What started as a bit of fun 3 years ago with our first go at the British 24hr Pedal Car Championships has become increasing serious as we have fallen in love with the sport, its people and the amazing high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing.
Our first attempt saw us finish a distant 4th, our second a very close 4th, so this time we hoped the experience we had gained in previous years would see us grab a podium position. That said our main ambition was to have some brilliant fun first and foremost with a decent finish being very much the icing on the cake.
With so many interested in taking part this year we entered two teams of six. One comprising predominately of our 4th placed drivers from last year and another a group of very talented endurance racers having a go for their first time.
The pedal cars are recumbent vehicles with bodywork made out of fibreglass and corex. They have independent disc brakes (the ever dependable Avid BB7s) on the rear wheels and 8 gears (60-12 max). Steering is with two levers either side of the seat – non-adjustable for different heights so back padding is needed for the shorter-legged drivers. Wheels are 24” super-tough hand-made wheels with hard wearing Schwalbe Durano and Kojak tyres.
And they shift. A half-decent lap is around 65 seconds at an average speed of over 20mph and you can hit 30mph. You can spin them, flip them upside down and crashes can be very dramatic and painful. As the course is predominantly right-hand bends the outside wheels and tyres get a real battering. At every driver change (30 mins sessions are the most you can manage at full gas) we would check for broken spokes and canvas showing on the tyres. Between the two cars we must have used half-a-dozen tyres and snapped lots of spokes. The most distressed wheel we removed had 9 broken spokes!
The track is Shenington Cart Circuit and it is a great combination of fast straits and tight bends. Getting a good final placing requires slick pitstops, maintaining speed by following a good racing line and not breaking the car – particularly not hitting animate objects and fellow competitors. Drafting is also common place and it isn’t uncommon to see drivers draft each other for their full 30 minute sessions (Andy Watson!).
Words can’t describe the thrill of the racing. It is epic. So fast, furious and relentless. With 34 cars on the track, across a range of categories, there is also the excitement of racing past slower cars whilst on the tail of an evenly matched competitor. Just epic.
Both cars had fantastic races with the final result being 3rd and 4th places for our two cars. With the most experienced team taking 3rd with 1163 laps, 430 miles, at an average speed (including stops) of 17.9mph – just 11 miles ahead of our 4th place car. Also Jamie Willetts in the 3rd placed team set the fastest lap of the whole race at 59.7 seconds.
Well done to both teams and to Wing Racers for taking the win and Apollo for 2nd place. And to young Tom Siepp who won the PC2 age category with his team.
Our participation wouldn’t be possible without extensive support from the Apollo Racing Team and in particular Jes and Chris Featherstone who prepared both cars for us. It is huge credit to both of them, and their commitment to the sport, that they are so willing to create competition for themselves to ensure that the sport they love goes from strength to strength. It is really appreciated guys!
We would also like to thank all the other racers who made us feel so welcome. It really is a friendly sport and one that deserves even greater recognition.
We will definitely be back again next year – older, wiser and more determined! Fancy taking us on and giving pedal car racing a go? You really should. It is so bloody addictive. If you don’t fancy a 24hr race there are lots of other options, visit the Pedal Car Racing website for more info.
Think Dave Powell sums it up the experience really well: “Feeling all four wheels start to drift across the tarmac, inches away from a slightly scared looking scout, sat in his fibre glass coffin with very little control over where his lurching steering would take him next, a grin spread across my face. It may have been a year since I last crammed myself in a pedal car, but it took all of 30 seconds on my first lap to remember what it was all about. Full gas. Flat out on the racing line, scuffing the kerbs and seeking out the tiniest of gaps in traffic, threading the ‘car through them without easing up, even for a second. Squirming under power through the complex, down the straight, listen out for the Team JMC collective cheers racing past the pits (every lap!). Repeat. And then, once tiredness begins to set in after half an hour or so, into the pits, leap (stumble…) out and take up residence in a camping chair in the gazebo, refuelling and cheering the next lucky team racer on. Do that nine times and you’ve got yourself a 24 hour race. (No, really, do that. It’s ace.)”