Monday, 19 September 2011
A Hot Weekend at Harewood
I took the Saxo down to Harewood for the double header hillclimb at the weekend. It's the first time I've been to the Yorkshire hill since 2009 and I was really looking forward to driving the Saxo in anger for the first time.
The journey down was a precurser to the weekend with the A1 being closed for most of Friday and some tropical thunderstorms making conditions harrowing. I finally arrived around 6.30pm, unloaded the car and pitched my tent before heading into Wetherby for a takeaway.
On saturday morning, I spent a fair bit of time chatting to fellow Wigton MC competitors Dave Exton, Colin Sutherland, Ronnie MacGregor and Peter Sewell. Peter's wife kept us well fed and watered with bacon butties and tea/coffee. All this meant I never got round to walking the hill.
The weather was 'changeable'. In other words, it could be sunny when you left the paddock and tipping with rain by the time you got to the start. The times reflected this with a wide variation between runs.
There was much chat over the Saxo - it seemed to attract quite a lot of attention both amongst fellow competitors and spectators. It proved to be relatively quick on the track too.
As the day progressed, I got quicker and quicker, soon beating my previous best time in the MX-5 by around a second with a low 73 sec run.
On the last run, I was into the swing of things and got a pretty good start. I was still a bit wary in the first corner but attacked the 'esses' section more aggressively and kept in clean for the rest of the lower part of the hill. Coming out of 'farmhouse', I got on the power early and was feeling confident of a quick run when I caught glimpse of a huge plume of smoke in my mirrors. Had the engine let go? No - it was still running fine so I carried on round the last corner over the line.
The marshall at the top signalled to me and I wound the window down. Cool as a cucumber he says "Your car is on fire".
Attempting to mirror his coolness I reply "Ok, I'll just park up over there and you can put it out".
So, I park up in front of the main building, jump out and watch as the marhsalls proceed to cover my car in a powder resembling bicarbonate of soda.
I hear one of them say "Get the foam" and out comes another big scoosher and coats the bicarb turning it into a stinking goo.
"I'd advise you clean that off asap - it's corrosive". Says the man in orange. I was very grateful that they had put it out but couldn't help thinking that they could have used a bit less goo. After all, I hadn't actually seen any flames.
Anyway, with the help of some fellow competitors, I spent the next couple of hours cleaning up and got it reasonably clean.
The cause of the fire? Ah, we suspect that would be the oil filter what I had put on in the dark and apparently not tightened up properly. Sprayed a load of oil onto the heat wrap on the exhaust which then caught fire.
After a reasonable curry and some chat with Dave Exton, I retired to my cosy tent to contemplate buying a fire extinguisher. On the plus side, I had smashed my previous personal best and posted a time of 72.74 sec - and that was in a burning car!
On Sunday, I was a bit paranoid about the thing catching fire again and it proved to be justified. On returning from the second practice run, I got back to the paddock and was just taking my helmet off when I saw folk running towards the car pointing. I immediately knew why as the smoke billowed out from under the bonnet.
This time, I fetched the extinguisher myself and carefully aimed the nozzle at the base of the flames. A very brief puff of powder later and the thing was out. No mess, no fuss. Nice and simple. However, I couldn't face fiddling with the car to get the oil soaked heat wrap off so I decided to call it quits and retired. Just as I was about to leave, the heavens opened and the thunderstorm returned........