On the road with... Simon Arron

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Charity begins close to home
Barking, December 7: Johnny Herbert celebrates 20 years of raising money for worthwhile causes

Several miles east of London’s hub, just beyond a crest, the posted limit on the A13 drops from 50mph to 40… and there are two sets of average speed cameras just metres apart. Mistime your braking by a second or so and you might well get a ticket. I’m all for reducing road accidents, but such set-ups owe little to safety and everything to attempted extortion.

On this particular Sunday morning, a superior manifestation of the human spirit could be found just a few minutes away, at Capital Karts in Barking. Here, about six miles from his native Romford, Johnny Herbert was hosting his annual charity kart challenge for the 20th time. In 2014 the chief beneficiary was the Halow Project, which specialises in creating opportunities for those with learning disabilities. When I arrived, Herbert was ferreting through his kit bag. “I’m just checking to see whether my overalls have been washed in the past 12 months,” he said. “Also, I’m hoping I haven’t repeated last year’s trick of bringing two left-handed gloves…”

This is the longest indoor circuit in the UK, at 1050 metres, and a quickish lap takes about 70 seconds.

Compacting such a track into a relatively small space involves a degree of compromise, so the circuit is inevitably narrow – in places barely two karts wide – and also very bumpy. A little persuasive nudging was unavoidable, but race officials accepted as much and the three-hour enduro was sensibly administered.

I was assigned to the Halow Flyers, a team comprising sports car racers Duncan Tappy and Alex Brundle, Cris Pirro (son of serial Le Mans winner Emanuele), stunt driver Salvo Cachia and, supposedly, Damon Hill. The latter had aggravated a back injury, however, which was his own stupid fault for playing golf: he was thus assigned to other duties, such as hanging out the pit board and drinking endless cups of tea.

“Damon and I started in cars at about the same time,” Herbert said, “and we came through the sport together and achieved what we achieved – although he of course won a world championship. Bastard…”

Victory went to BT Motorsport (Bobby Thompson, Danny Wood, Reece Wade, Tom Jackson, Laura Tillett and Connor Wade), with solo racer Howard Kayman taking second. Herbert and Johnny Mowlem finished third, abetted by Tiffany Chittenden, Tamsin Germain, Will Shaw and Connor Mills.

“The event has come a long way in 20 years,” Herbert said, “and [organiser] Roy Craig has played a significant part in that. It began as a nice relaxing day out, but has evolved into one of the most competitive things I’ve ever done. It has raised a lot of money, though, which is the main thing.”

In this instance, the tally was more than £36,000.

We finished somewhere in the middle, along with two Kartforce teams featuring injured service troops – double amputees, in some instances – who have used motor sport as part of their rehabilitation. Karting provides a level playing field and the project’s ultimate goal is to build towards an entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

A fruitful day, then, but also a source of significant inspiration.

A mantra for all seasons
Mallory Park, December 26: a popular tradition revived… in the inevitable slipstream of a fried breakfast

Daylight was some way distant, but radio reports already confirmed queues of shoppers outside department stores on London’s Oxford Street. Boxing Day traditions have changed in recent decades: there was a time when you’d have to wait until about December 29 before shops would re-open and you could venture out to spend the record tokens accumulated as Christmas gifts. You had time to plan your acquisition strategy and the anticipation was delicious, a vastly superior alternative to mindless spending.

There are many acceptable things to do on Boxing Day – but rushing out to buy a dishwasher is not among them: settling down to watch a Bond movie with family, friends and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is fine, ditto attending a football match (preferably non-league)… or setting co-ordinates for Mallory Park.

It is 60 years since Brands Hatch pioneered the concept of Christmas race meetings – and Mallory has upheld the tradition in recent times. Its annual Plum Pudding fixture (something of a modern rarity, in that it combines four wheels with two) slipped from the schedule in 2013 while a new management team was in the process of adopting a temporarily closed circuit, but it was rapidly reprieved – and represented only the second time all year that cars had raced at the 1.3-mile track (although a full calendar is in place for 2015).

It was still quite dark when I arrived, although the paddock was ripe with chat (bikers discussing sets of racing wheels they’d just acquired from eBay) and the café cast a narrow, welcoming shaft of light through the gloom. Its fried breakfasts would arguably be a match for any fare served in the UK over the Christmas period. Only later did I learn this was to be the final meeting for the wonderful catering team, which has retired as a collective after being a staple for as long as I can remember. Had I known at the time, I’d have popped back to pay due tribute: the end of an era and a very tough act to follow.

The planned sidecar events had to be canned due to a shortage of entries, but eight races survived: four for bikes and two apiece for sports cars and saloons. And compared with the contemporary club racing norm, the crowd was substantial.

Given the meeting’s nature (the circuit layout had to be altered from time to time to accommodate the bikes, with two chicanes implemented) and the shortage of daylight (practice wasn’t scheduled to start until 9.30am), smooth operations are ever essential. There was plenty of scope for chaos, with significant speed differentials (everything from a Radical SR3 to a Riley Brooklands in the sports car race) and grids determined by random methodology, but the whole thing was a paragon of slick efficiency. Andy Thompson (Seat Toledo) won both saloon races, while Rob Spencer (Locost) and Ray Rowan (Porsche 911 GT3) took one victory apiece in the sports car events.

There was even time for a lunch break – unusual in this day and age, as many a weary marshal will testify – but by then necessity dictated contemplation of an early departure. During the morning I’d noticed some strange spots and swirls in my camera’s viewfinder and it took several minutes to establish that the problem had more to do with Arron than Pentax. I stayed as long as I could, but with left-side vision deteriorating it seemed wise to head to London’s Moorfields for analysis (some kind of haemorrhaged blood vessel, apparently, but it should repair of its own free will).

Even through one eye, though, the Plum Pudding meeting had been a constant delight – a throwback to a time before rigid structures, when taking part was all that mattered.