Saturday, 17 April 2010

The mighty Doune tamed (not!)

British hillclimbing has some must dos. Shelsley Walsh has the history, Harewood has the fun factor and the mighty Doune has 1680 yards of sheer terror.

I never quite managed to pluck up the courage to drive there with the MX-5 but for some bizarre reason, I entered the VX220 for the opening two rounds of the Scottish HillClimb Championship this weekend Sat 17 and Sun 19 April.

Well, as I write this, I'm back home in the comfort of my living room after a day experiencing the madness that is Doune Hillclimb.

Words cannot really describe the nature of the course but I'll try. The first few hundred yards are completely enclosed by stout looking armco barrier - the fast guys like to scrape along these. The first real bend is called Oak Tree - I'll let you use your imagination as to why! Lets just say it focuses the mind somewhat!

Just up from Oak Tree is the next bend, a right hander called Garden Gate. I'm reliably informed that this can be taken in third but I'm still at the novice change down to second stage. This is partly because I REALLY don't want to go fast enough to need third gear!

Once throgh Garden Gate, you enter the ominously titled 'The Tunnel' - so called because the sun never shines through the tree canopy making it a dark, damp place. THe armco has run out here - replaced on the inside by nasty looking dry stone walls. The track can only be a few feet wider than the car here.

At the end of the tunnel is Junction - a tighter right hander leading directly into the open 'Meadow' section. The change from the enclosed tunnel environment to the wide open meadow tempts you to boot it but the bend through meadow is deceptive and was fairly slippery today.

At the end of meadow comes the scariest corner I've ever driven - the infamous 'East Brae. Unfeasibly steep, with a sharp right at the top, you have to have faith and turn in before you can see the bend. If you don't you're in the bales. I was VERY ginger through here today and it showed in my times.

East Brae is followed by a series of 'esses' before the final left hander taking you down to the finish. All in all, a real test of nerves and skill - I fail on both counts.

My times today proved to be fairly slow at 65s, 62s, 61s and 61s. My target for the weekend is to get under th 60secs and I thought I had done this as my wife erroniously reported to me that I had done a '58 something'. She had, of course, been doing her nails or some other fivolous activity at the time and had heard the time of fellow class competitor, Gus Carnegie. I was overjoyed at having beaten my target and set about telling everyone and anyone only to discover 10 minutes later that I had actually done a 61sec run !

Anyway, divorce papers have been issued and I'll just have to keep my mouth shut in future! :-)

I'm back for more punishment tomorrow. I just hope the weather is kind........

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