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The Gymkhana Brake Test

Right, so we’ve done all the introducty/explainy bits, lets get down to the results.

Gymkhana brake test

Michelle brake tests the MGF from 60 mph

Gymkhana brake test

The might Toyota GT86 getting ready for her run.

Just as a reminder, there were two criteria we were testing.. how well would our £2,500 sports cars do, some nearly 20 years old, against a brand new £25,000 sport car AND how well would we do against the Highway Code, from 60mph:

Highway Code Stopping Distances

Well, the results may surprise you.

Gymkhana Brake test results

First of all there wasn’t much in it. With the exception of the Mercedes SLK. But then, as Neil pointed out, he should probably have taken all the camera equipment out of the boot.

All of our cars easily beat the 55 metres the Highway Code considers typical, so you’ve got to wonder what rust buckets they used to measure that.

What was surprising was that the GT86 didn’t win. Now, this test was in no way scientific, so we can’t say with absolute certainty that if we did it 100 times over this would be the result every time. But on the day, this is what happened. It got beat by 4 other cars.

The winning cars were in fact the oldest and newest in the Le Mons fleet. They are also, both, the only cars wearing very sticky -track day- rubber. Now, what does that tell you. Oh, and the FTO? No ABS, unlike all the other cars here.


Next time – the Slalom.

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!

I am alone in this?

Ok, lets start with full disclosure. This is actually the second draft of this review. I wrote the first one before the scores came out. Then I saw the scores and I had to go back to make sure I wasn’t drunk or deluded when I wrote it. You see, it seems I was one of the few, if not the only one, that actually liked Simon‘s MR2.

Now I know the other drivers haven’t had the advantage, or perhaps the disadvantage, of seeing the scores before their reviews were done, (including the SLK and the S2000 which haven’t been published yet) but since Simon is currently in the lead, and his car has done so well, I thought it apt to compare the other driver’s scores with my thoughts and experiences of the car.

We’re going to ignore the Bonus Points and the Public Vote as they don’t reflect the drivers opinions. Based purely on what the drivers thought, the MR2 came seventh overall, just ahead of the MX5 and the MGF.

The drivers didn’t rate it very highly on the exterior looks, voting it in 8th place, ahead of the MGF. I actually quite like the look and much prefer it over the earlier (W10) and later models (W30). It has been said that this model was called the ‘Poor man’s Ferrari’ due to its resemblance to the Ferrari 348 and 355, and I think it’s often used as a base car for some seriously horrendous Ferrari replica kits. Out of the three models though, I’d choose this one any day! I’m a sucker for a good curve and have never appreciate the boxy look. In fact, I find the W30 almost offensive to look at.

Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2 W10

Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2 W20

Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2 W30

What probably didn’t help Simon’s case, and I had to deduct points for that too, was his attempt at adding some racing stripes, as he detailed in a blog a few months ago. I can see where he was going with this, but the execution was poor and really didn’t do anything for the car. What I loved, and have always been a sucker for, however, where the pop-up headlights. I must confess to turning the lights on and off quite a few times, just to watch them magically appear from the bonnet. Small minds..

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That said, with the larger wheels and the great targa top I was really impressed with it, especially the first time I saw it. Again, a great example of being able to buy a decent car for very little money.

The MR2 did slightly better on the inside, according to the other drivers, beating the SLK and Z3, and narrowly missing out on beating the TT. Surprisingly the SLK didn’t do the worst in this category, but that’s another review!

I actually really liked the interior, especially the cream leather seats and the curved rear windscreen – the first of it’s type that I’d seen (IRL). The cockpit is quite small and the seats nice and supportive, making you feel like you’re part of the car, part of the experience.

The rest of the cockpit was, for me, typically plastic, in that way that only Japanese cars can be. And as the owner of a Japanese car, I felt right at home. I had the same experience in the MX5.

That said, I wasn’t too keen on the massive centre console, but then I drive a FWD car, so that’s to be expected. I felt the same in a few of the other cars too.

Club Le Mons MR2 Review

Club Le Mons MR2 Review Club Le Mons MR2 Review Club Le Mons MR2 Review   Club Le Mons MR2 Review Club Le Mons MR2 Review

Next up, and for me this is where I scored the MR2 top points – over all the other cars, was the noise! She’s got an after market exhaust on it and boy does it sound good! With a lovely (and loud) rumble at idle, to a nice roar at speed, the MR2 was my favourite sounding car of the day. Now, to be fair, I like a bit of noise – and it shows in the points – my car, the FTO, scored highest on the day for ‘aural delights’, and in fact did so by quite a margin! I really enjoyed taking the car up and down through the gears and listening to burble and thunder of that exhaust!

Which brings me, quite nicely, to the driving experience. Which, again, and probably thanks to the exhaust note, I thoroughly enjoyed. It reminded me a lot of my own car, but with a much more linear, less peaky, power delivery. It certainly felt torquey, and more than powerful enough, despite only having 163 (out of the original 168) horsepower – one of the lowest powered cars in the fleet. Unlike a few of the other cars I really did feel like I was driving a sports car – it might not be the fastest, but it felt good. For me it was the third highest rated car for the driving experience. That said I ranked the MX5 last in that category, which is supposedly renowned as a great driver’s car – so maybe it’s just me and my driving style. Again, I point to my current ride!

And then there’s the big one – would I buy one. Out of our fleet it was 4th on my list. Which isn’t bad. And isn’t great. What it has taught me, together with my own car, is that I probably shouldn’t turn my nose up at something like the Toyota GT86 – a car I once considered, but immediately rejected, because ‘it didn’t have enough power’. I’ve come to learn that 160 – 200 hp is more than enough to have fun in, so I’m going to have to give that car another chance. Thanks to the MR2 I think I might just book a test drive.

– Alex

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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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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Simon's October Blog 13

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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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Well September is very quickly coming to an end, and with that means the next challenge just around the corner…

So what has September brought to the ownership with my MR2?

Quite a lot actually. My previous daily drive is now but a dim and distant memory, the lease was up end of August so now it’s just me and my MR2. Well, that and the van, so she now has a real purpose, no longer is she just a toy….

September has also brought around a few changes to the car, me, not so much.

1st off, I’ve decided to really put some personality into my car. It’s not something I’ve done since I tossed over the keys to my old 205GTI, too many years ago. You see, owning a brand new car, something which I’ve done pretty much ever since, brings with it issues of manufacturers warranties that need to be satisfied, a resale market which looks for clean, marketable vehicles with very little personalisation which they can sell on easily, the clean magnolia walls of the used car world if you like, and to this I’d really become, well, a bit of a slave if I’m honest. At least that’s kinda how it feels to me.

So what to do with my new found automotive freedom…… Well, what else….? Carbon fibre…. Yes, clean raw carbon fibre twill, that’s what I really needed in my life, and by hook or by crook, I was going to achieve that small goal.

Now, bearing in mind the main ethos behind this 12 month “Lemons365” challenge is ‘affordable sports cars’ I really didn’t want to go and break the bank, to me that’s not what this year is about and as, such I set my sights on finding something within budget, that would provide maximum grin factor for me from an aesthetics point of view, and with that in mind I hit eBay. A few days passed by and there it was, my carbon dream, a second hand Revision 5 reproduction spoiler in full carbon fibre, not just the aerofoil section itself, but also the sculpted uprights upon which it is seated.

Close Up of Carbon Fibre on the Toyota MR2

It turned out to be a bit of a steal, total price, including delivery from Ireland, £178!

So, I now have my carbon fibre spoiler, 1st we must weigh it. After all, the main advantage of carbon fibre is of course it’s lightness in weight and rigidity in its structure, and it doesn’t disappoint on either. From the offset, a direct in hand comparison showed a weight saving was indeed in order, but by how much?

On the scales I jump to establish a base line reading (I’ll not be divulging this) then carbon spoiler in hand. Total weight 3kg exactly. Next up, the old factory plastic item, weight 4.5kg, so there we have it a 1.5kg difference.

That may not seem very much but let’s put this in perspective, that’s a whopping 1/3rd of its component weight shed, and that’s a cheapy Chinese replica. You can see why it’s such a widely used material in modern motorsports.

I’d love to buy more of the stuff, especially a carbon bonnet, but alas, unless a used one comes up really cheap, I doubt it’s going to happen.

Verdict from my nephew, he loves it, and so do I. It looks great in the rear view mirror and adds a bit of texture to the all black exterior.

Simon's nephew approves of the Toyota MR2

So what next? A couple of weeks passes and a long time dream to knock down my garage and build an extension to my house became one step closer to reality and with budget in place out came the sledge hammer… In the process of emptying my garage though I came across an old roll of yellow vinyl. Something that I’d inherited from the kleptomaniac previous owner of my house and with that an idea hatched into my head. Why not stick it on the car? See I’ve spent the last decade hanging around the Lotus Esprit and Elise owners via and indeed have my own classic Turbo Esprit stashed away safely for when time and space allows me to get her back on the road.

As much as I’ve recently found out stripes are not very well loved in the Toyota Mr2 community, they are pretty much a standard fit item, or an essential extra on most modern Lotus’ especially the Elise & Exige. So there we have it, the idea was hatched.

Striping the Toyota MR2

One sunny morning, donned with my soapy spray bottle and squeegee, I attempted to get the vinyl laid. This took a lot longer than expected, I’d never done anything like this before and there was a bit of pressure as I had zero spare. Every inch of roll was going to need to be used! This is a lot harder than I first expected and it took a while to get the right mix in my spray bottle, but once I’d finished the bonnet and front bumper I was flying… The end results? Well I think the car looks really smart, it became impossible to find an angle from which the old girl looked anything other than stunning, the stripe, in my opinion, really finishes the car off. Just don’t look close up, especially at the rear Toyota badge, (it’s a bit shit) I kinda screwed the boot up, and with no spare, had to peel off and re-use the one piece, this has left a sub-optimal finish around the rear badge! Shame.

The MR2 Posing by the Sea

The Toyota MR2 Striped from the rear

The MR2 Spoiler with Stripe

Ultimately it was for a bit of fun and for that it gets top marks in my book, the car is getting wrapped in the corporate colours before too long anyway so she’ll be back, stripe-less, which if I’m honest will be a bit of a shame. I kinda like my wonky striped car…

There we have it, that’s September all wrapped up…. Or is it?

See none of the above will do anything to favour me or my sexy little MR2 in the rolling road challenge this Saturday and I’ve been scratching around for ideas on what I should be doing to help us along the way.


For me part of this journey will be the evolution of my little car, piece by piece, to suit both myself and reflect more about who I am, as well as to help her achieve her very best at each of our events.


So for this weekend I have planned…….


Now that would be telling wouldn’t it!


After all, as well as being a fund raising challenge, this is a competition isn’t it and as such, I’m in it to win it, and we are on track to achieve that goal. For more info on what I’ve done to my car? Well you’ll just have to wait and see, as will all my other Lemons365 competitors!


I can assure you though that it is well within the spirit of the challenge and as such hasn’t cost me much more than a decent takeaway for two. Let’s just hope my bag of goodies turns up early enough on Friday for me to get the car ready for the long journey yet again, from Wales….!

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.