It's March today - uh oh. That means it's April next month. And the weekend of April 5th/6th is our first EnduroKa race. We don't even have a car yet and, we discovered at the media day this week, lots of the opposition do. It's going to be a very busy month...
Still, there's plenty to be excited about. We'll start there, because the list of causes for concern is rather longer, and less fun to contemplate. The good news is that racing around a proper circuit, in nothing more substantial than a Ford Ka, is tremendous fun. Wednesday presented two of us with the opportunity to try one of the fully prepped media cars and, even with just a few laps under our belts, there was enough time to know that a whole grid is going to be hilarious. And a genuine challenge, too, because having so little performance - the engine is left completely as standard - means a complete recalibration of how to race.
Corners at Brands Hatch Indy that used to require a lift are now flat, heavy braking zones become the smallest dab you dare and the big stops don't happen at all. Because you're never going very fast. It's all about maintaining momentum, fighting every instinct to back off for fear of losing fractions of hard-earned miles per hour. Which requires its own levels of bravery, concentration and skill; all things we'll hope to pick up as we go along.
It must be said, the Mk1 Ka handles beautifully. No great surprise, given the little city car was one of the Fords to revolutionise the brand dynamically in the mid-90s - it's just all the more apparent with some tweaks - cage, springs, dampers, bushes and pads. (There's a control Toyo tyre, too, but that wasn't fitted to our cars yet.) It's spot on: light and agile, of course, yet also finely adjustable on the throttle and brakes, only too willing to tuck its little nose in and get the unweighted rear to help out as you please. Given one Ka ended up in the gravel at Paddock Hill there is clearly a fine line to tread between on the money and off the circuit, as well. Another one to practise.
Still, it feels great already, even going slower than the other (not quite as slow) Kas. A racing seat and harnesses will always help in that regard, of course, but with a stripped out interior, firmer brake pedal and that lovely gearshift, it feels like the proper mini touring car. Only in slow motion.
Driving our own car feels a terrifyingly long way off, though. Ben assures us that the deal will be done this weekend; goodness knows there's a lot to do after that. Because while there's the obvious stuff around building a racer from a runaround - stripping old bits out, fitting new bits in, getting a roll cage, making sure the livery looks superb - there's all the stuff you wouldn't consider as well. There's the rust, the issues that apparently exist around the heater control valve and thermostat housing, which data-logger to use, the amount of spare cars that might be required for wheels and panels, getting a seat that will fit all the drivers... it's all stuff that, in our naivety, we hadn't fully considered yet. Or maybe Ben has. Hopefully he has.
The spare parts discussion is a valid one, too; a grid of 50 identical cars sounds like a recipe for mayhem already, but combine that with a grid of drastically varying ability - some are building their cars without having done their ARDS test yet, some are seasoned pros - means contact will be almost inevitable. Suppose we best get on to some scrap dealers soon as well, then.
The scale of the task ahead of us does look daunting. There's an awful lot to do, and not a great deal of time to do it. Four of our six-person team have never raced a car before, one of us who has raced wasn't that good and endurance racing is a rather different prospect to a 15-minute sprint. There's fuelling, tyre changes, driver swaps and the rest to consider too - once we've actually learnt how to drive it close to properly and, er, y'know, built it.
But that will commence very shortly, and we're hugely excited. Because who wouldn't want to do a full motorsport season with teammates that are your actual mates? Given how late we're leaving it, the car will barely stand still from collection, to stripping down, to building back up, to a bit of testing (hopefully), to our very first race. In just a few weeks' time. It's going to be tight, certainly; Ben will talk you through our pride and joy next time. We hope.