As I haven’t updated my blog for a very long time I thought I would summarise what I have been up to in the past few months:
The first thing was the selling of the Van Diemen to a man in Belgium. This left me with mixed feelings, because I really thought that I would never sell the car but also felt that it was time to try something new.
With the Formula Ford gone I bought a Rebel Racing stock car. At this point you probably all think that I have gone insane and you may be right. After fixing an oil leak and re-spraying the car in my garage with aerosol cans (something I will never do again) I took the car for a test day in Northampton (£30 for 6 hours of testing). It was at this point I began to question my own sanity. I had gone form the best handling car I had ever driven to something that felt like a boat on wheels.
My first race was at Buxton in the British Championship (£30 entry fee). I had my practice run of 6 laps and this made me realise that I had done the right thing in choosing to try stock car racing. It was an incredible buzz to be on such a small track with other cars, but that was nothing compared to the first heat. Beginners can start at the rear of the field if they want, which seemed like the best idea. The race began and I was soon avoiding a big crash and trying to settle in to the race. After about 10 laps of the 15 lap race I was being lapped and I finished the race in 12th place. And wow, what a buzz. I got out the car and ad to sit down to recover. Unfortunately the car then failed to start before the next race and I went home a little disappointed.
The next race was Aldershot and again I started at the back of the field in both heats, managing to finish both and get a position one row from the back in the final. After a short battle with a couple of other cars my gearbox broke and I retired from the race. I have in car footage of this on YouTube.
The next event was Birmingham and the car was running badly in practice and after much head scratching in the pits (with help from a number of other mechanics) the diagnosis was a burnt valve. So again we packed up early and went home, with the Rebel going to Rebel HQ the following week to be repaired.
With the Rebel back the whole family headed off for a weekend at the European Championships in Northampton. Stock car racing uses a grading system with the lowest grades starting at the front of the field and I decided that it was time for me to do that after wetting my teeth at the back of the field. So it was that I lined up third on the grid in front of 35 cars. It was absolutely terrifying and the most amazing thing I have ever done at the same time. There were cars everywhere and I was being nudged into corners as cars were spinning in front of me. I made it to the end of the race intact and as I lined up to leave the track I was told that I needed to go and get my trophy as I had finished third. This was news to me as I had no idea where I had finished.
The next heat, as it turns out, was the beginning of the end. I again lined up in third place and was running well until waved yellows slowed up the field to clear a crash. On the restart I lost concentration and instead of left foot braking I put my foot on the clutch and ran wide. This caused me to drop to the middle of the field and a couple of laps later a car span in front of me. I braked as hard as I could (which never did much in a Rebel anyway) and was pushed into the spun car. The next thing I saw was sky until I landed and hit the wall was then finished off with a smack on the back bumper. I then made a fuss like a little boy because my back and neck hurt a bit (okay, a lot) and then went numb and the race was stopped. Two ambulances arrived on track (all watched by my wife and children) and I was informed that they were going to cut the roof off my car. At this point I had an amazing recovery, akin to a footballer who realises that his opponent has now been sent off, and climbed out of the car to a round of applause (not ironic, apparently).
The following day I woke up with a stiff neck and lump on my lower back and decided that it would be a good idea to race in the European Final even though I could barely sit in the car and my mechanic, Graham Roberts, was unavailable that day. I started the race near the back, let everybody through whenever they got near me, got bumped a lot and pushed towards more spun cars before finally running out of fuel on the last lap.
My bottle was quickly running out as I lined up for the first heat for the rest of the event. A few laps in I had a moment coming out of a corner and before I could straighten up I was clouted by another car leaving my wheels pointing in opposite directions. I limped back to the pits, my bottle gone and my back hurting and set about repairing the car. This lasted for about 2 minutes at which point I began to think something along the lines of ‘what the f*** am I doing this for’ and I loaded up the car and went home.
At this point I was on the verge of quitting for good when Carol, my wife, informed me that she didn’t want me racing any more. What a relief. The car was put up for sale soon after and sold within a week.
Well, that wasn’t so much a summary as a blow by blow account, so I will shut up now and write about the future in another blog later this month.