Blog Archives

Challenge 11 – The Gymkhana

…and we’re back.

You may have noticed we’ve been a bit lax when it’s come to updates lately. That’s entirely due to the fact that in June we hosted the amazing Roundel Run, a 75 car & bike strong adventure through the counties of Surrey, Sussex and Kent, all in aid of the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight and our charities. More on that on the Roundel Run website, Facebook and Twitter feed.

Although the Roundel Run was a great success, raised a nice amount of money for charity and will be held again next year (hint hint) it did mean most of the team were flat out, so catching up on sleep and work were required.

That said, on to our gymkhana!

 

What’s a gymkhana?

Well, basically, and according to Wikipedia, it’s roughly:

“a place where skill-based contests were held”

From an automotive point of view you might know it best for a gentleman named Ken Block, who does things like this:

Obviously that’s slightly more adventurous (and skillful) than we might manage in our £2,500 cars, but we thought we’d take the name anyway and test our cars to their maximum too. Just slightly less insanely.

 

Where can you properly play with your cars?

Obviously, unlike Mr Block, we couldn’t have closed any roads, and with our limited budgets we couldn’t exactly rent a whole track or airfield. But, a couple of quick calls to our friends at Car Limits later and we had a small section of the North Weald airfield for our very own! A massive thanks to Andrew and his team for making that happen!

Map of North Weald Map of North Weald

 

 

What’s this about a special guest?

Ah, you’ve seen our tweets!

 


One of the things we’ve been trying to achieve is to see if a £2,500 sports car is as much fun as a super car. For this event we thought we’d ratchet that down a notch and see how our cars compared to a modern day sports car.. and what better opposition than-the-already-future-classic Toyota GT86.

And thanks to the great folks at Hills Toyota of Bishop’s Stortford, we we’re able to borrow one, plus a driver, for the day. Adam was so excited about taking part he arrived before anyone else, in a gorgeous black ’15 plate ’86 auto, with the Aero pack. An absolutely stunning car. And fantastic to drive too.

We chose the ’86 as it matched many of our cars – RWD, reasonable power (200 bhp), coupe styling and, like 5 out of the 9 Lemons – Japanese. A few of us left that day, more impressed with it than we already were. It would be fair to say it’s on a few must-have lists now.

A massive thanks to everyone at Hills, they couldn’t have been more welcome, accommodating or sporting! In fact, they even joined us on the Roundel Run!

On the down side though, two of our drivers couldn’t make it on the day. Steff and his S2000 and Duncan and his MX5 were all sorely missed, as we believe they would have done very well in our activities. Still, more points for the rest of us!

 

 

So, what were the activities?

The idea behind the day was based on further testing our cars. We’d had them on the dyno, we’ve tested their acceleration, some of the cars have been put through their paces on track, but we’d never really tested braking and handling in a comparable way.

With limited space (just one long straight) and technical resources (i.e. no official timing gear, just stopwatches), we needed to keep things as simple as possible.

Braking

The braking test was based on the publish Highway Code for Typical Stopping Distances. We wanted to see how our cars might do against each other, the GT86 and the official numbers.

Highway Code Stopping Distances

Each car was driven up to 60 mph and then stopped as quickly as physically possible. We ignored the Thinking Distance element by setting out two cones through which the cars would pass, and at which point they were to start braking. Our target to beat – 55 metres.

Handling

What better way to test a car’s handling than putting it on a skidpad and seeing what G numbers it’ll achieve? Well yes, except we didn’t have a skidpad or something scientific to measure G forces with. So we settled on the next best thing – a cone course. A quick slalom down, followed by a big turn, slalom back and then a quick sprint to the finish. Our GT86 set the benchmark, and we all followed!

 

The results!

They were, surprising. But you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out!

The SLK

We asked Neil to write a few words about his experience of taking the SLK around Blyton Park, on our track day.

He came back with about a thousand words extolling its virtues and its surprising ability not to fling itself onto the grass out of pure protest at having to do something as gaudy and below its standards as drive fast. But most of all, he wrote about its resounding capacity to genuinely amaze all of us on the day. And amazed we were.

He also mentioned serious brake fade and smoking disks. Didn’t we all?

Anyway, rather than read all that, how about that old adage ‘a picture tells…’

Sure it seems a bit wallowy at times – keep in mind it’s carrying it’s own roof in the boot, but every single one of us was surprised by how well it took to the track, and how much fun it was to drive. Biggest surprise of the day? Definitely!

Blyton Track Day Cars

Obviously we couldn’t have done this without the team at Lotus on Track, whose generosity allowed us to raise £200 for our charities.

And thanks to Blyton Park, for their fantastic hospitality!

Blyton Track Day Stickers Blyton Track Day Stickers Blyton Track Day Stickers Blyton Track Day Stickers

 

 

 

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.

All right, so it’s not really Japanese Top Gear, but it’s definitely Japanese TV!

Anyway, so apparently we just ‘had to share’ this, according to Alex, who has the Mitsubishi​ FTO!

If you remember from the Santa Pod blog Alex did a lot of moaning about how his car was much too slow (15.8/16 sec 1/4 miles, when the expectation was in the high 14s).

These videos popped up on the FTO Owners Club​ last week and show a Japanese car show, where they review the FTO as well as a Toyota MR2, Honda​ Prelude, Nissan​ Primera, Mazda​ 323, BMW​ 318i & Nissan Silvia S14 (200SX).

The videos show a road test of the FTO in both manual and automatic form and then a 1/4 mile test, and a full circuit race. Needless to say Alex was pleased with the results!

FTO Drag Results

 

The challenge is on to get a better time at Santa Pod now!

Check out the videos here:

Well, what can we say? Episode 1 of our ‘TV show’ is live and we’re very proud of it!

Let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter. Enough talk, let’s watch:

As you may recall, a few months ago we got involved in something very special. We did a blog post about it and from that post:

“As an employee of Make-A-Wish®, it is a wonderful thing when people choose to support your charity and when people use their time and expertise to add some magic to your actual work it’s truly heart-warming. And this is exactly what Club Le Mons did.

Josh is 18 and living with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia and like the Club Le Mons team, he is car mad. When I told the team about Josh’s wish to be a passenger in a red Ferrari, they were very excited and insisted they wanted to help make Josh’s wish extra special.

Our Wishgranter, Dan, had arranged for Josh and his family to have his wish at Silverstone and brought them all down to stay at a hotel the night before. But, as a special surprise and to enhance his wish, the Club Le Mons team had arranged for a red Ferrari to be at Josh’s hotel, on arrival, to take him for a spin.”

Today we’re really proud to be able to share Josh’s wish.

On Saturday 29th we’re hosting a fund raising event at Let’s Race. Please come along and support us there, so we can continue to support kids like Josh. Because that’s just awesome.

CLM and Lets Race Event

For more information on the event, please click here.

 

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.

Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 6Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 5Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 4Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 3Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 2Santa Pod - Bruce Blog 1

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!

Santa Pod - Bruce lets Duncan DriveSanta Pod - Bruce 0-60 Loser

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASanta Pod - Michelle In Her MGFSanta Pod - MGF ready to do battleSanta Pod - MGF getting her number

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!

Santa Pod - Stripped out MGF VVC racer frontSanta Pod - Stripped out MGF VVC racer rearSanta Pod - Stripped out MGF VVC racer engine baySanta Pod - Stripped out MGF VVC racer seat

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!

Santa Pod - Rocket Car (4) Santa Pod - Rocket Car (3) Santa Pod - Rocket Car (2) Santa Pod - Rocket Car (1)

Meet Simon, driver in the Le Mons 365 Challenge.

Meet the Toyota MR2, car in the Le Mons 365 Challenge.

Discover what happened when Simon met MR2 in the hills and valleys of Wales.

We’re getting closer to the first official YouTube release from the Club Le Mons 365 challenge. This hopefully will keep you excited until we release Episode 1 of the Club Le Mons TV show on 1st October. 

During September we’ll be busy at The Goodwood Revival and Austec Racing, where we’ll be doing our Rolling Road Challenge! But in between we have lots of challenges ahead!

But first.. the new trailer / video: Club Le Mons – The Ultimate Sports Car Challenge

 

 

12