Features at nationalhotrod.com

Wimbledon.  She’s gone.

Tim Moody writes.  As another Wimbledon regular, Vinny Jones once said, “It’s been emotional”.

 

So now our beloved stadium has held its last meeting, a sad day for all of us in Stock Car racing.  I know it’s sad for other sports as well, but I’ll stick to the one I know.

 

Wimbledon has been a large part of my life since the mid 70’s as a kid obsessed with Hot Rods and everything around them.  I had become hooked at my local track, Ringwood, and it took me a couple of years to convince my Dad to take me to watch at the iconic stadium I’d read about in the Spedeweek programmes and Cars & Car Conversions magazine features.  

 

That day came for the 1976 Winternationals, televised at the time for World of Sport.  I have to admit the meeting was a bit of a blur, but the Stadium itself was amazing, and everything I’d imagined.  Covered stands all around, glass front enclosure on the main straight – warm to watch from, even in winter!  A restaurant, a tarmac pit area - all of these things a world away from what I was used to at Ringwood.

 

I got to see a few of the main meetings over the next few years, Pete Winstone’s second European title, pit stop Grands Prix, a BP final or two, until I was old enough to drive myself there.

 

Wimbledon in the 70’s and 80’s was not just another Stock Car stadium. It was much more than that. It was a unique place in our sport where the ‘posh’ side of motor sport would come and watch our racing from the comfort of an enclosed stand.  Derek Bell, Stirling Moss, Derek Warwick, and the many celebrities who took part in many meetings over the years - as well as the unique atmosphere of Carnival nights: these things simply would not have happened in a regular outdoor venue away from the Capital.  

 

It was a place where us fans could meet up from either end of the Spedeworth Empire and see each other, have a drink in the bar, and enjoy the absolutely unique atmosphere that only a fully covered stadium could generate.  From the first sounds of the cars driving through the tunnel, to the blasts down the straight to line up, and the tension building as the grid waited for the flag to drop.  All this is magnified 100 times when the sound has nowhere to go.

 

I helped a mate out as a mechanic in the early ‘80’s, Andy Hardy, and Saturday evenings at Wimbledon took on a new look for me, as we used to watch Concorde fly over from the pits waiting for the meetings to start.  No practice in those days, just straight out on to the unknown track surface, and hope for the best!

 

Wimbledon was to be the place where I realised my very own Hot Rod ambition in 1984, when I took to the grid in a very, very low budget Escort.  The (to be expected)  uncompetitiveness of such a home built beast was helped no end by greasy shale, and I got a few placings, and a jump up to yellow top, as well as a couple of visits to the fence along the way!  It didn’t dampen my enthusiasm at all, I was racing alongside my heroes, and I will never forget that first drive out on to the track, and seeing the crowd lining the stadium.

 

I plugged away for the rest of 1984, and then returned in ’85 with another home built car, this time a Toyota 1000, where I managed to carry on with a few placings as a yellow top, and finally landed my only Hot Rod win on the greasy shale in mid ’85.  I finally realised that my extremely underfunded car would only ever be any good at somewhere like Wimbledon.  I packed up with Spedeworth and went to Ringwood, 5 minutes from my house, but not at all where my racing dreams wanted to be.

Although I stopped racing Hot Rods for Spedeworth for a time, I always went to as many Wimbledons as possible.  I saw most of the great Hot Rod races along the way, including two of the most memorable things I’ve ever seen in Hot Rod racing – Duffy at his best leading the final by a country mile, and stopping on the pit bend to do a doughnut before carrying on to the flag.  Amazing.  What was even more amazing was the fact that he did the same thing the next meeting, although he nearly got caught out that time.  Superb showmanship, and the stadium erupted.

 

The old place had a makeover in the early 90’s, including a new tarmac race surface.  I was racing Stock Rods by then, and as a Midlands based driver used to join the waiting list to get a booking at a domestic Spedeworth meeting there.  The booking list used to close at 65 cars, and I used to have to wait for a cancellation.  Yes, you read that right.  65 cars for an ‘ordinary’ Stock Rod meeting.  They were a fantastic formula to watch in the 90’s, and Wimbledon was a brutal and exciting place, both to watch and race at, and the stadium crowd was always enthusiastic on a lap of honour.

 

Those days have sadly seen a decline over the last twenty years or so, with both stadium facilities and crowd numbers meaning much of the old atmosphere is not what it was.  But nevertheless, the last couple of meetings I watched there still had a great buzz about them, albeit from a single straight of reduced viewing to watch from.  The start/finish straight had been swapped, and the old impressive glass enclosure on the turnstile side now looked a sad empty shell . . . a sign of things to come.

 

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see the place for its last meeting, and I only decided to go last minute.  It wasn’t like the old Aldershot closing for me, that was entirely different.  That was the home of Spedeworth.  Wimbledon was, for me, the place that shaped my love of Hot Rods, and I am sure did more to form the ‘Big 3’ back in the 70’s than any other track.  I’m glad I went, I would have regretted it if I hadn’t, but I couldn’t stay and see the ceremonial stuff afterwards.  I wanted to remember it as a racetrack, not a building site.

 

I’m not at all sure that Wimbledon passing will be simply ‘just another track closing’, which would be bad enough.  I somehow think that Oval Racing will feel the pain from this for a very long time to come, in much the same way as Coventry will be for BriSCA fans and drivers.  There simply is no replacement, and never will be in Wimbledon’s case.

 

The prospect of someone building a new stadium is hard enough to imagine in the south of England with its over inflated land values, but another covered one within London would be plain fantasy.  Our sport will possibly not recover in terms of appeal to the type of casual celebrity fan or visitor mentioned earlier.  The sport is being squeezed from all directions, and there can never have been a more important time for all parties involved in Stock Car Racing to pull together and ensure its future.

 

The venues are disappearing fast.

 

Farewell is not an appropriate thing to wish Wimbledon, as with what it is going to become, I wish it would fare anything other than well, so I’ll just say;

 

 “So long Plough Lane, it’s been emotional”.   Tim Moody

The mystery of the missing Tigra

 

It’s been one of the better kept secrets of recent times in National Hot Rod racing, but nevertheless, a lot of people are still wondering “What happened to the Matt Simpson//Clive Richardson Tigra?”  As one of the few sworn to secrecy right back to when it left Northern Ireland, it’s now a pleasure to be able to publish the full story in the words of its newest owner, NHR #3 Steve Dudman.


But it’s not as straightforward as you might imagine...


Steve Dudman:  “When Clive Richardson advertised the ex-Simpson car for sale at the end of October last year, I was early into using my current car and I wasn’t at all happy with what I had bought.  So with Colin Smith, we cracked on over across to see Clive and we all did a deal and left with the car.


“We had been made aware by Clive that ‘A number of our current Northern Irish colleagues had hired the car for a meeting’, and that they were not only impressed with the car, funnily enough they were now all themselves going very well with their own cars and set ups...  So we had to accept that the genie was firmly out of the bottle as far as what Matt Simpson had achieved and what we had bought.


“Obviously the weather was on the turn, I resisted using the car at the Best in Britain and so it sat in the Race Shop with Colin looking at it every day and taking all the differences in.

“In January we were at the NEC and Colin and I bumped into our long term friend, racer and Superstar Stuntman Terry Grant, and we all had good craic and watched him perform some amazing car control and stunts. Terry voiced he would love a go again in a National so we said we would wait for some better weather and give him a shout.


“So, with a long range weather forecast giving us dry but cold weather in early February, we made the call to Terry and he took up the offer and met us at both at Arena for the day and we also decided it was now time to try the ex-Simpson car, and Colin just couldn’t wait to get his hands on it and have a go.


“After I had warmed up my #3 car and got myself in the groove, Terry jumped in it and blasted round until his heart was content and then we decided it was time for a bit of excitement for ourselves so I put myself into the ex-303 that we christened ‘Bluebird’!


“Whilst the car was ‘as was’ from Clive with nothing changed or altered, I didn’t fit perfectly, though it was comfortable enough and safe.  As I belted up, I said to Colin, ‘No worries – we won’t try any heroics.’  For a first time in a new car fitted with a sequential box, with power steering, I just needed to be careful and ease a few laps out of it.

“By lap 3, even in the cold, the car was surprisingly lighting up the tyres ready to go so I thought ‘...quality, let it have some more.’


“By lap 10, I was not only getting in the groove, but compared to my #3 car, this was in a class of its own - from handling, brakes, balance, response, and smoothness, it was quicker in and out of corners and I just fell into a rhythm.  I was off, squeezing the trigger hard.


“Then as seems my luck, which has happened a few times with my cars over the years – including Hednesford this year - as I turned into the pit turn at Arena, the throttle jammed wide open and in the split-second you get to react, I wasn’t fast enough and ploughed the car hard into the wall, running round half the corner before I could dig it out and slow up.


“What a mess, I had taken our most prized investment and slammed it into the wall with less than 20 laps done.  And poor Colin, he never got to try it either, he was more gutted about that than the damage!’

“So the damaged Bluebird sat under cover then from February until July with brakes, axles, rims, diffs, gearboxes all being removed, borrowed and replaced, to keep both the #3 and #491 cars on the circuit for the rest of the qualifying year.


“However, after Colin ended up with the front of the #491 car being destroyed at Ipswich in the last qualifier, a spell then with Colin at our own engineering company with both car chassis, saw them both straightened, replaced and repaired, and the cars both needed paint and could be then rebuilt. The #491 was done as it only had days before being needed, Bluebird we only got done a few weeks ago.


“Colin reaching the WF with success, me being ‘robbed’ by 15 points during qualifying rounds due to DNF’s from parts failures despite investment in new gearboxes and new half shafts from a well-known manufacturer meant I ended up on WF day sitting in another part of the pits, soaked to the skin as it turned out!


“The #491 car was then hurt real bad at the Hednesford Nationals last week so all the time is being spent on this repair.  But the Bluebird is painted and ready for reassembly with a new design (as the other cars) on throttle linkages, then we will go on to test where Colin can have first go, and that’s a promise!


“What we have done though over this year is to take the principles out of the Simpson car to convert into the #3 and #491 cars to constantly learn and improve what we have.  Some of these principles have seen us continue to take them further in testing and design and it’s an on-going project with all the top runners probably doing the same. 


“We are a little way from being on the front pace with both cars but we are both enjoying our racing and working at it. We both aim to travel to Ireland and Europe once the new Race Truck is finished.  This will carry both cars, all the kit and all the team and we aim to compete hard - as well have a few beers, be sociable and make more friends in battle...”
With thanks to Steve Dudman.

Runner-up in the 2016 National Hot Rod English points - by just one point, after 14 rounds of racing - #42 Shane Bland tells us what's on his mind right now.

 

Why I race National Hot Rods.
Shane Bland

 

"About three and a half years ago I decided to do something about an itch I had.  It's an itch that all racing drivers have, and it’s terminal.  For 10 years I tried to ignore it but sooner or later it gets the better of you.

 

"I decided to live in dream world and look at the various solutions to that itch, I put no obstacles in the way and thought about every possible solution to the itch.  I set myself no financial or time limits on the various forms of “medication” available.

 

"I thought, GT, BTCC, Ginetta, Clios, the lot.  BTCC seemed the most desirable - but then the thought of driving a very expensive 1980's part sub-framed Hot Rod with the driven wheels at the wrong end put me off a bit.  Then there's the sitting around all day on Friday and Saturday pretending to be a fully paid up professional driver, when in reality you’re fully signed up to a life of financial ruin.

 

"The solution that really made my heart race, palms sweaty and made me feel slightly sick, was National Hot Rods.  The thought of going back into the Lions’ Den filled me with nervous excitement - and a heavy dose of fear. 

 

"A sneaky visit to low key, damp, cold NHR meeting at Hednesford (the first I had been to for 6 years) just made that itch even more itchy . . .

 

"I've been lucky enough to race at all the circuits in the UK in several formulas, and also been involved with most championships.  I can honestly say that nothing comes close to National Hot Rod racing.

 

"Having 20 - 30 ultra competitive cars and drivers racing at such close quarters with that volume of overtaking is simply not available on a circuit.  Paying £10 to race rather than £300, turning up at 10am and going home at 5pm on the same day, prize money the equivalent of 15% of the annual budget (for the English Championship) is unheard of on circuits - that would be like winning £75k for the BTCC!

 

"Regardless of what us drivers say, we do put our heart and soul into NHRs.  We keep going regardless until our heart and soul can't take any more.  At that point we retire, until that itch comes back with such vengeance that we need another remedy.

 

"I'm now at that crossroads again where I have failed to reach my own very high expectations and therefore my heart and soul are in extreme pain.  I'm not sure how much more I can take but I'll worry about that after the World and National Championships . . ."

Shane.

Ballymena Raceway 2015

Track Championship Review

by Colin Adair

Following the last meeting of the season at Ballymena Raceway on October 9 Gary Wilson has been confirmed as the winner of the National Hot Rod Track Championship at Ballymena for 2015.

 

Wilson went into the final meeting with a useful 40 plus points lead over nearest challengers Jaimie McCurdy and Carl Sloan, the only two drivers who could still deprive him of the outright title at the start of proceedings. When both his rivals struck problems during the evening it was a relatively straightforward job for Wilson to gather the necessary points which confirmed his position at the head of the chart on 378 points, with McCurdy runner-up on 339 points and Sloan in third (315 points). The Track Championship carried a first prize of £500, plus trophies for the top three finishers, and these awards were presented to Gary, Jaimie and Carl at the conclusion of the final meeting.

 

The top three finishers all had a 100% attendance record at Ballymena in 2015 and their admirable commitment to compete at all nine fixtures was reflected in their positions at the top of the Stadium Championship. Even more impressive was the finishing record of Gary over the season, with the Harold Johnston Agricultural backed Vauxhall Tigra finishing an incredible 25 of the 27 National Hot Rod races at Ballymena! That was a great effort by Gary and his team in their first full season of National Hot Rod racing and we offer our congratulations to Gary on becoming our Track Champion for 2015. Those consistent finishes definitely proved the difference, whereas Jamie and Carl were unfortunate with mechanical problems at various times during the season.

 

Fourth and fifth places in the table went to Stewart Doak and Adam Hylands. Both Stewart and Adam only missed one meeting all season which is a great credit to them, and there is no doubt these two would have been right in the mix for the overall crown as well had they been able to attend all the rounds.

 

The season saw 23 different National Hot Rod drivers compete at Ballymena with 12 of those drivers enjoying race wins at the venue. The nine meetings produced seven different final winners, with Jaimie McCurdy and Nigel McCauley the couple who recorded two final successes during the campaign. Jaimie also finished joint top of our race winners league with 4 race victories to his credit, a total matched by Andrew Stewart, while McCauley, Glenn Bell and Mark Heatrick all raked up 3 wins apiece.

 

National Hot Rod race winners at Ballymena Raceway during 2015

Date

Event

Heat One

Heat Two

Final

03/04

2015 World Series NI Rd 8

 

669 Andrew Stewart

4 Nigel McCauley

4 Nigel McCauley

24/04

World Series NI Rd 10

369 Tommy Maxwell

994 Keith Martin

369 Tommy Maxwell

22/05

World Series NI Rd 13

998 Simon Kennedy

669 Andrew Stewart

199 Jaimie McCurdy

05/06

Richard Turtle Memorial

54 Adam Hylands

82 Gary Wilson

54 Adam Hylands

17/07

2015 Irish Masters

75 Carl Sloan

962 John Christie

962 John Christie

07/08

2016 World Series NI Rd 1

960 Mark Heatrick

960 Mark Heatrick

960 Mark Heatrick

22/08

World Series NI Rd 3

669 Andrew Stewart

669 Andrew Stewart

4 Nigel McCauley

11/09

World Series NI Rd 4

199 Jaimie McCurdy

199 Jaimie McCurdy

199 Jaimie McCurdy

09/10

World Series NI Rd 6

9 Glenn Bell

9 Glenn Bell

9 Glenn Bell

 

We would like to thank all the National Hot Rod drivers, their teams and families for their support throughout 2015, plus the NHRPA officials for all their hard work and assistance, and we very much look forward to welcoming you all back to Ballymena Raceway once again in 2016.  Colin Adair

 

Ballymena Raceway National Hot Rod Track Championship 2015 – Final Standings

 

Driver

Team / Car

Points

1

82 Gary Wilson

Harold Johnston Agricultural Vauxhall

378

2

199 Jaimie McCurdy

Wilson McCurdy Haulage Vauxhall

339

3

75 Carl Sloan

Torquetronix Vauxhall

315

4

996 Stewart Doak

Cirrus Plastics Vauxhall

312

5

54 Adam Hylands

Colin D Edgar Surfacing Vauxhall

306

6

4 Nigel McCauley

AW McCauley Vehicle Maintenance Vauxhall

303

7

9 Glenn Bell

Bell Building Vauxhall

293

8

76 Adam Maxwell

Maxwell Freight Services Vauxhall

274

9

962 John Christie

Wilkinson Contracts Vauxhall

225

10

994 Keith Martin

PC Paints & Components Vauxhall

221

11

20 Derek Martin

Martin's Costcutter Vauxhall

212

12

960 Mark Heatrick

Heatrick Demolition Mercedes

195

13

940 Gary Woolsey

NW Property Developments Vauxhall

158

14

669 Andrew Stewart

Stewart's Garage Vauxhall

156

15

998 Simon Kennedy

Trevor Falloon Motors Vauxhall

150

16

997 Andrew Murray

TRM Tullymore Road Motors Vauxhall

83

17

943 Davy McKay

Davy's Country Garage Vauxhall

68

=18

369 Tommy Maxwell

Maxwell Freight Services Vauxhall

58

=18

976 Joel Richardson

Clive Richardson Limited Vauxhall

58

20

17 Garry Kelly

GK Quickfit Tyres Opel

50

=21

937 Ben McKee

BMAK Electrical Peugeot

38

=21

966 Thomas Dilly

Dilly Roofing Supplies Mercedes

38

23

950 Wayne Woolsey

NW Property Developments Vauxhall

20

Dudman Re-Group

Steve Dudman has been racing National Hot Rods for decades – up until around fifteen years ago anyway, when he took a step back from our sport.   This Saturday sees him make a big comeback at Ipswich; not on some passing whim but with serious intent shown in the car he’ll be racing and the preparation that has gone into it, and himself.  

 

He’s kept involved behind the scenes with fellow long time campaigner Colin Smith.  We spoke to Steve just after his shakedown test at Arena Essex on Wednesday this week, and started with his friendship with “Smiffy”…

 

Steve revealed “My long standing relationship with Colin Smith started in 1998 when we raced National Hot Rods in South Africa together, and then he ran my ASCAR Team in 2002/3.  He came with me as a team member when I invested in the United States with John Mickel in Craftsman Truck Racing in NASCAR mid-season 2007, and probably very few people know that. 

 

“We had achieved a sponsor for a full season in 2008 from the States but with the recession happening, it all fell over like a pack of cards so we all never had chance to show our potential.  But it was great fun and a lifetime memory; we have some stories to tell for sure…”

 

And how are you involved with him presently?  “I have never lost touch with Colin, his family or Nationals, and our teamwork rekindled last year when I saw him struggling with the BMW at the 2014 World as, when in traffic, the car looked so vulnerable and unstable. 

 

“So we bought the ex-Gary Woolsey Tigra together for him to use, and since then I have invested long and hard with him on that No 1 car to try and turn his luck around.  It has been hard, he has been dealt some hard blows - and some were out of order and went unpunished - but his strength and determination will make him a Champion soon, I am sure of that.”

 

Colin Smith Racing will run both cars – the #3 and #491 Tigras - and Steve and Colin will travel everywhere once they settle into the groove, together.

 

Steve went on:  “Colin also has a great team of people around him in Nick Hill and all the guys and girls that support him, and when racing together, it feels like family to me as we are also very close mates.  I also had two of my own old team come for the ride today in Martin and Gaz, both just dipping their toes to see if the desire and passion is still there to be rekindled also.  We will wait and see, they are older, wiser and with different commitments these days but I remain hopeful.”

 

On to the ex-Andrew Murray Tigra – the No. 2 car for Steve to race, as pictured at Arena:  “I made a point to everyone when we bought it that we were not to touch the car as Norman Woolsey had said they hadn’t touched it for the one meeting they used it with Wayne, and so I wanted to test it, to explore if firstly to see if I could still pedal, and secondly, discover what it was like.”

 

Could Steve still pedal it?  How did the Arena Essex test day go?  “I found the car a softer set up than I remember that I was used to, quite forgiving and fast correction with its handling, a clean strong and responsive engine and a good balance overall.  

 

“I did 10 laps warming the tyres and brakes, stopped for a quick bolt check and then within six laps I was right on the gas as if I had never been away with a mind of steel, ready to go - it may have surprised a few today.”

 

There were a few technical data glitches as Tigra No. 2 has a clever Stack Dash with warning lights that can mean a number of different faults so a few lessons were learnt, with a few more still to learn, no doubt.

 

“We punched in about 100 laps, trying mainly set-ups on brakes, tyres and ironing out faults with a few oil leaks and we are ready to go. Colin also had a blast in the car; he said also it was softer than we ran the No 1 car but found it forgiving also.  But Colin was mainly happy for me to have a relatively stress-free and successful arrival back into the seat today.”

 

Testing done, the real test will be in amongst 30-odd other National Hot Rods this Saturday at Ipswich.  How ready does Steve feel for that?

 

“Testing is one thing; racecraft in amongst 30 cars will be about getting myself in a better shape of physical fitness, sharp awareness, refreshing my thoughts and strategy, and putting a few years of extra experience into the pot.  I’m really looking forward to it, we will have to wait and see!” 

Copyright nationalhotrod.com

Hylands’ Game

To become a National Hot Rod champion, winner of one of the sport’s more prestigious titles, after just a handful of race meetings in the class is pretty good going by anyone’s standards. Let’s face it, we’ve drivers – and very good ones at that – that have raced umpteen times more who have yet to get on our roll of honour.

 

Okay, a very successful few seasons in the class just below, 2.0L Hot Rods, helps, including currently holding their own European and British Championships as well as previously winning the 2.0L National Championship.

 

Adam Hylands, 2015 National Hot Rod European Champion is a young Northern Irishman – a fact that perhaps won’t raise too many eyebrows being as so much great talent has emerged from that corner of the British Isles. Now 24 years of age and hailing from Portadown, his racing career started in the Juniors there; his early ability borne out by taking the Irish Championship in 2006. As soon as he could, he moved up a few ranks into the 2.0L Hot Rods in a home built Vauxhall Nova at 16 followed later by a McClure Saxo. That was around the time when Adam got on board with Jimmy Patton Engines who’s been a big part of setting up pretty much everything.

 

Since then Adam, and Shane Murray have pretty much dominated the 2.0L Hot Rod scene, their rivalry sometimes testing their friendship, but both ultra­ competitive domestically and at international championship events.

 

One of the surprise entries at last year’s National Championship weekend at Hednesford, Adam appeared on the big stage in a car with pedigree. The ex-Simpson/Hardie and now Clive Richardson­ owned Tigra was adorned in Richardson colours ready for his son Joel, but with the #54 numbers for the weekend. “We’ve always been friendly with Clive and have helped Joel so it was great to be offered the drive.” To say Friday practice was successful would be an understatement – Adam scoring the fastest lap of the day! “I like Hednesford, it’s a big open track, very forgiving and the car went well.”

 

Qualifying heats saw Adam achieve eighth row for the big race despite collecting his first official NHRPA black cross en-­route. “In the Championship the car was going well and I got up behind 209 Kym Weaver who ended up third then the yellows came out and the brakes went, that was disappointing as after around 23/24 laps we were good.” The final race of the weekend was the NHRPA title event. “In the last race I was fourth, when a wheel came off!”

 

National Hot Rods had always been an ambition but as Adam admitted “While it was always the goal, something we wanted to do, Nationals were not in the budget. While we were as competitive as we could be in a 2.0L, it never seemed possible.

 

“Then we looked at selling the 2.0L and our sponsors were keen on moving into National Hot Rods. I was looking at second hand cars but, being friendly with Mark Paffey, Deane Wood and Ian Fewings, we met them all at Wimbledon for the Best in Britain. I mentioned I was selling the 2.0L to Billy Bonnar, we all chatted and came up with a deal. That was in November, one month later and we picked up a brand new Tigra!

 

“We did some practice laps with DMC promotions early in 2015 and the car just had problem after problem even though we were second fastest. There were loads of gremlins to sort but that’s what happens with a different class. We knew there was still a lot more in it yet to come.”

 

Good Friday Ballymena saw the new car debuted in anger – albeit from the back of the grid. “I was happy to start at the back and didn’t want to get involved with anyone else’s qualifying campaign. I was just getting used to the car. Unfortunately we had an incident racing in the dark with Adam Maxwell that bent a few bits so we spent the rest of the weekend working on the car to get it ready again for Aghadowey on Easter Monday. With a better grid position I got a heat and final win there after good steady driving.”

 

Next on the fixture list: Lochgelly, Scotland and the European Championship. “The weekend started with a bit of confusion, we got the wrong boat! I took practice steady; while others were running in new tyres, we bedded in brakes and spent all Friday evening going over the car, what’s it doing? And changing lots of things.”

 

Qualifying heats went well for the #54, three consistent finishes netted pole position for the big race under the lights. “Saturday’s heats were good, we were quicker than I expected and not as far away as I’d thought we’d be. The car was so different to the 2.0L round Lochgelly, the power, the grip, the brakes – I’ve had to drive it so smoothly – the 2.0L I can throw around; not the National. The adrenaline you get in the National, the speed, the grip, the power – there’s nothing like a National Hot Rod, the difference in power is incredible.”

 

So how did it feel, coming out for the big race on pole position? “I’ve watched Nationals for 10 or 15 years, all the big names. This was just my third meeting so I’d no expectations. But I have to say I was pinching myself when I saw the crowd at the bottom corner – wow!”

 

“At the green I got going no bother, but later I put the car into third which threw me a bit and Rob McDonald caught me up and I couldn’t shake him off. I realised he had more go than me so I had to make him go the long way around. I realised how close Kewy was and knew if I kept my head there would be the opportunity to let me go. And it was then I got away and could drive my own line. I was a bit surprised how much I got away – Rob had been the only one with the pace.”

 

What’s next for the new European Champion? “I’m going to do as many rounds in the National as I can back home and maybe a couple in the 2.0L too for the craic. But I need to focus on the Tigra and get it as quick as I can. I need to get plenty of experience before round 1 of the new series. It’s quite daunting at home now; the whole Northern Ireland scene is so much more competitive than it used to be and probably even more so than my racing against Shane in the 2.0L Hot Rods.

 

“We’ll be there to win though; all drivers are the same once the green flag drops. It wouldn’t be right to be inviting all the boys round to the garage to work on the car otherwise.

 

“Then I’d love to do the “last­ chance” qualifier for the World Final but the next big challenge is this year’s National Championship at Hednesford.”

 

This year of course, Adam will take his own car to Hednesford. I wondered how the ex­-303 car and his own, new one, compare? “There’s a massive difference, mine seems to have more drive and better handling. But that’s probably more down to the fact that the other was developed by Matt to suit Matt – ours is all for me and it does what I want it to do. The Richardson car I find a little more unpredictable compared to how we’ve set mine up.”

 

And aside from those differences, what about the difference in class between the National and the 2.0L other than those he explained at Lochgelly? “The major difference is cost. Financially the National is a very big challenge and one we’re going to struggle to keep on top of. I’m so grateful to all my sponsors who have got us to where we are now – they include Edgar’s Surfacing, Jimmy Patton, Shock­Tec, J. B. Bentley, Hair Today, Barry Limer, Fleetwise, C. P. Dynes and Derrick Burney.

 

“But I’d really welcome the chance to speak with any other potential sponsors – I can’t stress enough how much we’ll need support going forward.”

 

No National Hot Rod champion is a one ­man band, and Adam is also really thankful to his crew. The #54 team include his Dad Mark Hylands, Jimmy Patton, Derrick Burney (future father­-in-­law!), Mervyn Kerr, Mark Burney and Philip McFarland (brother-­in-­law). “Big thanks to all these lads for their time and effort in the garage, week in, week out. I couldn’t do any of this without them!”

 

Away from the racing, Adam has a real job! He’s a production controller for an aerospace company – J. W. Kane Precision Engineering Ltd – and is engaged to Emma. The couple are planning their wedding for August 2016…when the 2015 European Champion might just have a National Championship to defend, too! So much for the sport’s “Big 4”. Big 5, anyone?

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