Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2015 – Snetterton (Round 10)

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It was the last sprint of the year. We left the house in darkness – the fog was thick, the moon was vaguely visible, and I had an inkling that it was still night time.

I was excited. It was the first proper outing of Project More Wang. I called it More Wang because I didn’t know what ‘wang’ meant and thought it was something to do with wellies and being able to throw things round corners.

I’m not sure what I expected, but we’ve had a few issues since we gave new life to the Elise whose cranky bottom end had been giving us a bit of gip. The engine donor car was a £150 MG ZR – that’s right, a true investment!

One quiet afternoon Adam text Mark, saying ‘There’s an MG ZR for £250 on Gumtree.’ Adam was on a conference call, and by the time he’d finished Mark had already gone, haggled £100 off the price, and was on his way back with the car!

A few random nights and long day’d weekends followed and the beast of More Wang came to life, kind of.

We dropped the car off at Snetterton the night before the sprint. Lots of people were there, I could hear their voices in the pitch black, but I couldn’t see their faces. I did see a car that had a pirate on the side of it though.

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We locked the car in garage 13 and headed into the depths of Norfolk for dinner. I felt no fear over garage 13. No superstition here – there’s none left!

On Monday our ‘test’ track day had proved a very useful lesson on how not to set fire to your car. The scars only show when you open the boot lid!

The Lambda sensor had managed to shake itself to pieces the day before, and of course, More Wang’s debut should have been sooner, but we missed Round 9 because of the failing clutch, and so on – £150 though… wahey!

The sun shone dimly, like a failing torch, punching a soft hole through layers of tracing paper sky. The air was filled with moisture, and cobwebs floated across in front of us as we walked down to the briefing.

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The fog didn’t lift for hours. There were other races due to take place (MINI Challenge and Track Attack Autumn Trophy) but the conditions weren’t good enough. So, we did a very slow sighting lap, following the safety car, and yes, this confirmed it was still very foggy out there, but more so on the bit of track that we didn’t need. So we did a practice run, and that went okay. In fact, if we’d stopped there I would have ended up with 5th in class, which would have of course been very okay… so we carried on, and, back to back, we did 3 timed runs.

I thought I would be all in a flap about changing drivers, back and forth, but it wasn’t a problem – apart from the bit where the commentator said that Adam had pulled in and ‘Karen Harvey is about to jump in!’ because I was actually jogging off in the opposite direction at the time, trying to get onto the track, and as they mentioned my name for the second time I was trotting back down the track saying ‘I’m Karen Harvey!’ And, for the first time in a long time, there was quite a large audience looking on.

My first timed run turned out to be my best, 143.89 putting me 6th in class at the time, but it was downhill from there really. I fluffed the gears on my second run, not being able to engage 3rd gear and ending up in 5th. My time was 145.04 and I was annoyed. ‘Damn that ‘re-con’ gear box!’ I exclaimed, ‘A spray of Hammerite does not a rebuild make!’

My third run was almost as frustrating, 144.18. Another struggle with the gearbox, another fist wave and exclamation of disappointment.

Adam’s best time was 141.16 – 2.73 seconds faster than me, but I was pleased to finish just 1.41 seconds behind Martin Scarfe, as his race car gave its previous owner 2nd place at Snetterton earlier this year.

Gary Thwaites was supposed to come, teach me steering wheel caressing skills and egg me on with tales of kittens in danger at the finish line. He couldn’t make it. I blame him for my lack of podium place.

I could actually blame myself, instead of Gary, but he’s an easy target and so nice about it. I do need to try harder though, I have been trying to improve by looking at data (because that’s much easier than weight loss!) and I’m mostly interested in how fast I’m going through corners, and how much faster I could be going.

I recently got given a CAT S40 phone by the charming people at Bullitt. I wondered if they’d given it to me because they’d heard my claim of being a ‘cat whisperer’ and they thought I could make use their superior audio quality? Or that I was clumsy and needed a rugged phone? Perhaps they’d heard how my new iPhone had got dropped off the Alps? Because that was Adam, not me. Or had they heard that all Elise roofs leak in the rain, and they thought a waterproof phone might be the thing for me?

Whatever their reason they gave me a phone to play with and I’m pretty chuffed with it!

We downloaded the Race Chrono app to it so we could record lap times, throttle position, braking points and the all important speed through corners, of course! There’s loads of other stuff that I don’t yet understand but I’m learning about gradually.

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And yes, you can use the CAT S40 whilst wearing gloves!

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Drivers pushed their limits – Xavier Brooke, Jason Wetherall, Jez Braker, Martin Scarfe and Simon Foley all had offs. I was a bit disappointed to have missed all the action but I was too busy getting in and out of my car and/or randomly running up and down the pit lane like an escaped dog on a motorway!

Cars also pushed their limits – the Foley’s almost didn’t make it as they had problems with their car, but last minute loan from Simon Oakley of his 211 meant they didn’t miss out on the fun.

Andy Pidgeon had alternator problems. He had no electrics on his last run and had to be pushed off the start line!

And, if we’d thought we’d had problems on Monday’s track day it appeared to be nothing compared to Tony Pearman, who apparently practiced so hard his engine broke.

Tony, who has competed in the SuperSport class all year, borrowed an Elise from his kind friend (the sort of friend I need!) and drove it to victory in Production class. This scenario, by some strange twist of fate, led to his consequential overall win!

As there were more people in Production there were more points to be had, and therefore Tony was able to pick up the extra points he needed to win the championship! It’s as if his little car knew and pulled the cunning stunt to give him the chance to take a tactical advantage. (I bet all More Wang thinks about is McDonalds carpark and burnouts!)

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In Production Tony Pearman got 1st, Rob Clark 2nd, and Mark Swarbrick 3rd. (^I don’t know what is going on in that photo! Perhaps we should have a caption competition?!)

SuperSport was won by Jason McInulty, David Mann took 2nd and Mads Petersen 3rd.

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Driver of the Day was Jim McInulty, dad of Jason, who’d made his debut sprint at Snetterton!

Rob Clark was the overall winner of Production – Champion… Hooray! He’s done so well this year, against the odds, and in someone else’s car! At trophy time I felt a swell of pride as I shouted ‘Wooo!’ and ‘Goooo on!’ in my best mans voice. I’m very pleased to know him and call him my friend, although I’m not sure how he feels about that – especially when I text him in the middle of the night to tell him ‘The cougar in Taladega Nights is called Karen!’ or ‘Mustn’t forget I owe you a stuffed crow!’ and other useful titbits. (He did send me a photo of posh burgers the other day though, so I think we’re cool.)

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I came 8th out of 14. I know that is really good for me, but I was a bit disappointed, I knew I could do better. Fiona said it was okay because my hair looked good. She had a point – if you’d seen me when I had the UKIP fringe (hairdresser so angry about foreigners taking his job, that he erm, did a really bad job!) or when I had the recent eighties footballers mudflap cut (hairdresser too busy looking at himself in the full length mirror to his side to notice he’d hacked off half my hair and cut my eyelid!) then you’d agree – my hair did look good!

We walked back to our garage, and there, on top of our car, were two trophies. For me, the SELOC Best Lady 2015 (because I get extra points for taking a womb on track, and also the other lady drove her car into a wall a while back!) and, more importantly, for Adam, the Novice trophy! SELOC have worked out a points system to try and level it out a bit for an outcome based on driver ability – so basically what this means is that Adam got it for being good in a not so good car.

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The day ended with a drivers meeting – a really nice way to end the season. It was good for us all to have a bit of chatter, and banter, and input into next years competition. LCUK founder, Paul Golding said lots of good things and thanked lots of people – including me for the write-ups (I do ‘proper’ ones for the press and we get great coverage from good people like The Lotus Forums and Lotus Cars) and then people clapped and I felt very happy!

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I’d made a bit of a cake fest for the finale and I broke several plastic knives in the process of cutting the chocolate orange cake to share. It was good. We also had Portuguese custard tarts and camel droppings!

I think last year I felt a bit (a lot) gushy about all the lovely people I had met, and the great time I had had, and although this year I feel less nervous, more embedded and more familiar with everything, I still have that feeling of happiness at knowing such a great group of people. So, if you are reading this, and you are one of those great people – thank you! Thank you for your support, your encouragement, your cake eating, your smiles, and your friendship.

Here’s to next year – bring it on, 2016!

I’ve already saved £1.62p towards our next lot of modifications. Team More Wang all the way!

You can find the full 2015 LCUK Speed Championships standings here.

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^ Spotted this in the carpark. Pimping!

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