Cars V Trains: Is VX02 going to get me home..?

Here’s another benefit to the car – you can sleep in it. I know it sounds stupid and a quality you’re going to use rarely, but retiring to the rear bench of VX02 last night was a rather pleasant experience. Everything I needed was in that car; pillows, sleeping bag, food, music, somewhere to sleep, warmth, everything.

Although, it was technically useless at being a car at that point, as it wouldn’t start (still), it did make for a rather cosy place to sleep.

It had also made for the nights entertainment, with people joking about how I should ask a team for help. “No need” I replied, “I’ll just call the AA in the morning, get a low loader sent out and save on the petrol.”

Although you could hear the deep bellows of Aston V8’s and the bark of Ferrari’s changing through the gears, it didn’t take long for me to conk out in the back of Rockafella’ – the rear bench in the ol’ Astra Coupe is surprisingly roomy, and because the bottom of the seat angles down towards the rear, there’s little risk of you falling off and it feels like a little cocoon. I rather liked it.

I liked it so much that I slept right through till 1pm the following day. Waking up bathed in sunlight and blue skies, the sleeping bag had turned from a cuddly warm friend into a sweat box torture chamber – I was hot! Scrambling for the windows to try and get some air, I was no sooner awake than on my feet and remembering things from the night before… Strongbow, yes i remember that… Cookies, I don’t remember those, but i’m sure they were delicious as i only have a empty packet remaining… Car, WAIT, the car it wouldn’t start, would it now?

I literally jumped into the driver’s seat, excited with the prospect of either a working car, or a ride in a truck (I am still a child at heart ;)).  Key in… turn… first click, lock off… turn, second click, a dash full of lights… turn and hold – WA, TA, TA, TA, TA, TA, TA, BRUMMMMMM – IT WORKS! Woohoooooooo!

Excellent, the car is fixed, we’re at Britcar, the sun is out and I don’t have a hangover. Back to the pits to meet up with Ian and enjoy the rest of the day. Perfect. Made somewhat better by food being given out when I finally found Mr. PopBangColour. His first words – “Fancy a Cheese, Pickle and Ham sandwich Tim?” “Erm, Yes.”

Retiring to one of the stands, the afternoon was spent lapping up the sun, absorbing the awesome sounds and admiring all of the cars left running, photographing them occasionally. I’ll be brutally honest, I enjoying racing, especially the World Rally Championship and F1, but this was the first Britcar I’d been to and only the second race (the first being the Shaghai Grand Prix earlier this year) I’ve ever been to. Over the bellows of the cars, you can hear little lads ‘woooing’ and ‘wowing’ at them going round. I know how they feel as I feel exactly the same. It reminds me of being 5 years old and seeing a steam engine for the first time. That feeling of excitement, imagining being in the driver’s seat, hearing a Aston chase a pair of GT3’s at full chant, I didn’t care that I didn’t know who anyone was, or who was in the lead or the fact I was sat on my own, I was happy there, in the sun, just hearing and seeing them race.

I’ve driven round Silverstone, in VX02 in fact. It was the first and only time I’ve been on track, and something I would recommend to anyone. Not only is it really good fun and very addictive, but it also enables you to respect the track and the people racing on it. Sat in the stands, you’re a safe distance (aka a long way away) from the actual track, and watching races on the TV, you are completely removed from the speeds and forces on track. Even on a computer game, you don’t respect the dynamics of racing. If you get it wrong there, you can restart the game. Get it wrong in real life, especially in your own car, it’s a different story. Just hearing your tyres screeching is enough to make you want to back off – and brake fade (where your brakes start to slow you down less quickly, and the pedal travels further than normal) is terrifying. Seeing these race cars taking corners at a speed that looks fast from 200 yards away, you instantly know, they are right on the limits of physics; they are going far faster than you think.

Driving home, you realise that normal roads are surprisingly safe. You don’t have brake fade or people swiping for every available gap. Apart from the odd idiot who thinks his Saxo is a GT3, normal driving is a pretty relaxing affair.

Arriving at home that afternoon, VX02 had gone back to pretending to being a F1 car. As I’m a member of the AA and a call out costs nothing, I gave them a call. After only a few minutes of being there, we’d (I say we, it was more me bouncing ideas off of the mechanic of what it could be) managed to identify it was over-fuelling on tick over meaning either a shot EGR valve or a simple temperature sensor throwing the cars ECU into haywire. Two bolts later and we had our answer. The EGR valve, a valve which re-circulates exhaust gases back into the engine for cleaner, cooler running, had seized. Blanking the valve off, and VX02 was running smoothly again, although this is only a temporary fix.

And with that, it brings us to the end of a weekend of cars. Although the car broke down, which should have left it at a disadvantage over this month’s challenge, it gave us all something to talk about, a little bit of amusement (admittedly at my expense) and a place to sleep.

Tomorrow see’s a normal commute to Uni, 35 miles to Coventry and back. Hopefully, the train won’t break down – I don’t fancy kipping on a train, you know.

And if you do fancy on track, try taking the wife – She was clearly excited beforehand!!

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