Editor's Diary
October 2014

When I left you last we were looking forward to VW Action and the European Championship Finals at Santa Pod Raceway, but I think that Kirstie and Simon were a little surprised that I didn't tell you an amusing story from NitrOlympX weekend. When you read it you will probably understand the subconscious omission.

This year we stayed in the centre of Heidelberg and by lucky hap there was a branch of McDonalds next to our hotel. It opened at dawn which made it easy to administer the first dose of Kirsties daily coffee prescription, and in a country which seems to shut up shop early it was a relief to know that should we finish late (guaranteed after the Saturday Night Show) then there would still be somewhere we could eat. McDonald's was next to Heidelberg's main railway station, and out front was a coach stop for cross-country services. During our first visit to McDonalds a coach was obviously due since the stop gradually became quite busy, not least with groups of girls in their late teens or early twenties. We figured that maybe university term was starting but, frankly, with that much pulchritude on display I didnt waste much time formulating an explanation. One group, sitting directly in front of our window, included a girl with jet black hair, dark eyes, fingernails painted black and dark clothing surmounted by a face which although not unpleasant clearly reflected a gloomy mien. This was a girl of Gothic persuasion or one with self-worth issues. Long-faced or not she was beautiful and, having a particular soft spot for ladies with black hair, I pretty much fell in love there and then. The girl was blissfully, or more accurately miserably, unaware that she was being mentally scrutineered but when her coach arrived and she got up she happened to look through the window and right at me. As I caught her eye I gave her a smile then waved mouthing Goodbye, missing you already. In return I got a withering death stare. I have had Paddington-standard hard stares from Kirstie and other nice girls, but this one was a real turn-you-to-stone glare of utter hatred and no mistake. Look at it from the girls point of view: having some miniature, shabby, greying, by no means anorexic, middle-aged stranger, and an English one at that, gurning and waving and for all she knew mouthing obscenities at her was not likely to make her day. Had there not been a pane of toughened glass between the pretty young Goth and I then you would probably be contributing to my tribute page right now. As it was the outside of the glass started to melt.

Had the death stare done for me then I would not have been around for VW Action which has become our traditional pre-European Finals chill-out weekend. No problems with the local farmers' harvesters dropping straw on the track this time around; due to prolonged fine weather the harvest was already in. VW Action was as ever a joyous festival of all things Volkswagen featuring more pretty Germans only with four wheels, not all of which were always on the ground, and without the death stares. The eagerly-awaited Saturday evening session was curtailed by some unfortunate down time but pretty much everything else went to plan including Direct Plastics UK Top Sportsman and the Gasser Circus, both of which the VW crowd appreciated as much as did Kirstie, Julian and I. At time of writing the VW Action UK Top Sportsman round is about to be shown on Motors TV so check out that Electronic Programme Guide and see if you can spot any of us trackside.

Shortly before the European Championship Finals Kirstie, Simon and I met with our late friend and colleague Ed O'Connell's wife Kathy who gave us a handful of Ed's ashes to scatter at Santa Pod Raceway. We decided that the perfect place would be the far end of the track. This was Ed's favourite place to photograph at Santa Pod and whilst there he had struck up a friendship with Angie and her colleagues on the safety crew, who in their own tribute had placed memorial decals on all of Santa Pod's safety vehicles. On the Saturday morning of the race, before qualifying commenced, I happened to mention to Karsten Andersen that we would be scattering some of Ed's ashes at the end of the event and Karsten replied "Bring Ed down to our pit and we'll take him for a ride". Attaching the box to the Andersen Racing Top Fueller took some perseverance because tape and carbon fibre don't have much of an attraction for one another but Karsten, Per and the guys kept at it and Ed was securely strapped to one side of Thomas Nataas' seat ready for his final ride.

What happened next I am sure you all remember; certainly none of the team will ever forget it and, even as I am typing now, tears of happiness are springing in my eyes. In Q3 Thomas took Ed for a fantastic 3.949/316.90 ride, good for a European speed record. A few minutes later my phone lit up with a text message from Karsten Andersen reading "That was one for the books. Thanks Ed", which rendered me helpless for the next half hour or so. Regular readers will know that over the years has had countless reasons to be grateful to Andersen Racing. Whilst I was putting together this Diary Andersen Racing and Thomas Nataas both announced that they were quitting, but we will forever be in debt to Karsten, Per, Thomas and the guys for giving Ed his final ride as well as for all their other kindnesses through the years. Kathy, who was tuned in from New Hampshire and watched Thomas' pass courtesy of the excellent Web TV coverage, described that run as an ambition fulfilled for Ed.
European Championships decided we did it all again for the UK Championships at the UK National Finals (car classes) and the Extreme Performance Bike Weekend (bike classes), both at Santa Pod Raceway. At the UK National Finals I had the inestimable pleasure of commentating alongside Track Announcer Colin Theobald. Colin took the lead and I interjected nerd detail and the occasional joke and ironic comment. Colin is a great fun to work with; he is endlessly enthusiastic and energetic, does a lot of homework and pit-walking to back up what he is saying, and if he has an ego then I can only assume that he leaves it in the boot of his pretty Camaro in the car park since I have never encountered it. At the same time as commentating I was posting the live race reports for our Alamo Rent A Car-sponsored Event Coverage; some of those tuned in to our Webster Race Engineering / Nimbus Motorsport webcast said that they could hear me tapping away on the laptop below the commentary so apologies if it was a distraction. Kirstie and Julian were outside photographing whilst Simon collected pit notes on the Saturday and then on the Sunday calculated the Championship points in real time. Older readers will remember patience, an archaic concept which existed before the Internet Age, but nowadays everyone needs to know everything immediately or, it seems, they will die. I think it's a bit like sharks having to keep moving forwards. Performing Championship calculations on the fly is not a job which I would care to do, not least because of how we would look if I got it wrong - you only have to look at people trying to calculate points under no pressure at all and getting it wrong on Facebook to see what could happen. Luckily Simon is unflappable and unerringly accurate and kept Colin and I apprised throughout the day.

On the Saturday evening of the UK National Finals there was a charity football match between the racers and Santa Pod Raceway / Santa Pod Racers Club staff in memory of Paula Marshall and in aid of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Charity. The football match was a lot of fun. Several substitutions were necessary since so many people wanted to play. There were cheerleaders and a Junior Stig, Colin commentated, and from the back of the small grandstand which SPR had provided someone, I don't know who, was making very witty comments through a megaphone. A lot of money was collected both at the match and in the pits since some of the racers had also come up with fundraising ideas. SPR say that the tie-in with the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Charity is planned to be an annual fixture. Speaking of fixtures the racers won the football match 4-2. Congratulations to all involved.

A few weekends later the bike classes finished their season at the Extreme Performance Bike Weekend. Colin commentated solo on the Saturday but had a commitment elsewhere on the Sunday so I commentated solo that day. Commentating is not as easy as armchair critics like to think and commentating solo is very difficult since you really need someone off whom to bounce - some of the best commentaries are conversations which everyone else hears - and the risk of saying something stupid increases exponentially when you are on your own because there is no-one there to stop you. I fell victim during Junior Drag Bike, describing the handicap on a Sportsman Tree in terms of the number of amber lights which would light in one lane before the Tree started in the other lane, only for a staggered Pro Tree to run as soon as I had finished saying it. I know racers who have never, ever forgotten any race they lost however long ago; the commentator's equivalent is never to forget anything dumb you said. And if you didn't realise then don't worry as people can be remarkably generous about telling you.

One last outing on 25th October for the Flame and Thunder Show, the traditional season closer at Santa Pod Raceway. This event is a real family occasion featuring drag racing demonstrations including a brace of Top Fuellers, jet vehicles including a jet-powered shopping trolley, various stunts in the Live Action Arena, kids' entertainers, all topped off with a huge bonfire and firework display. Again I paired up with Colin for another enjoyable day's commentary. I should also mention Santa Pod's radio station Nitro FM who provide an invaluble service - at events like the Flame and Thunder Show and some of the lifestyle events, with so much happening around the facility as well as on-track, Nitro FM is the glue holding an event together. Oz, Nikki, Julian and the guys do a great job of opening and closing each day as well as jumping in during the day should there be an oildown or any other downtime. They work a fifteen-hour day without seeming to notice it as they are always back fresh and cheerful first thing the next morning.

So that's the European season done for 2014, but please remember that doesn't stop just because the racing has ended. Some of our heroes are racing in the USA, and fans will want to know what their favourite racers have planned for 2015 whether it's a new vehicle or a class change or new paint, so racers reading this should be sure to drop us a line at I know a lot of you have Facebook pages but even if you have 1000 followers is currently entertaining between 8000 and 9000 readers a day. Ask yourself which size of audience your sponsor would prefer.

Finally, I am sure that most if not all of you reading this Diary are aware that there are currently issues around the European Championships and that European drag racing might look somewhat different in 2015. Although I am as worried as everyone else I'm not about to start making grandiloquent statements not least because when I express an opinion in public, even though I am perfectly entitled to do so, I invariably end up being howled at. All I will say is that I hope that it's a good omen that the big meeting between all involved is scheduled for my birthday.

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