14 October 2007

I've been racing!

What a contrast today has been when compared to last night. I've been autograss racing and I haven’t stopped smiling all afternoon!

I arrived at the track this morning to find Gary had the car all ready to race and that I didn’t even need to fuel it up or start changing tyres before the first race. After having a laugh and a joke about my fun getting back from Norfolk he started to show a slightly worrying interest in my health. He quizzed me on how the muscle damage to my ribs and side was feeling; he asked how my "poor old back" was. This was not the sort of conversation we would normally have! We are much more likely to be winding each other up about such things and making fun of each other - sympathy does not happen!

Sure enough, Gary had an ulterior motive; he wanted me to race his car at least once during the afternoon as a bit of a thank you for helping out over the past few years. My first reaction was "no way - you need a big haul of points from this meeting to clinch the season's Class 6 Championship!" Gary had that all worked out… if he could win the first two heats, he would have the championship in the bag.

With my first excuse shot down in flames, I tried the "It’s been over 20 years since I last raced, and I’ve never raced a front wheel drive car before." routine. Gary was having none of it. He just said, "Take it steady, have a bit of fun and enjoy yourself". So, I was signed in at race control as a day-licence driver and there was no going back.

Once the racing got underway, I think that Gary went out to prove a bit of a point to me. The speed that he found from the MG this afternoon was unbelievable; he was flying and won his first two heats quite comfortably. With the Class 6 Championship now decided my excuse for not racing went right out the window. To be honest, I was really looking forward to pulling a helmet on again and getting back out on track. If only Gary hadn’t shown just how quick the car was I might not have looked quite so slow myself!

Just what have I let myself in for?

This harness will never fit me!

Once in the car the first thing we needed to do was get the six-point race harness to fit me. I may be watching what I eat but we needed to let those belts out a good couple of inches to fit me! Note to self…get back in the gym again next week! After sorting the harness it was on with the helmet, neck brace and gloves, a couple of extra pulls to tighten the shoulder harnesses and I was well and truly in for the ride.

I've always wanted a Simpson helmet!

Stop looking so worried Gary! That's my job!

I lined up about a car's length behind the other drivers and let the start marshall know that I would be letting them off the line ahead of me before I set off. The revs started to rise, the all clear was given from around the track and we were off. It may be 20 odd years since I last raced but one thing hasn’t changed - mud and stones still fly everywhere when those cars launch out of the start gate! Keep your head down and your visor closed!

The rest of the pack get a bigger head start than I planned!

There’s not that much I can remember about my first race, other than I made a total hash of getting away from the grid! Once I decided to set off after the other cars I made a complete mess of changing into second gear. Gary had told me before hand that I would need to take the gear selection nice and easy, I forgot and gave the other cars the best part of a straight's lead. By the end of the race I did manage to pull back a lot of lost ground on a couple of cars but, much more importantly to me, I had had a great time and also got the car back in the pits with no damage. I was more than happy!

I'm in there - somewhere!

Back in pit lane - complete with all four wheels!

With my little "jolly" out of the way, it was time to focus on the rest of the meeting and getting the car ready for the class finals. After having had a nice easy time in my race the MG must have wondered what was going on in its next outing. Gary drove the thing like a man possessed - which is possibly close to the truth. Why on earth would he trust me with his car if he were of sound mind? Once a little bit of first bend pushing and shoving was out of the way, Gary opened up a lead of almost half a lap in the final and came home the clear winner once again.

Normally we would have loaded the car up after the finals, as the only races left are fun races open to anyone that wants to have an extra race or two. Gary doesn’t usually take part in these as they can result in unnecessary damage due to the handicap start system and the mix of different class cars involved. Today, Gary decided that these races were in fact okay to race in - just so long as it was me in the car!

My second race saw me start almost a full lap behind the lead car due to the power of the class 6 MG - they obviously weren’t going to take into account who was driving the car for this race. Having learnt the hard way about the gear change on the car I decided to take no risks the second time around and chose to start in second gear. By picking a section of the track with lots of loose dirt on it I was able to make a much better start by using the dirt to get the wheels spinning as I dropped the clutch. This race went on for longer due to the mix of cars in it and it gave me a little more time to get to grips with how the MG handled.

By the time the chequered flag dropped I hadn’t made up any places but did feel as though I was starting to gain some confidence in my driving again. If it hadn’t have been for me wanting to avoid damaging Gary’s car at all costs I may well have been able to pick up a couple of places on the last lap. In the end, instead of risking a move that may or may not have come off, I hit the brakes hard and gave the cars in front of me the racing line into the corner. As we crossed the finish line I was almost pushing them both, we were that close.

I'll take this off - if my hands will just stop shaking!

All in all today has been just about perfect - Gary has the Class 6 club championship again, the car goes into the winter with no damage and I got to have two outings in the M219 MG ZR! Sundays don’t come much better for me!

1 comment:

  1. Look at you, grinning like a kid at Christmas. Maybe you would like to get back into racing again? Gary can 'retire' and let you race for him LOL. Kudos to Gary for making your day and to you for keeping the M219 MG ZR in one piece :o)

    And to think, this morning you were thinking of doing poor Gary harm.