the car, messing around with my glove, and then getting back up to speed again. I reckon I might have been going okay, definitely faster than my previous time, but really, I spun off and that’s an error on my part, so I can’t dwell on all the ‘what if’s.

I ended up being 23rd out of 24. I feel bad for number 24.

2014 04 06 lotus speed championships snetterton 05

Xavier Brooke took first place, he drives like a demon and his car broke on his second lap, so he just had the one timed lap to go on, and win with. So, you know, I shouldn’t whinge.

I’m having an amazing time driving, and I have met some of the nicest people. Everyone has been so friendly and supportive and I can’t wait to get to Hethel for the next one. And I got a free biscuit!

2014 04 05 lotus snetterton 300 01

Whilst I am feeling disappointed with myself for not being able to drive like a pro, I have to keep reminding myself that I am a novice. What do I expect after one track day in 2012 (where I did about 4 laps) and having never driven any of these courses? I’m driving a road standard car with 118bhp and comparing myself to seasoned drivers, with more skill and experience, and some with as much as 190bhp! I mean, on Sunday I was in the same race as a couple of Elise Trophy drivers and Jack Goff who is a BTCC driver! Ha ha! I’m writing this and thinking ‘Karen, you’re a right pillock!’

I’m not a professional, for example, I got interviewed by Kiri Bloore for Motors TV and when she asked me how my first lap had gone, I whipped out my map and started waving it around! I guess it was written that I’d have to do something embarrassing whilst I was there. I mean, as if it wasn’t bad enough that the programme included the group picture from North Weald. They’d cropped the image to make it fit their page layout.

snetterton programme

They should have kept ex F1 driver Martin Donnelly in the frame and omitted Moonwalking Elvis.