National Street Car Challenge (UK)

2016 Rounds 2 and 3

Rounds two and three of the NSCC season took place at York Raceway over Mayday bank holiday weekend. After Easter's meet was as wet and windy as Jacuzzi full of vegetarians, I wasn't holding out much hope for this event given that the forecast was not brilliant. It was compounded by rain, hail and high winds before I'd even set off from home, and the fact that I had to have the wipers on double-speed on the way up the M18. Never a good sign. However, upon arriving at the track at 5.50pm and joining a lengthy queue waiting to get in, it was T-shirt weather with most early arrivals already well into their stash of tins.

Waiting in the queue was Dave Billadeau with his new '67 Plymouth wagon – beige, four-door, full interior... and a ProCharged big-block sporting well in excess of 700bhp and similar torque figures. Bob on. Next to him was Emma in her '57 Chevy gasser, not long back out, and apparently this was its first trip to the strip since its last race at Pomona in 1968! Now that's a story.

First into the NSCC pits with me was Jamie Hughes with the Land Rover, soon followed by Rick, Mark and Scott. 'Red Nose' Dave Mears was with them; he'd taken the long way round from Wolverhampton to join them at the Knaresborough cruise. He was followed by Pete and Vicky in their Gin Palace. The place was filling up quite nicely, but it was bloody cold. I wandered around, stopping for a burger with the Thoburns, a spicy sausage with the Knaresborough crew and some pizza with the Smiths – it was lovely, and meant I didn't have to open my Pot Noodle. The bar remained open even after they'd stopped serving, which was cool, but when I returned to my tent I found it covered in ice, and my sleeping bag had frozen to the inside of the tent. Nice. I had to empty a two-litre bottle of water to act as the en-suite, and I'm bloody glad I did – I didn't fancy getting out of that tent for any reason. It was so cold, I barely got any sleep, being kept awake by crows at 4am, skylarks at 5am, and James Murray blowing Reveille on the bowel bugle at 5.15, just 10 feet away, with such gusty gutsy gusto that I'm sure my tent went up in the air, spun around a few times and landed on a witch.

Sunday dawned... well, I say dawned, I didn't get to sleep until the sun came up and took the frost off, so I was still in bed at 10am. I did, however, manage to shamble into some clothes, brew up, get scrutineered (the most peremptory scrutineering I've ever witnessed) and signed on in time for NSCC first qualifier. It was very cool, with a mighty crosswind, but many people were running quick times. Russ Pursley led the ladder with a 10.4 @ 138mph, with Ian Walley not far behind on 10.8 @ 131. Doug 'Uncle Ben' Hague in the Beast From The Far East was next, 11.9 @ 117, then hot on his heels was Jamie, who had managed to shag 12.0 @ 114 out of the old oil-burning Land Rover. Derek was still taking it relatively easy on his fresh motor and very fresh diff, no gas at 12.1, then James Murray in with a 12.3. A small jump then to Pete Smith with the blown Mustang on 13.5, followed by Lee Openshaw's sprightly little Punto on 13.9, Andrew Errington breaking NPBs all over the show with a 14.3 on a sniff of gas with Andy Frear's 'Smog Monster' Bronco a whisker behind on 14.4. Dave Mears had 14.9 out of the Firebird to stay ahead of Shaun Cockcroft's 15.0 from the MkII Escort, then came Ryan Chatburn in the Lexus Soarer, a car bought as a donor car but which turned out to be far too nice to break. Rick Swaine's Mustang was next at 16.0, clearly suffering after multiple attempts to fit a radio in the pits the previous evening, then Dave in the other Lexus at 16.1, then Scott in the Pop at 17.1 to make a nice, neat, 16-car ladder.

With rain forecast for the afternoon, we went straight into eliminations with a minimum of organisation and a maximum of dicking around. James opened proceedings with a 13.6 victory over Red Nose Dave's 14.7, followed by Russ handing Scott's arse to him 10.7 to 18.0. Ryan redlit away any chance he may have had against Jamie, though Jamie's 12.1 would suggest that that was a fairly slim chance, before Ian had Dave's trousers down 10.8 to 16.4. Shaun's 14.8 fell victim to Derek's 12.2, while a close race between Pete's 14.1 and Andy's 14.2 was actually won by Pete's slightly less dozy reaction time. Rick copped a drubbing from Uncle Ben, 11.8 to 16.0, then Andrew's 14.00 was enough to beat Lee's 13.9, again due to sprightlier reactions.

Round two was the quarter finals, and the account was opened with a race as tight as a fat lass's jeggings – Uncle Ben ran 12.0 to James's 12.2, but James's 0.1-second advantage on reactions means they must have been a gnat's knacker apart at the line. Jamie then fell victim to Derek, 12.4 to 12.1, Russ's 10.6 shut down Andrew's 14.1, then Ian's 11.0 was enough to end Pete's day.

The semis were another treat. Derek was still showing commendable restraint, leaving the gas out of the equation, which meant his 12.1 couldn't touch Russ's 10.6, but then Uncle Ben found the other knacker on that gnat in his race against Ian, the Nissan getting a three-tenth drop on the Cortina at the startline, but Ian managing a five-tenth quicker run. There was no time for listening to the gnats singing soprano, though, as we'd been promised rain – the adjective used was 'biblical' – so it was time for a swift turnaround. As both Yellow Perils headed for the line it was anybody's race, and both left cleanly on unspectacular reaction times. In the end it was Russ who triggered the win light, his 10.20 at a mighty 142mph just pipping Ian's all-Ford machine's 11.7 at 130mph.

Trophies, adulation and champagne all round, and we still had an hour before it was time to set off to the Barnes for the post-race nosebag. The 'biblical' rain never really showed up, but I was praying for a thunderbolt when Vix and Pete told me that their motorhome was so warm the previous night that she'd had to kick the duvet off... Bless.

The run out to the pub was a gentle affair... mostly. The food was excellent as ever, but after a day getting wind-battered, a big meal with a cold beer in a warm pub left a lot of us looking even dozier than usual. The bar was bouncing again, but I blame dry rot in the floors for that, and by 11pm most people had already sacked off to bed, so I did similarly. I was extremely glad of the en-suite pop bottle in the early hours, but the just-woken-up waz was a bit of a gamble – it was very close to the neck of the bottle; in fact, I was “touching froth”, my new favourite phrase from the weekend.

It was grey again on Monday morning, and the wind had shifted again, but instead of being a following wind from the right, it was a following wind from the left. Rain was due at lunchtime so we tried our best to get all the qualifying done early-ish. We'd lost Doug 'Uncle Ben' Hague and Andrew Errington, who'd got something better to do elsewhere, and Jamie had bust his starter motor. It hadn't just 'stopped working' like everyone else's starter; no, this one was bust. In two.

Russ got the pole spot again with a 10.2, Ian second on 11.1, and Derek still staying on the wagon gas-wise with a stout 12.0. James took fourth with a 12.4, while Pete got excruciatingly close to the 12s with a 13.01. Lee managed 13.5, and we'd been joined overnight by Stephen Gilmour in the minty-fresh MkI Cortina who posted a 14-flat for seventh. Andy's Bronco was the top of the bottom half on 14.5, then Shaun and Dave Mears in quick succession with 14.7 and 14.8 respectively. Then came another tight grouping (stop sniggering at the back) of Rick on 15.8, Ryan on 15.9 and Dave on 16.0, then Scott picking up a few MPH on a 17.2.

It was looking decidedly black over Bill's mother's as lunchtime approached, and with just Sportsman and Pro ET left to run their second qualifiers, a motorcyclist hopped off at the top end, just as he'd gone through the traps at 100mph. I remember seeing him on the startline, with about six feet of wheelie bar with the wheels set half an inch off the deck. Poor bugger, he was eventually taken away by the air ambulance, but aside from a few broken bones he's in good shape. By that time the rain had started, though, and after a light shower to lull us into a false sense of security, it came down with a vengeance – Sodom, Gomorrah, York Raceway. As soon as it stopped, there were dozens out with the brushes to get things dry again, and before long the sun came out and the afternoon turned into a beauty.

That said, it was getting late and the track was still pretty damp before we ran the first round, but it was Rick taking first exit, 16.7 to James's 13.7. Gilly's clean machine beat Andy's smog monster 14.3 to 14.8, then Ian comprehensively shut down Dave's Lexus11.9 to 16.5. Ryan suffered a similar fate at the hands of Derek, 12.3 to 16.4, Ryan's Lexus running slower on each run throughout the day. Pete finished Dave Mears's day 13.6 to 15.2, then Russ took it easy, relatively speaking, his 12.4 having Scott's 17.3 covered. Lee's alternator had packed up on the Punto and Shaun had packed up and gone home by this point, so that was round one done with.

Those absences gave Derek a solo in the quarter finals, though he still ran a 12.3, then James pulled a 12.5 out of the hat to cover Pete's 13.4. Gilly had it all to do in the all-Cortina pairing with Ian, but tried a little too hard and cherried, although Ian was off to an 11.6 anyway. Russ had a bye but ripped off a 10.6, because he can.

By now the sun was out, the sky was blue and one southerner was seen considering taking one of his jackets off. Into the semis, and Derek's resolve was tested to its limit but he resisted (or possibly he'd left the gas at home), but his 12.1 and sharper reaction time wasn't quite enough to cover Ian's 11.5. It was the same story on the other side of the ladder, James's much sharper reaction and 12.6 being no match for Russ's “Oh, are we off, then? Reyt tha'art!” reaction and 10.7.

It was definitely getting on a bit when the finals rolled around, with most of the RWYBers having gone home. In fact, most of everyone had gone home – they were still running finals at 7pm! The Yellow Perils of Russ and Ian lined up and faced off, and the race would turn out to be tighter than the clasp on a Yorkshireman's wallet, in a duck's arse, up a mermaid's chuff. Ian's reaction was hardly lightning fast at 0.9 seconds, but Russ's “Oh aye, 'appens we're off again” 1.3 reaction meant that Ian had a 0.34 second head start. Ian ran 11.37 at 134mph, and Russ ran 11.02 at 124 … or 0.35 seconds quicker than Ian. That's one of the hairs off the aforementioned gnat's knackers.

It had been a decent two days of racing, and although the three guys who bothered sticking around for round one at Easter still have a commanding lead at the top of the table, it's all getting tighter further down (unlike... no, never mind). The next meet, rounds four and five, happen just four weeks down the line from this lot, so it's still all to play for and some folk seem to be taking it a little bit seriously... Let's find out. Ta-ta.


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