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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.


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.


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!

Challenge 10 – The Driving Test

If you had to retake your driving test, today, how well would you do? Would you even pass?

It’s been a good 20 years, or more, since any of the Le Mons drivers took their driving test, so we thought it would be a good idea to see if they still have the right stuff.

Turns out, they don’t. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

This was a secret Challenge. The drivers weren’t told what we would be doing, just where and when they needed to be. Everyone took part, except for two drivers – Alex, who organized the challenge, and subsequently withdrew, forewarned is forearmed, and all that. Additionally Duncan couldn’t make it, owing to a new job, which was a shame as his son Fergus had only just gone through the driving test, so he would have been well prepared.

The Devon Hotel Exeter

After parking ourselves, quite literally, at the Devon Hotel the team were introduced to Ian May, of Top Marks Driving School, and updated on the day’s activity. It would be fair to say a slight panic ensued.

Phones were whipped out and practice tests were Googled.

Club Le Mons Re-takes their Driving tests (3)

The Challenge would consist of three parts – theory, hazard perception and practical. The theory/hazard test results would be combined for a maximum 100 points score, based on results rankings, and the same would apply to the practical. With one caveat. The tests needed to be passed in order to earn any points. As in real life, if you failed, you get nothing. So, no pressure.

Club Le Mons Driving Test DVD

The Theory/Hazard tests were taken, with sound deadening headphones, on a laptop running a 2015 edition Driving Test DVD. Each driver took both tests, using the Mock Test functionality, ensuring that everyone had different questions.

Club Le Mons Re-takes their Driving tests (1)

The Practical was taken with Ian. In his Mini. So no home advantage either in location, or in car. Because of time limitations, the test was a cut down version of the official driving test. Twenty minutes on local roads. Eight minor infractions allowed. No majors. Each minor would be worth 1 point, each major worth 10 points. A maximum of 8 points would be allowed, in order to pass.

Club Le Mons Re-takes their Driving tests (2)

So, how did they do?

In short, not great.


Driver Car Theory Hazard Practical
Angela Z3 Pass Pass Fail
Becky TT Pass Fail Fail
Bruce RX8 Pass Pass Pass
Michelle MGF VVC Pass Fail Fail
Neil SLK Pass Fail Fail
Simon MR2 Pass Pass Fail
Steff S2000 Pass Pass Fail


The only person to pass all three tests, and therefore be eligible for the maximum number of points, was Bruce! And even that was by the narrowest of margins.. you see the practical route included a particularly nasty bend. Now, many had argued that if it wasn’t for that bend they too would have passed. Which is true. And if you grew up in these here parts, and drove that route as part of your driving lessons then it wouldn’t have been a bit of a surprise when you came up to it. But isn’t that the point? Driving, and in particular driving well, is all about dealing with the unexpected. And apparently Bruce was the only one in the team with the right reflexes, on the day.

The Points

How did these results translate into points? The Theory test consisted of 50 questions, so each correct answer got you one point. The Hazard test was marked out of 75, so the scores were converted to a percentage out of 100 and halved. Remember, you had to pass each test in order to earn any points.

Theory Points Driver Car Points
Alex FTO 0
Angela Z3 79
Becky TT 44
Bruce RX8 77
Duncan MX-5 0
Michelle MGF VVC 43
Neil SLK 46
Simon MR2 81
Steff S2000 78


The Practical, once passed, would be based on ranking of best to worst, 100 – 20, by the least number of points scored on the test.

As mentioned, only Bruce passed. So Bruce earned 100 points.

Neil did the worst, he earned 43 points on the test, which was based on 3 major faults (30 points) and 13 minor faults (13 points).

Practical Points Driver Car Pass/Fail Points on Test
Angela Z3 Fail 28 0
Becky TT Fail 18 0
Bruce RX8 Pass 4 100
Duncan MX-5 DNF DNF 0
Michelle MGF VVC Fail 18 0
Neil SLK Fail 43 0
Simon MR2 Fail 12 0
Steff S2000 Fail 31 0


So, in total:


Total Points Driver Car Total
Alex FTO 0
Angela Z3 79
Becky TT 44
Bruce RX8 177
Duncan MX-5 0
Michelle MGF VVC 43
Neil SLK 46
Simon MR2 81
Steff S2000 78


So, what does this mean for the overall standings? Well, first we have to look at the April points.


It was a busy month for events, with Alex, Becky and Neil all earning points for going to various events, and blogging about them.

Alex and Neil attended an RX8 Owners Club event, on behalf of Bruce. They took Bruce’s RX8 down and had a jolly good time, apparently. Highly recommended!



Neil and Becky attended the Piazza Italia, in Horsham and drooled over some very nice, very expensive machinery.  

And Becky followed it all up with some blogs:

Becky hangs out with some Ferrari owners

Becky hangs out with some Bikerz

All together this netted Alex an additional 10 points, Becky 40 points and Neil another 30 points.


The Scores

With Alex and Duncan not earning any points for the Driving Test Challenge the rankings have changed, quite a bit! Simon still maintains his lead, and even grows it slightly from 88 points over 2nd to 94 points. But second has changed.. Steff is back! Does that mean Alex is in third? No, Bruce overtakes Alex thanks to his gargantuan 177 point leap.. So, if Alex had taken part, and passed, he could have been in first place by now. Gutted much?

Lower down the rankings Angela overtakes the unfortunate Duncan, but the rest of the field stays the same. With the exception of Michelle, at the bottom, everyone is within 100 points of the next one up.. so things are getting exciting!

Driver Car Points Difference
Simon MR2 1354
Steff S2000 1260 -94
Bruce RX8 1255 -5
Alex FTO 1195 -60
Neil SLK 1157 -38
Angela Z3 1088 -69
Duncan MX-5 1015 -73
Becky TT 999 -16
Michelle MGF 824 -174


And as for our graph?

Club Le Mons Points at the end of April

As always, click on the graph for a larger view.


What’s Next?

Our next event is on the 9th of May and will be a true test of car (and driver). There are rumours that there will be double points, and even a star guest car..



We skipped a points update for December, because, well, we we’re all too busy doing festive things. So, straight on to January! Not much to report as for most of us it was too cold to go out – convertible owners! However, Alex did manage to brave the elements and pop out at 5 am one January morning to join the folks at SELOC and do their Winter Warmer. Seems Lotus owners aren’t that wussy when it comes to driving around with the roof off, at minus-whatever-cold-degrees it was.




Michelle also did her part, in preparation for the upcoming Concours d’Loomies by adding some (more) tat to her MGF.

So, that gave Alex a nice 10 points and Michelle an extra 4 points.



Another quiet month, with just Neil and Michelle being affected. Neil did a run up to Newlands Corner for a celebration of something. We’re still not sure what it’s about, but it involved cake. Michelle had an issue with her exhaust blowing so ended up having to replace the flexi section. Apparently that is not the technical term.

February’s fun resulted in Neil getting 10 points and Michelle losing 10 points!


Challenge 9 – the Concours d’Loomies

By now you will have read the first part of our Concours overview and seen the various driver reviews.

Becky drives the MGF

Steff drives the MX5

Michelle drives the RX8

Duncan drives the Z3

Neil drives the FTO

Bruce drives the TT

Still to come are the reviews of the SLK (Angela), MR2 (Alex) and S2000 (Simon).

First, before we get to the scores, we have to give a massive thanks to the guys at Loomies, who let us take up a load of parking all day, let us film in the cafe and supplied us with enough coffee that most of us are still wired now! If you like great driving roads, and great food, you really can’t go wrong with Loomies.

The drivers were not told how and for what they would be scored on the day. So, short of sprucing their cars up and sorting out any mechanical issues they went into this blind. The scores are broken up into 3 categories; driver scores, bonus points and public scores.


And now, the scores.

First we start with the Drivers Scores. Each driver scored each car, except their own, on the basis of:

1. Visual Appeal (external) – out of 10 points – how good does the car look, for it’s age. Are there any visible faults. Does the car look well looked after.

2. Visual Appeal (internal) – out of 10 points – how good does the car look, for it’s age. Are there any visible faults. Does the car look well looked after.

3. Aural Delights – out of 10 points – how does the car sound, at idle, and while driving. Does it sound like a sports car (should).

4. The Drive – out of 50 points – how well does she go. Do you enjoy driving it. How does she handle, is she fast, does she inspire confidence, does she brake well.

5. Would I Buy One – out of 25 points – is this a car you would buy/own. Would you be proud to be seen in it. Are the running costs worth the expense. Could you live with it’s reputation and appearance.

We took all the scores and averaged them out. Here’s how the drivers scored the cars. Click on the image for a larger version.

Drivers Scores

So, according to the drivers, this was the ranking:

Car Drivers Scores
RX8 75.25 1
FTO 71.625 2
TT 70.75 3
S2000 69.625 4
Z3 67.125 5
SLK 60.625 6
MR2 59.125 7
MX5 57.75 8
MGF 54.75 9


Surprises for all the drivers were the fact that the FTO came second, despite a not great review by Neil. The RX8, newest car in the fleet, was expected to win. The MR2, current leader, came 7th, surprising no one, except Simon. Guess love is blind? Shock of the day was that the SLK, largely mocked for it’s colourful interior did as well as it did.


Then we added on the Bonus Points. There were 3 categories

1. Cleanliness – how clean is the car (max 5 points).

2. Does she have the Club LeMons website URL sticker on (max 10 points).

3. Does she have the Club LeMons roundels on both (front) doors (max 10 points).

So, generally speaking an easy 25 points for each driver. You would think.

The scores (click on the image for a larger view):


So, only 3 drivers scored the full 25 points! Apparently, on the way to Loomies, some of the drivers had some issues with snow and rain, which left their cars less than perfectly clean.


Still, a quick polish on arrival may have helped that. It also seems that Angela got lucky. Not everyone realised that she didn’t have the URL sticker on her car, and gave her the full 10 points.

Biggest loser here was Simon. Not only did he not have a website URL sticker, he also only had one roundel on the car. Plus, driving in from Wales that morning might have left his car a little less than perfectly polished. But how does that affect our overall scores so far?

Car With Bonus Points Rank
RX8 100.25 1
FTO 96.625 2
TT 93.875 3
S2000 91.5 4
Z3 87.75 5
SLK 84.375 6
MX5 82.75 7
MGF 79.125 8
MR2 62.25 9


So, what does this mean for our rankings? Well, the first 6 places stay as they are, but the changes happen between places 7,8 and 9. Both Michelle and Duncan go up a place, while Simon and his MR2 drops 2 places to last! Ouch!


Lastly, time for the Public Vote. The cafe was full of bikers and those of us affiliated with our marques’ car clubs had invited the public to come out and spend the day with us. Most successful of this was Alex, who managed to get two fellow FTO owners to come all the way down from up north. You can read their experience of the day here.

The public vote was simple, rank the cars in order of preference. The same as we did at Brands Hatch, way back when. At the end of the day we had 8 unspoilt ballots, so not many, helping contribute a maximum of 10 points in reverse order.

This is how that worked out (click on the image for a larger version):


Which translated from:

Car Place Points
FTO 1 10
SLK 2 9
Z3 3 8
MGF 4 7
MR2 5 6
S2000 6 5
RX8 6 5
TT 7 4
MX5 8 3


Goes to show that it helps to have friends there on the day. Interesting that the public scored the cars differently from the drivers, with the MX5 doing particularly badly.

So, how does this affect the final scores on the day (click on the image for a larger version)?


So, as bit of an upset, this means the scoring ends with the FTO taking first place from the RX8 and the MGF taking a jump over the MX5!.

Car With Public Vote Rank Challenge Points
FTO 106.625 1 100
RX8 105.25 2 90
TT 97.875 3 80
S2000 96.5 4 70
Z3 95.75 5 60
SLK 93.375 6 50
MGF 86.125 7 40
MX5 85.75 8 30
MR2 68.25 9 20


Who saw that coming?

And now for the overall scores, at the end of February. We’ve done a slightly different graph this time, to show the differences in scores, and where the opportunities are for the drivers to over take! As previously, click on the graph for a larger view.


Our next event, in March will be a non-points track day at Blyton Park, thanks to Lotus-on-Track.



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

But now, back to what we’re here for – the competition! So, here’s the points we’ve earned since Santa Pod – our October update, Challenge 6 – the Pub Quiz, Challenge 7 – Let’s Race, the November update, and Challenge 8 – The MPG test!

We’ve got the January update still outstanding, but we’ll do that together with our points from this months event – the Concours d’Lemons at Loomies! A quick recap.. post-Santa Pod, Simon held the lead, with Michelle in last place..


ScoreCard Post SantaPod



October, it turns out, was quiet on the ‘bonus’ points front. The only person to really earn any points was Bruce, when he appeared in a edition of the Surrey Mirror! 10 points to you, Sir!


Challenge 6 – The Car Quiz

Here’s one you won’t have heard about, as it was made exclusively for the TV show. Keep an eye out for an upcoming episode. The premise was simple, each driver was asked pub quiz style questions, about their car or car manufacturer, and about cars or the automotive world in general. So, how did we do?

Driver Car Quiz Points Quiz Place Challenge Points
Alex FTO 13 1 100
Duncan MX-5 13 1 100
Neil SLK 11 3 80
Michelle MGF 10 4 70
Simon MR2 9 5 60
Angela Z3 8 6 50
Becky TT 8 6 50
Bruce RX8 7 8 30
Steff S2000 7 8 30


Challenge 7 – Let’s Race

So, apart from a great night out and raising money for our charities we also had 3(!) challenges at Let’s Race. Firstly, the Batak machine – this is a test of nerves and reflexes. A big metal frame lights up in various places and you have to hit the button corresponding. It’s said that Jenson Button can hit 140 buttons in a minute. Turns out we’re no Jenson Buttons.

Batak Score Place Points
Simon 72 1 100
Becky 69 2 90
Bruce 67 3 80
Alex 61 4 70
Steff 60 5 60
Neil 55 6 50
Angela 53 7 40
Duncan 47 8 30
Michelle 43 9 20

Well done Simon, who achieved a half-Jenson! We we’re equally impressed with Becky’s ninja like responses too!


The qualifying and race!

More points we’re available for our qualifying position and actual race finish. Simon did have to declare that he had been at Let’s Race before, and had, of course, scored well on the Playstation Challenge. Bruce, Duncan and Steff are avid actual racers and track day drivers and Alex has dabbled on track before too. The rest of the field, unfortunately, we’re coming to this, pretty much, blind.

Qualifying Finish Results Points
Simon 1 100
Bruce 2 90
Steff 3 80
Duncan 4 70
Neil 5 60
Alex 6 50
Michelle 7 40
Becky 8 30
Angela 9 20

As some what expect, the ‘drivers’ amongst us took the lead in qualifying. Unfortunately Angela complained that she got completely lost on our Brands Hatch (Indy) circuit, and Becky suffered from motion sickness. Which led to the race!

Race Finish Results Points
Simon 1 100
Bruce 2 90
Alex 3 80
Steff 4 70
Neil 5 60
Duncan 6 50
Michelle 7 40
Angela 8 30
Becky DNF (9) 20

Once again Simon and Bruce took the win, with a surprise from Alex into 3rd. Duncan, who had done well in qualifying lost ground and came 6th, somehow (nerves?) and Angela once again mistook the car park for the race track. Becky had to bail, or throw up. The good people at Let’s Race didn’t want to have to mop up vomit, so she took a DNF, for last place. At the end of the evening Simon had secured his lead with a whopping 300 points – 40 more than second placed Bruce. Despite Becky not completing the actual race she still thrashed last place finisher Angela – that Batak score really helped. Congrats Simon!

Busy, busy, busy..

Well, haven’t we been busy. So busy that we haven’t done a points update since Challenge 5, the Santa Pod event. Sorry!

What have we been busy with? We’ll we’ve brought out Episodes 1 and 2..

And then of course we had our event at Let’s Race – which also involved us visiting the good folks at KSS Air Ambulance, and us having a little Christmas jolly.



And then, last month we visited the NEC in Birmingham, for the Autosport International Show, as part of our MPG test!

All in all, with Christmas and January out of the way now, we’re back on form. Check in tomorrow for the first new points release of the year!

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:

So October is drawing to a close, Halloween is here, the clocks have fallen back and we have been plunged into a world of darkness, we leave for work in the dark, we come home in the dark, it’s pretty miserable, and on top of all that it’s cold and wet…

But there has been some light this month, I fact it’s been a pretty awesome month with our trip to Santa Pod. We’ve all done a mini blog on our drag racing experiences, so I’ll not dwell on that here, but it was awesome. Instead I’d like to have a little natter about the build up to the ‘big day’, after all, to me this is more than just a few handfuls of days that we just turn up to, but pre event preparations and post event blues etc all become part of the journey…..

There’s quite a mix of people taking part in this years Lemons365 Challenge and I find it a little sad that to some, taking part in these events means just turning up in a car, arsing about for a day, and heading back home in the Sunday evening traffic jams. It seems the mere thought of even washing the car pre-event is a bit of a chore, let alone spending time individualising the car, or carrying out some preparations to better the car for the individual challenges we have to face.

To me that’s not what this is all about, we are supposed to be embracing the emotions and involvement that we as a group of car loving enthusiasts really stand for.

The level of personal time and effort that has been put into the cars that surround us at events is immense! The club displays at Santa pod were mesmerising, the same could be said of our trip to The Lotus Festival at brands hatch a couple of months ago.

I’ve really been taking this onboard, and instead of simply giving my MR2 a little bit of a wash before I leave Sunny Wales, I’ve been getting down and dirty with the old girl. From the simple basic servicing essentials, to some tasty little mods to help maximise our performance as a car/driver combination, but at the same time, ensuring that the spend on her is kept to an absolute minimum!

So we’ve done the rolling road already, that brought a new carbon fibre wing and a full engine service, a back to basics if you like with a styling twist. The results were very pleasing!

For Santa Pod though I though a little more of a change was required, it is after all a day at the drag strip, so some personalisation was most definitely in order!

A few phone calls around the UK MR2 specialists came up with a second hand De-Cat pipe from for the sum of £20, thank you very much! A bit more digging came up with some mild steel exhaust sections, a 90 degree bend and a straight section, I need to find the receipt, but I think they came to about £18… Not bad at all, about £40 all in for a full straight though set of pipes!

A work in progress shot..

Simon's October Blog

On starting her up the noise, well, it was immense! It resonated around the valley with a very purposeful, if not a little bit fluffy, roar….. Pressing the throttle was a totally different story, it was as if all hell had broken loose, the noise was awesome, ear bleedingly loud, or more to the point, PERFECT for a trip down the strip! I have to admit I did pretty much instantly start searching around for a decibel reducer for the 360 mile return journey! Luckily I found a slip in unit by SIMONS ironically!

Simon's October Blog 2

Did I stop at the exhaust system though? Hell no!

With a notchy change from 2nd to 3rd, it was time to take a look at the gearbox and clutch. Pretty simple job to firstly change the gearbox oil.

Jack her up, run the engine in gear for a few minutes to help warm the oil through and so that any metal particles are held in suspension in the oil before draining into out the old stuff.

4 quarts of Redline MT90 ordered online, as recommended by pretty much everyone who’s running an MR2, a funnel and a length of clear tubing to assist in the filling.

Simon's October Blog 3

After less than 3 quarts though and the box was full!

Simon's October Blog 4

Now I was both pissed off and very excited at the same time. Pissed off as I’ve now got a bottle of Redline MT90 that I’ve no use for except for bonfire night, and it’s not cheap stuff, but also excited as this quantity of oil pretty much confirmed that my car has a LSD (Limited Slip Diff), something I had a pretty good hunch about anyway. I later 100% confirmed the LSD with one wheel partially on the ground and the other in the air whilst throttling the car in gear! I’m completely over the moon with that, as the previous owner had no idea it had a factory fitted LSD and they are quite sought after!

Next up, clutch fluid… I opened the reservoir cap and found the fluid looking like this:

Simon's October Blog 5

Now that’s not good…. It should be a clear light golden colour and you should be able to see the bottom of the reservoir easily! I think that bit floating around fell in when I took the cap off.

A simple renewing of the fluid would not have fully cleaned all that crap out, so I firstly removed all the old fluid with a straw, then completely cleaned the black deposits out with a cloth. Result, a brand new looking reservoir ready for new fluid!

I’ve not taken any photos of the filling and flushing of the clutch lines, time was pushing on, but I used a Sealy pressurised bleeding kit which makes the job a simple one man task.

Simon's October Blog 6

There’s not much else I can do for the gearbox now except for strip it down and replace the syncros, and on the basis that it works perfectly unless you are flat throttle shifting there is really just no need at all.

One other thing that is popular on the MR2, indeed on many street modified cars, is stiffening of the engine mounts.

There are several avenues that can be taken to achieve this. Firstly, you can replace the whole engine mount with a new hard polyurethane item, secondly, there are some polyurethane inserts that can be used in addition to the original mounts, but are removable for road use when a little more give in the mounts is desirable…

Both of these options involved spending money, and I’m doing this year on as little money as I can get away with, so I chose a third option, which is to inject your original mounts with liquid polyurethane, filling all the air voids within the rubber mount and thus providing a more ridged fixing.

Why the need for this? Well, when you accelerate quickly from standstill, the initial torque of the engine is taken up in rotating the engine within its own mounts, once the play in the mount is taken up, maximum power is transmitted to the wheels. Great right? Well no not really. See when the wheels subsequently break traction with the ground (wheel spin) the force on the engine mounts reduce a little so they relax off, then as the wheel regains traction, the mount is compressed again, the wheels spin, yada yada yada. End result is what’s knows as tramping, with the engine bouncing violently around in the engine bay and the resultant loss of the efficient delivery of power from the engine to the road….

Stiffen up the mounts, removes/reduces the tramping, which improves the immediate traction, which in turn results in a better take off and acceleration. Still with me?

Anyway, I had a few tubes of polyurethane in the garage, as you do, and went ahead and removed my mounts.

The front mount:

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And the rear mount:

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Now my tubes of polyurethane were very old and the ends had set solid, so I couldn’t use a normal caulking gun, I had to improvise! Voila, a couple of pieces of parquet flooring and a g-clamp!

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After many hours of of squeezing and manipulating with a knife and following a LOT of mess the end result were a pair of semi rigid engine mounts! They may not be pretty, but they are functional! The second turned out better than the first, but overall very much worth the effort and a completely free mod, happy days!

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All that effort and absolutely none of it visible, such a shame!

What next? I’m a bit a of a Lotus fan as I may have mentioned a few times already this year, and what better way to pay homage to my beloved plastic car company than to follow their very own ethos of “Simplify, then add lightness”

For this I turned my efforts into stripping the whole car of anything that wasn’t needed. This meant passenger seat, carpets, sound deadening material, spare wheel, jack, bonnet and boot linings, exhaust system all got removed, anything that was bolted in that wasn’t needed was relegated to my dining room! The result is an estimated 50kg saving. Or about the difference in weight between me and Becky!

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Lastly a bit of bling was in order.

I um’d and ah’d about this and that, a flamer exhaust was top of my wish list but as this was a day event I thought the effort would be wasted a bit, so decided on some vinyl, but what? Again flames were an option, or maybe a tribal theme? Having scoured the net, I really couldn’t settle on anything, then all of a sudden I had it!

I’ve removed weight and made myself an MR2 Super Lightweight, or more appropriately SUPERLEGGERA…..! As it happened the car was already fitted with a set of OZ Superleggera wheels, perfect.

Hitting the Internet again I fell in love with the Lamborghini based script and just had to have it on my car, but with the Lamborghini sticker sets in their several £100’s even on eBay I had to find another option…..

I stumbled across a website who specialise in custom graphics and they had the logo I wanted in their system ready to go! Awesome!

I opted for a boot mounted emblem and a pair of custom cut yellow stripes to add to either side of me car. The results were better than I expected, they look amazing and really set the car out from the crowd, perfect for a day at the races!

The day came to fit them all and the heavens opened. I’ve not seen rain like it in quite some time! But the show must go on!

Not to be defeated by the weather I laid my old garage door against the car for some shelter and went about fitting them, whilst shivering cold and wet!

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The old girl is now looking really smart, the graphics have really finished her off perfectly.

The journey to Santa Pod was a noisy one, I’ll not lie to you, the exhaust is definitely not something you’d want to live with on a daily basis. I opened her up in the Newport tunnels and the grin on my face was from ear to ear it was all I could have hoped for, as for the lady in the SUV along side of me, well, how she didn’t crash with the shock I’ll never know!

Duncan‘s face when I pulled up alongside his little MX5 at the gates of Santa Pod was priceless… Especially when I opened the door and all he could see was black shiny metal where there was once a magnolia leather seat and luxurious carpets….

These were a few comments about cheating as I’d modified the car, but it’s tough really, everyone had the opportunity to do the same and they chose not to, not my problem sorry and like I’ve already said, not doing these things to our cars is kinda missing the point somewhat in my opinion.

The girl did well, the results spoke for themselves and showed that putting in that extra bit of pre-event effort really pays dividends and there were a number of the crew who, by the end of the day, wished they’d spent a little time lightening their cars for the event. 0.22 seconds off my target time and a lightening quick 0.10 seconds reaction time to boot.

Happy days!

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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:

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.

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.