World Prematurity Day

OwenAs today is about raising awareness of premature birth, I thought I’d post an update on how Owen is doing. He was born 6 weeks early, and as you can see from the photo, he was quite skinny. I’m pleased to say that over the last 5 months he has been drinking a lot of milk and is putting on weight. We dug out my old baby book, and at 5 months Owen is already heavier than I was at his age – not bad considering he had a lot of catching up to do!

Owen has also been learning lots of new tricks: he got smiling nailed a while back and has been doing a lot of practice! His latest skill is rolling over, he can roll over on to his front and is having a go at crawling, but isn’t quite there yet. He can also sit up in his highchair and joined us at the table for a family meal for the first time yesterday.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the great work of the doctors and nurses who looked after Owen at UCHW. Being born at 34 weeks, he was one of the bigger babies in the special care baby unit, but he still looked tiny compared to full term babies, especially as he was struggling to put on weight. It was hard having to go home each evening, leaving Owen at the hospital, but he was being cared for by the best people. We even managed to pick up some tips from the nursery nurses, which I’m sure helped us when we eventually got Owen home.

Pistonheads Sunday Service at Silverstone

Since Owen was born I haven’t been able to get out in the MR2 much, so when Pistonheads announced another one of their Sunday Service events at Silverstone, I had to go.

Rather than driving straight to Silverstone, a few of us met up between Coventry and Birmingham to drive down together. I’ve joined a few of these convoys previously, but this was much bigger – around 30 cars, ranging from my MR2 all the way up to a Porsche Cayman GT4 and a brace of Italian supercars. We took the scenic route to Silverstone, somehow managing to arrive all together, despite the group splitting up and following different routes. I made a time-lapse of the drive.

At Silverstone I met up with my Dad for breakfast and some tyre kicking, before heading out on track in the MR2. I had driven the National Circuit at Silverstone a few times previously, but I felt like I was faster than before, I expect that this is due to having a few more trackdays under my belt in the MR2. I really enjoyed myself, the driving standard was better than the same event last year, where Jen drove the MR2, and I was surprised to have the track pretty much to myself for the last few laps – perfect.

To finish off a great morning I followed my Dad back to his house – via the cross country route. I has been a long time since we’d both been out together in our sports cars, and driving together through the Cotswolds, with autumn leaves being kicked up by Dad’s Boxster in front of me, was just as enjoyable as convoying with the supercars or taking the MR2 on track earlier that morning. Including driving back to Coventry I did 170 miles in the MR2 and I can’t think of a better way to use 2/3rds of a tank of petrol.

Classic 500

Jen in the 500 To celebrate our first wedding anniversary Jen and I hired this little Fiat, and spent the day pootling around South Warwickshire in it. Jen has got her own modern 500, and both of us love the 1950s classic, so when I found out that Great Escape Classic Cars have one available to hire, a plan was formed.

The 1966 model is a lot harder to drive than the modern version, especially as this one was LHD. Both brakes and steering are unassisted, the 4 speed gearbox didn’t have synchromesh so double clutching was needed. Top speed was 40mph – you wouldn’t want to go any faster!

We both enjoyed our trip in the little 500, it could have been a case of “never meet your heroes”, but it wasn’t at all. Despite the trickiness to drive we would buy one if we had space for another car, even a really small one.

Baby Owen

Baby Owen in his blue hat

Owen Robert Craik was born at 23:27 on the 6th June 2016, he wasn’t due until the 12th July, so he was a bit small (2.59kg). He spent a few weeks under the excellent care of the neonatal team at University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, with lots of visits from Mummy, Daddy and his grandparents.

He’s now at home, being cheeky and causing mischief at every opportunity – I think he will feature a lot on this blog in the future.

Donington Park Track Day

MR2 at Donington Park

After drag racing last month I had my first real track session of 2016 last week at a rainy Donington Par with Circuit Days.

Checking the weather forecast the evening before the track day I knew it was going to be wet, so I dug out the old bottle of RainX from the car cleaning box and applied some to the windscreen. The MR2 had recently been treated to a big service at Rogue Motorsport so that was the extent of my trackday prep.

The weather forecast was right, the track pretty wet to start with, a lot of the race cars stayed in the pits so the speed differential between the MR2, which in my hands is usually the slowest car on track, and the faster cars seemed lower than normal. The lack of power probably helped me to stay out of trouble. As I was on my cool down lap after my first session the red flag came out for a radical which was backwards into the pit wall, right by the pit entry. Possibly the worst place to crash as everyone else has to drive past you on the way in from their cancelled session. Later in the morning I had some instruction, which was especially useful for finding the right line in the wet and telling me where I didn’t need to brake.

In the afternoon the rain stopped and the track dried out, the MR2 was still going really well, and after my instruction I felt like I was going faster than the trackday I did at Donington last year. I was able to lap with other cars too which was fun, notably an Austin A30 race car. Just like last time I was there, about 15 minutes before the end of the day the rain started again, last year I pulled into the pits and went home, but with my new-found confidence from the morning, I pulled into the pits, put the roof up and went out for a few more laps! By this point the track was almost empty, but I spent the remainder of the session lapping with a Caterham, swapping places every few laps, probably the best experience I’ve had on track. The car had been moving under me all day, especially at Redgate and Coppice, but on my penultimate lap I had a bit of a tankslapper coming out of McLeans, fortunately the Caterham was well in front at that point and I managed to keep it on the black stuff – I did catch this on video, so hope to share it with you soon!

I was happy with the 185 miles I clocked up on track, I was doing 15 mins on/15 mins off with no trouble from the car. I had a few people come up to me and say how the MR2 is so underrated. After the last month of drag strip, road trips and a track day I really need to treat the MR2 to a good wash!

Drag Racing

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Since visiting Santa Pod Raceway as child drag racing is something that I wanted to have a go at. With Pistonheads having one of their Sunday Service events at Santa Pod was the perfect opportunity.

Sat in the staging lane amongst BMW M cars, AMGs and other high performance cars I was taking the MR2 up the strip was a bit optimistic, so I was relieved to line up next to a Mazda RX-8. I took my position at the start line, without doing a burnout, revved to 3,000rpm, with my eye on the christmas tree and let the clutch out when the yellow lights went out. Redline in first. Up to second gear. At this point I realised the RX-8 may not have been standard, as it broke traction on its upshift. Redline second. Up to third. RX-8 is well ahead. Up to fourth and across the finish line. Such a rush of adrenaline!

The only thing for it was to drive straight back to the staging lane for another go! This time I was up against a Golf R. I knew I wouldn’t win, but went for it anyway – starting with a big burnout! With my tyres suitably warmed I gave it a few more revs for the launch, but still watched the Golf fly off into the distance, my little MR2 didn’t stand a chance with less than half the power and only two driven wheels. I did learn that fourth wasn’t needed, I crossed the finish line just as I hit the rev limiter in third gear. At this point I still had no idea what my times were – they are displayed at the finish line, but only once you’ve passed, so you can’t see them. I went to the timing hut to get my print out and was pleased to see that both runs were in the 16s bracket, with the second being slightly faster  – along with an improvement on my reaction time.

My next couple of runs were also against turbo four wheel drive cars, an Audi TT Quattro Sport and a Golf R32, but I was getting the hang of it more, except where I was lined up behind the Ford Mustang press car, which did a monstrous burnout, leaving me in a cloud of tyre smoke and I fluffed my burnout – they were still sweeping up the tyre debris from the Mustang. For my fifth run I lined up next to a Saab 95, I must admit that I felt a bit excited, surely my lightweight sports car could out drag a Saab. Talking to the Saab’s driver put a stop to any excitement – he was running 14s. Then I was approached by someone with a VW Eos who wanted to race me – as he was also running 16s and wanted a closer match – brilliant! On the strip I got a much better start than the Saab, but it rapidly caught me and passed me.

Back in the staging lane I lined up next to the Eos, by this time of the day people had started matching themselves with similarly performing cars, so it much have been better to watch from the stands, it meant a bit of car shuffling, but the queue seemed to go down fast, and in next to know time we were called forward to do our burnouts and line up at the start. I knew I’d got a good start. Perfect change to second. Couldn’t see the VW ahead of me. Perfect change to third. Kept the throttle nailed. Still no sign of the Eos. Across the line and saw the yellow light to say that my lane had crossed the line first – an even bigger buzz than the previous runs. The guys in the Eos had enjoyed the close run too. On checking my times this had also been my quickest run – 16.4741s.

Thanks to my Dad for the photo!

2016

Happy new year!

2016 has started quietly, we saw in the new year with our friends in York, then on the way back to Coventry visited some other friends in Sheffield for lunch and a stroll in the park. The weather was rubbish all day, so disappointingly I didn’t get to take a photo for this blog post. Hopefully this isn’t a sign for the rest of 2016.

After a really busy 2015 I don’t really have any firm plans for 2016. Jen and I don’t have any gigs of holidays planned for the first time since 2010. Most unlike us. Some possibilities which have been suggested are hiring a Morgan 3 Wheeler for a day with my Dad, a Scottish mountain biking trip with Ali and I’m sure Jen and I will find ourselves in Croyde at some point. I’m looking forward to finding out what adventures 2016 has in store.

A look back at 2015

Signing the register

©Richard Long 2015

2015 has been a great year – possibly the best yet!

January and February were fairly quiet, I think we were mostly planning the wedding, which was a good move as from March things started getting a lot busier! Starting with my first trackway of the year on the Silverstone National Circuit, then the Leisure Lakes Demo Day at Cannock Chase, where I got to try some expensive bikes. We also went to London to see Frank Turner at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust’s series of gigs – a great gig in an amazing venue, all for a worthy cause.

In April we went on our first road trip of the year – to Scotland in the MR2, also calling in at Scarborough and York on the way home. In May we started the redecoration of our front bedroom, the aim being to have it ready for us to move into after the wedding. We also went to Prescott Hillclimb to see the La Vie en Bleu French themed event.

June and July were both busy, in June I only had one weekend at home for DIY with a day out to Matlock Bath to meet our friends from York, my little brother’s stag do in London, then a weekend mountain biking in Wales, which was allegedly my stag do, but thanks to my best man Partho turned into a Welsh A&E tour. After the madness of Wales with the lads a relaxing long weekend in Croyde with Jen was just what was needed. The next weekend we went to a wedding, then the weekend after I flew to Japan. After a mammoth 42 hour journey home the weekend after and a trackday at Donington Park (which I really should have blogged about) it was already August!

August started with a Segwaying adventure for my friend Richard’s birthday (Richard took the photo at the top of this post). Also in August was Jen’s hen do, I took this opportunity to go mountain biking at the Forest of Dean with Jen’s cousin Richard. At the end of the month we were back up to Scotland for my little brother’s wedding – I was best man, so no pressure there! It was also the first time I got to wear my kilt and good practice for the main event in September!

Of course the highlight of the year was marrying Jen, having all our family and close friends there to share the day with us made it even more special. We are still humbled by all the kind messages and gifts we received from everyone. After the wedding comes the honeymoon – in our case a California road trip, a trip we had been talking about since we first got together in 2010. The trip was all we expected and more – I’ve still got the last few photos to sort out, but will be updating the blog posts in the next few weeks, as they were quickly posted whilst we were there.

Since getting back from California the last few months have flown by, I did another trackday at Silverstone, with Jen driving a session too, actually getting more laps in than I did. I got out on my snowboard a few times, bought a sensible car, spent my birthday weekend in London and completed my 2,015km in 2015 mountain biking challenge. We are going to see out 2015 with our friends in York.

Thanks to everyone who made 2015 such a special year!