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!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Snetterton (Round 2)

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – North Weald (Round 1)

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So, this is a bit weird, but at the weekend I took part in the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship  first round at North Weald in Essex. It was amazing.  AMAZING!

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I’ve never competed in motorsports before, I love driving and I love my car but I’ve only ever taken part in one track day, and that was back in August 2011 at Bedford. I was determined that this year I wouldn’t miss out, so I’ve gone all out and signed up for the whole season!

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We left home at five-something in the morning and headed off to Essex. By the time we got there a lovely sunny day was starting, and I was really nervous. I signed on and then the scrutineer came over to do his inspection. The car was fine (Steve is standard apart from an induction kit) but there was a problem with my helmet and race suit. Adam and I had travelled to Silverstone the other week to get the suit, and we were specifically told it was the right one, but it turns out it wasn’t. (I’ve just phoned the company who sold it to me and they are still adamant that its the right one! Frustrating!) I felt pretty miserable. Everyone was so kind to me, they saw my miserable face (it’s too expressive, I can’t hide anything from anyone!) the guys at LOTRDC found a helmet for me to wear, and a totally lovely man called Tim (who was racing a coooool mini) loaned me his suit. It was so nice, I had no idea that people would be so generous and helpful. Lovely, lovely bunch!

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There were lots of cars there, everyone was competing in their class, and overall. I was in Class LOT1, with 16 other drivers. Everyone had two practices and three timed laps. My first practice was really slow (there were slower, but I think they must have got lost!) but my second practice was much better. I’m so used to driving on the roads (and watching out for other cars, people, kittens, doll parts) that it took me a little while to get into it.

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My first timed run was 92.38, followed by 92.46 after lunch (sausage sandwiches slow you down!), and then 90.97. I would have really liked to get under 90, but I can’t expect to be an expert when I’m not one! 76.64 was the time to beat – yes, I have a long way to go, and I may never get there, but I was faster than two other drivers, and placed 14 out of 16. Overall I think I was 64th out of 79. It’s not bad, although it might sound it, but everyone else there has loads more experience than me, so I feel like I’ve done really well and that I can improve too!

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To put it into perspective (Stuart from LOTRDC was kind enough to do this for me yesterday when I was wishing I was a super duper driver!) in my class there were 16 other drivers, including (now, this is cool!) Martin Donnelly, ex Lotus F1 driver. Yeah! Wow, ay?! He came 3rd.

Before we left for home there was the giving of trophies, and I was chuffed that Tim (who leant me his lucky suit) won his class. He was really kind and helpful to me, he had no idea who I was, but he was willing to offer me support and for that I will show gratitude with the gift of cider!

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To add to the excitement of the day, I got interviewed for TV about my experience. They interviewed Martin Donnelly too. I expect he will be much more interesting to listen to than I was, but I was very restrained and didn’t do anything particularly odd, which is unusual!

I thought I’d done okay and not embarrassed myself too much, but then I saw the group photo of the drivers on Facebook this morning… sorry about that!

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!