On Friday morning I wasn’t even sure if we’d actually make it to Blyton. After Adam breaking a track rod end off, a rush to Elise Parts and a last minute chicken-feed geo (that’s how we roll in the Fens!) including a weight being dropped through the passenger side sill, we were glad to finally be on our way.
We arrived at my favourite Scunthorpe hotel, Wortley House, in time for dinner, drinks and an early night. I like the Wortley, it’s old-school, it’s run by good people and it has interesting carpets.
In the morning we ate a breakfast of hot croissants served to us at 6.30am by the most lovely, sweetly spoken lady. She called Adam sweetheart and blamed the pot when he spilt coffee across the table.
In the paddock I hunted down my friend Heather. It was her and her dad who had spurred me on last year at Blyton, and we’ve kept in touch ever since, updating each other on our sprinting progress on a regular basis. Like modern day pen-pals, with Whatsapp.
I couldn’t wait to get out on track with my… drum roll…. new shock absorbers! Whaaaaaa! So exciting. Really! (I’ve written more about this at the bottom of this post, because I really want to tell you about them!)
My mantra for the day was, ‘ I know where I’m going, and I don’t need a map, so there shouldn’t be a problem!’
First practice, 79.40. Adam did it in 77.54. Alrighty!
Duncan came back in after his first practice running on three cylinders and smoking (the car, not Dunc. Gone are the days of cigarette sponsorship at motorsport events.) Whilst useful friends stripped his car down, Duncan headed off to Lincoln in search of a head gasket. It was full on team work. I would have offered to help but there were no jobs suitable for my skill-set (I’m good at looking and pointing) and all I could offer was googly eyes. I really don’t know why Duncan wouldn’t use them to mark the cam pulleys.
With all the excitement and activity in the paddock it was soon time to go out for the second practice. Adam did an excellent 75.49 – with my numbers on! Whoops. I did a 77.19, which is still good, I know.
We had our first timed run before lunch. Adam did an exciting 360 spin over the finish line, and John Taylor (he’s fast) had his hat on back-to-front.
Queueing up for the second timed run I heard that Emma had hit the barrier. It was worrying at first, but then I saw the recovery vehicle coming in, Emma sat in the front seat laughing away! She seemed excited (I think it was the adrenaline) and wanted to borrow a straight wheel so she could get back out as soon as possible. She also needed a lot of gaffer tape and a full-on ‘art attack’ team. All I could offer was googly eyes, again.
I managed to get my best time of the weekend, 77.18, on the third run. Russell went so fast that his gear linkage came off. Duncan, who’d finished rebuilding his car in record time, cable-tied it back on for him.
It was soon trophy time. We’d been trusted with the task of delivering the LCUK trophies, the temptation to Sharpie pen my name onto all of them was great, but luckily I resisted. In Supersport Dave Mann took 1st, Tony Pearman 2nd, and crazy-calm engine rebuilding, chips and mayonnaise eating, Duncan Fraser, got 3rd. Yes, that’s right, after rebuilding his car he had just enough time to get a lap in and earn a trophy.
In Production Rob Clark took 1st (Hooray! Rob! Whoop!), Graham Foley came 2nd, and Mark Swarbrick got 3rd. (He has Haribo in his trinket shelf.) John Taylor (he’s fast) got a trophy. I think it was because he had his hat on the wrong way round.
Adam came 6th, I came 8th. Out of 13. Could have been better, but we were both chuffed with that.
While the campers headed off for Chinese takeaway, we headed back to the hotel. We drove passed the exciting sounding Sizzling Dolphin to get to the boring sounding Anchor and had dinner. We ate chewy chips that weren’t meant to be chewy.
On Sunday, as the early morning dew lifted from the grass, across the field, something small and fast stirred beside the cars. It was Rob Boston doing a geo on Emma’s car with some borrowed tent guy ropes, of course! He brought her a set of wheels and helped get her back out on track. Hooray, again, for team work and camaraderie!
Both Adam and I were slower than hoped on our first practice, and then it started to rain. People were spinning all over the shop (including Adam), Dave and Duncan went fishtailing round the track at speed, and me, I put in a fairly respectable time of 93.62 by pootling round the track slowly. I think I actually placed 4th in that practice, ha! Bring the rain, bring all the rain!
We had an early lunch, the sun came out, and the track dried off ready for two runs in the afternoon. Damn it! My first run was 77.37, and my second 77.23.
In Supersport Tony Pearman took 1st (and a trophy with a smurf on it!), Dave Mann 2nd (receiving his trophy with the help of his super-cute little girl) and Duncan 3rd. Duncan also got the ‘Driver of the Day’ trophy for Saturday’s endeavours, truly deserved.
In Production Rob Clark took 1st (of course!), Jez Braker 2nd (he also did a fantastic job of looking after everyone all weekend) and Simon Foley came 3rd (good for him!) Emma Newman was awarded ‘Driver of the Day’ for her positive determination and for getting back on track after her accident on Saturday.
Adam came 6th, and I came 10th – disappointing. I lost out on an extra point (1st – 9th all get different points accordingly, but 10th and slower all get the same) by just 0.05 seconds, that’s 50 milliseconds apparently. 9th place went to Martin Scarfe, his car has a lot more power and is race-spec (Phil Stratton-Lake’s ex-Elise Trophy, trophy winner!), so I think I can cope with that!
John Taylor (he’s fast) had his hat on back-to-front.
I thought I should compare my 2015 times to my 2014 results, so I did. If I’d done this years times in 2014 I would have come 3rd on the Saturday and 4th on the Sunday… you what?! I mean, I’ve improved massively – my best time last year was 85.48 – I’ve knocked over 8 seconds off that! But, wow! The competition is so much tougher, I’m not just up against one racing driver (it was pretty cool ‘competing’ with Martin Donnelly last year) but several racing drivers, and several racing cars. There’s only one thing for it… Need. More. Wang!
And now, to my big ‘thanks I’d have never made it round so comfortably without the help of decent shocks’ update:
I’ve been waiting since the beginning of the year for some dampers from a company whose name I will now not mention (I’m not being polite, I just can’t bear to say it!) I kept holding on and having faith, but after months of being fobbed off my loyalty waned. I started asking around for advice from impartial people who’d give me an honest view on what to buy, and the answer was… GAZ.
So I spoke to GAZ. I explained that I was half way through the season and had been continuously let down, I’d been driving around on knackered old sofa springs (as good as!), whilst trying to get round corners the angle of the car resembled a dog cocking its leg, and I really needed some help.
I don’t know if it was the sheer desperation in my voice, or the fact that I told Warren he sounded like a normal human (flattery will get you everywhere. Not me though, I say stupid things to people all the time!) but the kind and clear answer was that they were willing to help me and they offered their support.
I placed my order on ‘Hot Wednesday’, as it became known, (to me), the hottest day in the UK for 9 years, apparently, and I collected the dampers on the Friday. (I even managed to wangle a factory tour – they are really proud of what they do, and I’m just nosey.) By Saturday afternoon Rob Boston was fitting them (he worked on our car until 9pm, such a lovely chap!) and by Sunday we were testing them out. I mean, seriously – I’d been waiting six months and then this team of awesome wizards turned it around in a just a few days!
The car looks and feels so much better. We’re still learning about the dampers (first time we’ve had adjustables!) but they’re great, and I’m happy. Everything has gone brilliantly. I’ve thought long and hard, and the only thing I can fault GAZ on is their telephone hold music. It’s like a bad doorbell from the Eighties.