If you're going to race like this it's handy to have a car you can fix with a hammer and zip ties
So I was at the presentation for a new car (to remain nameless) the other day and we got the full technical onslaught about just how sophisticated it'll be with computer controlled this and adaptive that. And I just suddenly started feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and thinking do we really need all this?
Hammers and Gaffa tape just out of shot
OK, it's a bit of a Luddite attitude but chatting with F40 owner
Nigel Chiltern-Hunt one of the things that struck me was his assertion that servicing it really is relatively simple due to the lack of electronics. OK, it's an intimidatingly complex car but it's still a mechanical device and one that, on the whole, can be fixed with skill, patience and a box of spanners. As Stuart pointed out when we were talking about it, what hope for the enthusiast Veyron buyer 20 years hence of doing the same?
This mindset probably wasn't helped by spending the weekend up to my neck in Caterhams. Now, I realise a car like that is a pretty extreme example of going back to basics. But from driving to servicing the Seven proves the worth of keeping things simple.
Dan's Roadsport after the first race...
As I found out, Caterham racing very much is a contact sport. Just check out the lead photo on this blog - yes, that's two Academy drivers sending bodywork flying literally beneath chequered flag.
I jokingly asked Caterham's business development manager Dave Ridley how much of the firm's business model is based around replacement body panels over race weekends and though he took it as intended he laughed that they do see 'spikes' in demand. No bloody wonder either - there were cars in my Roadsport race that finished without any bodywork at all, a pattern repeated across the six grids of Sevens that raced over the weekend. Minor nudges and flying panels are part and parcel of close racing but there were also major pile-ups in the Academy race and my car getting a major shunt in the final corner of my first race that more or less took the front end off it.
Caterham pit garage always busy
Keeping all these lunatics on track was an incredibly hard-working team - a big shout to Brett, Mark (who looked after my car all weekend), 'Fighty Mike', Lee, Aaron, Rob and parts man Darren - well versed in creative ways of getting battered Caterhams back up and running. Between them they fixed an astonishing 40 cars over the course of the weekend, with more dropping by for minor repairs or just advice, and to their huge credit every car damaged in the first day of racing was back on the grid for the second. Seeing the state of some of them you'd have been staggered. But such is the beauty of a car that can be fixed with hammers, creatively applied trolley jacks, Gaffa tape and zip ties and be back out and racing the next day. Try that on carbon fibre and see how far you get.
Just as well you can fix 'em easily....
Technology has its place. But it's nice to see a pit garage where spanners and good old-fashioned oily hands reign supreme and there's not a laptop in sight.
Race pics: Rick Wilson/Caterham