Category Archives: I Like Cars

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – MIRA (Round 4)

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Saturday was the 4th round of the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship, this time hosted by the Bentley Drivers Club at the MIRA Proving Grounds, Nuneaton.

It was an amazing venue, and there were some absolutely incredible cars there, including Bentleys, TVRs and Austin Healeys. In total there were 94 cars competing, and it was a real privilege to be a part of such a wonderful day of driving.

MIRA have a very strict rule on no photography, so strict that they took my camera off me at the gates and stuck a tamper-proof sticker over the lens of my iphone. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but when I drove into the paddock the only space free in the LOTRDC area had a rainbow painted on the tarmac! I PARKED ON A RAINBOW! I parked on a rainbow and was unable to document this for posterity!

The Bentley chaps had a proper big marque, the sort of thing you have at weddings, with proper chairs in it, and a really cool touch screen time machine that told you your times and all sorts. The portaloos were pretty impressive too, with their faux marble walls and faux walnut vanity, floral art and and 3 types of hand wash to choose from!

We had two practices and two timed runs, I managed to knock 10 seconds off my time and my first timed run was 66.97. I knew what I was doing wrong, and I knew what I wanted to correct (I can’t always control myself as much as I’d like to!) but on my second run I was annoyingly 2 seconds slower. The reason? I got cramp in my right foot – I know, it sounds like a really lame excuse!

I came 10th out of 10 in my class, just 1/2 a second behind the next driver apparently.  I don’t mind.  It was a good day. A chap called Hugh was celebrating his birthday and gave me a flapjack.

Overall I placed 67 out of 94, which I think is alright really.

Anyway, I can’t share any photos of the day, because I don’t have any, but what I can do is show you some random pictures of the cheap and cheerful, but not cheerful, hotel we stayed in the previous night!

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So, the Royal Court Hotel, hey? A country house built in 1874 by William Hillman (as in, Hillman Motor Company), sounds pretty nice, right? Ha ha ha!

From the reviews on Trip Advisor  that I’d read, I imagined it was going to be like staying in a hotel where the owners had died 30 years ago, but no one had noticed. It wasn’t even that fun!

Hillman’s beautiful residence has been eaten up by an ugly monster. The original ‘Keresley Hall’ is swallowed up by a kind of ‘Eastern Block’ extension of mammoth proportions.

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When we checked in we had to pay up front, not just a swipe of the card, but a full payment. I asked if this was because they’d had a lot of guests who’d not paid their bill? They said no, but I had my suspicions.

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Our room was a room, and it had a bed in it. We really only needed somewhere to kip for the night, so it was okay. I suppose. (It was only £52 for bed and breakfast for two).

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The restaurant only served carvery, I suppose I should have realised that the ‘Carver Restaurant’ was nothing to do with carver chairs. According to the hotel brochure, ‘The Stately and spacious Main hall is now the Carver restaurant and still maintains its original windows and front door. This is now situated behind the carvery unit.’ 

Carvery unit? We wondered if they had a condiment station too.

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Neither of use wanted to eat a carvery dinner. Apparently, if your not having carvery your not coming in the restaurant, so Adam and I ate our bad meat and chips dinners in the bar, at low tables. There were some women there on a ‘Groupon deal’ and they asked to have their photo taken with Adam. It was a strange evening and I was glad to get my Kit Kat pudding from the vending machine and go to bed.

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We got up at 7am and went for breakfast. It wasn’t carvery, but we were allowed in the restaurant. I felt sad for the house as I ate my coco pops. What a beautiful place, ruined. There were some woman in their dressing gowns eating sausages. One woman was wearing an Iron Man onesie, which was impressive.

According to another hotel brochure, and under the heading of Elegant Rooms –  ‘All 210 En-suite Bedrooms have been decorated to reflect our surroundings. All have Colour TV, Direct Dial Telephones, Hairdryer, Trouser Press and Complimentary Tray.’

Complimentary Tray?!

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I was glad to leave. The room was really awful. You could see where the door had been broken open, there was a big join in the carpet which didn’t quite meet, the old square TV (I wouldn’t mind, but when there were supposed to be 3 people on screen we could only see this middle one!) was plugged into a big blue coiled up extension lead and there was something brown on the mouthpiece of the vintage 1980‘s phone. Now, I’m not saying it was poo, but I don’t think it was chocolate!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Hethel (Round 3)

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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.

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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!

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I’d best go and find the gaffer tape.

Helmet Shopping at Demon Tweeks

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

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… 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


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!

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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!

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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.


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.


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.

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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!