What started as a bit of fun 4 years ago with our first go at the British 24hr Pedal Car Championships has become increasing serious and we have fallen in love with the sport and the amazing high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing.
Despite the fact we have had some decent results in our three previous races our ambition is always to have fun, give it everything and to try and avoid breaking the car. This last one is critical as a major repair can take a considerable amount of time to repair.
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 in normal conditions) we check for broken spokes and canvas showing on the tyres.
The track is Shenington Cart Circuit and it is a great combination of fast straights and tight bends. Getting a good final placing requires slick pit stops, 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.
Words can’t describe the thrill of the racing. It is epic. So fast, furious and relentless. With almost 40 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.
Our team this year consisted of four experienced pedal car racers Budge, Rich Seipp, Jamie Willetts and Andrew Watson, plus first timers Andrew Williamson and Andy’s 18-year-old son Patrick Watson. So just a 36 year age gap between our youngest and oldest drivers!
Our practice sessions went well (just two damaged wheels and a couple of apologies) and we quickly managed to get everyone setup in the car and out for practice laps to learn the circuit and master the controls. The driving position (almost lying down) takes some getting used to, as does pedalling smoothly without moving the steering controls at the same time causing you to wobble down the straights. The brakes are almost irrelevant, apart from avoiding an accident or stopping at the end of your session, as all the corners on the circuit can be taken at full tilt especially if you get your lines right. Get them wrong though and the car can spin or slide. Clip the rumble strips or another car and you can launch it into the air or upside down.
The race was our most challenging yet due to the temperatures – our plan of doing 30 minute sessions each (as in previous years) was abandoned before the race started as anything over 20 minutes left us gasping for water – it gets really hot inside the closed cockpits and over the course of 24 hours it is an increasingly unpleasant place to spend some time.
The race was also challenging with mechanical issues that cost us a good few laps. We replaced 6 worn-out tyres (many with numerous broken spokes) and we also suffered with a gear shifter cable outer and a snapped chain that both needed longer periods of attention. But that’s racing! Things break and every team had issues at some point so it wouldn’t have made a difference to our overall 5th placing.
Wing Racers were yet again the class act and won for the fourth consecutive time and with a new event distance record. Our sister Apollo cars came 2nd and 4th. Well done all!
Also well done to 13 year old Tom Seipp 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 Featherstone who prepared our car for us. It is huge credit to him and his teammates, 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 always make us feel so welcome and apologise for any incidents caused by our relative lack of experience or over-exuberant driving.
We will definitely be back again next year! Fancy taking us on and giving pedal car racing a go? You really should. It is 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. It really is a friendly sport and one that deserves even greater recognition.