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Added: 19 Jun 2015 Category: Other Motorsport
Swapping the Camera for the Steering Wheel
Despite the fact Iíve been going to just about every and any form of Motorsport since I was no age at all, up until the middle of last year Iíd never been to an Autograss event. Regarded by many as motorsports best kept secret when I look back it was something that Iíd only heard about when the results appeared in the paper or when it was the bigger meetings it always seemed to clash with something else.
Iíd seen the demos at the NEC and at the big motorsport event up at Eglinton a few years back and always came away with the intentions to go to a meeting.

Even though I was a bit clueless as to what was actually going on, I enjoyed the first meeting I went to. I came away considering the idea of having a go at it, but didnít really fancy the entry level saloon class (class 1, Micras and Minis), I looked at Specials (opened wheeled classes), seen the prices and decided that wasnít going to be for me either, then I didnít think much more about it.

Later in the year I heard there was going to be a new class for Adult Specials, this would be an entry level special geared towards car sharing Junior Specials between parents and kids, so the car could get two outings, there is quite a few options for car sharing in autograss, men and women can share cars in some classes, adults and juniors in others, it makes it a much more affordable way to go racing than each of the family having a car each and much easier to tow Iíd imagine.

With the Adult Specials a much more affordable route into autograss in the pipeline for 2015 and NIOvalTV cameraman Jonny Teggart already with his order after much pondering I decided I was going to have a crack at it, so I got on the phone with Gary Grattan and got one ordered before ChristmasÖÖ. then decided I should probably mention to the wife Iíd ordered a race carÖ. this resulted in many, many questions.

Pretty much everytime I go karting or do a rally experience I come away thinking Iíd like to have a go at racing something, then Iíve talked myself out of it, be it the expense, Iíve no where ideal to keep the car, no idea how to set it up, little of a clue how to work on it since race cars donít come with a Haynes Manual and the nail in the coffin was always that I didnít have a licence to tow a trailer and I hated the idea of having to do another driving test.
You get nowhere in life with an "I can't" attitude, so over the coming months I set about getting a towbar, my trailer test, a trailer, altering my driveway to get a trailer in, gathered up the safety gear required, some new tools to add to the other virtually new tools I had, and then picked my car up in late March.

My first drive wasnít a huge success, after much standing about looking at it, I took it for a drive down my father-in-laws lane and the clutch cylinder went when I was trying to do a 100 point turn to get it back up the lane. The harsh reality that motorsport was going to be more complicated than pushing the pedal and turning the wheel was starting to sink in.

With the car suffering from clutch problems and missing quite a bit, the car went back to Gary Grattan to prepare for the first meeting of the season.
With the clutch fixed and the car still spluttering despite a change of carb (thanks to Colin Blake for bringing it along and Gary for changing it), I spluttered through a practice and my first heat. My second heat was less successful with the car spluttering to a halt with a lap to go. Whilst I was looking hopelessly at the engine, some guys helped me out and got it going again for the final. By merit of being the only car to grid for it, I won my class, also by merit of being on track with a car from a much faster class and it lapping me before the car spluttered and died again. On paper, winning your first final must go down as a good start, in reality Iím sure there will be lower finishes that feel much more rewarding.

I missed the second meeting due to being in Scotland for the NHR European. The third meeting took place on a horrible wet day, it was the day we later had to wrap up recording and photoing at Tullyroan because everything was getting ruined.
The car had been with Gary between the meetings and was now going much better with a Fuel injection system on it, but in conditions that felt a bit of a lottery. Heat one was slippery but I got round, heat two the track felt more grippy but I spun and ended up sitting in the middle of the straight watching cars coming towards me. Having taken to my 6th outing on track to spin the car I then did it twice more in the final and ended up 2 laps down convinced Iíd a flat rear tyre by the way the car was handling but I did eventually nurse the car home to find there was nothing wrong with the tyre.

Short of pig farming I donít think anything can actually prepare you for how much dirt will transfer onto you and from you onto everything else after a muddy autograss meeting. Everything you touch ends up covered in mud, you park the car in the driveway and the rain washes the mud off the car then your driveway is covered in mud, you and your dog then walk this through the house while trying to set down helmets, waterproofs, shoes etc, all also covered in mud, for a week after the meeting there was mud everywhere!

Aside from spending quite some time cleaning mud off things, not least the car, between my second and third meetings the car went off to get sign written. Leigh Nichll had pointed out to me that it didnít have much brake fluid in it, and while it was sitting in my driveway the puddle by the back wheel signalled where the problem was. I set about fixing the brakes and bleeding them on the Thursday night and they seemed to pump up OK. On the Saturday morning of the meeting I got into the car to put it on the trailer and nearly drove it into the side of my road car when I hit the brakes and the pedal went to the floor, evidently I didnít do a great job of bleeding them. The car briefly went on the trailer before coming back off when a ratchet strap was jammed and I couldnít get it tied down. When I should have been racing the car was sitting on axle stands in the driveway.

For the second meeting of the weekend and still my most recent outing with the help of Gary Grattan who bled the brakes much more successfully in 5 minutes than Iíd done in two night and most of a Saturday, the car was once again out on track for the Sunday. Our wee Adult Specials arenít much match for the more powerful buggy classes in Autograss and with low car numbers in each of the classes we were all put out together, my objective was just not to get lapped or wrecked and to get some more laps in, I managed not getting wrecked at least.

So there you have it, if I can get out there and give racing a go then there is really no reason anyone else canít, whether itís grass, stockcars, karts, rallying or whatever the experience is worth the effort.

TBCÖ..


The new arrival

After the first drive

Short lived signwritting career

The aftermath of the second outing

Meeting 3 didn't go to plan

On Track






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