It had been six weeks since our last sprint and it seemed like forever. I had a couple of weeks without being able to drive anywhere, being chauffeured to work by Adam and wrangling crutches like a weak armed monkey.
The physiotherapist had been adamant it was too early for me to return to driving, but listening to him would have been boring. Then there was the guy in the supermarket who randomly started telling me about the dangers of motor-racing and how he’d seen a lot of old footage of cars launching into the crowds and decapitating everyone. Listening to him was not boring, but it was a bit weird.
I wasn’t expecting to have a good day, or to do well. After Snetterton I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to sprint anymore.
We released the chickens into the garden and headed off into the wilds of Norfolk. I followed Adam down the road in the Elise, using the journey to get used to driving the car again. He hit a pigeon with a smash, sending a large feathery fountain over the car and I couldn’t tell if I should take this as a good or bad omen.
The sun was shining over lovely Hethel. I felt ready to see what would happen when I got out onto the track of awesomeness.
We stood in the pit lane, second drivers, waiting for our turn, watching over the track as the cars rushed past. An orange single-seater came to a halt on the other side of the track, perfectly placed in front of a marshal, flames licking from the engine. The driver leapt from the cockpit and we looked on in amazement. ‘Fire!’ shouted Xav, running to grab an extinguisher and offering to help. The marshal on our side of the track said that he couldn’t let Xav go onto the live track, which is totally fair and safe, but we felt for the driver as he watched the marshal meander over to him and struggle to get the fire extinguisher working as the car burnt on for just a few more seconds. Eventually, they put it out.
Adam was queueing up, second from the start line at this point, so I thought, to save him worrying about what might be happening the other side of the pit wall, I’d go and let him know. Turns out, he was asleep. Asleep!
Once the track was clear, and Adam had woken up and taken his practice, it was my turn. As I drove along the pit lane I stopped and asked if they wanted to send the car behind me, Xav, out in front of me, because he is a much faster driver. I was worried he’d catch me up and I’d ruin his practice. I was told to let the guys on the start line know, and they’d leave a bit of extra space.
I really did try to tell them when I got there, but I was met by rage! I stopped about two metres from the line, to speak to the man there, but he was furious, he wanted me to get to the line. I wanted to speak to him – at least, I thought I did! He told me he didn’t have time for my questions, that I was ruining the day, that I’d ruined the racing for everyone! I can’t remember everything else he said because I was just so shocked, but it did involve a lot of aggressive shouting on his part, and a bit of frustrated crying on mine.
I went off the line, tears bulging on the edge of my eyelashes, vision blurred, disappointed that I’d let such a ridiculous man upset me. My time was actually okay, considering. Phoebe said that I needed to find more anger for more speed. I went and found Martin and told him what had happened. Everyone took it seriously, which was good. Nobody thought I was a silly crying girl, which was good. The angry little man had run away, which was good.
Organisational problems (that were nothing to do with me, I hasten to add!), and the fact that it was already lunchtime and they’d only just got all 100 cars out, meant that we had to agree to not to take our second practice and to have just two timed runs, otherwise the entire day would not count towards our championships.
Luckily Xav’s daughter had sent him well prepared with an excellent array of cakes, so the disappointment was appeased, for me, by a very good and sticky cornflake cake.
The time for the timed runs came round and I headed off the line with gusto. 1st gear, 2nd gear, 5th gear… balls! Then I got cramp in my foot. The involuntary muscle spasm dispersed and I carried on, reaching the second chicane, braking too late and trying to use the power of wang to get me round the corner. The car spun to the left, then snapped back to the right. I was facing the wrong way on the track, ‘Bloody hell Karen!’ I said as I turned it around and carried on. ‘What next?’
Well, next, I caught up with the car in front of me! I know, so wrong, but so funny! I sat behind him, trying not to be pushy, but willing him to go faster. I think I might have helped him to get his fastest time of the day. Hooray for teamwork!
I pulled into the pit lane and was sent straight up to the start line for a re-run. ‘Don’t worry Karen,’ I was told, ‘The track is completely clear, you’ll be the only car out there, you’ve got nothing to worry about.’ The lights changed to green and I floored the throttle, then I spotted the red flags. Hang on a minute! I couldn’t work out what was going on, but I brought the car back in, again. Turns out it wasn’t a clear track after all, might have been a bunch of men and a transit van out there, you know!
Re-run number two went without any problems, aside from the slipping clutch because the car was too hot. My time was 147.97 and I was alright with that.
It was all kind of fun. A bit ridiculous, but funny.
My second run was good. I felt happy with my driving and the car. My time was 145.26 and this put me in 6th position, out of 12. Yes, I’m pretty chuffed with that!
Just for comparison, and so I can show that I really have improved and the competition really has got tougher – this time last year my best time was 157.12, and if I could time travel back a year with this new result I would have achieved 2nd place!
What started off as a bad day, and was actually quite bizarre, turned into a good day. Sometimes when you expect nothing you are rewarded with something.
Anyway, less philosophising, and more appreciating how well everyone did…
1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Adam Ruck
1st Martin Scarfe, 2nd Simon Foley, 3rd Andrew Pidgeon
1st Andy Hughes, 2nd Martin Roberts, 3rd James Tubby
1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Jason Weatherall, 3rd Nick Emery
A round of applause for you all!