Praga R1S drive at Motorsportsdays Live 2019

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After sitting out the 2019 season, I’d pretty much switched off and was looking forward to getting out there again for 2020.

Browsing Facebook I saw that VR Motorsport were going to give out drives to experienced drivers at Motorsportdays Live, and so threw my hat into the ring. A few weeks later I saw a post where the team drew out the winning names, and mine was amongst them!

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First I need to speak about Motorsportdays Live. It’s a brilliant event held in The Wing at Silverstone, with loads of trade displays and offers for racers and people in the motorsport industry, or those thinking about doing trackdays or racing. It was a really good event, and you need to check it out and get down there next year for the third show of it’s kind!

The important bit for me, is that you can book a drive in a car around the International circuit, so you can actually try out a car before you commit to that race series, try a new car on track, take your own car on track, or just experience a drive in something amazing.

For me, that would be in a Praga R1S.

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I watched them racing in the Dutch Supercar series for the first time a few years ago, and loved them immediately. What’s not to love about these ‘superlight’ racers? A full carbon fibre monocoque, huge levels of downforce, less than 600kg and a stonking F3000 engine sat just behind the driver!

I dropped my race kit off and said a few hello’s with the VR Motorsport team, had a little wonder around the displays and paddock, and then before I knew it my 15 minute slot was coming up to get out on track with the LMP/TCR/BTCC/GT4/GT3/Prototype group.

Team boss Vincent Randall and all of the team were very friendly and welcoming as I chatted to them and had a mooch around the beautiful cars. If I’d got on the racing ladder 15 years earlier, something like the Praga would have been exactly what I’d be aiming for rather than going down the F1 route, so I still couldn’t really believe I was there!

Soon I was asked to get my helmet and HANS on, and I climbed in through the tiny window, sliding down into the carbon fibre seat to be faced with a cockpit slightly more modern than your average Formula Vee.

The first thing that struck me was that EVERYTHING is carbon fibre. The ignition, engine start button and a few others were up above the windscreen, along with a tiny switch to work the indicators (I never used it, although we were running trackday rules for overtaking with consent). It was all within easy reach in the tiny cockpit, and although some might feel a bit cramped I thought it was very comfortable in there.

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They clipped the steering wheel on, pointing out the paddle shifts at each side, a ‘neutral’ button for getting the car, err, into neutral, and a few balance adjusters that I had no interest in messing with. I knew there would only be a brake and accelerator pedal, but was surprised to be shown a clutch pedal that was hidden up and back from the these that would only be used to getting moving.

Vincent waved me and the sister car (the Praga R1T turbo with almost twice the horsepower), and I held the engine start button down and flicked the ignition switch, hearing the 2l Renault Sport engine roar into life behind me.

I held the Neutral button and the clutch and pulled the right paddle shift to engage first gear, and got a helpful push start from the team in the pitlane.

Unsurprisingly, the car revs to 7500rpm extremely quickly with the lightest brush of the throttle, so as I drove up the pitlane I found every tiny bump of the track surface was making life tough to hold the revs steady – not a problem as I hit the exit and everything smoothed out with more revs.

I short-shifted up a few gears before brushing the brakes nice and early into Village and almost stopping dead 50 metres before the turn-in point! Of course, you have no choice in these but to brake with your left foot like in a kart, so it’s always in the back of your head not to mash it like the clutch pedal with your big, goofy untrained left foot!

Turning the wheel the car moved more as if reading my mind than the steering input, absolutely rock stable and flat on the full wet tyres despite the damp track. Through The Link it felt unflappable with the direction changes, and I opened it up on the Hangar Straight and watched the digital readout climb with ease.

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Braking a bit lighter and deeper into Stowe the Praga simply ate it up without any drama – probably my first time experiencing the power of downforce from the multitude of wings, planes, splitters huge diffuser. Some heavier braking and back down to 3rd gear for the complex showed the car was equally stable using its mechanical grip at slower speeds.

My biggest fear had been for Abbey. I know how fast I can (and how fast I can’t!) get through there in a Formula Vee, but in the damp, with wet tyres, a lot more speed and downforce I had no idea. I gentle dab of the brakes and again the Praga was on rails, asking to be pushed harder to get the full 3g’s of cornering capability from it.

Over the next few laps I steadily built up speed, amazed at the speed I cold carry into the turns and through it without the car so much as shaking it’s tail, and putting a bit more pressure on those huge brakes as I felt them out to see what their limits were.

I hoofed it through Abbey and finally the tail twitched and it all got sideways, but even then I simply caught it with a touch of opposite lock and the car was back on friendly terms with me, barely even raising my heart rate.

It’s tough to describe the handling, as it’s so good it does everything perfectly, and simply goes wherever you want. There is no drama. You can feel it’s just a brilliantly designed car that works perfectly in the twisty bits. I’d love longer in the car to push closer to those 3g forces…

Unfortunately, I never got to see the chequered flag for the end of the session…

As I came around Stowe one lap chasing some of the other exotic machinery, with a McLaren GT3 behind me, I had pushed the car a bit harder and carried a fair bit more speed through and down to the complex.

I was watching my mirrors as I hit the brakes, and this was the first time I managed to exceed the braking grip, locking up the front tyres.

I’m no stranger to driving cars without ABS, and after a fair bit of practice in the Vee I know to modulate the pedal to get the grip back. Using my right foot.

I think the problem with the Praga was that my left foot just doesn’t have the same kind of ‘feel’ for doing this, and once I’d lost it I couldn’t recover it. In hindsight I should have probably just turned in and tried to make the turn, and the car could well have been capable of it – or at least given me the chance to sort it all out after…

But the car sailed straight on, surfing the gravel at a speed that definitely did get my heart rate up as the solid red and white wall got closer and closer as I uselessly sawed at the wheel to try and get some movement to the right to miss it. Luckily I stopped short.

There is only one real chance at Silverstone to find a gravel trap – and that is on entry to the complex. If this first lock-up had happened anywhere else on the track I’d have been fine, run wide, and carried on my merry way knowing to be a bit more careful.

Sat there, not believing what I’d done, my racers brain kicked in and I went to restart the car – not that there would be much chance of getting out of the gravel without help. To make things worse, the car was absolutely dead. I had no power at all as I tried every combination of the ignition and starter button without getting so much of a flicker.

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The session ended and I was unceremoniously dragged out by a tow truck, with my first question to the marshals – “How much damage is there? Have I ripped the front end off?” – luckily proving to be overly pessimistic as there was no damage from my little excursion.

I insisted on helping to clean the gravel out to help turn the car around for the next session, but sadly the car still didn’t have any power for some reason. I don’t think this was directly from anything I’d done – the thinking was that the problem may have been compounded by a marshal hitting an external reset button, triggering a complicated restart sequence.

Despite the somewhat unfortunate ending to my session, I loved everything about the Praga R1S, and if my budget (or sponsorship) ever allows I would definitely look to drive one. At the very least I’d love to get some more time in the car to experience how amazing they are again.

A massive thank you to Vincent Randall and VR Motorsport for giving me this opportunity to drive one of these awesome cars – it really is a dream come true, and I can’t apologise enough for my mistake.

The team treated me really well, and even after the Praga was towed back in they took it all in their stride and never tried to make me feel any worse about it. I’m looking forward to watching VR Motorsport stick it to the Brabham at Brands Hatch next weekend, where the rules are allowing the Praga to use full power for the first time. **EDIT** VR Motorsport have now decided to run in their Class 1 configuration due to concerns over finishing with the allowed fuel and feel that it’s more respectful to the championship for the final round. Make sure you cheer them on!

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and sign up to their website for news and offers.

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New Sponsor: The Birmingham Superprix Project

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I am proud to announce that The Birmingham Superprix Project logo will now be displayed on the Formula Vee racecar as a sponsor!

Despite not being able to get out on track this season, things have still been moving behind the scenes, and it’s great to be able to help raise awareness for a local project for this legendary motorsport event from my childhood.

 

 

 

The Birmingham Superprix Project is a multi-platform project focusing on images, footage, memorabilia, social media, collaboration’s & events related to the history of Britain’s pioneering legal city street race.

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80,000 people crowded onto the city centre streets for the August bank holiday from 1987 to 1990 to watch F3000, British Touring Car Championship, TVR Tuscan’s, Formula Ford 1600 and others racing around a track that took in the Bristol Road, Bromsgrove Street and Pershore Road. 

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Please go and ‘like’ their page on Facebook and show your support – you’ll also find regular pictures and videos of the events and plans for where it will lead in the future!

I’ll be bringing the Superprix name back to the track (if not the actual event!) for 2020 in the Formula Vee Championship run by 750 Motor Club, and hope to see you all out there!

 

 

 

My Favourite Racecars Ever

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I’ve loved racecars for as long as I can remember.

From getting up in the middle of the night to watch Indycar and F1 races to standing by the side of tracks around the country, I guess they are the art forms that truly move me.

It might also surprise some of you to see F1 cars in my all-time favourites list, as I’m quite vocal about not having followed F1 since about 1994 – but I used to be totally obsessed a few years before that, and was a huge fan of Elio de Angelis and Ayrton Senna.

So, in no particular order, here are the cars that I love the most:

McLaren MP4/4

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Most beautiful single-seater ever created. I love the Marlboro colours, but the car itself is just gorgeous. It was an honour watching Senna decimate the opposition in this.

Lister Storm

rc Lister Storm GT1

My favourite car for years, after randomly seeing one in a magazine and sending a letter to Lister Cars, who kindly posted me a brochure for their cars. And then a few years later this absolute brute of a car appeared in the British GT Championship!!!

McLaren F1 GTR

rc McLaren F1 GTR

I don’t think I even need to say anything about this one.

Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak

rc Audi Sport quattro S1 Pikes Peak

Back when I was 11 years old, my best mates Dad – TR4 Challenge racer Peter Cox – had a white Quattro. It was awesome, and the fastest thing I’d been in at that time. Of course I always loved the Group B cars, but the Pikes Peak versions took it all to the next level.

Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

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I think the C7 is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Just look at that rear view! And the sound of that V8…

Sauber Mercedes C9

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I’d say this is the best looking sports prototype ever made. They were absolute beasts on the track, and just looked perfect in silver (especially with their flouro wing mirrors).

Top Fuel Dragster

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If you’ve never experienced top fuel drag racing in person I honestly can’t express what you’re missing. It’s awesome on the purest sense of the word – a spiritual experience as the dinosaur-like roar tears the cells of your body and the air around you. I still get withdrawal pains in my soul when I remember the experience. 10,000+hp, a standing 1000 yards in less than 4 seconds crossing the line at 330mph, and just the exhaust gasses produce 1000lb of downforce! So, yeah, this is all top fuel dragsters.

Ultima GTR

rc Ultima GTR

I remember watching the development of the Ultima GTR at Mallory Park! I always liked them, and remember them lapping the second place cars in their races in a 10 lap race. I’m happy to see them still around and looking better than ever!

Lotus 98T

rc Lotus 98T

An all-time classic in the gold and black JPS paint scheme.

Lola T332 F5000

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I saw this testing at Mallory Park a few years ago and the sound is monstrous! Glenn attributes most of his hearing loss to being behind and F5000 car in the tunnel at Brands Hatch. I’d love to drive one.

Quaife R4 GTS

rc Quaife R4 GTS

Another rarity from the British GT series in the 90s. And it was 4WD!

Renaultsport R.S. 01

rc Renaultsport RS 01

I saw this all in carbon when it was released at the Autosport Show one year – it’s been a long time since a racing car caught my eye that much.

Which are your favourites and why?

Markers vs Feel

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It’s been a while since you got any of the mad ramblings that go on inside my head, so as I’m still totally obsessed every second of the day, here are some more random racing thoughts!

I have said before that I rely on markers to get me around a circuit.

That is to say, I will watch onboard videos and read circuit guides so that I have an idea that I need to brake at the “II” marker board and then turn in halfway down the entry curb, get on the power just before the apex curb, and then let it drift out to the 3rd red stripe on the exit curb etc.

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I will adjust the braking and turn-in points once I’m out there, depending on conditions, how the car feels and how brave I am, but for the most part it’s all “Point A to Point B” in my head out there.

But that’s not the only way…

I’ve asked other racers “Where are you braking?” – only to be met with a bit of a blank stare and confusion, before they admit that they don’t really know.

Whilst in racing terms, this answer normally means “I’m not telling you”, in this case it doesn’t, because these drivers do it all on ‘feel’.

This is still an alien concept to me, because even when I know a track and am just driving, I’m pretty sure I’m still subconsciously hitting those markers, because I certainly know about it if I’ve missed a braking point!

However, when I’m karting I do seem to drive most of the lap on feel rather than markers.

Now in theory, having a good feel (wha-hey!) should be faster, because you can always keep the car on the limit – but if you don’t have the natural talent to keep the car on the limit then you could be much slower because you’re braking far too early etc.

From karting sessions I am learning to feel the lateral g’s to know I should be able to carry more speed into a corner where my markers would tell me to brake, so it is slowly creeping into my collection of racing skills.

Doing it this way at my local karting track, I recently discovered that where I’d normally be braking and getting ready to turn, I can actually get back on the power before the corner and get around it.

Whilst skills aren’t always transferable from a kart to a Formula Vee, for me most of them are, as I’m still very much learning.

All I need now is to get back out there and see how I can make it work for me!

Do you race by feel or are you using markers? Or do you have another way?

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Prodrift Academy UK – Birmingham

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My race-widowed Fiancee bought me a voucher for some drift training as a Christmas present from Groupon.

I think it cost about £60 for a 3 hour experience, so I thought I’d go along for a bit of fun sliding a car around.

I was expecting a couple of downbeat ‘instructors’ and a slippery car park, much like you’re average skid-pan training facility. I soon discovered that the Prodrift Academy was far from that!

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When my confused sat-nav finally got me to the venue at Birmingham Wheels Raceway not far from the City Centre, I parked up and followed the email instructions to sign on in the, err, signing on hut, where they took a few details and the £8 weekend surcharge. I’d already paid the £15 damage waiver, because £15 is better than the bill for the car you’ve managed to put through the tyre wall upside-down!

From there it was a short walk to the skid-pan, where there was another porta-cabin which sold snacks and drinks, and a horde of instructors were hanging around chatting and watching some live drift championship racing.

I soon realised that this wasn’t some back-street set-up, and their instructors had a wealth of proper drifting experience at high level, and this could be a serious stepping-stone on the way to doing it in a championship.

The staff were all very friendly and upbeat and you could tell they were enjoying it as much as the customers!

We sat down for a briefing and Yo took us through the basics and what we could expect to get from the day, and then names were called out to jump in the cars with an instructor.

I should also note here that the tools of the day were Mazda MX5 NB’s with welded diffs – even better for me as it’s my daily road car!

They break down the art of drifting into a manageable way – the first step was simply to get us used to breaking traction at the rear using the handbrake on corner entry, and then catch it. First you get a demo as the instructor does it and talks, then you swap seats and go for it.

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Setting off I was instantly slewing sideways thanks to the diff and rainy track. How people ever drive them on the roads with a welded diff I will never know!

We only ever kept the car in first gear, but you still had plenty to think about. On queue, I pulled the hydraulic handbrake and the rear started to swing around. I instinctively caught it by counter steering and giving it a bit of throttle – which was wrong! What you have to do is pull the handbrake, then as the rear swings out pull the clutch in and let go of the steering wheel and let the car sort out the first part for you.

After a good few attempts to master that, the next thing was to then get control of the steering and get the power on to maintain the slide around the whole curve.

For this level we were only using one curve, so you had a better chance of mastering the technique without too much to think about. I found it relatively easy, but there was still a lot of polishing off to do. The instructors recognised I had some sort of skills already from my racing, and so were happy to teach to my level rather than as if I was a total novice.

After all, remember this beast of a drift I did during a race at Silverstone?

The rain finally eased off, but left the track wet, which I’m sure made things easier for everyone. I don’t know if they’d normally use a dry track or would wet it anyway to get the cars to move around more?

The final turn in the car was a quick competition, with all of us getting another few runs, but this time we had to drift the rear of the car out to touch a cone on the outside of the turn. Like a true drift event, bonus points were awarded for style, so a lairy angle and bouncing it off the rev limiter rewarded your fun if you weren’t quite up to clipping the cone! (I got 3rd, just in case you were wondering!)

Most people there were total novices and picked up enough to be enjoying themselves out there and I don’t think anyone was disappointed.

Of course, it was fun for me but also business. Any driving skill is good to help with racing, so naturally I was inspired to see the extra training Prodrift Academy offer with one to one training, and essentially training you up to fly free on your own drift career.

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Yo took me out for a quick demo of what the next stage would teach me, using left foot braking to change lines and how to transition the car through corners. I will, of course, be having a crack at some more in-depth training where he said they could tailor the skills more to something I could use on track to improve my lap times and car confidence.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the day – It’s a great present to get someone that’s fun and a little different, and they have a brilliant team there to help you enjoy it.

I’ll look forward to going back there soon!

Season prep update & 2018 compilation video

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This weekend the Formula Vee circus descended on Brands Hatch to open the 2019 race season.

But you may have noticed that I wasn’t there…

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Some of you will already know that Glenn’s brother Malcolm sadly passed away in February, leaving Glenn with a lot of slack to pick up for his business.

With his other brother also being in poor health, it means that he simply doesn’t have the time to do anything with the race car.

Add in a dose of other ‘life stuff’ getting in the way, we’ve had a discussion and decided to put all race plans on hold, for now.

I am still registered for the season, and you can bet that when the window of opportunity opens we’ll be diving through it with the same fire as always, and giving it everything!

I will still continue to give updates on here and on the Facebook pages, so please ‘like’ them to see what’s going on!

Until then, I did knock up a video with the main action from my 2018 season, so I hope you enjoy that. I do have another more technical video to post on the RTV blog where Gelnn talks through the engine problems that cut our season short last year, so look out for that, too!

Oh yes, and my top picks for the title this year?

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James Harridge – He’s finally took the plunge and got a GAC engine, so with the reliability issues sorted and more power, his driving skills could make him a proper weapon this year! (note: shocking story here that stopped him racing at Brands – but I’m not going into that here…)

Craig Pollard – Still fired up after winning the title last year he should be full of confidence to repeat it in 2019.

Ian Jordan – He’s probably done more Vee races than the rest of the grid together (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration), and he’s always well up the front in the mix. I’d expect a few wins (note: updating this after the weekend to say that he won the opening round!)

Graham Gant – Proven to be very fast in what could be the best Vee on the grid. I’ve had him in my top picks for the last few years but he hasn’t done a full season – if he does in 2019 then he’s a major threat. He doesn’t seem to like the rain much, though… (note: yep – and he won the second race at Brands this weekend!)

Daniel Hands – He was strong before in Vee and hasn’t lost anything! He’ll be out to take it.

One to watch:

Christian Goller – he must have had horrendous luck, as he always seems to start from way behind me, and then just comes flying past during the race. If he qualifies well his true pace should surprise a few.

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Bowen Therapy – Injury Recovery

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An unfortunate (and thrillingly unique – but that’s another blog…) part of being a racing driver is that you’re going to be involved in a crash.

Thankfully, Motorsport UK are continually doing a great job to make sure we all walk away from accidents without too much physical damage.

But there’s always a chance you’re going to pick up an injury – or, like me, you’ll pick up an injury away from the track which affects your racing. Then what do you do?

After my motorcycle accident in June, I underwent a course of physiotherapy, which got things moving again but left me with near-constant pain and a body that just didn’t feel right.

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One of my managers at work told me about Bowen Therapy, which had helped her after a nasty road accident. I figured anything was worth a go, and so booked up a session with a local therapist.

I deliberately looked into what was going to happen to me as little as possible, so that I wouldn’t have any expectations. I’m also a firm believer that even a placebo effect gets the job done, so all I had to lose was the £45 per session it would cost, for a minimum of two sessions.

My main problem is lower back pain which is made worse when sitting in a chair or standing up. Somewhat ironically, I’m only really pain-free when strapped into my race seat in the Formula Vee! I also have a lot of upper back issues and my neck got ripped up pretty badly by the whiplash of getting hit in the side by a two tonne car and then slapping off the tarmac. My broken rib healed, but ribcage on that side felt twisted, my whole body was generally weak, and I’d hurt my wrist a bit.

This means my fitness program ended right there, as did the karting I was doing between races.

I survived the rest of the season with deteriorating fitness whilst unable to train, and clearly can’t have been driving my best.

I turned up at my first Bowen Technique session with Julia Foster, having filled in a brief questionnaire on my injuries, and chatted to the friendly therapist to give her some idea of how to treat my plethora of injuries.

I was told that rather than focus on my lower back as my traditional physiotherapy had, she would treat and balance my whole body, as the source of my pain may actually be elsewhere in my body. This made sense to me, but I was determined to keep a healthy dose of cynicism and just see what happened.

Laying on a massage table is where it all gets a bit tricky to explain. The moves where almost like a massage at times, but more of the gentle pinching motions. Then there was some pushing of areas of my body, a bit of prodding and poking, some laying on of hands, and stuff I have no idea about.

It’s not quite massage, not quite acupressure, not quite pressure point meridians and not quite fingertip massage. Overall, it’s a very gentle and relaxing experience with some brief, mild pain, and many more ticklish moments where I was trying not to giggle and flail about!

I was told to drink lots of water over the next few days, and booked in another session about a week later. And to work a little on my posture by doing things like not standing with my wight on one leg.

I wasn’t disappointed as I left the session, as I did feel generally better, but it wasn’t some mindblowing jump back to health – although I had been told it may take a few days to take full effect.

I thought I’d be needing some full-on chiropractitioner crack-and-snap treatment to get my bones back into alignment, but after the first Bowen session the difference was fantastic – especially given that the touching was so light!

Sitting at my desk the following morning I was surprised to find the pain almost gone, although this had been masking another nerve-type pain in the same area of my lower back. Either way it had definitely reduced my pain and increased the time I was able to sit for.

I have also been doing a pilates class for the first time ever, to help get things moving. This had also shown up several issues such as not being able to lay flat on my back because my ribs felt twisted. At my next pilates class I found this was greatly reduced, and this improved my performance overall.

Going back to the second Bowen session, I was completely honest about all this with the therapist, and we got down to more of the same. She did comment that my alignment did look much better, and I had been paying attention to her advice on posture etc.

After another hour on the table we spoke for a while about what else she had found, and I booked up a third session.

I now found that the nerve pain in my lower back had gone, too – but the next layer of pain was slightly higher up in my back, plus something going on with the back of my ribcage.

I noticed I was performing much better and stronger at my pilates class, but this was followed by a couple of days of the new back pain at pretty nasty levels. Again, it seemed to be caused by sitting and standing.

Speaking to Julie before my third session, we reviewed all of my progress, and then it was more of the relaxing work.

Right from the start it did always surprise me how she could go straight to the problem area – not finding her way by my reaction to the touches as most would do. I gave very few clues as she worked, just relaxing myself and letting her do her thing.

Whilst I do understand a bit about energy within and around our bodies, I’m also a cynic of it all. Whilst this can make me a tough customer, I try not to let that colour my thoughts on the end results – and without a doubt the Bowen technique has helped me a lot.

I’m not completely cured just from this, but it’s given me enough of a stable base that I will be able to ease back into some heavier training. I’m sure a lot of my remaining pain is due to the weakness of my muscles over the months I’ve been affected. That and the fact I’m getting older and don’t bounce so well!

Would I recommend Bowen therapy to anyone else? Absolutely!

There’s definitely something there that makes sense and works. It’s quite likely that I’ll go back for a ‘top up’ at some point, and if I do get banged around in any racing incidents I’d also expect that Bowen could do something to help me.

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Getting Back On It For 2019: How to get fit

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I lost half a stone in the month after my motorcycle crash last June.

Unfortunately, my injuries (especially my back) then meant I couldn’t really do anything training-wise, and when I went to a medical appointment in December I found I’d gained a stone since then!

More importantly, my fitness was screwed.

I’ve been doing Pilates (and another therapy I’ll do a blog on) to keep things moving, but I can’t class it as ‘real’ exercise – that is, it’s not exactly the intensity I’m used to! Don’t get me wrong, it’s great and has helped me a lot, but you’re never going to hear an interview where a boxer has used it to train up for his next fight…

So what to do, now I feel I can start to push things again?

I very nearly joined a “Couch to 5k” course. 9 weekly sessions to get you from nothing to being able to run for 5km. I love the idea, and know that running is the ultimate exercise – but I don’t actually LIKE running. So that came and went, along with all the Park Run events that you could follow it up with… not for me!

Should I join a gym?

It’s great if you can motivate yourself to go, but I know after 3 months I’m going to be bored with it and make excuses. Plus it costs far too much for my budget! I’m still open to it, and may pay for the odd single session – I actually will run on a treadmill, weirdly. Not that I run weirdly – I mean, for some reason I don’t mind doing that.

It’s a fact that if you’re doing something, it’s better than doing nothing. So, short sharp bites to wake things up again.

Years ago I used some Billy Blanks workout videos. He does Tae Bo – like kickboxing but more focused on your aerobic fitness. Or like less poncy aerobics, if you prefer.

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On YouTube, he even has some “10 minute” fitness vids. You’d think this would be a nice, mild workout to fit into your day, and you’d be half right. Give one a go and you’ll soon see that they’re anything but mild, though!

How hard is it to get yourself up off the couch for 10 minutes? So I have an alarm set and I’ll be doing this on a regular basis.

There are actually a load of 10 minute workout vids on YouTube – so there’s enough variation there not to get bored. And remember it’s all free!

Sure, if you want something even easier then drop and do 20 push-ups, 40 squats, 40 seated leg raises but you will get bored of that quickly. And Billy Blanks is actually quite entertaining!

And speaking of entertaining, Karting has to be the most fun training – and it is very hard work. OK, so it costs a bit, but there are usually offers around the ease the pain…

The best thing is you’ll be using the actual muscles you use for racing, so will strengthen all the right bits, and it is an awesome workout for your heart and breathing.

After finally going for it, I’ve also found out that the one part of my back that it doesn’t make ache is the damaged bit, so I’ll definitely be doing more of that!

I feel a bit like I’ve been beaten up and was starting to make some very strange noises around the hairpin turns towards the end of the second session, but it’s good pain! I also set a personal best lap at Teamworks Halesowen, so there’s still life in this old dog, yet! And more motivation to knock off the few hundredths of a second that will drop me into the 22 secs… And of course it keeps that competitive edge nice and sharp!

There will be some sim work before I race again, and I’ll cover that in another blog.

What are you doing to keep you race fit? Any interesting revelations that you’d recommend?

2018 Season Review

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My 2018 racing season in the Heritage Parts Centre UK Formula Vee championship certainly had some ups and downs.

From blowing the engine on my out lap at Castle Combe in qualifying, being involved in someone elses crash at Brands Hatch, overcoming engine problems to prove I can still drive at Croft, flying to Ireland with broken ribs and concussion (after a motorcycle accident) to challenge for a class win at Mondello Park, and then random problems which ultimately led to me not racing in the last round of the season and being left with two scrap engines.

It was a definite uphill struggle all year long, but sometimes I managed to see over that crest. Sometimes I got to taste that joy of both victory and the unbelievable exhilaration that only comes with motor racing.

I could focus on my engine problems and pure bad luck and frustration – or I can remember going for the class win at Mondello Park, wheel to wheel with Bill ‘Wom’ Garner in a titanic scrap on the final lap! Or the way I overcame serious power loss at Croft to lead B Class Championship winner Andrew Cooper in the opening laps and still hang onto him despite it being a very fast power circuit.

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However frustrating things were, I’m still doing the thing I only ever daydreamed about as a kid, and to me, dropping back through the field at Silverstone with the engine dying but still fighting hard to stay ahead of the pack – that’s the sort of victory many will never be able to understand.

Despite missing 6 races and not finishing 1 – so half of the scheduled 14 – I somehow ended up 6th in class and 22nd overall. And more important than any stat is that I know that I have clearly improved and I’m a much faster and consistent driver and loving every second on and off the track!

If you were wondering where I was for Snetterton, basically the oil leak that stopped me doing the last race at Donington turned out to be an insert for an engine stud that had come out. As this meant we couldn’t use that engine case, we swapped all the internals into a spare case, only to find that case needs to be line bored as the main bearing was warped, and the barrels couldn’t be shimmed up evenly as that surface has warped, too. So whilst we have two scrap engines at present, we should be able to recover at least one.

For 2019 I’ll be hitting the season at full blast after a few improvements to the car, and fully intend to win my class, as well as stick it in the overall top 10 on a regular basis as I push myself even harder.

It’s a roller-coaster of a ride, but what’s better than throwing both hands high in the air and yelling “faster!”?

Thanks for all of your support this year, and for reading my (sometimes very long) ramblings!

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Special thanks:

Primrose Hospice for their amazing service, and allowing me to proudly carry their logo on my car and help their promotion.

Glenn Hay for heading up Racing Team Vee and for the use of the car.

My beautiful fiancé Julie for putting up with my sacrifices to go racing and my total obsession with it.

The Bromsgrove Standard and Craig Gibbons for publishing my race reports.

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Changing the Class B Regulations – Formula Vee

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Essentially the only differences between a UK Class A Formula Vee and a Class B car are that Class B cars:

  • Must use steel dampers
  • Can only use dampers with one adjustment (ie combined bound & rebound)
  • Must have the dampers attached to the lower trailing arm and the beam or chassis (so they’re on the outside of the car bodywork)
  • Can only use a maximum of 2 coil spring/dampers for the rear.

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So the theoretical advantages are the suspension components are cheaper to buy and simpler to use, and will likely be heavier than those allowed for Class A cars….

And, umm, that’s about it.

It means that whilst the dampers are much older technology, it’s arguable that using more modern stuff (within Class A rules) will make the car any quicker at all, let alone be a big difference. Overall car/driver weight is the same for both classes, so you can just offset the damper weight by using a lithium battery or eating two less burger at the Vee Centre Annual BBQ!

As clear and definitive proof of this, James Harridge has won races outright in his Class B Maverick – in fact he’s only in Class B to make the point that there is no difference. I believe Ian Jordan could also run in Class B and whilst winning races overall, but chooses not to.

I’m proud to be in Class B, and take the championship seriously, but even I have to admit there is no real difference, so it’s pretty pointless.

So what is the point of a Class B?

To be cheaper? To allow cars of a different specification to race? To reward newer/slower/less ‘financially gifted’ drivers?

At the moment, it’s none of these things – which is a shame because it could really be used to do so much more! For drivers and for the championship overall. Anything that gets more cars out on the grid is a good thing, right?

Now at this point I have to state that I don’t think Class A regs should change. Class A should be the hardcore, tune everything until it breaks class – and ALL cars from any class should still be Class A by default.

Here are my proposals for what Class B should be:

Irish Style:

Class B is for new drivers. It gives them a chance to win a trophy whilst still learning their skills. If you finish in the top 3 in B Class, you’re automatically shifted up to Class A from the next season, so it keeps fresh blood in B.

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Vee Centre Style:

Class B points are only awarded to anyone finishing outside the top 10. This makes it all a bit more fun, and also means that when you do progress into the overall top 10, you stop scoring any B Class points. So effectively your reward for outgrowing Class B is that you’re already finishing in the overall top 10.

Those are the quick and easy options that will cost nothing for anyone. Then we get into the more meaty options:

1600cc aircooled VW engines:

Again, this is basically adopting the Irish series regs for Class B. Because all the Class A people will already be frothing with outrage, it’s probably a good idea to have controls on these cars, again much like the Irish series, so that overall they’re not as fast as the Class A cars.

The Irish cars, as we’ve seen when we’re combined on track, are pretty evenly matched and yet have different strengths and weaknesses. They run on smaller wheels, different tyres and have a control camshaft, which (in theory) keep the cars very even.

Our Class A cars definitely have the legs in them in top speed, but they have more grunt – this means a Class B car could win overall, on the right track.

The biggest advantage is that the controls keep the cars reliable to the point that you can stick an engine in for a season or two and not touch it – something our current 1300’s couldn’t even dream of. As engine costs are huge in our series, this could mean a massive saving, and that new people with no mechanical skills would have a much better chance in the championship.

As a bonus, if we did adopt the full Irish Vee regs, it would mean all of their cars would now be eligible to race with our series as Class B cars, and we could also go racing with them in Ireland.

When I’ve raised this with drivers I’ve found massive backlash – but why? Just carry on with your Class A cars and regs! You don’t NEED to change anything!

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Watercooled Polo engines:

Another suggestion is switching in a totally different engine, such as the watercooled Polo. This would mean much cheaper, much more reliable, and more powerful engines with greatly reduced costs.

The downsides are that they would be outright winners unless you hamstrung everyone, and could mean massive changes to chassis to get them to fit. And is it losing the whole spirit of Formula Vee, even with a VW engine?

Claiming Rules:

Anyone can buy anyone elses engine for a set fee.

This would mean there would be no point spending thousands on your engine, because after every race everyone else has the option of buying your engine, and you have to sell it for that set price.

Very controversial, and no doubt comes with a whole heap of problems, but a great way to stop costs spiralling…

Other Restrictions:

These should make the formula cheaper and more accessible, and preferably raise reliability. Obviously, targeting engine costs and reliability are the best targets here.

Cheap and easy options are:

  • Add a rev limiter
  • Raise minimum weight
  • Control camshaft

***EDIT***
Oh, and I missed a couple of things out!

Age of Car – we could do a lot more to get the hoards of old Vee’s out of sheds and back on track! Maybe having Class B as cars over 15 years old would knock out the newer and more expensive to buy cars in one fell swoop, and encourage owners of all the 90’s cars to get rebuilding? Maybe even Class C for the proper vintage Vee’s – I know Glenn Hay has a 60s Beech (or is it Beach?) that could see the light of day again if we had anything to race it in, and the 70s Scarab Mk I.

This also has the plus-side that it really shouldn’t affect the front-running A’s, as it’s doubtful any 60s spec cars would be able to win races outright. I should note that it wouldn’t be entirely my choice, as drivers like Ben Miloudi have proved it is still possible to win races in a 20 year old car that’s well prepared – so to me a “15 year or older” Class B still isn’t enough of a difference – although it would make it easier to enter B as in theory all cars would be cheaper to buy than modern machinery.

I should have also mentioned that the older Class B regs from around 2008(?) had Class B cars using points ignition. It was an attempt to distinguish the classes, but in reality just meant to be in Class B you had to put up with severe unreliability and a multitude of problems – so I’m definitely not suggesting we go back to that!

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