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Tog goes Super Gas
Eurodragster.com's News Editor and Race Reporter Tog had the chance to sample drag racing from the other side of the guardrail at the 2004 Halloween Showdown at Shakespeare County Raceway. At what has become a traditional event for driver swaps, Tog took up an invitation to drive Nev Mottershead's Toyota Supra Super Gasser. In this special feature, Tog describes what it is like to drive a race car.
All Libby's fault
The phone call from Nev came late on the Wednesday evening before the Halloween Showdown. We had already been in touch about the Halloween Showdown as I had been due to drive Paul Marston Racing's Grumpy's Dodge for the weekend and Nev and I were going to race, but due to circumstances beyond Paul and the team's control PMR had had to cancel.
"Lib's had an idea about this weekend", said Nev. "She suggested that I get in my car and put down a time, and then we put you in the car and you try to beat it. She says that's just like racing!". Even though Nev had put it to me in plain English, it still took a moment or two to sink in that Nev had just offered me a drive of his Toyota, a very serious piece of kit. "What can I say? Thank you both very much indeed!" I babbled. Nev proposed spending some time showing me how to drive the car and then setting it up for a sensible ET so that I could get a handle on it, and then upping the power in increments with the eventual aim of beating my Personal Best of 10.669, which I recorded in Grumpy's Dodge last year.
Nev has outstanding qualifications for Super Gas tuition since he has been involved with the class since it began in the UK. He was introduced to drag racing by Bill Sherratt, and the sight of Raymond Beadle running the Blue Max Funny Car in the dark on his first visit to a race hooked Nev immediately. Nev crewed with Bill Sherratt both on the Cannonball FC and on Bill's record-setting street-legal Ventora which was at that point the quickest street-legal car in the country. After a change of owner the Ventora was eventually transformed into one of the first purpose-built Super Gas cars in the country. Nev stayed with the car through its change of owner and also worked on other race cars. In 1999 Whilst Nev was building a Camaro race car for Will Furniss, Bert Englefield's Toyota Supra Pro Mod became available as a rolling chassis; Nev and Will bought this car and installed the Camaro's engine and trans. The Toyota made its first Super Gas appearance at the 2001 Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod Raceway, starting the weekend without a tag or a licenced driver and finishing it with the event victory. Nev concentrated on tuning the Toyota whilst Will drove, until he took to the seat himself in 2004.
Under instruction from my niece Jennipher to "Have a good weekend and don't crash the car" I travelled to Shakespeare County Raceway armed with Fay Fischer's Super Pro ET firesuit which, as Fay is of similar stature to me, fit very well except around the stomach where I outdo her by quite some volume. In the pits I found the Toyota bridled and saddled and the kettle already on the boil. Over tea, Nev explained the weekend's game plan and told me how he proposed to set up the Toyota for my first run. I would get a nice kick on launch, and then after 0.2 seconds the throttle stop would come in and the power would be limited so that I ran a mid-to-low eleven-second pass. Depending upon how I did and how many runs we could get, the throttle stop would be delayed and the power increased for each run.
I already knew that you have to be some sort of genius to be able to set a car to run a particular ET but before Nev pulled out his run log I didn't have any idea how much work goes into making tuning calls. Every run which Nev had ever made in the car, and every run which Will Furniss had made when he was driving, was listed in meticulous detail with an exhaustive list of parameters. Watching Nev poring studiously over the log sheets to find a suitable set-up for my rookie pass I realised just how many balls you have to keep in the air. Had the tuning calls been left to me I would probably have just been crossing the finish line as you read this.
With the game plan sketched out over tea we decided that I had better get into the car to see if I actually fit. As an ex-Pro Mod the Toyota has a lot of roll cage and other impact protection and it was a real squeeze to get into the seat. Then the crucial moment: could I reach all the switches, and could I push the brake and throttle pedals all the way down? The good news was that I could, otherwise that would have ended my weekend real quick. I could push both pedals down but Nev suggested that I have some padding behind my back to locate me a touch further forward, so he summoned Libby who happened to be standing ready with a pair of small cushions. OK, yes, I wasn't going to mention this but the cushions had flowers on them.
With the cushions behind my back I could easily push both pedals to their stops and could have pushed them further with either foot. Only being licenced for an automatic, I have only ever used my right foot to drive but I would need both feet to drive the Toyota - left for brake and right for gas - because you can't waste time swapping pedals driving one-footed.
Confident that I could reach everything, Nev started the tuition and my head was very quickly reeling. Anyone who thinks that to drag race you just point the car or bike forwards and hit the throttle should be forced to sit in the seat of a race car and be taken through the routine. As a fan and journalist, and from my previous driving experience in Grumpy's Dodge, I was well aware that there was a lot to do but I still had to repeat things to myself in the right order over and over again to make sure that I remembered. There was a set routine for starting the engine, a set routine for the burnout, and a set routine at the start line.
For example, to perform the burnout the sequence of events was as follows: pull through the water box; whilst holding the car on the brake, press the line-lock button on the steering wheel; pump the brake pedal until the brake pressure got to 1000 lbs; take my foot off the brake but keep the linelock button depressed; stand on the throttle and get the revs up to about six and a half thousand; shift into second gear on Nev's signal; let go of the linelock button; roll forward out of the water box then stop.
Whilst doing all of this I was to keep an eye on Nev, who would be standing outside the car conducting events, and also to keep an eye on the tach and the oil, fuel and water pressure gauges. Both Nev and Andy assured me that it would be very difficult to do anything so wrong that I damaged the engine or the car.
Nev also took me through the procedure for a transbrake launch, something I had never been through except as a passenger and something I had always wanted to do for myself. Again there was a particular sequence of events to be followed, which Nev asked me to guess. "Into stage, on the brake, on the button, off the brake, on the gas, off the button" I said. "Well, yes, that's one way of doing it", Nev replied diplomatically. It transpired that there is a wimp's way of using the transbrake and that is what I had described. We agreed that in the interest of keeping things relatively uncomplicated I should do it by that method.
The plan for Saturday was for Nev to make two passes and then for me to make however many passes we could fit in and then to make more runs on Sunday. However the weather had been doing its best to mess things up, rain followed by damp, and although the track crew had worked very hard to dry the track throughout Saturday morning the word came from the pit runner that no slicks would be allowed on the track on Saturday.
Sunday's conditions were marginally better, but good enough for the track to be open to all. The plan was still for Nev to make two passes to check the set-up which he was going to dial-in for me, and then I would hopefully get in two passes which Nev would set up for a low eleven and a mid-ten. When went down the to the start line for Nev's first pass, Nev asked me to watch what Andy did outside the car. "You know how to drive the car, but what I want you to watch this time is how Andy interacts with me", said Nev. "You will notice the various signals we use, they are all pretty obvious but it will be useful for you to see them beforehand."
I followed Andy onto the track and watched him like a hawk. As Nev had explained, the signals were intuitive but there was definitely no substitute for seeing them used because I would have quite enough to think about when it was my turn without misinterpreting what Nev and Andy were telling me. Nev's first pass of the day was a low twelve, which gave him enough data to decide the final settings for my first run.
After Nev and Andy had worked on the fine-tuning, Nev looked at his watch and said "Right, I don't think there's going to be enough time for me to make another run and for you to make two runs. Go and put your firesuit on, then". I put on Fay's firesuit, and with my far-from-anorexic stomach I looked like a blueberry.
Suited up and with a thumping heart, I climbed into the Toyota ready to drive it down the pits to join the end of the queue. Nev leaned in. "Remember", he said, "when you are in the car just keep an eye on Andy and I. We will see you out of the pits, don't worry about trying to look left and right because you won't be able to see anyway. When we get to the start line I will take you through the burnout, then I will signal to Andy, and then you just need to watch him until he points back to me, and then I will take you up to the blue line". "Right now, if you told me to walk to the edge of a cliff and jump, I'd do it", I replied.
The engine started straight away, and for the first time I put the Toyota into gear and moved forward. Nev directed me out of the pit and then signalled me to drive down to join the queue which was half way back into the pits. I had really only driven the car a few yards, maybe thirty seconds' experience of balancing the brake and throttle, but it did wonders for my confidence just to be in the car with the engine running and actually being in control as it moved.
Nev, Andy, Lib and Sharon joined me in the queue and we slowly pushed the Toyota forward. We then got word from APIRA marshal Bev that we could take the car down the middle of the three pairing lanes, which is usually kept clear. We pushed the Toyota to the front of the pairing lanes and waited whilst Roger Goring and Martin Hill did their stuff. Within a few minutes it would be my turn.
So, what's it actually like to drive a race car?
One of the things which race fans most wonder is what it is like to drive a race car. I am going to do my very best to describe what it is like, and to do so as realistically as possible I am going to switch to the present tense to describe my first run. Granted, it is a cheap literary trick, but hopefully it will involve the reader more immediately in the events, thoughts and feelings.
I climb into the car, which is an art in itself: there are side bars to step over and it is very easy to put your leading leg in the wrong place and end up wriggling about to get in or falling over. Effectively, I'm folding myself into the car, then I make what is best described as a controlled slump backwards into the seat and pull in my trailing leg.
The seat area is quite tight, surrounded by a Pro Mod roll cage. Nev leans in and adjusts the cushions behind my back until I am happy with the fit and then reaches around to help me drape the belts over my shoulders to tighten when we're ready to go.
My good buddy, track announcer Barry Bohannon spots us in the pairing lanes and I can hear him bantering with Nev. "Well, Nev is outside the car - does that mean..." asks Barry. Nev nods, I wave but Barry doesn't see me. I spend the few minutes before belting up going through the burnout and launch routines, talking to myself: "On the brake, on the button, pump the brake, off the brake, on the gas, six to six and a half, shift, ease down a little, keep watching Nev, off the button when he signals, come forward, stop". Nev spots me practicing the burnout routine and leans in. "You got it right. You see, you'll be fine!". Libby puts the video camera through the door and asks me to go through the routine again.
Enough practices, I'm starting to wind myself up. all there is to do now is wait. As strap-in approaches I stare into the the middle distance trying to focus and trying to breathe normally, and I can feel my heart thumping. For the tiniest moment all the nervousness and emotion surges and I wonder if I can really go through with it. They're all good guys and they're not going to think any less of me if I get out now. But it's a cleansing moment - a final barrier to overcome and I'm ready.
"OK" says Nev and leans in to help me strap in. It's nice and snug in there as it is but I'm strapped in good and tight. I can't really move my torso at all, but I can reach all the switches and the steering wheel and I can push both pedals down. Helmet and neck brace on and then my head is pretty solid too. The helmet provides a fair amount of sound insulation and now I am in my own little world. I can hear myself breathing.
Through the windscreen Bev gives me a big smile of encouragement and an "Are you ready?" gesture, then the signal to fire up. Nev stands by the open door ready to assist if there are any problems. I reach up and switch on the pumps, hold the starter on for a few seconds and then push the ignition. A little bit of gas pedal and the engine fires. It's loud, but louder outside I think, and there are a lot of rumbly harmonics. I ease my foot off the gas and the engine burbles happily.
Nev hangs the window net, shuts the door and walks away. This is it - the big moment. On the brake, put the car in gear and wait for Nev to wave me forward. Nev beckons, the gas pedal hardly needs a touch and we're moving. I balance the brake and the gas pedals as taught and keep it nice and slow as we move out. Nev doesn't miss a trick in making me comfortable: he wants me in the right lane because the back end of the car tends to step out during burnouts in the left lane, and he wants me straightened up before I go into the water. Turning the wheel is very easy; I'd swear the Toyota has power steering. I steer a wide circle from the left hand side of the pairing lanes. And I mean wide - I pass VIP almost close enough to lean out and grab a cup of tea, and even though I am watching Nev like a hawk I recognise Lee Child and Ronnie Picardo in my peripheral vision.
I don't make the turn perfectly - how on Earth do they do it in one in a dragster? - so Nev carries on beckoning and directing me through the waterbox until I am completely straight. Now I have to put the Toyota into reverse to get back to the water. On the brake, pull the shifter up and push it through Neutral and into reverse. I stay on the brake, in any case I'm not going to move until I press the transbrake button which activates reverse. Off the brake and on the button, the tiniest amount of gas pedal and we're going backwards, I'm steering one-handed but luckily no major adjustments are needed because Nev has got the car nice and straight. Nev smiles encouragingly as he sees me back then signals me to stop. I get on the brake and off the button, pull the shifter up again and back into first. Nev waves me forward slowly, I edge through the water and stop on his signal.
Nev leans down and signals me to put on the linelock and pump up the brake. The linelock button is on the steering wheel, I press it hard with my left thumb and then start to pump on the brake pedal, watching the gauge for a thousand pounds pressure. It gets up to about nine hundred and doesn't seem to want to go much further. I feel like I have been pumping on the brake pedal for an age - it was easier than this when I did it in the pits. I'm just getting a bit flustered and am trying to rush things. I force the pressure to about nine fifty then I remember Nev saying that anything over eight hundred should be OK. I tell myself to stay on the button, foot off the brake, look up and Nev is waiting patiently for me. He gives me the signal to start the burnout.
Keeping the pressure on my left thumb I reach down and put my right hand on the shifter, then I stand on the gas. It's still not as loud as I expect inside the car, I can hear the engine working against the tyre friction. I flick my eyes between watching the tach climb to nearly seven thousand, and watching Nev outside. Nev signals me to shift and I bang the stick forward and then take hold of the steering wheel. As I ease the revs down to six and a half the back end of the car starts to step out to the right, almost in slow motion, nothing dramatic. Now the car is starting to move forward ever so slightly. Nev waves me forward and I release the button, the car starts to roll and I get off the gas a little too quickly - the revs come off and it feels as if I only just get the car out of the bleach box before rolling to a stop.
The driver side door opens and Nev looks in to cast an eye over everything and to give me a thumbs-up to make sure that I am OK. Door closed, Nev checks around the car. The couple of members of the start line crew I see look very tall; I hadn't realised just how low down this car is. Whilst Nev does his stuff outside there's a flash of light off to the right and I sense someone standing there. The corner of my eye must be working fine as I recognise the blue-clad figure of Steve Moxley. Checks complete, Nev walks back into my line of vision and points forward to Andy who is standing on the start line.
Behind Andy the track stretches away into the distance and the guardrails emphasise the perspective. I've stood on or around that start line hundreds of times but I've never noticed that effect before. A brief smile from Andy then it's all business, signalling that l am lined up straight and beckoning me forward. Again I balance the brake and gas pedals as Nev taught me, the Toyota needs very little persuasion to move. Andy is of necessity in the middle of the lane right in front of me, whereas Nev had the luxury of being able to stand a little way off-centre, and I take the car forward very slowly, acutely conscious of not suddenly hitting the gas too hard and running Andy over. When I'm a few feet from the blue line, Andy signals me to stop. A brief smile and thumbs-up and then Andy hands me back over to Nev.
Nev stands with his arms spread, hands about a yard apart, bringing them closer together as I get to the blue line. The final moment - Nev points to the Tree and walks away. Now it's down to me: up to this point everyone has been helping me along, but only I can do the next bit.
I take my foot off the brake a bit too eagerly and the car moves forward quickly, lighting the pre-stage bulb on the Tree. I push firmly on the brake pedal again, reach down to the transbrake button, take a deep breath, Check all the gauges, and then very slowly ease off the brake and edge the Toyota forward. The stage bulb lights and I stand on the brake again. I press the transbrake button and as I take my foot off the brake pedal the Tree runs. It's so unexpected that I don't react by doing anything stupid, but carry on with the routine. I floor the gas pedal - now that's pretty loud - and on a quick count of three let go of the transbrake button.
Someone picks me up and throws me. I momentarily feel as if I am flying upwards and then the hit tries to shove me backwards without ceremony at the same time as the car is rocketing forward. The neck brace keeps my head pretty solidly in position. I keep pushing my foot down against the force and put my right hand back on the wheel. It is all happening very quickly now. The steering goes light for a moment, and then I hear the throttle stop kick in. The throttle stop pushes me forward for a moment and the hard transbrake launch gives way to a consistent acceleration which still pushes me back into the seat, but less severely.
I'm staring down the track, aiming for the middle of the lane. The guardrail streaks along to my right. The scoreboards are my reference and they are growing larger by the moment. It's a very smooth ride, I expected to feel every bump on the track at this speed but there aren't any. The shift light comes on and I reach down and shove the shifter forwards. I put my right hand back on the wheel and the car starts to move to the right. I steer the Toyota back to the middle of the lane and it moves to the right again. I steer it back again, and I think that if it makes another move then I will get off the throttle. But after the second correction the car is back running on rails.
The scoreboards sweep past and I take my foot off the gas pedal quickly but not abruptly. I give the car a moment to settle and then start to press on the brake pedal with my left foot. The brakes respond quickly and are very smooth - much smoother than my Ford Fiesta. I push harder and harder on the brake and I am pushed forward a little as the speed comes off dramatically. The Toyota is very stable indeed under hard braking, no hint of moving around or wanting to head off in another direction.
I make the first turnoff easily - this is something I have been worried about all day. With all the speed scrubbed off I turn in past the watching fire crew, straighten the car up and change back into first gear. From so low down the return road is not easy to spot to start with, but some traffic cones have been placed to block off the rest of the runway and I slow to a crawl until I find the return road by following the line across. The return road looks quite narrow from my position and features a tight chicane-like kink. I take it very slowly so as not to drive onto the grass.
I get to the end of the return road and Nev, Libby, Andy and Sharon are waiting for me with big smiles on their faces. I'm still feeling very serious as I pull up, then reach up to switch off the ignition. Nev opens the door and takes down the window net. "How did you like that, then?", he says cheerfully.
A windscreen full of Christmas Tree
There is only one answer I could give to the above question. "Awesome" is a word which is over-used nowadays but when you've just launched on a transbrake there aren't that many other words you can use to describe it. The timing slip read 11.450/115.03 and everyone was very happy with that since Nev had set the car for a low eleven and it was my first run in the car. I pretended not to see the Reaction Time of 1.498. Nev told me that Libby's video showed the car briefly pulling a wheelie off the start line. My first run in the Toyota and my first-ever wheelie!
I told Nev as much as I could remember of the run, including 'fessing up to what I thought I had done wrong. I knew that the burnout could have been better, and I was convinced that the little move the Toyota made after shifting was down to me; I thought that I may have grabbed at the steering wheel when I put my right hand back on it, although Nev wasn't having any of that. Nev was particularly impressed with my reaction, or lack of it, when the lights ran. "You stayed calm and didn't panic, you just did what you had to and left", he said, "and that's not an easy thing to do". The tach replay, which tells all, showed that I had not only driven the Toyota out the back door but also driven it over the patio and some way down the garden, going past the finish line under power for around a second.
The sun was going down, it was getting colder and the damp was rising, and the track's curfew was coming close, so we had to move pretty fast to get in a second run. For this pass Nev proposed to set the Toyota for a 10.5, which would beat my PB. I stayed in the car whilst Nev and Andy adjusted the blades and the throttle stop, which would kick in a little later now that I knew how it felt to let go of the transbrake. Changes made, Nev gave me a briefing on what to expect and we set off down the pairing lanes again.
Thanks to the good offices of APIRA marshals Beth and Bev we were again allowed to take the middle pairing lane and push down to the front. As we rolled past Ian Brown's Thatadoo Camaro, Ian and his family lined up and applauded me past, a very kind gesture which helped to lessen my nervousness but didn't do much for my guilt for queue-jumping.
I had another rush of emotion before strapping in, but it went away again just as it did before the first run. A lot of racers of my acquaintance have told me that they still get nervous before running, even though they have been doing it for years, and most will tell you that if you stop getting nervous then that's the time to stop racing - better to be nervous than even a touch too confident. I strapped in, put on the helmet and gloves, and waited for Bev's signal to start the engine.
As I turned on to the track and rolled into the water box it was noticeably darker than it had been for my first run. The lights on the Christmas Tree and scoreboards were standing out in the gathering gloom. Nev had given me some more advice on doing the burnout and I was determined to make a better job of it this time. No pussyfooting, I stood on the gas as instructed and was rewarded with a beaming smile from Nev as he stood beside the car signalling me to keep it going, then to shift, and then to roll forward. When I got off the line lock the revs shot up and the car came out of the water box all ready to lay down a rolling burnout if I wanted it to. As I pulled up Nev was grinning - in fact he looked as if he was about to laugh - and as he handed me over to Andy he too had a big smile on his face, so either I had completely shagged it up or I had got it right.
Andy lined me up, then Nev saw me up to the blue line and again I got that "You're on you're own now" feeling as he walked away. I edged forward into pre-stage, took the customary deep breath, then went into stage. I went onto the transbrake and the lights ran, and I let go of the button as soon as I saw the ambers. I didn't see the green at all.
When I let go of the transbrake the Toyota leapt forward but suddenly the engine revs shot up and the car turned left without ceremony just as I was putting my right hand back on the wheel. The Christmas Tree was in the middle of my field of vision. I got off the throttle, steered right, then floored it again. Whilst all this was going on I actually had a conscious thought, which was "I didn't ask Nev about pedalling!". When I hit the throttle for the second time, the car turned right and I found myself looking at the right-hand guardrail so I got off the gas and trundled down the track to a twenty-four second pass, although it wasn't for the want of trying.
Click here for video of second run (Windows Media format, 1.9 Meg, courtesy Nev and Libby Mottershead)
In the return road I found myself behind two Junior Dragsters which were being pushed along by their owners. Although the kids tried very hard to get out of the way it was not easy to get past, and Nev and the guys waiting at the end of the return road must have wondered where I had got to - was I sitting crying with fear somewhere? As it was, when I got past the Juniors I managed to pick up a souvenir for Nev in the form of a few tufts of grass from the side of the road.
My first words to Nev when I got back to the pit were "Well, that got my attention!". Nothing and no-one had been damaged - possibly apart from Nev's heart rate and that was transitory - so we were able to have a good laugh about what had happened and in the end it was yet another experience from which I could benefit. The timing slip showed my Reaction Time to be 0.282 - my best ever - and Libby's video showed that the back of the car jumped up and the tyres broke traction as soon as I let go of the transbrake. The video also showed that when I hit the throttle the second time the car pulled a wheelie as it turned right. "We overpowered the track, plain and simple", said Nev.
Nev also explained what all the smiling was about during and after the burnout. "You were boiling the tyres like a good'un and when you came forward the revs went up and it just carried on smoking!", he said. "It was like a Pro Mod burnout!"
I was very happy indeed with the way the day had gone, and Nev was very pleased with the way things had worked out even though the conditions had conspired against us. "I was impressed with the way you handled yourself", he said. "You listened to everything I said, you did what I told you to do, and you didn't panic when things didn't go right. I think you should be very proud". Nev added that it was always an interesting experience for him to watch the car from the outside, although he did say that when standing behind the Toyota he preferred to see the back of it rather than the sides!
Santa Pod's Race Director Darren Prentice, who had been at Shakespeare County Raceway all weekend prepping the track, was also complimentary especially about the second pass. "It takes balls to get on it a second time after going out of shape like that, and a real man not to hit it a third time", he said.
In response to the above I could only say, then and now, that I was doing what Nev had taught me to do, so all the credit is due to him for being such an excellent teacher.
Driving the Toyota confirmed everything I have ever thought about driving a race car, the main being that it is nowhere near as easy as the racers make it look, but there were some aspects which had never occurred to me. The biggest example was just how reliant you are on your crew. Every victory interview I have ever heard includes thanks to the racer's crew and believe me I now realise it is not just said out of rote. As well as all the hard work which goes on in the pits, which everyone knows about and appreciates, when you are strapped in and fired up your entire contact with the outside world comes from a crew member outside the car showing you where to go and indicating how things are going.
I also learned a few things about myself over that weekend at Shakespeare County Raceway. For example, I never knew that I was capable of such deep concentration and focus. In my entire life I have never felt so serious as in the moments after I was strapped in to the Toyota. I now understand why even the jolliest of racers look so thoughtful when strapped in to their vehicles or sat on their bikes, and why so many teams post a crew member next to the racer to keep people at a distance whilst they are focusing.
Since I drove the Toyota I have also been having what are best described as flashback moments. I'll be walking down the street or along a corridor and suddenly I can see guardrail flashing past, I can hear the engine roaring, and I can even feel the acceleration on my body. I don't know if regular racers experience this but it is not unpleasant.
Nev says that he views the day's events as unfinished business, since he wanted me to beat my personal best. He is not yet sure of his racing plans for 2005, but he says that one of several options includes Tog 2 - The PB, preferably in better weather.
The Sunday of the Halloween Showdown was one of the most enjoyable days of my life, and letting go of a transbrake button for the first time was, I think, the best experience I have ever had in my forty one years. If I get the chance to do it again then you can be sure that my feet won't touch the ground on the way to the track.
The biggest Thank You, naturally, goes to Nev Mottershead for the invitation to have a go of his race car. There isn't much which Nev can't tell you about running a car and that I was able to get into the Toyota and run an 11.4 off the bat proves that not only does he know about running race cars but that he also has a particular talent for explaining it. Nev's tuition was detailed, very patient, and full of encouragement and left me with very few (if any) supplementary questions. Although I was naturally nervous both about driving a race car at all, and especially one which I didn't own, I had no concerns whatsoever about Nev's tuition and the car's set-up. It also takes real generosity to pass up the last chance of a drive in your own car for the year but Nev was happy to let me take the wheel, even foregoing his second run so that I was guaranteed two passes.
Huge thanks are also due to Nev's wife Libby who suggested the whole scheme. I wouldn't have minded being a fly on the wall when Libby suggested to Nev that "You go out and put down a time and then see if Tog can beat it" but it was a suggestion for which I am very grateful indeed. At the track Libby was a constant source of encouragement, and took a lot of the video footage which provided much of the illustration above. And she makes a fine cup of tea! Any time you fancy making more suggestions about me and Nev's car, Libby, I'll be right there.
One of the biggest things I learnt from my weekend with Nev is how much you rely upon your crew, and Andy Williamson gave me plenty to rely on. As well as tuning the car with Nev and presenting me with a ride Andy was very encouraging, gave sound advice, and was another friendly face outside the car when I was strapped in. Andy's wife Sharon is also due a big Thank You for encouragement and supplementary catering.
At the track I must also thank APIRA marshals Bev Batsford and Beth Satchell for taking care of me, the big smiles when I was nervous, and for allowing us to jump the RWYB queue before both of my runs. This leads into a big Thank You to all of the racers and RWYBers for their patience, and a special nod to Ian Brown and family and Johnny Hall and team for encouragement. Big thanks also to Barry Bohannon for all the nice things he said on the PA - I didn't hear them at the time but what I can hear on the video makes pleasant listening!
Thanks are due to Nick Davies and Spencer Tramm for their counsel about driving race cars before I got to the track, even in the face of what must have seemed some pretty silly questions. Both Nick and Spencer were very encouraging, as were my Eurodragster partner Sharkman and my wife Kay (aka Mrs Tog). I owe Fay Fischer big time for the continued use of her firesuit and other safety equipment which I promise I will have cleaned before its return.
Finally a big Thank You to Andy Marrs for producing the video frame grabs used above, and to David Coleman and Helen Todd of quartermilehigh.com for providing the tremendous video of my first run and for giving permission for its use.
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