Walking the course before the first practice run.

The following is what I wrote on the Phoenix Fives forum the following day.

So, I competed in my first Sprint yesterday at Curborough and I’m hooked. I know some others of you are vaguely interested so I’ll jot down some stuff I’m likely to forget if I don’t.

Firstly, if you’re a spectator at a hill climb or sprint you get the impression that the competitors must have a lot of waiting around to do in the course of the day. After all you have to arrive by 08.00 and there are only three practice runs in the morning and two competition runs in the afternoon. At about 45 seconds a run at Curborough (for me) that’s what? About four minutes. However, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of hanging about. For a start you have to drive out from the paddock and line up ready for your run, so that seems like you’re doing something. Watching the others in front of you for a start. Seeing if the starting area is slippery, watching the first corner… do they spin off there? It was wet yesterday so plenty of drama. Then after your run you go back to he paddock, have a coffee, wander over to the timing hut and analyse your times and terminal speed and compare them with the others. Chat to others doing the same. Then you wander up the track and watch others in different cars and compare your line with theirs, looking for better lines. Have a bacon sarnie.

It’s the taking part that counts… Nah! Must get faster than this!

Then before you know it it’s time to get back to the paddock and move your car to the start holding area and do it all again. So it felt like a busy day to me. And it was great fun. I spoke to some of the other competitors and they told me various things – like “I get up to third before the first bend and back to second for the molehill” that sort of thing and I was really happy with my last run until that is I changed gear mid corner and got is all seriously sideways. The second run was cautious as it had just rained and the others were just not as quick on the clock as they seemed behind the wheel.

So what did I learn?

1. When I have my helmet on I can’t see my harness buckle at all and it was difficult to fasten it.
2. My helmet strap (on my new helmet – my old one did not meet the regs) was uncomfortable – must get a balaclava.
3. My immobiliser is a pain in the arse as whenever I switched off the engine (normally twice or three times in the queuing up process before the start) I had to take out the key to touch the immobiliser key against the sensor. Then, when I was strapped in I couldn’t see the keyhole and it was tricky getting the key in the ignition. Once I dropped the key and had to unstrap myself which was a palaver under pressure.
4. Don’t fill up with petrol before arriving. I filled up in Stourbridge and an hour later at Curborough I still had more or less a full tank. Some of the others were pouring in fuel from gerry cans so I guess they were running light. I was hauling around a load of extra weight.
5. No one else had a hard top. I guess they’re extra weight and would make it difficult to get out the car after an accident. I decided not to use it again.
6. It rained and I had nowhere to put my gear – sat nav, toolkit, clothes etc. Everyone else had a second car or a little tent to put it in.
7. Most other MX5s were driven to the track not trailered which I thought was encouraging.
7 I also learned not to change down mid corner. Lucky to have got away with that!

The HSA (http://www.hillclimbandsprint.co.uk) is the best club if you want to compete with other MX5s as they have a special class for them. With other clubs you’ll be in the same category as Elises. Maybe you’re not super competitive and don’t care, but I liked having other MX5s there as I they provided a good benchmark for my own performance. I came 5th out of 6 but if I shed some weight, get some decent tyres and brake pads I think I could be 4th . I’m an optimist!

The season’s over now but I’m definitely going to join the HSA and do the series next year. I’m looking forward to seeing different tracks and hills and maybe, just maybe one day, coming a little higher than 5th.

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