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The Gymkhana Slalom Test

Our second, and last, activity in the 2015 Club Le Mons mini-gymkana was a test of our car’s handling ability. As mentioned previously, a nice skid pad and some proper instruments to measure G forces would have been good, but all we had was a bit of airfield and some cones. So a slalom it was to be!

And fun it was! Anyway as they say, a picture tells a thousand words..

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Angela giving it all she's got!

Angela giving it all she’s got!

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

The GT86 on the slalom course

The GT86 on the slalom course

The RX8 coming up to the end

The RX8 coming up to the end

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The FTO going round for another go

The FTO going round for another go

The MR2 caught mid slalom

The MR2 caught mid slalom

Can you believe the G forces?

Can you believe the G forces?

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

 

So, what were the results?

Slalom results

Well, in the absence of the S2000 and MX5 – two very strong contenders – it looks like the FTO, with its sticky tyres and handling focused chassis takes the win.

Considering the SLK’s performance in the brake test it did surprisingly well here, but once again the Toyota GT86 was disappointing.

 

The Points

So, what does this mean for the overall points?

Well..

Brake Test Driver Car Distance Rank Points
Bruce RX8 29.70 1 100
Alex FTO 30.00 2 90
Angela Z3 30.30 3 80
Simon MR2 30.40 4 70
Adam GT86 30.90
Becky TT 33.80 5 60
Michelle MGF 35.75 6 50
Neil SLK 38.30 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

Slalom Test Driver Car Time Rank Points
Alex FTO 33.61 1 100
Simon MR2 34.56 2 90
Neil SLK 34.67 3 80
Bruce RX8 35.77 4 70
Adam GT86 37.00
Michelle MGF 39.78 5 60
Angela Z3 40.15 6 50
Becky TT 48.55 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

And with the May points awarded the final drivers leaderboard stands at:

Driver Car End of Month Points Difference
Simon MR2 1524
Bruce RX8 1425 -99
Alex FTO 1395 -30
Steff S2000 1320 -75
Neil SLK 1287 -33
Angela Z3 1218 -69
Becky TT 1099 -120
Duncan MX-5 1055 -44
Michelle MGF 944 -110

 

Simon still leads, but Alex manages to claw back a place from Steff, and Bruce is closing in on number 1!

 

And The Best £2,500 Sports Car is?

So, after 11 challenges and 12 months of ownership we decided to have a look at how the cars have done, points wise.

As you know some of our challenges have been based on the drivers (driving test, etc), so if we take all of those out and leave in just the points awarded to the vehicles, we *could* say that this point, that the best £2,500 sports car is:

 

The Mitsubishi FTO

FTO Review

Driver Car Points
Alex FTO 925
Angela Z3 899 -26
Steff S2000 842 -57
Simon MR2 835 -7
Bruce RX8 788 -47
Neil SLK 711 -77
Becky TT 705 -7
Michelle MGF VVC 677 -27
Duncan MX-5 654 -24

 

 

 

And Don’t Forget..

Our gymkhana will be best experienced in an upcoming episode!

 

Video Coming Soon

Who does a track day in a £2,500 LeMon?

Well, we do! But obviously not before some serious track day preparation, in case you missed it.

As a non-points earning Challenge*, a number of us headed up to lovely Lincolnshire, to experience a track day in our £2,500 LeMons, at the fantastic Blyton Park Driving Centre. Our hosts for the day were the good people at Lotus-on-Track, who helped us raise just under £500 for our two charities, the Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance and the Make a Wish Foundation.

Sadly a few of us couldn’t make it due to illness, racing at Goodwood or not actually having their car as it was out with a customer. Simon had to drop his lovely new girlfriend at the airport, which, apparently takes priority over coming out to play with your friends. A few grumbles about losing Man-Points, never mind LeMons points, were bandied about, but subsequently ignored, because we just want him to be happy. Aah.

Obviously we have a lot to talk about, so this is going to have to be a two parter..

 

Lotus on Track

A big element of doing a track day is choosing which track day organizer (TDO) you’re going to go with. This is actually a bigger deal than you think, because the TDO plays a huge part in how much fun you might actually have. Some TDOs specialise in a particular marque, such as LoT, but welcome other cars of similar ilk. Other TDOs will accept any type of car, or, through their pricing, segment certain demographics. That means you could be on track with a bunch of people in (souped up) Corsas and Civics, or running with the big boys in their GTRs and GT3s.

Additionally, the type of track day, be it open pit lane or sessioned, can make a difference. Lastly and most importantly, the attitude towards your safety is a major factor to take into consideration. Will they allow passing on the left, right or both sides? Will they conduct a proper briefing session or just let you loose? Do they check the cars and drivers helmets for track suitability, or is it a bit of a free for all?

Blyton Track Day Signage

Before you buy, ask around. Talk to other people who have experience with a particular TDO and ask for recommendations. As Lotus owners most of us, with experience on this track day, had used LoT a number, if not many, times before. We just know they’re good, and the fact that they welcomed a bunch of crazy, non-Lotus, almost ‘ordinary’ cars on their track day says a lot. They are friendliness personified, and we all felt safe, welcome and in good hands. We couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

 

Blyton Park Driving Centre

Yeah, we’d never heard of it either. But boy are we glad we have now! Often, and I think perhaps a little wrongly, compared to Abbeville, in France, Blyton is a relatively new track and purpose designed by a whole bunch of people with motorsport backgrounds.
 
Blyton Park Driving Centre Circuit
 
It’s an ideal novice or first timer track, featuring so much run off around the corners that if you do manage to hit something then you were probably doing something very, very stupid. That’s not to say that it’s an easy track – there’s plenty of off camber moments where you don’t always expect them, and some of the corners, such as Carmen, The Ump and The Wiggler need plenty of concentration and lining up properly, to get right. But it’s a very rewarding track, with some great corners, such as Bishops, which are perfect for getting some oppo-lock on, as you get the back end out, Top Gear style. It would be safe to say that, on the day, everyone particularly enjoyed Bunga Bunga into Port Froid and Port Vite. Its just foot to the floor fun!

.. to be continued..

* as this was a first track day for many, and because timing is not allowed, this Challenge was not eligible for Challenge points. However, participants could earn 10 points for attending a car related event.

Ok, so in January we did the Autosport show at the NEC. It only seemed fair that this month we did the Geneva International Motorshow!

And boy are we glad we did! Wow!

First the logistics. We took an EasyJet flight out from Gatwick at 8 am, with a flight back after 6pm. Not too bad, just a day in Switzerland. And it only cost less than £200 for the two of us. BA apparently had cheaper flights, but we booked a bit last minute. Tickets for the actual event were only about £11. All in all, that’s considerably cheaper than we we’re expecting. But, that said, pack a lunch. Food and drink there isn’t cheap! But this is a once a year event, so even though we’re more budget oriented we thought it would be worth it. Once you get to Geneva its a (relatively) short walk to the halls, so saved on taxi money there too. Oh and we brought E15 in cash. No Swiss Francs. Euros are fine and accepted everywhere. As is your card.

There are seven halls, and you start in number 7 and work your way back. Seven is full of people selling tools, car washes (yes, whole drive through car washes), lifts, ramps, wheels, tyres, and pretty much anything else that’s not a car that you can think of. Not the most exciting but they often have cars there too, including one absolutely, original, gorgeous, NSX. We didn’t take a picture. Muppets.

And then, up the ramp, you come out in the main halls.. at the Infiniti stand. Not a huge fan of Infiniti but they know how to put on a show! And there were actually some nice cars there too!

CLM Does Geneva MotorShow CLM Does Geneva MotorShow CLM Does Geneva MotorShow

CLM Does Geneva MotorShow

Then the next thing that hits you is how big it is! Words, nor pictures can describe it. We tried to get a picture that would give you an idea, but there just wasn’t an angle, view point or location we could get that would work. Take our word for it, it is huge! And beautifully laid out. Lovely carpet everywhere, super clean, it really puts the NEC to shame.

And then there’s the cars. We sat in most of them. We took about 700 pictures. Way too much to share, so here’s a little sample. Enjoy! And see you there next year!

CLM does Geneva (42) CLM does Geneva (41) CLM does Geneva (40) CLM does Geneva (39) CLM does Geneva (38) CLM does Geneva (37) CLM does Geneva (36) CLM does Geneva (35) CLM does Geneva (34) CLM does Geneva (33) CLM does Geneva (28) CLM does Geneva (29) CLM does Geneva (30) CLM does Geneva (31) CLM does Geneva (32) CLM does Geneva (27) CLM does Geneva (26) CLM does Geneva (25) CLM does Geneva (24) CLM does Geneva (23) CLM does Geneva (22) CLM does Geneva (21) CLM does Geneva (20) CLM does Geneva (19) CLM does Geneva (18) CLM does Geneva (14) CLM does Geneva (15) CLM does Geneva (16) CLM does Geneva (17) CLM does Geneva (12) CLM does Geneva (1)

 

 

 

On Saturday we had our first Concours d’Lemons, or d’Loomies, whatever you prefer to call it. The idea was that each driver would get the chance, for many the first, to drive all the other cars.. and then rate them on aspects such as looks, sounds, drive-ability and desirability. We also invited the public to join us, and give their votes.

We’re tallying up the points at the moment, but in the mean time wanted to share the experience of David and Kayleigh, who drove for 2 hours to be a part of the day. Not only were they very enthusiastic supporters, but they also helped with keys and cones – so they have our gratitude!

—-

So this weekend the Mrs and I decided to go and show some support for a fellow FTO owner and the Club LeMons team, We set off from our home in Yardley, Hastings, at about 8am on Saturday, we drove for 2 hours in rain, sleet, sun and a tiny bit of snow, however the roads were very quiet so we didn’t mind.

Loomies Cafe Concours DLemons (5)

We arrived at Loomies Café in West Meon at around 10:30, I had to stop for a coffee. After a quick catch up with the LeMons drivers and finding out what the day’s events would involve, we started.

Each driver had to take all the other cars out for a drive to and score them on certain points. I had the joys of going out as a passenger in 3 cars,

1st off was the Merc SLK

The SLK, no better way to describe it is, a motor way car for the late 50’s business man. Its old, chunky, and boring. I’m still working out how the SLK can be classed as a “sports car” as to me there is nothing sporty about it. 2 door hard top convertible, leather interior, this is about as sporty as it gets, the 3.2L engine didn’t seem that great, when the power was applied there wasn’t a great big roar and a sudden pull away, all in all the SLK was quiet boring, probably like most owners. In my opinion, it’s a mobile office for the business man spending 90% of his/her life sitting on the motor way car parks across the UK

2nd was the Mitsubishi FTO

Now this could be an extremely biased review being as I own and drive one on a daily basis. I had the joys of sitting in the passenger seat, while Simon the MR2 wwner was test driving the FTO, however I don’t feel he appreciated the Jap engineering that has gone into the FTO 2.0L Mivec. The day was getting late and he wanted to get back to Cardiff, so he only had a 5 minute drive. The FTO has the power through the gears, pulling away, however the down side to this is it is a front wheel drive car, which really lets it down, the FTO has the acceleration however the breaks seemed a little soft on this FTO, without driving it myself I couldn’t tell what was wrong, the FTO held the road well however did seem to want to pull a little to the left. The interior of the FTO is out dated, with only a digital OMO, however with a few mods could be made to look modern.

3rd, the Audi TT

Now the Audi TT, I’ve always called a “hair dressers” car. I have to admit, it looks like an over grown VW beetle, just stick a flower pot on the dash and it would be. The interior of the TT is very flat and plastic looking, with a steering wheel sticking it out like it doesn’t look like it belongs there. The TT holds the road well, however this TT has been tuned so it has more poke than most, the down side to this is lots of poke, NO BREAKS – Becky that’s the next thing to get done break upgrade, without getting behind the wheel, and driving it myself I couldn’t tell what the handling was like. Take the roof down and it becomes a whole different car.

All in all we had a fantastic day, and I would have like to have gotten out in 2 other cars, the BMW Z3 and the not so sporty 4.5 door Mazda RX8.

Loomies Cafe (2)

 

– David

 

Watch David and Kayleigh in an upcoming episode of Club Le Mons too!

Loomies Cafe Interview

So, with the next event being our MPG test, this Saturday, we’ve been tracking our cars’ average fuel economy on Fuelly since the start of the challenge.

This should give you some idea of who might do well (MX5?) and who might do badly (RX8?) – ironically both from the same manufacturer!

Mileage tracker

But, we don’t know how well the S2000 will do, as she hasn’t been tracked.

Join us at the NEC on Saturday as we attend the Autosport International Show!

CLM Lets Race Small Banner

It’s official!

On Saturday November 29th Club Le Mons and Lets Race are joining forces to host a charity fundraising evening on behalf of the Make A Wish Foundation UK and Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance!

Join us at Lets Race, Horley, who have the country’s only full motion F1 simulators, between 5pm and 10pm and enjoy the many fantastic attractions we have planned. There will be fun for all the family including children’s race simulators, a Batak reaction time machine, 6 track scalextric, raffle and a nail bar for the more feminine attendees and much more!

We are very excited to be welcoming some of the children who have been helped by the charities as our special guests for the evening. They will get to drive in the first race along with our lucky children’s raffle winners. Make sure you come along early to participate in this raffle as it will be drawn at 5.30pm and the race will be at 6pm!

Our second race will see the Club Le Mons team competing as part of their year long charity car challenge. To learn more about Club Le Mons please go to www.lemons365.co.uk. Come along and cheer (or heckle!) in the Grandstand.

And then, the ultimate race of the evening, the Grand Prix Finale will begin at 7.30pm and is another great way for you to get involved!

Help us raise some money for these two great charities and win a place on the grid for your very own Formula 1 race! Here’s your chance to go head to head against other drivers and prove you’ve got what it takes to be the next Hamilton, Senna or Grosjean!

There will be two ways to win a seat on the grid. Five places will be won by those who have entered into our ‘balloon raffle’ on the night. By purchasing a balloon for £10, not only will you get a Club Le Mons and Charity Goody Bag but at 7.10pm everyone will pop their balloons to discover whether the ticket inside says WIN or LOSE.

If however you don’t like the odds of this and want to secure your position on the Lets Race Grid then make a generous donation at the ‘Donation Table’ to our great charities and the top 5 donations will also automatically receive a place on the starting grid.

There will be food and drinks available so either pop by or join us for the whole evening, we look forward to seeing you!

If you would like to ensure you receive any updates about this event, sign up via our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/clublemons

SteffHonda S2000

Santa Pod - SteffSanta Pod? Never heard of it..

Oh wait, is it that place where they do that pointless drag racing? I had my preconceptions about drag strips, so wasn’t really that bothered about this challenge one way or the other.

I was actually more worried about my clutch and how it would hold up to this pointless abuse. Just prior to the last event it had pretty much given up when the pedal went straight to the floor as I got in to leave for the Rolling Road Challenge.

 

Santa Pod - Steff S2000 Prep (2)Santa Pod - Steff S2000 Prep (1)

Turned out to be as simple as a leak in clutch master which was resolved with a bleed and tightening everything up. But full chat launches off the line on a drag strip might prove too much.

Santa Pod - Steff S2000 Prep (3)Santa Pod - Steff S2000 Prep (4)

In the end I was wrong on all accounts! Clutch held up fine and drag strips are actually really good fun! The people were not what I expected either, with so many different cars they where a real mix of car nuts who where more than happy to talk about their own cars and showed a genuine interest in ours. Not sure if I’m hooked but will definitely attend another.

Thanks Santa Pod!

 

AlexMitsubishi FTO

Santa Pod - AlexWell, what can I say, that hasn’t already been said? It was an awesome weekend. Most fun I’ve had for a while, and I’ve been having a lot of fun, lately.

But, before I get on to the disappointing aspect of the day, namely my car, there are a few things I wanted to mention.

Firstly, the use of the term ‘Jap’ in everything. Having grown up with the notion that ‘Jap’ was derogatory it took me by surprise to see everything from the show to most of the clubs using that word so openly and often. Guess I’ll need to readjust my understanding of it.

Secondly, the variety of cars.. naturally lots of Evos, Skylines and Scoobies! GTOs, Supras and even Starlets a-plenty! A whole Celica club. And lots of FTOs too! But I only saw one GT86 there, and only one RX8 – Bruce’s! Guess these aren’t common cars in the culture yet.

Thirdly, the people. I’ve been to a lot of car and club events and so far the folks at Santa Pod (both those working there and the other visitors) were amongst the most helpful, open, welcoming and genuinely interested in things outside their own niche. A real breath of fresh air.

Santa Pod - Alex at the gatesSanta Pod - Alex Queuses UpSanta Pod - Alex Staging

And then there was my performance. As you’ll see, I came dead last in the ET competition. My actual time, although extremely consistent, was well below what I was hoping, and what the online calculators were telling us it would do. It didn’t matter if I ran the car with a passenger, or with the boot full or empty. Obviously blame lies with the driver first and foremost, but here’s what I think went wrong.

One: weight. My ET calculation was based on the weight of the FTO GP(vR) which is estimated at 1190kg. My car was rebuilt, and I do recall the previous owner telling me he’d put in a lot of noise damping materials. So it’s quite possible my car is a fair bit heavier than was estimated. So I re-ran the calculator to figure out how much my car would need to weigh, to get the results I was getting. Apparently that is 1400kgs! Well, there’s no way my car weighs that much, so I figure it’s got to have something to do with number two.

Santa Pod - Alex Comparison

 

Two: tyres. I got nothing but wheel spin in first and a nice chirp in the shift to second. You can see it on the video.

Didn’t matter what revs I tried to leave the line at, it was wheel spin city. So I did some research into my tyres.

Santa Pod - Alex Tyres (1)Santa Pod - Alex Tyres (2)

Turns out you shouldn’t try to a drag race with tyres that have an ‘ECORUN’ label on them. Seems these tyres are described as “Premium Touring Summer” tyre and “Low rolling resistance tyre developed with comfort in mind“. Here’s a good review of the tyres, with them being compared to standard low rolling resistance tyres. Well, that would explain the wheel spin! Seems I brought a starters pistol to a gun fight.

Stickier, wider tyres next time. The power is there, but it just isn’t getting down. Hello Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R!

That said, I loved it. The first few runs were nerve inducing, and the last one, in front of the whole crowd, racing Duncan in the RX8 was equally nerve racking but I’d happily go back next week and do it again!

Santa Pod - Alex & Duncan Head to headSanta Pod - Alex vs Duncan Results

 

The Competition

This was not a race against other drivers. We could not guarantee that we would be able to run against each other, so even if you did – by coincidence, we were NOT racing another driver. We were racing against the clock, and against our own nerves!

We also don’t want anyone to ruin their car, in particular the clutch, so everyone was advised to only drive as hard/fast as they felt comfortable. The loss of points and bill for a clutch replacement wasn’t going to be worth the points they might earn on the day.

At the end of every run we got a print out with the following information:

  • Overall Time
  • Reaction Time
  • Speed
  • 60 ft time
  • 60 ft speed
  • 1/8 mile time
  • 1/8 mile speed
  • 1/4 mile time
  • 1/4 mile speed

We only used the best/fastest results for the rankings and points submission, even if these weren’t necessarily part of the same run.

The points calculations:

1. Points have been assigned based on a ‘Target Time’ result on the drag strip. The ‘Target Time’ is a calculation based on the time it should take each car to travel the full ¼ mile length of the strip. On the print out this is labelled as the “¼ mile time”.

Over the last few weeks we have scoured the internet to find out what time each car should be capable of doing the ¼ mile in. As you can imagine, that’s not been easy. But we did find 4 to 5 online ¼ mile calculators. Some are more advanced than others (allowing you to select the driven wheels, etc.) and some are quite simple. These are the calculators:

http://www.autosnout.com/Car-Quarter-Mile-Calculator.php

http://robrobinette.com/et.htm

http://www.torquecars.com/tools/quarter-mile-time.php

http://vexer.com/automotive-tools/1-4-mile-ET-HP-MPH-calculator

http://www.torquestats.com/modified/index.php?pid=calculator

We plugged in the basic numbers needed to calculate ¼ mile times (weight and power) and ran each car through each calculator. We then disregarded the highest and lowest values (to remove any outliers) and averaged the rest. As a final step we then deducted the same value from each result, to give us a ‘Target ¼ Mile Time’.

Car Dyno BHP Weight (KG) Weight (LBS) Online Average 1/4 Mile Time Driver Target 1/4 Mile Time
S2000 222.30 1260 2778 14.23 13.98
FTO 192.60 1190 2623 14.73 14.48
Z3 200.10 1360 2998 15.14 14.89
SLK 196.10 1405 3097 15.49 15.24
RX8 178.40 1350 2976 15.74 15.49
TT 175.10 1340 2954 15.80 15.55
MR2 163.20 1305 2877 16.04 15.79
MX5 128.50 1025 2260 16.07 15.82
MGF 127.70 1090 2403 16.46 16.21

 

Points have been awarded in the usual 20 – 100 manner, with the driver coming closest to their Target Time (or being quicker than their Target Time by the biggest margin) getting 100 points, and so on.

Points have been assigned for each driver’s “Reaction Time”. This is basically a measurement of how quickly they have reacted to the ‘Go’ signal to start their run. Technically its usually measured from when the lights go out to when you break the final beam, about 2 inches in front of the wheels, at the start. This is basically a test of your nerves. But, your quickest reaction time does not necessarily go hand in hand with your fastest ET!

Again, points will be awarded from 20 – 100 in order of slowest-to-quickest reaction time on the day.

 

So, here’s the results:

 

Firstly, and not counting towards points, lets rank the cars in terms of 1/4 mile top speed.

 

Driver Car Fastest Speed (MPH)
Steff S2000 95.9
Angela Z3 90.52
Alex FTO 89.41/90.32*
Bruce RX8 88.39
Simon MR2 86.52
Neil SLK 85.38
Duncan MX5 83.04
Michelle MGF 80.66
Becky TT 78.98

* 1st Result from Saturday/2nd Result from Sunday demo run

 

Elapsed Time vs Target Time

 

Driver Car Target Time Best E.T. Difference Rank Points
Simon MR2 15.79 16.0174 0.2274 1 100
Duncan MX5 15.82 16.22 0.4000 2 90
Bruce RX8 15.49 15.9698 0.4798 3 80
Angela Z3 14.89 15.3807 0.4907 4 70
Becky TT 15.55 16.1946 0.6446 5 60
Steff S2000 13.98 14.7817 0.8017 6 50
Michelle MGF 16.21 17.1324 0.9224 7 40
Neil SLK 15.24 16.2331 0.9931 8 30
Alex FTO 14.48 15.8266 1.3466 9 20

 

Reaction Time

 

Driver Car Fastest R.T Ranking Points
Simon MR2 0.1081 1 100
Neil SLK 0.1660 2 90
Steff S2000 0.3157 3 80
Duncan MX5 0.3393 4 70
Bruce RX8 0.5030 5 60
Alex FTO 0.5034 6 50
Angela Z3 0.5108 7 40
Becky TT 0.5215 8 30
Michelle MGF 1.1007 9 20

 

Which makes the final points after this challenge:

 

Ranking at Start of Challenge Driver Car Points @ End of September Points Earned Points @ End of Challenge 5
Ranking After Ranking Change
1 Simon MR2 693 200 893 1 0
2 Steff S2000 652 130 782 2 0
3 Angela Z3 649 110 759 3 0
4 Alex FTO 620 70 690 4 0
5 Neil SLK 561 120 681 5 0
6 Bruce RX8 508 140 648 6 0
7 Duncan MX-5 485 160 645 7 0
8 Becky TT 484 90 574 8 0
9 Michelle MGF 407 60 467 9 0

 

So, no one gained or lost a place, but the mid field is tightening! Congrats to Simon for extending his lead, and good luck to Alex & Neil and Bruce & Duncan as their battle gets a little closer. Angela and her Z3 continue to surprise!

And one final image to finish this epic blog off. Sums it up perfectly!

Santa Pod - The End

 

 

 

AngelaBMW Z3

Santa Pod - AngeWell, I had never heard of Santa Pod before joining Le Mons which, I guess, goes to show what a petrol head I’m not!

However, once initiated, I was eager to see how my baby zed would perform. A tad concerned about the resulting new clutch and tyres that may ensue, I was looking forward to getting on the strip to see what the excitement was all about.

We arrived in convoy – always good for team spirit – and found our spot for the day. The SLK was filled with filming gear, my boot was stacked with weekend away bag and associated paraphernalia, plus crutches and chair as my ankle injury was playing me up (thank you changeable weather!), yet why was I not surprised to see that Simon had stripped out his MR2, even removing the passenger seat! Still, I guess he’s acknowledging that he needs all the help he can get!

So, off to the track we go, suitably numbered up, and sporting some designer personalised plates for the day (thank you, Alex). I had no idea what to expect really. Lining up with some mouse-hole in a black box next to the track so that the sensors knew the zed was in place, I was told to floor it when the green light came on. Well, there were six rows of amber lights so this would take time, right? – Missed it! Jeez that was quick! Well, ignoring my slow reaction time (it was over a second – SO slow!), I fly off the start and then try to remember the optimum torque/revs for changing gear – as learned on rolling road day. Was is 4.5k or 5.5? Ooops, I’m red lining , better change gear, eh?

Santa Pod - Ange Lined UpSanta Pod - Ange in Drag

Well that was all over rather quickly – best get back in the queue. I’ll be prepared next time!

My later runs proved more responsive, around 0.5sec, so not too shabby. I had one run against Simon the Great in his MR2. Determined to show him that girls are awesome, I delayed my start with a wheel spin then, using my laser focus to catch up, forgot to change gear, red lined and lost power – again! What a girl!!

Santa Pod - Ange Ready to do Battle

My best run, once I turned off the Traction Control was my last. 91.25mph but, again, spoiled by a slight wheel spin so it wasn’t my best overall. I so wish I’d had time to do a sixth run to combine my learned skills into an awesome finale but that was not to be. We had a hail storm which delayed the afternoon event while the track was dried, followed by an oil spillage which had to be cleared. I was waiting, front of queue in the bright sunshine, which was bringing on a post lunch snooze fest so I reckon my last run could have been better.

Santa Pod - Ange Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

From memory, apart from the first run, my reaction times were all around the .5second mark, and my runs were sub 16secs, so I feel I did my bit for the girls.

Sunday was JapFest so my Zed was relegated to the side parking but sporting her new Le Mons livery. The Jet car was just awesome- a total must-see! I was mostly occupying the Le Mons stand and looking after our gorgeous mascot, baby Mia, while her camera-wielding parents did their thang.

Santa Pod - Ange Stand

I would love to return next year. Maybe I’ll visit the BMW day and test my wits against other zeds as I didn’t see any others last weekend at all.

I must reiterate the thoughts of the others. It was just lovely to be around a flock of petrolheaded enthusiasts with no car envy snobbery in sight, just great mutual support and enthusiasm. Highly recommended!

 

BruceMazda RX8

Santa Pod - BruceAs we arrived early on the Saturday morning, it was as if we were driving into a recently disused airfield. There appeared to be very little going on apart from some dormant fairground rides, an expanse of green fields and various metal railings. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I was unsure if we had arrived too early or on entirely the wrong day.

After Duncan had secured a toilet stop we proceeded to drive to a man in the customary high viz orange jacket who directed us to where we should all park. Once out of the cars we were able to get our bearings and we wandered towards the nearest fast food outlet for coffee and breakfast – priorities!. This was when the first cars started to queue  as “run what you brung” and what an amazing mix they were too. A hearse, Bentley GT with male driver and incredible looking lady in cream jeans with subtle stitching, ankle boots, Dior perfume and golden auburn hair blowing seductively in the wind – I hardly noticed her, Subaru Impreza’s and a Ford Escort van to name a few. Everyone was chatting and the mix of enquiring into modifications, respect for the amount of work involved and mutual excitement of going down the strip was fantastic.

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It wasn’t long before the excitement of having a go was too much and we all piled back to our cars. I joined the queue behind the hearse and, after helping the chap push it as it had a weeping head gasket, was soon involved in discussing the merits or not of using a hearse as a drag car.

You do have to sign on and pay to go down the drag strip but there are no instructions into what you actually should do or the signals used. Being very British none of us asked and so we arrived at the front of the queue with a lot of excitement but no idea what to do. Luckily you do sit behind the cars in front on the strip and can see what happens. I was lined up against a modified Honda Civic and felt fairly inadequate (not the first time) but there was no backing out now. You get the car in the right position by looking at two lights that light up one by one as you roll forward. If correct both stay on and then you get a vertical line of amber lights and these go out and a single green is shown. That’s your signal to floor it. I had managed to work out how to turn off the traction control and my sticky track days tyres (shhhh!) seemed to get purchase. I got a better start than the Civic and so was momentarily (well a split second really) ahead of him and then he was overtaking. You are then, in my case, waiting for the beep of the rev limiter soft cut to just give it an instant more and then change gear as fast as possible. The gearing of the RX8 is such that at the end of the run you are right on the limit of 3rd and 4th so in true Club Le Mons fashion I left it in 3rd and crossed the line with the rev limiting continually beeping, like a flat line. All very comforting!

Santa Pod - Bruce at the Lights

There is far more skill than I had imagined in doing the strip as you have to react in an instant to the green light and then balance the revs and clutch so as to stop the car bogging down but also ensure you do not end up with too much wheel spin. You then have to change gear at the right point as quickly as possible without missing a gear (Duncan!). The sticky tyres were a great help but I found out if you did overdo it, you would shake your fillings out and the rear view mirror would end up on the floor!

I cannot over emphasise how welcoming everyone was, from the Grandma running NOS in an old Rover to some of the properly prepared dragsters. The only question I never got answered was why some of the heavily modified cars run the exhausts through the bonnet?

Thank you to our charity partners for the all of the words of encouragement, wisdom and company on one of the runs, and to Duncan for taking it easy on the Sunday in a run against Alex in my car. I can only assume he did take it easy as he lost and earned me the “0-60 Sometime” sticker to my car!

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I don’t think the RX8 did badly as we had a target time of 15.49 seconds and managed a respectable 15.96 seconds but I’m fairly sure others did better. All in all a great day doing a new motor sport challenge and meeting some incredibly welcoming people.

MichelleMGF

Santa Pod - MichelleI had a great weekend at Santa Pod!

I was surprised at my nerves to be honest. Really nervous sitting in the queue waiting to do my run, butterflies in my stomach and the adrenaline was immense.

Did enjoy it but wanted to keep going round and round to really get the hang of it without all the waiting around in the queue. Once I finished my first run I was shaking like a leaf! I did another two runs and my last was the fastest time which I am pleased with, my reaction times were the slowest among the group but hey, it’s another experience I wouldn’t have otherwise had!

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Good to meet the guys from the charities too and one of the T-Bar members, Kevin, made a special journey, two and a half hours away to come down as he had some goodies for me!  Kevin kindly donated, and fitted, a new steering wheel as my one was ripped at the top, a new gear knob and gaiter sleeve, which he also fitted and a new working clock as mine has stopped!!

Fantastic Support I think you’ll agree!!! Thank you so much Kevin!!

But, I can’t finish this with out mentioning the only other MGF that was there that day.. you’ll agree that it’s not quite as standard as mine!

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Go Team MGF!

 

 

SimonToyota MR2

Santa Pod - SimonHad a fantastic weekend, thoroughly enjoyed every moment, even the long wait for the track to dry really didn’t bother me at all.

To see the Jap car enthusiasts with their cars was inspirational, there has been some serious polishing going on with those cars, and the accessories stalls were well stocked and very tempting! Made me realise that my approach to my car this year is the right one for me. I really want to put my stamp on it and I think I’ve done that so far!

First time down the strip was, well, fun…. Up against Neil in his SLK, we both reported record reaction times, although the guy lining the cars up seemed positively puzzled that neither of us had done a burn out, that was to change from the next run on….

I’m happy to have won all 4 of my races, 2 against the MX5, the BMW and the SLK, but despite wanting to take on the FTO and the RX8 I never got the chance.

Spending time with our charity representatives was fun, and they all seemed very impressed with the whole fleet and our enthusiasm for what we are doing with the cars this year. Paul from KSSAA was lucky enough to get a trip on the strip, but unfortunately Angela was forced to vacate the car which was a shame, she was SO excited!

Would I do it again? Damn yes! I reckon my target time was very much achievable with a bit of fine tuning of the take off and slightly swifter gear changes, something that would no doubt come with more practice…..!

The jet car was immense, the afterburner igniting was ear shatteringly loud!

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NeilMercedes-Benz SLK

 

Santa Pod - Neil PoseI’d been to Santa Pod on a VW event some 20, err ok, 25 years ago. Great weekend but the VW Beetle I was passenger in had a top speed of 40mph with a tailwind, so very few sub one minute quarter miles were celebrated as in reality the success was in the cars not falling apart before the end. Suspension parts, rust and drunk people littered the quarter mile stretch. They were good times!

So, here I am again some 20, ok 25 years on, it’s Jap Fest something or other and this time with a behemoth V6 SLK! hmm, German car invades Jap world, I wasn’t winning any hearts or minds with my choice of Le Mons car this weekend..oh well, I’ll have to use my good looks and whit with the Fast and Furious crowd.

So, the challenge, anyone can take this on, any ‘run what you brung’ day can see any car turn up pay £25 and have a great day out. Safety, not an issue, far safer than a track day, it’s low on the scale of skill if you are turning up in your daily driver and not hard on the car.

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The idea is to put your foot to the floor, keep the steering wheel straight and run through the gears until your gearbox explodes.. great stuff.. if you don’t have an automatic German tourer like me. Sadly whilst running the 1/4 mile I found my left hand trying to strangle me for leaving it bereft of anything to do. Sadly it was so keen on trying to rid me of my soul that it forgot to turn of the ESP button which would help me shift my bulk forward to a competitive time! Damn you left hand!

Run one. I’ve got a boot full of video equipment and Sam, my wife, in the passenger seat and I’m up against Simon in his stripped out MR2. We roll into position and then no point in pretending that a complete and utter mistake ensured a formula one reaction time of 0.166 seconds after the light went green. To be honest, I’m not even sure I knew the lights were changing. I think I panicked and hit the pedal. Next thing I know, Simon pips me to the finish line and his smug grin can be seen staring straight at me as we brake sharply at the end. I’ll never hear the end of it. For the record, anything under a 0.250 is considered lucky, the norm being around a 0.5 second reaction time.

Run two, oops, my super fast reaction times turn into a disqualification as I hit the accelerator way too early. Again, I’ve got Andy, our cameraman in the car weighing me down again. Think I was beside Bruce in the RX8. His car wasn’t super fast, but it was at least passenger free and driven by somebody with a racing license.. so yes, I lost again!

Santa Pod - Neil Lined Up

Run three, now it’s war, I’ve cleaned out the boot of video equipment. Ditched the passengers and now it’s time. Alex in the FTO and me in the SLK, two behemoths of the ego world stand side by side for the ultimate head to head. He’s an idiot, always will be, and I’d never hear the end of it if I won, so I took my foot off the accelerator in the last half of the straight. I had to, I could feel the torque in the V6 about to rocket me past him and I just couldn’t…he’d hate it. He’s a terrible looser…and I am a great friend. I let him win for a simpler life. Now, he’s just an insufferable fool claiming he’s fast. But you and I know the truth.

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Run four, More weight in the passenger seat. This time it’s charity director Jenny. She weighs very little. I also started to take this weight thing seriously so had a post lunch ablution to bring my weight down. This time I was going for it. A serious attempt with all driving aids off and putting my gearbox into semi auto mode so I could flick through the four gears as quickly as possible. I roll up to the line. nothing to my left, for a few moments I think I am running on my own…and then I see it. Some souped up scooberoo or whatever they are known as rolls up in lane two. I stare the driver in the face, he stares at me. I mouth ‘You are going down’ to him, my V6 throbbing like a well hung stallion. He stares back with a look of fear, knowing the competition is going to be fierce. A down to the wire race between the German tourer and the Japanese taxi.

Santa Pod - Neil Lined Up Again

Stage One, Lights ON, Stage Two, lights ON, and GO! I floor it, I feel the close to 200 horses bolt into life and thrust us forward unlike any other attempt. I look to my right and no sign of the Subaru. He must be a car length or two behind me in the first 200 yards. Then as I face forward, I see this dot in the distance. It’s the Subaru, and it’s so fast I didn’t actually see it pass me. In fact it’s so fast it’s over the line 5 seconds ahead of my 16.23 second run. Gutted!

But the people were amazing, the show was excellent and I finally am starting to appreciate the value in the whole modded car scene. It’s a great place, where snobbery isn’t attached to anything, every car is welcomed and worthy of discussion.

Santa Pod - Our Stand

I’ll be there next year…

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