27th December 2017, a rather frosty and still morning, was awoken by the sound of a couple of frozen V8s.
Meeting at the one place that unites all V8s, we wait in a petrol station for others to turn up. Being the first to arrive means that there is always one ear in the air listening for that unique ‘thud thud thud’ that signals the approach of another muscle car.
Moments later the 50 Shades of Racing Camaro joins the Bullitt Mustang, shortly followed by a stealthy 64 Ranchero.
A quick hello and merry Christmas greeting exchange later we hit the road to find the final member of our convoy… A raspy E92 M3.
Setting a slow pace to allow the thirstier cars amongst us a chance to get there and back on a single tank of fuel, we cruise on to Rockingham and sail through the gates to be welcomed by a flurry of activity as a sea of drift cars prepare themselves for the sideways onslaught of the day. That’s not why we were there however, so after getting some directions we made our way through to the car park to find out a little more about the advertised ‘sprint’ course that had been put on.
Climbing the stairs of the gantry for a look around, we see a selection of cones and barrels laid out on the oval circuit. This looked promising. Keen to get stuck in, as it was rather cold out still, everyone got signed on and fired the cars up to take them round to the course.
What greeted us, was a completely EMPTY track!
Pulling up at the start of the course a rather happy marshal shows us the route and let’s us walk the course. Moments later another marshal appears with some timing gear and as there were only a few cars in attendance so far, let us loose for a sighting lap. Brilliant. A couple of laps later we pull up at the start line all rather excited.
I must say, the marshals were fantastic, great guys and we had a good laugh with them… Especially when the Bullitt Mustang started up a ‘style points’ leader board with a rather flamboyant lap.
So the laps…
First to take to the track was the Stealth Potato Ranchero. Tom being a competitive sod got stuck in and was working the boat wheel hard and he weaved in and out of the cones, kicked the back end out a little round the figure of eight and put his foot through the floor, hoping to god the brakes would work for the box stop. He certainly had the stop to sprint finish dialled in, as you will usually find Tom only racing in straight lines. Each lap got progressively better ending with a 23.6 second time.
Next up was the turn of the Bullitt Mustang.
Armed with spare wheels and tyres, tools for changing them (which included a trolley jack) it was decided to leave all that in the boot and just head out to attack the course… Yup.
Maximum effort straight out the gate the Bullitt takes off weaving at pace through the cones, upon arriving at the figure of eight barrels, under steer was stopping progress whilst going round the top. A quick clutch kick soon saw that disappear as the back end came flying round… A bit too far round actually. Deciding to style it out Adam keeps his foot in for a full smokey pirouette to complete the barrels and slam the anchors on in the stop box. Full power was then deployed for a rolling burnout finish.
To make that first lap even more exciting was the fact that the trolley jack decided to start flying round the back of the car and making sounds like it was trying to punch its way out the rear quarters of the car. It’s safe to say that the boot was briskly emptied after that lap, pouring the contents straight in to the back of the Ranchero… Always handy having a pickup truck around.
The following laps from the supercharged Bullitt were a little more controlled but still contained a lot of flair, netting a best time of 22.69 seconds, pipping Tom to the top of the leader board… Out of two entries so far.
With the M3 deciding to take a back seat due to a rather odd miss fire issue, this left things to Andy in the Conemaro. I mean Camaro…
What followed next were some eventful laps. The big wallowy yank tank, despite having the Z28 badge on the side, was not cut out for autocross and certainly looked to be more at home hustling some shake & bake round the oval.
However, with the looking good and sounding great boxes ticked, it set off through the course. Going seriously wide on the top end and barely coming to a stop (we don’t think it stopped at all really) in the stop box, a foot stomp finish saw the Camaro complete it’s first lap.
After a quick chat with the marshals for advice on how close he was getting to the cones (not very), the third lap began with a lot more aggression. 5.7 litres of Chevrolet performance propel Big Red off to a flying start. So aggressively in fact (that’s his excuse anyway) that parts came flying off the car. What happened next cannot be attributed to this incident in anyway shape or form though and the Camaro decides to take a chunk out of the course and eat a cone. Forever more being dubbed as the Conemaro.
Retiring there, the Conemaro netted a best time of 25.2 seconds.
It was absolutely fantastic getting stuck in to something a bit different and the guys at Rockingham were fantastic, we are really looking forward to more events at this venue and strangely everyone has started looking in to quick steering racks and suspension setups for their cars all of a sudden.
Grabbing another coffee, we wander over to the full race track where another couple of friends were heading out for some roundy roundy track time in their Cobra.
It was still bloody cold out and the track was very slippy. Seeing the Cobra come past us, just trying to get round a long open corner it kept stepping out and looked like a right handful. Throwing up a Mexican wave for them the next time they passed it looked as if Johnny was getting to grips wrestling the snake on the track. Unfortunately the third lap didn’t work out quite so well, as after a gentle overtake the Cobra snapped sideways and in a blink of an eye it was sliding off in to the gravel backwards. Everyone was OK as is the car, it will live to fight another day.
The late arrival of James in his HSV meant it was time for lots of peer pressure and a brisk sign up to the autocross.
Pulling the car on to the track just as a rather nippy MG finishes off some astonishing laps of the course, James takes to the wheel for a sighting lap.
Confident he knows where to go and what to do, pedal is put to the metal for the first lap. A surprisingly tame approach was taken which produced some relatively tame times… The last lap however was all about the style points as a huge Australian style burnout was ripped at the top end for a nice power slide through the figure of eight then lining up for the stop box rolling burnout finish. Redemption was had for style at the end, but this did not help the times.
Overall it was an absolutely cracking day, we will certainly be back in 2017 for more, potentially with some better prepared cars too!
Big thanks to all the guys at Rockingham and a special thanks to the marshals running the sprint.
Ralph Bates – Octane Riot