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Scalextric night - 27 November 2019

Scalextric CivicBMW

Wacky races comes to Kibblesworth

The last Wednesday evening in November saw the 2019 Superstars Championship draw to a close with the final round arriving in true motorsport style: grown men trying to race each other with small electric cars. I wonder how many men over the years have raced their friends, sons and fathers this way, and probably argued over the various advantages and disadvantages that each would attribute to their final result. Probably very many indeed.

The 27th of November was little different this year, as the race took the form of a knockout competition, laced with an element of timing, in Peter's inimitable way. With eight drivers vying for the title of best racer on the night, the vagaries of technology would prove to be particularly challenging during the event, not always in the way it might have been expected. Controllers that would not respond as they should, cars that stopped or stuttered midway, together with a number of race restarts would mean the event was more Wacky Races than F1 Grands Prix!

The atmosphere was all pretty relaxed, however, as each racer took it in turn to try their best, despite the often frustrating lack of response from the equipment, but then anyone who has had a Scalextric knows that tracks don't always connect properly, and the wee cars don't always behave as they should as their brushes and tyres wear out. Competition was as fierce as could be expected, and many opinions were espoused as to the suitability of the respective vehicles, all in the best of humour, and as each driver was eliminated, the expectations rose accordingly as to who would be the final victor.

Ultimately, it did of course come down to the final race, and so it was that Ewan emerged victorious:

1 Ewan
2 David

3 Peter

4 Gary

5 Brian

6 Phil

7 Alastair

8 Matthew

A nice win for Ewan to round off the Championship year, although his points haul didn't quite allow him to finish above dad Lee in the Superstars Championship, but then there is always next year, which starts next week on the 4th December. A good second place for David, bringing him his first points of the year and perhaps giving him some enthusiasm for the 2020 season. Peter's third place was some consolation with him at least getting into and winning the semi-final.

Many thanks to Peter for bringing the Scalextric along, although I suspect that there may need to be a bit of scheduled servicing between this and the next event if there are not to be some protests next time. Final points in the Championship to all who took part, and many thanks to everyone who has competed in 2019, we certainly appreciate how well this year's Superstars Championship has been attended, with 30 events having been organised over the past 12 months.

Next week: the first event of the 2020 Superstars Championship: Guy's quiz. Who knows who will be topping the new leader board on Thursday morning?

Cyndi Lauper's legacy - 20 November 2019

2017 Stopwatch

One Thousand, Two Thousand, Three Thousand, Four.

They say (whoever they are) that there are some things that you can never take back: spoken words and Time being just two of them. We all know that there are 60 seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. That makes 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in a day. For most of us, having lived a good few years, it should be a simple thing to know just how long a second is and so counting time should be very simple.

The reality, of course, is rarely as close to the perception, as time is a very strange master; if you have to wait for a minute or two for something to happen, like watching a kettle boil, it seems to take forever, whilst if you only have a couple of minutes to get something done, it is just never enough time. For many at Kibblesworth Workmens Club on the night of the 20th November 2019 what they thought was a set period of time would prove to be nothing of the sort.

The challenge was just about as simple as could be: start a stopwatch, count a specific number of seconds, then stop the watch and see how close you were to the required time. Somebody with good appreciation of time should be very close, whilst others with no real concept of elapsed time would be dreadful. There were a couple of the former, a few of the latter on show tonight, and as Cyndi Lauper sang, "You say to go slow but I fall behind, time after time".

The times required were actually 52 seconds, 73 seconds and 93 seconds. First to go was Karl, setting his 52second mark a little long, as was his 73 second time before coming back with 96.5seconds time to record a total of 24 seconds adrift. Gary was next, his timing much closer although his first time let him down at 6 seconds short, before coming back strongly at his second attempt before absolutely nailing his third attempt at exactly 93 seconds! Gary remarked at how his heartbeat must have been on exactly 60bpm as he had used that to pace himself - he was obviously not that excited by the event or he would have been wildly out!

Gary was followed by Phil, who just edged the former out with a very consistent combined total of 4.5 seconds over the three periods to set himself up as the target to beat. Matthew followed Phil and must have been on totally relaxed mode as his times were so much slower that his heartbeat must have been on Reggae time. Alastair was next to try his hand and although he was closer than Matthew, he was still a long way off on his first two runs although he came back strongly at his third attempt. Mac was next, his initial time close, his second time woeful but his third time much better to record a total difference of 34 seconds.

Brian, of course, is the ultimate competitor: always intensely competitive but scrupulously fair as well. This time he was close, but not near enough to Phil or Gary to challenge them, and with an eleven second distance to the optimum, was looking at a lowly finishing position this time. Guy was next to the chair, his times all around seven seconds adrift of the optimum, all longer than expected.

Tosh was next to try his hand, and started off with a very good first time of 51.5 seconds, followed by an equally impressive 72 seconds, making Guy think that this was going to be the winning time. All he had to do was nail the third time like Gary had done and the win was his, however as Tosh later admitted, something had knocked his concentration and he recorded a time four seconds of the premium, giving him a total deviation of 5.5 seconds to place him provisionally second.

Peter was next to the fore, tapping his leg in a regular, metronomic rhythm as he attempted to steal the victory from the current leader. Unfortunately, it looked like Peter's skills lay more in the tone and tune rather than the time and tempo, with his variation being recorded at 12 seconds overall.

Last to go was Colin Fish; a 'polite' entry as he had not been to the club for many a meeting, but as all who know Colin would attest, he has always been a somewhat willing competitor for any event. Despite thinking that the times set were far too long and in danger of making a man bored whilst waiting, his results showed that he had lost none of his competitive edge over the years with his cumulative time only 9.5 seconds off the target.

So final results, after all the associated calculations had bene made and penalties accumulated, were as follows:

1 Phil 4.5s 52.5+72+96
2 Tosh 5.5s
3 Gary 7s
4 Colin 9.5s
5 Brian 11.5s
6 Peter 12s
7 Guy 21.5s
8 Karl 24s
9 Mac 34s
10 Alastair 37.5s
11 Matthew 49s

A Superb win for Phil, taking the victory by the smallest of margins at only one second from Tosh, who only faltered at the last round having looked to be very much on the cards to snatch the victory; A great third place for Gary, only 1.5 seconds behind after a total of 218 seconds of counting - a factor of only 0.6% - a quite amazing degree of accuracy!

Many thanks to Tosh for putting the event on and bringing the equipment, it is a lovely little event that really takes very little organising, just a wee bit of time and effort, a stopwatch and a black bag. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, a great win for the Chairman of the Club although he was chased to the line and only just held on to the win!

Next week: the Kinetic Car Race - the result never a foregone conclusion, an event that is always prone to the vagaries of physics, environment and human intervention. You really do need to be there, if only to try to prove that now Jose Mourinho has relinquished his crown, you can now really be 'The Chosen One'....

Guy's Nocturnal Navigations - 6 November 2019

191106 Navigational Event

It's a numbers game...

One of the best things about being in Whickham and District Motor Club is the opportunity to take part in the various competitive events that are held every Wednesday evening, and the night of the 6th of November 2019 was a case in point when Guy Wickham hosted his November Navigational Event, a wonderfully simple yet thought-provoking challenge that had each crew thinking more carefully about exactly where they would be going than they might have thought before they arrived.

It's fair to say that over the past couple of years the format of Wednesday night events has subtly changed from the old ways of doing things. Gone are the hours long TableTop challenges, the massive Telephone Rally routes and the 50-mile Navigational events, all to be replaced with smaller, shorter, more concise events that are still just as competitive as before yet without being too time-consuming and taking up all the evening. The new format has been welcomed by all and is a great improvement on the old ways and also helps organisers to put an event on without the hours of preparation that used to be commensurate with the task.

Guy's event this evening was a superb little challenge and one that contained all the elements required for a successful and enjoyable night out in the car. There was no real time element other than a pretty generous 90 minute overall limit, meaning those that are known to be fastest to plot would not automatically win with their speed, and those that plotted slower would not need to tear round the countryside in order to collect their 'treasures' by way of code boards. Maps were provided, as were disposable roamers and a very clear set of instructions.

The format was simple: plot ten controls, three in each group of A, B and C plus one compulsory stop. Visit one control from each group plus the compulsory stop, record the code boards and return to the club. Oh, and your mileage would be checked by way of your trip and milometer to avoid any semblance of doubt. Winners would be those who completed the route in the shortest possible distance.

Plotting instructions were clear and unambiguous, the provided map was clear and of good quality and the room was fairly quiet as the various crews decided which route to take to achieve their aim of using the shortest route and coming home the winners. It all seemed very straightforward and off each crew went into the night whilst Guy awaited their return some time later.

However, in typical fashion, things rarely go according to plan. As the crews set off from the club, they were to find that the reality of the driven route was not exactly in line with their intended path. Firstly, the compulsory code board was nowhere to be seen at the plotted location, and as Tosh and Brian arrived on site they were to find Peter wandering along the road, waving his torch around the hedges and verges rather like a somewhat drunken party reveller trying to find his way home from a thoroughly good evening out. The truth of the matter was that the board was nowhere to be seen, and after five or ten fruitless minutes of searching, Peter took a photograph of Tosh, standing by the footpath sign, just as confirmation that both had been at the correct location.

As if that were not enough, next problem proved to be the road passing Birkheads Secret Gardens had been closed to traffic at Hedley Hall Farm, severely messing up some of the competitors' planned route and causing a significant detour. Not that Matthew or Peter noticed the huge red and yellow warning signs as they blithely turned into the junction, only to find their route blocked off. Having back-tracked, they were later immediately behind Tosh and Brian just as they all arrived at the foot of Fellside Road to discover the Police putting out traffic cones and closing the road at that exact moment, causing both crews to re-evaluate their options for the 'C Group' code board. Peter and Matthew decided to head off for a different board, whilst Tosh and Brian just turned round and thought very carefully about how to thwart the Police Road Block and still get to the location of the now blocked off and therefore inaccessible code board. This was the sort of challenge they both relished, and so it was a combination of a Rallying Hi-Vis vest and some deft footwork by the senior Townsend, (plus a high degree of self-preservation type hedge-hopping as cars continued to arrive from Whickham Southbound at speed) which resulted in success for the Tanfield Lea crew.

Typically, Brian had been taking the 'racing line' through every single bend on the route, on the basis that if he did it enough times the saving could potentially add up to a tenth of a mile, which could of course be the difference between winning and coming second - or as Brian calls it - first loser. Whilst their faithful little Fiat Panda might not have had much of a racing heritage, it certainly did the job admirably whilst keeping both occupants clean, dry and warm whilst on a rainy, wet event. What more could they have asked for?

As each crew returned to the Club their mileages were verified, their answer sheets checked and Guy sat down to work out the results.

1 Tosh and Brian 12.6 miles
2 Peter and Matthew
17.1 miles
3 Jimmy and Alastair
19.4 miles

A great win for Tosh and Brian, coming home in a fantastically short distance by virtue of spending the time during plotting by really checking all available options whilst they could, in the warmth and dry comfort of the club. It is of course highly doubtful that Brian had really managed to save over four and a half miles by taking the 'racing line', but then it was always worthwhile trying. A good second place for Peter and Matthew, who unfortunately suffered from the inevitable extra mileage caused by a combination of missing the very obvious Road Closed signs at Birkheads and the subsequent road closure due to the result of some unskilled driver who managed to post his vehicle into the hedge just past Byermoor Farm on Fellside Road (which isn't a particularly bad bend if you know how to control a vehicle).

C'est la vie as the French would undoubtedly say.

Many thanks to Guy for putting the event on, it takes a lot of effort to organise an event such as this, even a small one, and all his efforts are very much appreciated by all of us who take part. Points in the Sporting Championship to all competitors and some very valuable ones earned tonight.

Next week: a truly brilliant slide show presentation by Bob Debell about the Mille Miglia with a quiz, raffle and buffet. Bob describes the event thus: "The event was the Mille Miglia Historic Rally which I spectated on in 2013 and 2014 having driven from Wetherby in my 1997 Alfa Romeo Spider. I followed the event from Brescia to the Futa Pass, over a period of 3 Days. The event is a regularity event over Special Tests set at an average speed of 30 mph.
The event is for cars dating from 1927 to 1957."

Bob joined Whickham & DMC in 1967 and was Club Chairman in 1968-70. At that time he drove a Sunbeam Rapier, a Riley 1.5 and a mini in club and restricted rallies. He also navigated for other club members in restricted rallies. Later he navigated for Coventry Motor Club members on Nationals and is currently Co-Chairman of Wetherby Classic Car Club.

The event looks to be a superb evening, and one to definitely attend. We look forward to seeing you all there on the night.

All tight at the wheel change - 30 October 2019

160907 Brace Spin

Four wheels on my wagon...

The good thing about a competition is that it can still take place when there are not that many competitors; nobody ever said that boxing, for example, was any less competitive for only having two fighters than say a Motocross event with 100 riders. The competition is in the will to beat the other participants and come out on top.

The last Wednesday of October 2019 was a good example, as whilst there may have been a quadripartite of competitors on the night, the competition amongst the top 75 percent was as intense as it ever is, with no more than just a few bare seconds separating the top three.

Fingers were flexed, minds were set and lungs were steadied as each member prepared themselves for the event, each one wanting to be the quickest, each one keen to beat that magic minute, to be the one that cracked the 59 second figure. Would it be tonight?

Alas, even with the quality of talent on display this evening, it wouldn't. Results showed that perhaps the cold was affecting fingers, maybe the nuts were sticking just a little more than was hoped, or maybe it was just not the time and place.

1 Lee 1m 03.15s
2 Brian
1m 05.13s
3 Phil
1m 06.39s
4 Matthew
2m 23.43s

A good win for Lee, showing once again he has a skill with a wheel brace that would put many a McLaren Wheelman to shame if the Mexican Grand Prix was anything to go by. A superb second place for Brian, less than two seconds behind and showing once again that he is in the frame when it comes to catching the senior Tindall. A great third place for Phil, just over a second behind Brian but gaining good points in the championship along the way. Not the best night for Matthew in one way, but very good for him in another as it was not only his best result this year but he also scored a healthy six points more than anyone who didn't take part!

Many thanks to Phil and Gary for bringing along the rig on the night, points in the Championship to all competitors and whilst no positions change that's not to say tonight's event won't have an effect on the overall championship results.

Next week: The Navigational Event: one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year and a chance to put all those skills learned from Table Top and Telephone Rallies to good use, and tax your brains at the same time. Don't forget to register your interest and we look forward to seeing you on the night.

Matthew's Manic Motor Mania - 23 October 2019

1910 RC Autotest

Left Hand Down a Bit...

There are of course, many and varied postulations on the reasons behind the quite significant difference in abilities when it comes to controlling machines via hand held controls. In most instances it is very much a generational thing, with the older members of society managing less well than those younger than themselves, who seem to have an uncanny affinity with the controller that makes everything look so much more fluid and easy.

Wednesday the 23rd October was a case in point, as Matthew and Brian set up the Radio Controlled Autotest upstairs at Kibblesworth Workmens Club, with five garages, four gates and a roundabout to navigate in the shortest possible time, whilst maintaining a clean sheet by not hitting any of the 40 bollards strategically placed around the route. Each garage was tight enough to test the finer motor control of the 'driver', with barely a few centimetres of clearance each side of the Fiesta WRC Rally Car that each competitor had to thread carefully around the circuit with as much finesse as each could muster.

For some, it looked very much like a walk in the park, whilst for others, it became a much more considered, carefully thought out and calculated exercise in analysing the effects of what would happen with each slight movement of the hand controller. For those who have grown up with such devices, it was almost second nature, and very evident as they flicked the wee electric car around the floor with ease and a smoothness that was a joy to watch, whilst for those who didn't have that muscle memory or innate understanding of what each movement would do, it was not an altogether painless thing to watch.

Phil went first, easily sliding the Fiesta around the floor and slotting it into and out of garages with ease, cleanly recording a time of 1m 24.09 seconds to set the initial target time. He was followed by Ewan, who seemed to be flying although one or two slight errors resulted in his time of 1m 27.26 dropping him behind the Chairman. Gary then stepped up to the start, his previous two wins fresh in his mind, obviously going for his hat-trick and looking very confident indeed as he flicked the little Ford around the floor, spinning it on its axis and sliding it back and forwards with such beautifully deft movements it seemed he would be once again on top.

Karl, however, had other ideas, and as he set off from the start it was immediately clear that Gary had serious competition, Karl flinging Dagenham's finest product across the floor with gay abandon, spinning the tyres from forward to reverse without hesitation and storming through the course in an unbelievable 58.92 seconds. All had been clear so far, and Karl was heard to say this could be the night that everyone drove a clean race and maybe nobody would hit even a single bollard.

Tosh, however, stopped Karl short at that juncture, pointing out that he himself hadn't tried yet, and so Karl's optimism may well be a little unfounded. His words were to be quite prophetic, as sadly, he clipped an edge cone as he entered the first garage. This was not to be that clean night. It was also obvious that Tosh was not one of those lucky souls that had grown up with a controller in his hands, as he very obviously struggled to understand the intricacies of the thumb controls, not finding them intuitive in the least. His final time was no disgrace, although with one fail he was at the bottom of the leader board with a time of 2m 48.34 seconds.

Matthew thought it time to take his turn, and showed he was much more familiar with the controller, guiding the colourful Fiesta around the floor with an effortless efficiency that showed he didn't need to think about the results of the actions of each thumb, cleanly finishing in a very good time of 1m 26.06 seconds to place him squarely between Ewan and Phil.

However, the real challenge of the night was yet to come: Peter and Guy have always had a very healthy rivalry, and tonight would be no exception: arriving full of enthusiasm and good nature, Peter was first to try his hand and everyone stood back to witness what was to become a fabulous spectacle. He started well, although as he careered into the first garage at unabated speed, it suggested his manual dexterity may possibly not be up there with Karl et al. From the first garage Peter went for the end gates, four in total, two in, two out, and something that could be done in little more than a few seconds for those who are of expert ability, this was going to take a little longer. And take a little longer it did. And a little longer still, as Peter stood backwards, forwards and sideways, cocking his head at an angle and staring at the recalcitrant controller with an almost resigned look, as if it were deliberately defying his intentions just to confuse him all the more. Guy's helpful hints of 'Left hand down a bit' didn’t help at all, as the left hand down made the wee car go into reverse, whereas the right hand couldn't go down or up, only left and right. It was all just far too confusing for a man that takes absolute pride in tuning superb pianos for the most discerning connoisseur. Eventually, and after what could be considered more a Destruction Derby than an Autotest on the final garage, Peter stopped the tiny vehicle across the line and asked 'Did I win?' Of course, none of us could know, as Guy was yet to take his turn, but considering it took Brian almost as long to replace and rebuild the course from what now resembled the ruins of Beirut, not many of us held out hope that Peter would be the ultimate Victor.

Guy was last to take the stand, and set off with a confidence that looked like he would do well. In truth, he was good in the straight lines, going forwards, but that was probably where his greatest strength lay. Going backwards was not quite so professional, although going forwards and steering looked better than Peter's attempts. For Guy, unfortunately, going backwards and steering was obviously not his forte, and did result in some degree of carnage, although he was noticeably quicker than Peter. This was after all going to be the competition of the night! As Guy persevered, the cones stayed fairly unmolested, the driving reasonably well controlled, although in summary his cone count was only slightly better than the Treasurer's.

Final results showed that Peter had in fact not won the event at all, although had we been running a funfair he would certainly have won a Teddy Bear for achieving the highest knock down rate of the night:

1 Karl 0F 0m 58.9s
2 Gary
0F 1m 16.9s
3 Phil
0F 1m 24.0s
4 Matthew
0F 1m 26.0s
5 Brian
0F 1m 26.1s
6 Ewan
0F 1m 27.2s
7 Tosh
1F 2m 48.3s
8 Guy
7F 2m 12.9s
9 Peter
9F 3m 49.4s

A brilliant win for Karl, eclipsing everyone by a very clear margin and romping home to victory in less than a minute to take top honours; a great but bittersweet second place for Gary, missing out on his hat-trick but bringing home some very valuable points in the process; a great third place for Phil, heading a glut of very close results all within just a few seconds of each other to cover third to sixth places. At the bottom of the table, Tosh, Guy and Peter were only a minute or so apart, showing that the competition doesn't exist just at the top of the leader board.

Many thanks to Matthew for putting the event on, also Brian for bringing along the bollards and assisting with timing on the night. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, and as usual it was a hilarious event with everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves on the night.

Next week: The Pit Stop Challenge: what used to be Jimmy's domain is now being regularly challenged by Lee, although he is by no means having it all his own way and has to keep a very watchful eye over his shoulder as the younger members are snapping at his heels.

Who will take the victory? Can it actually be done in less than the magical one minute? The only way to find out will be to be there, unless of course you prefer to wait until Thursday morning to read it on these pages.......

Peter's Perfect Purple Path - 16 October 2019


The Tiniest Margin of Victory.

One of the wonderful things about Whickham and District Motor Club is the holding of an event each Wednesday night. It doesn't matter whether we are hosting a quiz, a toy car race or even blindfolding each other and trying to navigate a series of bins, there is always a sense of friendly rivalry amongst the members taking part and the results are not always as expected.

One championship that has always been popular since its introduction is the Maps Championship, where events within the Club are either based or completed on an OS Map; this can be either a TableTop Rally, where clues are given to a specific route that must be correctly navigated, or a Telephone Rally, where a similar route is drawn on one map and described by a 'Navigator' to his 'Driver' to reproduce on another, clean map. These tests can produce not only some interesting results, but a great deal of humour on the night when either listening to the crews calling the instructions, or hearing the frustrations of the various members as the try desperately to understand the spoken instructions.

Wednesday the 16th October, however, was an extremely good example of not only the skills of all the drivers and navigators, but also the tightness of the competition as five crews battled it out to be not only 100% accurate in their plotting, but also to do that within the shortest time possible. Peter Metcalfe brought the 'Marked map', whilst Tosh and Brian brought the unsullied prints of the same area together with pencils to draw the route. Chairs were placed back to back to prevent any collusion, headsets were tested for clarity and comfort, pencils and glasses were prepared for action and we were ready for the first crew.

As Tosh and Brian are seasoned competitors they elected to go first, lest there be any contentious areas that might need clarification. In this respect, there were none; Peter having made a very clear and defined route without any unclear sections or junctions that could be taken either way. The countdown was begun and Tosh and Brian were off to a flying start with each of them head down and concentrating for all they were worth. Before long they had both called 'Time' and Peter registered their time taken onto his sheet, and the tables were cleared ready for the next crew.

Gary and Phil were next to the table, their confidence high as they sat down, Gary casual and relaxed, whilst Phil was more concentrated, his body appearing calm although his face suggested a more steely determination for a good result. They set off well, calling the junctions and route clearly and in what seemed a very quick time they were calling that they had finished and asking for a time. It seemed to be very quick.

Cameron and Jonny came next, both a little unfamiliar with the concept, but willing to have a go nonetheless. Peter was clear from the start: accuracy was very important, more so than speed, as any single missed control would automatically bring a fail, the result of which would be to drop the crew behind all other 'clean' routes even if they were much slower. The boys took this information to heart and stayed very focussed, clearly and methodically taking their time in an effort to ensure their result was as accurate as possible. Whilst they were slower than the previous two crews, that was to be expected but they appeared very pleased with their result at the finish.

Lee and Ewan were next to be persuaded to take part: Lee the navigator, Ewan the driver. As they were given the command to start nobody knew how well or badly they would do, only that it would all depend upon their communication skills and ability for each to understand exactly what the other was saying. From a distance it was looking good, sitting with their heads bowed, concentrating on each instruction, bend and junction, quietly talking over the headsets and drawing the route as they completed their task.

Last to go was Guy, always keen and a man that thoroughly enjoys not only taking part but also the close competition that such an event brings out. Unfortunately, however, he initially had nobody to partner with. A request to Gordon was rejected, as was one to new Club President Mac Cliff. Karl was not really interested, and for a moment it looked as though Guy would be unable to take part at all, until the suggestion was made that Peter himself could call out the route; it wasn't as if there would be any advantage in him doing so, as he still had to describe the route to Guy, so the crew sat down to round off the evening and hopefully bring themselves a win. They have, of course, competed together before, and so it was quite likely that the pairing could trounce the opposition and bring them the victory they desired, and it certainly appeared to be working as they looked to be quick and clear, without any of the drama exhibited by the Tindalls, and so the result was awaited with bated breath by all the other crews.

The results, when they came, showed that the competition had in fact been much much closer than anyone could have imagined: Peter and Guy had completed the route cleanly in a time of 7 minutes and four seconds, and yet incredibly, Tosh and Brian's time was a very rapid 7 minutes and three seconds - beating them by the absolute smallest margin possible!

Final results on the night were:

1 Tosh and Brian 0F 7m 03s
2 Peter and Guy
0F 7m 04s
3 Gary and Phil
0F 7m 49s
4 Jonny and Cameron
1F 18m 45s
5 Lee and Ewan
2F 18m 23s

A superb and extremely close contest, with winners Tosh and Brian collecting maximum points by virtue of the smallest of margins. Peter and Guy gaining a very good but bittersweet second place, Guy stating immediately that he knew exactly where he had lost the time, on one junction where he took what would be an expensive couple of seconds to just clarify a junction. However, it could be argued that had he not done that, they might have gone wrong and ended up lower down the rankings. A great third place for Gary and Phil, still only taking seven minutes or so, with no fails. Phil looked decidedly disappointed, however it is his first Telephone rally this year so nothing to be ashamed of with a third place.

Superb result of the night must be Jonny and Cameron, whose route was so close to perfection they only missed a single control, a brilliant result on their very first Telephone Rally. There was of course a good and healthy amount of banter leading up to the reading of the results, but to finish only one place behind the Club Chairman and Secretary is no mean feat at all. Lee and Ewan brought up the rear, suffering the penalty of two missed controls, the cause of which could well have been the topic of discussion all the way home in the car. Nevertheless, both crew members gained points, which was more than could be said for all those who decided not to take part.

Many thanks to Peter for designing the route and hosting the event, also to Tosh and Brian for bring along the headsets and printing out all the blank maps. This was a super little event, easy to understand, quick to complete and great fun for all those who took part, each of which will be awarded points in the WDMC Maps Championship. As we draw closer to the end of the Championship year, with no more map events scheduled to take place, positions are pretty much final, unless of course, something changes over the next few weeks.

Next week: The Radio Controlled Autotest: a game that Gary Laverick has dominated this season and one which he has already indicated would bring him a well enjoyed hat-trick should he be the victor. However, there are some very good and dextrous members in the Club, so who knows just how it will pan out on the night? You'll have to be there to find out first hand, or wait until Thursday morning to read it on these pages.......

Distance Event - 9th October 2019

191009 Measurement Event

Millimetres, Centimetres, Decimetres, Inch.

Every now and again along comes an event so simple that it makes you wonder why nobody thought of it before. For the assembled members of Whickham and District Motor Club who were present on the night of the 9th October 2019 Chairman Phil Kenny introduced a new event to the Superstars Calendar that would test everyone in very different ways: it would involve perception, evaluation and decision making capabilities in a way not done before.

It's always nice to have an event that even in some small way has a tenuous link to motoring or motorsport, and as we have seen with the Filling Station and Road Rally Timing events, that test can be the most simple of concepts, yet if it brings out the competitive element in the members present, it will attract a good entry simply because it appeals to the competitor in you.

The concept was, as in the best games, very simple indeed: give the competitor a measurement, and ask him to indicate his interpretation of that exact distance by placing his foot at that exact point on the floor. The distance from his toe to the line would be the measurement recorded, and after three different distances had been attempted, each of his distances would be scored according to how close to the original distance he had been. The cumulative distances would then be added up to give a final figure which would be measured against all other competitors to give a final result. The distances were the same for all competitors: 230cm, 100cm and 270cm. Simple.

Brian went first, his 230cm resulting in 222cm, his 100cm bringing forth 103cm, his final attempt at 270cm eliciting a measurement of 274cm. This was very close indeed and set the standard very high from the very start. Phil followed, starting very well but becoming steadily worse at each following distance. He was close, but not as near as Brian. Guy came next, his interpretations very consistent, but unfortunately they were out by a consistent amount. He was followed by Mac, whose 100cm guess was incredibly close at 101cm, however by his third attempt he was just too tired out by the mental arithmetic and faded away. Lee almost leapt at this challenge, his competitive streak very evident from the start, his determination obvious. Unfortunately all that determination and keenness to do well did not produce the desired result, and his distances were far enough away to bring a sad look to his face as he returned to his seat.

Ewan followed his Dad to the floor, convinced that the combination of youth and his familiarity with the metric system would bring him positive dividends over his father's efforts. It was a lovely dream, but a dream was all it turned out to be; he was as obviously determined as his Dad Lee, but though his 230cm and 100cm results were good, he fell considerably short (or long, depending upon your point of view) when it came to the 270cm distance, his estimate of 310cm wildly off the mark. Tosh came next, hoping to bring his years of experience in the architectural and building fields to fruition with a good result. He started extremely well, with his 230cm guess at 232cm - bringing a look of admiration from Phil. Unfortunately, his guess at 100cm was far too great at 114cm putting him 1cm behind Brian and into second place. Tosh's third attempt was much closer, just 6cm out at 276cm to round off an impressive attempt. Close, but just not close enough.

Karl was persuaded to go next, taking his time, thinking very carefully about his distances, but ultimately not bringing home the bacon. Peter tried his hand and was doing very well on the 270cm and 100cm, but then fell very badly by the wayside on his 230cm estimate by being wildly inaccurate. Alastair followed Peter, and although he started quite badly, he picked up very quickly to finish well with some quite accurate results. Jimmy, however, fared much worse. His 230cm estimate was almost a full metre off, although his 270cm and 100cm guesses were much closer to the right distance. Who knows what might have been?

Most entertaining competitor of the night was undoubtedly Colin Fish. Declaring his total lack of knowledge of the metric system of measuring (despite the UK having been effectively metric since 1972) Colin actually resorted to crawling across the floor on his hands and knees, his fingers extended in an estimated 30cm, adding up and subtracting fractions to result in a declared point on the carpet that he was sufficiently happy with. This strange behaviour continued throughout all three distances, much to the amusement of adjudicators Phil and Brian, whose only regret was that they could not share the spectacle with the assembled members of the club. Last to go was Simon, adopting a completely different tack, cool and calculating and getting very good results to boot.

In total there were thirteen contestants, all convinced they were the Kings of Distance and would no doubt show off their prowess in the WDMC Distance Rankings to all others, however there would only ever be one winner, and so final placings were as follows:

1 Brian 15cm
2 Tosh
3 Phil
4 Colin
5 Simon
6 Lee
7 Mac
8 Guy
9 Ewan
10 Alastair
11 Peter
12 Karl
13 Jimmy

A Brilliant win for Brian, proving that he has an almost perfect eye for measurement, probably due to the many hours of measuring and cutting building materials over the past ten years or so; a great second place for Tosh, his years of experience only letting him down on the one metre distance, however I am sure that will not happen a second time; a great third place for Phil, showing that he has a good eye for distance and that stood him well in this challenge.

Many thanks to Phil, for bringing along what was in effect a very limited set of equipment, nothing more than a pad, some sticky tape and a 3m measuring tape; also to Brian, for all his help in assisting Phil on the night. We love the simple concepts, especially those that not only take very little to organise, but also attract a good entry by virtue of being one of the simplest events to take part in. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, this result allowing Brian to extend his lead even further, whilst Tosh's second place allows him to draw away from challenger Lee.

Next week: The Telephone Rally: a game of description and understanding, accuracy and speed. We all know how good some competitors are, but can they be beaten at this ultra-high speed competition? Only time will tell, but you will have to be there to know. See you next Wednesday!

Rally Simulator - 2 October 2019

191002 DiRT Simulator

Sweet Lamb, Sweet Chariot....

The month of October really does bring home the fact that the Summer is very much over, with deciduous leaves turning from verdant green to golden brown, the temperature starting to feel noticeably colder, and the light in the evenings turning just that bit greyer, where those golden hues fade with the sunlight and a more sombre feeling starts to descend upon the country.

And as the evenings start to draw in, the thoughts of the members of Whickham and District Motor Club begin to turn towards indoor events, where the welcoming feel of Kibblesworth Club brings its own warmth and comfort to a Wednesday evening, and what better way to spend it than sitting in the most comfortable car seat, rapidly threading your way around the twisty sections of Bidno Moorland, part of the Wales Rally GB Sweet Lamb complex in the DiRT Rally video game.

Lee and Ewan Tindall had brought their gaming rig once again to the club for the evening, so that everyone could pit themselves not only against each other, but also against the clock, and it was good to see a dozen club members taking part, although the skill levels on offer did vary considerably. There was always going to be a split in the results, with those who are very familiar with both the game and stages heading up the leader board, whilst those of, shall we say, lesser ability would have their own competition lower down the board.

Competition was, however, still very much alive wherever you sat in the table, and that of course makes the challenge so much more enjoyable. For those who know they will never win, but are close to another who can achieve a similar time, that element of competition is as real as for anyone else, as Tosh and Matthew were overheard to say at the bar beforehand: "I'll race you to the bottom!"

Lee was quick; his flowing style and familiarity with the rig apparent but a joy to behold nonetheless, as he smoothly piloted the VW Polo R5 along both the twisty forest and tarmac sections to record a very respectable time of 3m 45s, setting the time to beat for all those following. Gary was going for Gold, but in a slightly different manner; his style was a little more "mash it to the floor and to hell with the consequences" - which was, to be honest, extremely entertaining if not as quick as Lee. Brian was much more measured, his analytical thinking and smooth style bringing a good time despite his unfamiliarity with the stage, although he suffered a sudden and potentially catastrophic screen blackout just metres from the finish that compromised his time and resulted in some quick calculations from Ewan to give a definitive time.

As each subsequent player took their turn, we could see their differing styles emerging: David was fairly out of sorts, Jimmy finding his own pace early on and Alastair a little quicker than his Dad by seven seconds. Tosh was certainly never going to set the stage on fire, his obvious confusion with the shouted instructions noticeably marred by the oppressive sound of the engine, his driving on sight not really bringing any significant result. However, his time was actually quicker than Matthew, who tried to match Tosh but just couldn't hang on to his pace. Phil made his usual announcement about being rubbish at PlayStation, then posted a time that belied his stated ability.

Peter stepped up to the rig and planted his size one million feet down, much to the amusement of all the seated observers, promising to deliver a drive to be remembered. In that, he didn't disappoint, as his drive was one of the smoothest of the night, his pace sincere and dignified, if not particularly rapid. OK, there was the occasional off, but it is fair to say that Peter brought a five minute, twenty-one second period of beautiful and elegant symmetry to an otherwise frenetic event. Karl arrived a little late for the event, but took his place at the wheel, setting off at a rapid pace and showing that he too has had his fair share of miles on Sweet Lamb and his experience was plain to see. Amazingly, he too suffered the screen blackout just short of the finish, bringing Ewan’s mathematical calculations out once again to produce a final time.

And finally, Ewan took his turn. To say that he gave an exhibition drive would be hardly fair, since this was as smooth and unhurried as any drive could be, whilst all the time on the very edge of both adhesion and traction and all the time threading the bucking and writhing vehicle along the narrow confines of the stage. It was, frankly, a joy to watch: the beautiful and effortless way that Ewan placed the car a lesson in control and expertise. For those of us at the bottom of the leader board, we could only watch in awe and wonder what commitment it would take from us to achieve that same status, if ever we were able. It was glorious to observe.

So final results, once everyone had very clearly shown just where they stood in the WDMC World Rankings, were as follows:

1 Ewan 3m 14.6s
2 Lee
3m 45.0s
3 Brian
3m 49.6s
4 Karl
3m 50.6s
5 Alastair
4m 18.2s
6 Phil
4m 18.6s
7 Jimmy
4m 25.7s
8 Gary
4m 50.3s
9 Tosh
4m 57.4s
10 Matthew
5m 10.6s
11 Peter
5m 21.5s
12 David
6m 34.3s

A superb display of both smooth car control and effortless driving from Ewan to record first place, followed not so closely by Dad Lee in second, chased all the way by Brian, who will now never know if his screen blackout meant he lost that place. Four seconds it could have been, or maybe not. Who will ever know? One person who might also ask that question was Karl, as his time was a fraction over one second slower than Brian, so that challenge will certainly have to surface another day....

Many thanks to Lee and Ewan for bringing the rig along, it is a big thing and quite a complicated setup, so the effort in not only organising the whole thing but transporting it to the Club was certainly very much appreciated by all who took part. Many thanks too to all the members who took part, it's always nice to see a good turnout and tonight didn't disappoint. Points in the Superstars championship to all who took part, Ewan gaining a good haul of points, whilst Lee doesn't gain anything due to the rule of counting the three best scores in any discipline.

Next week: Phil Kenny's "Distance Event" - who knows what is in the mind of the Chairman? What sort of challenge could this be? The only way to find out is to be there, and take part in the competition. The Superstars Challenge brings out the best in us all!

Kinetic Car Race - 11 September 2019

180718 Kinetic Cars

The Amazing case of the elusive Second Run

Carlsberg don't do car races, but if they did, they still wouldn't be as good as the event run by Whickham and District Motor Club.

Wednesday the 11th September 2019 saw Gary and Brian setting up the Kinetic Car Race for only the second time this year, and thankfully this time saw the return of the cast-iron car with its traditional spring-loaded drivetrain, rather than the desperately fragile Lego monster that appeared back in January that was about as stable as a Zimbabwe Dollar. (For those unfamiliar with the currency, a 100 Trillion dollar Zimbabwe banknote was last worth about 40 US cents).

The scoring system was also given a makeover, simplified and brought right up to date: if any part of the car, viewed from above, was over one of the scoring sheets, then that counted as a valid points scoring run. This should hopefully bring some much needed points to those who in the past had been rather unfortunate in their achievements, and hopefully make the event a little more competitive.

Gary went first, full of hope and commitment, his first run hitting 80 points, although his second missed the mark, as did his third and fourth runs, however he recovered well with his final two runs both hitting the 200 point marker giving him a healthy points score of 480 to set the standard for the rest. Brian followed him immediately, he too hit 80 with his first run, but again his second run was a miss, however a 200 score on his third run brought him back into contention, although he looked to have lost it on his fourth and fifth runs until a flourish on his final run brought a welcome 200 points to tie with Gary. Karl followed, determined to do well, however he simply didn't have the skills on the night, missing everything on his first three runs: his fourth was more productive, netting him a cool 100 points, but that was his limit; his final two runs producing nothing at all.

Tosh was next, taking an early stab at the competition, and whilst his first two runs were as devoid of points as the House of Commons is currently of politicians, his third run brought a surprising 200 points, immediately followed by exactly the same scores for both fourth and fifth runs before stopping just short on his final run, his total still resulting in a very healthy 600 points to take the lead. Ewan then stepped up to the table, choosing to stand rather than sit as he evaluated his options; his first run scoring 80 points just as Gary and Brian had done, his second run once again proving elusive as he didn't score either, however his third run brought him 80 valuable points. Although his fourth and fifth runs did not score anything at all, like Brian he finished well with a solid 100 points to bring him to a 260 point total.

Jimmy and Alastair came next, with the senior Knox rightfully taking his place at the head of the table, his relaxed manner possibly belying his commitment to scoring well. His first run brought no points, and then the curse of the second run again bringing a clean sheet, although his third run brought an impressive 200 point haul to bring him right back into contention. Alas, his best was before him, as no other runs brought any increase in his total. Son Alastair then sat down, presumably thinking he had this in the bag, looking to show well against his Dad and Cousin and carefully looking at both car and track to set himself up for the win. Unfortunately this was not to be his night, as he too scored a clean sheet on his first two runs, but did hit the 100 point mark on his third run, his best of the night; all his subsequent runs producing nothing but wayward progress and a bare scoreboard.

So final results, once everyone had been the Toy Story equivalent of Paul Newman in Le Mans were as follows:

1 Tosh 600pts 0+0+200+200+200+0
2 Brian 480pts
2 Gary 480pts
4 Mac 380pts
5 Ewan 260pts
6 Jimmy 200pts
7 Alastair 100pts
7 Karl 100pts

A brilliant win for Tosh by virtue of his middle spell of three superb runs all at 200 points; netting him first place and bragging rights for at least until the next event; a great second place tie between Brian and Gary, each showing and scoring well and harvesting some valuable points in the Superstars Championship to boot; a great fourth place for Mac, showing that it is always worthwhile competing in any event as all these points do add up at the end of the season. Incredible that nobody at all scored on any of their second runs. Fate indeed...

Many thanks to Gary for bringing along everything to set up the challenge, also to Brian for assisting in setting everything up: the new scoring system working well and much more rewarding than the system of old. Points in the Superstars championship to all who took part, with Lee not taking part tonight Ewan moves up a place to sit just below his father in fourth place, with Gary moving up to take sixth place from Karl.

Next week: Cheviot Marshals' night, although as the nights draw in and the evenings become darker, we can start to look forward to our traditional Autumn Navigational Events - more fun on the road and doing what we love most - driving!

Filling Station - 4 September 2019

190904 Filling Station

The curse of the Nonic Glass

The concept is very simple: take a container of unknown capacity containing a liquid, pour what you think is a specific quantity of water into a pint glass, then weigh that volume of water and see just how close you are to what you thought you were dispensing. Do it three times with differing quantities and the results are usually unexpected, sometimes surprising, occasionally amazing.

To make it absolutely fair, we looked at the science. A litre is the standard metric unit used to measure volume. A kilogram (kg) is the standard unit to measure mass. From 1901 to 1964, the litre was defined as the volume of one kilogram of pure water at maximum density and standard atmospheric pressure, so we decided to use water as our standard medium for our challenge, and as we were working to the nearest 5g it didn't need to be measured to sub-atomic levels.

Lee was first to take his turn, sitting down and surveying the assembled equipment with interest. Having been told he could choose one of three capacities - 250cc, 350cc and 500cc - to estimate in any order, he plumped for the 250cc option, and as he carefully poured the water into the glass it was obvious he was thinking very carefully indeed. He was not particularly helped by a small but very interested band of onlookers that appeared from the Cheviot organisers' meeting, especially as each of them were offering advice of varying accuracy. Nevertheless, he soldiered on, the crowd eventually dispersed and his quantities were weighed and recorded.

Karl was next, taking the quantities in order, his 250cc just a little short, his 500cc the same, but unfortunately he fell down with a very short measure on the 350cc. Peter sat down next, confident that his years spent working behind a bar would give him a good advantage. His first guess at 250cc was wildly out at 380cc; prompting Tosh to ask if Peter would please serve the spirits at the next WDMC party! Peter recovered well with a near perfect 500cc, and then fell down again by pouring only 305cc in the 350cc test. Guy followed Peter, his first guess at 250cc resulting in another over measure, then following Peter's guide with a near perfect 500cc, and a much better estimate of 375cc for the 350cc test.

Alastair was next to the table, and started off with a tremendous first pour of exactly 250cc, causing him to ask at least three times how on earth he had managed that. Nobody really knew, but his second estimate was quite far short at only 430cc instead of 500cc. His final effort at 415cc for the 350cc gave him a good score but his early promise had failed to materialise. Father Jimmy came next, declaring immediately that he had no real idea about quantities but gamely pouring his first amount into the glass, which unfortunately came up very short indeed at only 90cc. Taking that on board, his second attempt at the 500cc amount was much closer at 475cc, however his final guess at 350cc yielded a noticeable shortfall at only 280cc.

That just left Tosh and Brian; Tosh going first, this time with Lee as adjudicator, however it was soon apparent that it was not as easy as it first seemed, with Tosh's first attempt at 250cc only reaching 215cc. His second attempt at 500cc was much closer, resulting in a good 515cc, with Tosh's final pour very close indeed at 345cc, putting him temporarily in the lead.

Brian, of course, is well known for his extremely methodical approach to any competition, and this was no exception. Having paid close attention to science at school, (or perhaps the beer shelves at Tesco) he knew exactly how many ccs were in a pint glass, so went for the 500cc first, knowing it would be just 68ml short of a full pint. However, after paying very careful attention to the detail of the glasses themselves, he declared them cheap ones with no pint witness line, so did a quick calculation of where the head would start, mentally subtracting that from the height of the glass and then filling it accordingly. School obviously paid off, as his estimate was a mere 10cc off perfect.

Deciding to then try the 250cc quantity, Brian sat and very carefully placed his hand against the glass, measuring his fingers against the edge and carefully calculating just how much extra capacity would be taken up by the bulge; the 'Nonic' Pint Glass is a staple of British pubs and a very misleading glass to read: a half pint in a Nonic glass always looks like a very good measure! Brian, of course, was mentally measuring all this and as he poured the water in declared himself satisfied with his guess; and well he should have been, as it measured an extremely close 240cc. Taking a very long hard look at that quantity, he then started measuring the glass against his hand once more, his determination to win more apparent than ever, and when he poured his final amount into the glass for his attempt at 350cc the result was: exactly 350cc! An amazing finish and his combined quantities resulting in a total only 20cc off a perfect score.

Final results, once all the quantities had been calculated and recorded, were as follows:

1 Brian 20cc 240+510+350
2 Tosh 55cc
3 Lee 90cc
4 Karl 100cc
5 Guy 120cc
6 Alastair 135cc
7 Peter 180cc
8 Jimmy 250cc

A Brilliant win for Brian, not only incredibly accurate but with the most perfect result by finishing with a flourish; an excellent second place for Tosh, probably suggesting he has spent far too long looking at pint glasses in his time; chased all the way to the wire by Lee in third, whose face was a picture in the beginning when he could hardly believe the quantity he had poured, resulting in many checks with different batteries before the final quantity was revealed. This was not particularly helped by Andy Kobasa surreptitiously pouring additional water into Lee's glass between measures! A great fourth place for Karl, only really let down by his final guess as he was definitely in the running until then.

Many thanks to Tosh for bringing along the scales and water jug and setting everything up, to Lee for his help in fairly adjudicating, and everyone who took part in what was an extremely enjoyable and good natured competition, albeit starting rather later than normal due to the Cheviot organisers meeting upstairs. Points in the Superstars championship to all who took part, Guy joins Jamie at number 10, whilst Brian extends his lead in the Championship further.

Next week: The Kinetic Car Race; the one competion where in the words they used to say on Stingray: 'Anything can happen in the next half-hour'. Nobody can ever guess just who will do well or badly, but it is always very well attended and enjoyed. Don't miss it!

PlayStation - 28 August 2019


Déjà, Déjà, Déjà vu...

The feeling of Déjà vu is the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before. The phrase translates literally as "already seen".

It's also a phenomenon that the assembled members of Whickham and District Motor Club taking part in the PlayStation night on Wednesday the 28th August might well have been utterly familiar with as once again the two most common stages were chosen for the competition. To say there was more than one sigh of resignation would be understating things, especially considering the Baumholder Flugplatz Stage has been chosen for almost every one of the past five PlayStation type events during the past year and a half.

The results, of course, could virtually be predicted, with those who knew the stages understandably performing particularly well once again, whilst those who did not struggled to even begin to control the foul handling car whose wild power bands and ridiculous brakes made it all but impossible to drive in any semblance of a normal vehicle.

Nevertheless, all who did take part tried gamely to drive to their best ability despite the clear disadvantage, however there was an inevitability to the final results that could have almost reflected any one of the events of the past couple of years:

1 Alastair 6m 20.701s 189.392s + 191.309s
2 Karl 6m 34.330s
194.292s + 200.038s
3 Ewan 6m 51.816s
180.092s + 231.724s
4 Jamie 6m 57.450s
177.309s + 240.141s
5 Brian 7m 00.449s
192.508s + 227.941s
6 Gary 8m 20.369s
223.078s + 277.291s
7 Phil 8m 20.864s
238.357s + 262.507s
8 Tosh 9m 55.778s
262.439s + 333.339s
9 Guy 13m 01.591s
438.619s + 342.972s
10 Matthew 13m 32.956s
489.486s + 323.470s

A solid win for Alastair, the ease with which his win was accomplished showing that his skills lay very clearly in this area, and although Karl chased him hard, second place was all he could manage on the night, however the points gained by his placing moving him up the Championship ladder to equal sixth with Peter. A good third place for Ewan, always extremely competitive and with his razor sharp reactions he was unlucky not to be closer to the Knox cousins. A sound fourth place for Jamie, only just behind Ewan but a crucial few seconds quicker than Brian, who was not only hot on his heels but were it not for an off that cost him an eleven second delay he could have been third by a whisker.

Many thanks to Karl for bringing along his X-Box and setting everything up, despite a persistent and intransigent HDMi port on the club TV, although it is now very clear there needs to be some changes made in future to ensure there is a much wider variation in the stages chosen to make the game as fair as possible.

Next week: The Filling Station: one of those rare occasions where quantity is more important than quality. Don't miss it!

Pit Stop Challenge - 21 August 2019

190327 Pit Stop

It's all torque

The WDMC Pit Stop Challenge is always a very enjoyable event, with much hilarity and high expectation, much of which is generally pretty unfounded. Take the night of August 21st 2019 for example: each and every one of the competitors was utterly convinced they were capable of winning the event, and for good reason; there have been times in the past when those who would normally be considered runaway winners have had a nightmare of an event and finished nowhere. This of course give hope to all those who would otherwise not consider themselves front runners in the wheel change stakes.

Tonight, however, some of the most successful competitors from the past were not taking part: Jimmy was feeling a little off-colour and Lee was absent from the club tonight, effectively leaving the door wide open for new talent to emerge. Such an opportunity is rare and certainly not to be missed, and so it was that the tables were rather turned upside down this evening and there were some very fortunate recipients of major points.

Gary was first to go, setting the benchmark at 1m 22.43s to give all the following competitors a serious time to beat. It was a good time, and although it was never going to set the world alight, it was still almost ten seconds quicker than his average time, which was an excellent start to the competition. Brian came next, getting himself ready soon so as to set a fast time whilst he was still fresh. His time of 74.21s was, although not his fastest, also quicker than his average and put him squarely into the lead. Tosh decided to go next, and although he has never been particularly quick, was nonetheless looking forward to the event and hoping for a good time. As it happened, everything went perfectly for him, with the wheel brace flying and no problems of sticking threads or losing the nuts on the floor. Indeed, had he not taken a few extra seconds at the end to recheck the tightness of the nuts, he would have beaten Brian and taken the lead.

John then took up his position, having only ever done this event once before in April 2016, but still ready to go once he had re-familiarised himself with the rules. His time was steady, quicker than before by a good five seconds, and he looked satisfied that he had got the best result he could have done bearing in mind it hadn't quite gone according to plan, with a loose nut costing him a valuable five extra seconds. Jake followed him to the rig, having watched everyone else very carefully, but having never done this event before. It showed that just that little bit of inexperience using the rig could cost a member dearly, as only a small amount of unfamiliarity with the setup always added a lot of time to the end result, although with two loose wheel nuts his time was exaggerated more than it needed to be. Still, he was at least taking part and earning points in the Championship to boot.

Matthew followed, and his earnest and very positive start immediately took a tumble as he found the nuts much tighter than he was expecting, costing him more time than he had at first estimated; then the wheel brace didn't quite spin as freely as he hoped, all combining to give him a result that dropped him right down the table. All that was left now was Phil, recently returned from a most relaxing week in the Mediterranean sunshine, chilled as you like but secretly still very competitive, and it showed as he set himself down with a purpose, snatching the brace up in a flash and attacking the rig with a vengeance. His time was good, almost identical to his average, and Phil is one of the most consistent competitors over the past five years and his time didn’t really disappoint, although it did place him just behind Tosh in third.

So final results, once everyone had done their best to emulate a quarter of a Formula One pit crew, were as follows:

1 Brian 1m 14.21s
2 Tosh 1m 16.69s

3 Phil 1m 20.68s

4 Gary 1m 22.43s

5 Jake 1m 41.35s
1m 31.35 + 10s
6 John 1m 46.82s
1m 41.82 +5s
7 Matthew 1m 54.83

A super win for Brian, bringing him maximum points in the Championship table and helping him to extend his lead even further; a really brilliant second place for Tosh, one of his best placings ever and definitely his best result since December 2014; a great third place for Phil, showing that a week relaxing with little to worry about except sun cream and Sangria is a very potent force for good.

Many thanks to Gary and Phil for bringing the rig and all the associated equipment, to Brian for his help with timing and torque checking, The Pit Stop Challenge is always very well received and very much enjoyed by all, and tonight's was no exception. Points in the Championship to all who took part, this result helping Tosh extend his lead over Lee to a very healthy 27 points, quite fortunate as Lee was not in attendance this evening. Gary unfortunately doesn't gain any places due to the event now counting towards the '3 event maximum score' rule.

Next week: PlayStation/X-Box - no doubt the younger members will shine brightly, whilst those of more mature years might not be quite so lucky...

Road Rally Timing Event - 14 August 2019

2017 Stopwatch

Time, Gentlemen, please!

In ancient times man would typically rise with the lark and go to bed shortly after dusk, managing all the things he needed to do as well as possible during the hours of daylight. When fire was invented it gave him heat and light, and that allowed him to extend his day further as he could see more clearly after sunset. As man developed he began to understand the concept of time, and as the centuries passed so timepieces became more developed and intricate, from the Ancient Egyptians' water clocks to the first mechanical timepieces that appeared in Europe in the 14th Century.

Today, of course, we have become not only much more aware of time but to an extent almost obsessed with it, with manufacturers and suppliers working with JITI management to increase efficiency and minimise waste, whilst the rise of the online retailer with next Day Delivery means nobody has to wait anymore for anything, with some even going so far as to offer same day delivery for some online orders.

You would think, therefore, that with such impatience and an almost obsession with time we would all be so familiar with the actual passage of time that we could easily tell exactly how long something would take, and be able to estimate a period of time with unerring accuracy. Or could we?

The night of Wednesday the 14th August 2019 would test these inbuilt abilities well, by asking every contestant to accurately guess a series of three periods of time, with penalties deducted for each fraction of a second over or under the correct elapsed period. A very simple game, using nothing more than a black bag, a stopwatch to measure the time and a set of ear defenders to block out all external noise and disruption. How hard could it be?

In truth, it showed just how difficult some people found the task, whilst others seemed so at home with the concept as to be almost unnaturally blessed with such unerring ability.

The three times to be counted were: 43 seconds, 78 seconds and 94 seconds. Each competitor was given the opportunity to start the stopwatch and watch it for five seconds before putting it in the bag, only stopping the clock at what they estimated was the correct elapsed period of time. Some were simply amazing, some were dreadful, whilst most were fairly accurate within a dozen or so seconds.

Peter was first to go, his time for 43 seconds not bad at 49.8, but his 78 second time wildly out at 92.2 seconds. As he said "For the next one (94seconds) all I have to do is count to 78 and add a second or two". His plan worked brilliantly, as his third and final time for 94 seconds was an amazing 93.6 seconds, making him the closest to any official time on the night. He had set the standard for at least one time slot! Karl was next to go, almost not bothering but then deciding to have a go in the end, getting in early and settling down with a look of intense concentration on his face, determined as he is to do well. His times were quite revealing: all three so amazingly close as to result in an overall time penalty of only 4.4 seconds over the whole three tests! Trevor had sat quietly watching, thinking of perhaps just spectating, when his competitive spirit started inexorably rising to the fore and he found himself sitting in front of Tosh, listening to the instructions and readying himself for the challenge. To be fair, he hadn't done this event before, but took to it in superbly good nature and afterwards sat, quietly amazed at his overall times.

Lee was next, always Mr Competitive, but somehow tonight slightly pensive, less confident than usual. Perhaps there was something on his mind, because his timing was wildly off tonight: 53.8 for his 43 seconds, and very strangely, 93.5 and 81.8 for the 78 and 94 second tests: had he swapped times, he would have been much higher up in the results. Probably why Lee has such a good watch. Ewan followed, immediately explaining that he doesn't really do time much, not expecting much in the way of accuracy, but doing fairly well considering, his results netting him a place halfway up the results sheet. Brian was next to the table, always competitive, possibly remembering his last attempt which went very wrong indeed, determined to do better and avenge his disastrous result from last April. This time he was much more accurate, his combined times all within less than twelve seconds of the optimum time. David wasn't going to compete, but having seen everyone else thought "Why not?" and showed that he had a very good grasp of time elapsed with a result that put him only just behind Brian. Mac showed that many years working on the trains had honed his internal clock to such a degree of accuracy that his times were very close indeed, only let down by his final time when his internal clock convinced him that he was too slow, so he stopped the clock early thinking it was time. It wasn't. He was ten seconds early. Maybe his mind was more on clocking off at the end of the day and he took a little early flyer!

Guy was one of the last to go, both familiar with the concept and comfortable with the rules, his first time a little long but understanding he would need to shorten it for the second attempt. Incredibly, his time for the 78 second test was almost identical to Peter's at 92.5 seconds, only 0.3 seconds adrift. There is a strange affinity there, because his third time for the 94 second test was, as was Peter's, much closer indeed. With only Tosh to go now, Guy was time master, and as the senior Townsend took his three turns, he was concentrating as much as any man before him. His first time was within a second at 42s, his second time short by over four seconds, his final test coming in at another four seconds short. Disappointing for Tosh, but nonetheless accurate enough to put him in second place.

So final results, once all had been calculated:

1 Karl 45.0+79.4+95.0 4.4s
2 Tosh
42.0+73.6+90.0 9.4s
3 Brian
42.0+80.2+102.6 11.8s
4 David
49.4+83.0+95.0 12.4s
5 Mac
40.8+79.2+84.8 12.6s
6 Ewan
51.0+87.4+96.2 19.6s
7 Peter
49.8+92.2+94.6 21.6s
8 Guy
50.2+92.5+97.5 25.2s
9 Trevor
55.0+64.0+88.5 31.5s
10 Lee
53.8+93.5+81.8 38.5s

A brilliant win for Karl and a rather surprising one too, as earlier in the evening at the bar he had said he wasn't going to bother, before changing his mind at the last minute, with superb results. A great second place for Tosh, who no doubt wished Karl had indeed decided not to bother, as he would have then won, but as our European friends would undoubtedly say: "C'est la Vie" - and ten points in this event are as valuable as ten points in any other. Another great result for Brian, putting his April demons to rest and coming back with a vengeance, although we understand the omission of ear defenders earlier in the year may have had a slightly contributory effect. Nevertheless, a good eight points to help him maintain his lead.

Many thanks to Tosh for putting the event on and bringing all the equipment, the Road Rally Timing Event is always well received and very much enjoyed by all, as are most of the very simple events that take no serious thought. Points in the Championship to all who took part, this result seeing Tosh extend his lead over Lee to a very healthy 20 points, although Lee is hardly likely to let that situation continue unchallenged!

Next week: the Pit Stop Challenge; an event where Lee excels, and Tosh tends to struggle - could this be the point at which Lee's challenge for the title moves up a notch?

To see that you will have to be there, so don't miss it!

Guy's Grand and Gracious Gift - 7 August 2019

Wrong Route

Lady Luck.

Whilst the term may well have originated from the Roman Goddess Fortuna, it's fair to say that Lady Luck is incredibly fickle; when she smiles you feel as though everything is going your way, whilst when she is not on your side there is little you can do to turn the tide of misfortune. For Gordon Bradford, the night of the 7th August must have had all the planets in alignment when he took part in the 'Map based event' held at Whickham and District Motor Club's usual venue at Kibblesworth.

To be honest, all credit must go to Guy Wickham for stepping up to the plate at the eleventh hour and managing to construct a TableTop Rally out of nothing in what must have been an unbelievably short timeframe. Putting on any event of this nature involves a good deal of prior preparation and for Guy to manage to do so at such short notice deserves a great deal of praise.

Inevitably, the time pressure meant there was bound to be a slight level of confusion over the interpretation of some of the route instructions, but then those who took part appeared to be happy with their understanding of the same and it wasn't really until marking time that it became apparent there was obviously more than one way of reading some of the instructions.

To be fair, it was a quiet night at the club, with members unable to use the usual Lounge due to a pre-booked meeting, however once that had finished everyone trooped downstairs and took up their usual spots. Guy did the announcements, and then it was time for the event, however it was by then quite late and so there were only three competitors who took part: Tosh, Brian and Gordon.

Although the instructions were clearly printed on an A4 sheet and as clear as day, it was unfortunately not the case for the map, as due to the nature and length of the route, it had been scaled down to a size that made it very difficult to read, especially in the poor lighting at the Club. It's fair to say that most struggled to read the finer detail on the map, but with a wing and a prayer, most managed to work out what was required.

That is, of course, until the marking was done. Tosh had seen the printed footer at the base of the map which clearly stated the map was an "Ordnance Survey One-Inch to the mile". He also noted the final instruction to each competitor was "Your Route must use 5 kilometres of red roads AND cross a railway 3 times" and mistakenly interpreted that to mean the squares printed on the map were one mile squares, so a quick calculation revealed he would have to travel 3.1 miles (or squares) to comply with the instruction. His final route was a perfect fit, so having checked his route a second time, he called for a final time check, safe in the knowledge he had exactly the right route.

Brian, meanwhile, had worked out his route in typical fashion, very carefully and methodically and submitted his finished map to Guy, confident he had it absolutely spot on. Gordon was quick, probably too quick, rushing through the instructions and plotting the route in around half the allotted time, before declaring himself finished and settling back down for his cup of coffee.

As Guy sat down to mark all the maps, it was plain to see he was being very careful to go over each and every one with a fine toothed comb. He took an almost inordinate amount of time to do so; eventually asking Brian and Tosh if they thought the final instruction was meant to include the entire event, or just the final section. Tosh was crystal clear: he understood it to mean the final section only; Brian however was impressively honest and candid: he was big enough to admit hadn't read that instruction at all.

Ironically, the marking system was to prove both Tosh and Brian's downfall; having taken their time to get the route right, both of them had suffered heavily due to the marking system of allocating points according to both time taken and controls missed: Tosh's route was the most accurate, with only one minor infringement adding 90 seconds to his overall plotting time of 18 minutes, whilst for Brian, his quicker time of 14 minutes 25 seconds (with three controls missed and an additional 270 seconds added) surprisingly putting him ahead of Tosh. In an almost incredible twist of fate, whilst Gordon's route missed a huge chunk of the route he unbelievably only missed a single control, so his resultant time of just 11 minutes meant he managed to still record a total time of 12 minutes 42 seconds to win the event.

So final results, once all had been calculated:

1 Gordon 11m 12s + 90s 12m 42s
2 Brian
14m 25s + 270s 18m 55s
3 Tosh
18m 00s + 90s 19m 30s

An almost unbelievable win for Gordon, showing that when Lady Luck is on your side it can bring significant benefits, even when your route was the worst of the three; second place for Brian, who suffered from the fact that although his route was more accurate than Gordon's he still finished behind him at the end; a third place for Tosh, a very rueful experience for him as his submitted route was ultimately by far the most accurate, only for his final placing to suffer due to the time he had taken to ensure his submitted solution was the correct one. Obviously his misunderstanding about the 3.1 miles had been his ultimate downfall, although even if he had got the correct route, he still would not have won. Ironically, had he just randomly drawn a route on the map from start to finish and shouted for time immediately, with the penalty system of marking (90 seconds per control missed) he would have finished second; indeed had he somehow managed to hit one or two controls on route, his time could have netted him first place. Food for thought, indeed.

Many thanks to Guy for putting the event on very much at the eleventh hour, printing the sheets off and hosting the event to help his friend out, and despite Guy currently sitting second in the Championship it shows a deep level of both gentlemanly behaviour and a quest for competition that he graciously put the event on knowing he had no chance of gaining any substantial championship points. A true gentleman if ever there was one.

Points in the Championship to all who took part, this result bringing a very lucky Gordon straight into the top ten in fourth place, whilst Brian extends his lead over Tosh by a further two points. As the end of the Championship approaches, it looks like Brian has a pretty firm hold on the Championship. Unless, that is, Lady Luck plays another important part in the 2019 Maps Championship story....

Reaction Test - 24 July 2019

2019 Reaction Test

The millisecond.

Whilst a millisecond is not the shortest unit of time measurement, it's certainly the one that most of us recognise as being the smallest amount of measurable time in our daily lives. One millisecond is the cycle time for a frequency of 1 kHz, the time taken for a sound to travel around 34cm (roughly a foot ), and in a vacuum light would have travelled 300km (or 186 miles in old money).

Pretty small then, but not insignificant to the assembled members of Whickham and District Motor Club on one of the hottest nights of the year, as they tried desperately to stay cool in the July heatwave that covered the country. In any normal situation one would expect the previous night's thunderstorm to have cleared the air and brought some blessed relief to everyone by lowering the temperature, but unfortunately we are not in normal times any more, as the effects of global warming continue to play havoc with our climate and temperatures continue to rise. Thursday is expected to be even hotter, maybe even breaking the record for the warmest day ever in the UK - a sign that all is not well with our world any more.

Inside Kibblesworth Workmens Club, however, the members of WDMC were doing their best to keep cool by wearing shorts and sipping cold drinks, the outer door to the lounge propped open to allow some cooling air into the room. This was a big help, and as the evening drew into night the temperature started to drop, easing everyone's discomfort, and as the attendees of the Cheviot meeting came downstairs to join the rest of the membership, the time was considered just about right for this evening's challenge: The Reaction Test. Amazingly, this event has not been held since April 2016, and so was well overdue for a return.

The challenge is simple: a standard tablet with a test to find out your average reaction time over five attempts. Touch the screen, it goes red, then an arbitrary amount of time later it goes Green and all you have to do is touch the screen as soon as possible. Five attempts, average time is then recorded. A wonderfully simple game and one that can be completed by all competitors within just a few minutes.

However, what sounds like a simple game can really be anything but; as each competitor sat down to the challenge, it became very apparent that both anticipation and adrenaline was rising fast: almost all competitors settling themselves down into their most comfortable position and making sure that every single aspect of their body was tensed, ready for action. The looks of concentration were intense, their bodies and fingers in a sort of stasis with their muscles ready to pounce but held back by their unwillingness to react too quickly and incur a fail. It was just like the few seconds before a Grand Prix start: the lights were red and everyone was waiting for them to go green!

Lindsay was first to go, very impressed with the game but also particularly interested in how it could keep excitable children occupied in her school for a while, her time not brilliant, but a good start nonetheless. Guy came next, setting a really quick time and putting down a marker for all those following. Alastair tried to match him but couldn't come near his pace, Karl next, wanting to eclipse Guy but more interested in beating Alastair. Jimmy put up a good fight, beating them both and showing that you certainly don't lose it once you get to your half century; Gordon had a go and tried to play the pensioners card by asking for an OAP concession on time! Not that THAT was ever going to happen! Peter was up soon after, hoping to just pip friend Guy, but unfortunately, despite a couple of cracking times, just missing out. Matthew was much more serious, his competitive streak emerging once again and his fingers stabbing at the tablet each time, his average amazingly beating Guy's time by the tiny amount of only 2ms!

That just left Tosh and Brian, and the Father/Son rivalry was once again to the fore. Brian going first, settling himself down, his fingers tensely held over the screen, his breathing shallow, his face a picture of concentration: and then he was off - each attempt blistering quick, each almost imperceptable movement of his finger recording a time, his fourth a touch slower but his final time just incredible: after the fifth test, his average was almost unbelievable: 275ms - eclipsing Matthew by 20ms and taking the lead. Only Tosh could now beat him, and the elder Townsend sat cautiously down, drying his sweating fingers on his shirt and looking intently at the screen, taking an age before finally touching the glass to begin his challenge and set the first time.

His times were certainly impressive; not as quick as Brian's, but blindingly fast all the same, each attempt better than expected, each score bringing a more intense look to his face, until the fifth and final time revealed an overall average of only 282ms - a mere 7ms of Brian's time! Amazingly, he was second, an incredible result and one that brought a beaming smile to his face.

So with all players having taken part the final results were as follows:

1 Brian 275ms
2 Tosh
3 Matthew
4 Guy
5 Gordon
6 Peter
7 Jimmy
8 Karl
9 Alastair
10 Lindsay

A superb win for Brian with an incredible time at only the second running of the event, netting him another first place and maximum points. A fantastic second place for Tosh, incredibly pleased with his performance and showing that there's certainly a very sharp set of reactions in the old boy still, whilst Matthew had to settle for third, leaving Guy to rue his fourth place by the tiniest of margins, only just beating Guy by the merest of margins: less time than it takes for a fly to flap a wing. Gordon showed that he still has some pretty sharp reactions so can certainly stick two fingers up at those young whipper-snappers that complain about old fogeys behind the wheel.

Many thanks to Tosh for bringing along his tablet and running the event on the night, points in the Superstars Championship to all those who took part, Tosh's second place haul of points putting clear air between him and Lee, although the senior Tindall will no doubt have something to say about that when he returns from his holiday!

Next week: The Foot Rally: basically walking around looking at stuff; how hard can that be? For answers ask Lee and Ewan, last time out they suffered at the vagaries of the Aesculus Hippocastanum.....

Steering Wheel Challenge - 17 July 2019

2019 SWC Silverstone Acrylic

Seeing through the Challenge.

You would think that for those competitive members of Whickham and District Motor Club that consider themselves rally drivers, co-drivers or just rally enthusiasts, they would be able to take the odd bit of rough in their stride without a second thought. Surprisingly, though, was the fact that one of the major criticisms of the Steering Wheel Challenge over the years has been just that singular element: the unevenness of one of the tests. Admittedly it was made from corrugated cardboard, but it was thought amongst some that made life very difficult for those taking part. However, in a rather surprising twist, the victory often went to the circuit racers, the 'Roundy-Roundy' boys with their fondness for ultra-smooth tarmac, rather than the rally enthusiasts.

Originally of course there was just the one test, simple and very straightforward, but in order to add an extra element to the challenge, the 'Nürburgring' circuit was subsequently added to make the event a little tougher - to sort out 'The men from the boys'. Little changed regarding the results, and so the status quo remained, with regular comments about the roughness of the event. Now though, things have changed, and the event has moved onward significantly.

No longer does the event now consist of two tests, this time it is down to just one. The circuit has had a major upgrade, with the 'ploughed field' gone forever. The Nürburgring has been at least temporarily retired, and a new circuit has been introduced. To celebrate Lewis Hamilton's sixth Formula One Grand Prix victory at the British Grand Prix of 2019 and the confirmation of the venue until 2025, the new circuit is Silverstone. And what a beautiful piece of work the new Whickham and District Motor Club Steering Wheel Challenge is; laser engraved on crystal clear acrylic, the circuit was shown with each bend named and numbered, start and finish clearly marked, arrows indicating the direction of travel and the WDMC club logo proudly emblazoned, all encircled with a super shiny piano black retaining ring to stop the balls from falling off. This is indeed the most stylish Steering Wheel Challenge in the North of England.

2019 SWC Silverstone Black

The major benefit of producing such a perfectly formed piece of equipment was the fact that it was absolutely, perfectly flat so there was nothing to cause any deviation to the direction of travel, and with virtually no drag whatsoever, the stainless steel balls sped across the surface like tiny, silver dervishes desperate to get to the other side, barely hesitating in their manic quest. This did of course make the challenge on the one hand a little bit easier and on the other something altogether more of a skilful task, as it meant that now even the slightest of movements saw the entire swathe of balls shoot across the surface like so many Wildebeest across the African Plains.

As each competitor took their turn, they all agreed this was a major improvement on previous versions, as it was not only a delight to look at, but also a much more dependable surface and one that could be relied upon to perform consistently with every slight movement, tilt or twist. The general consensus was good, and times were subsequently much less variable than of old.

With a total of nine players taking part, competition was very healthy, with a couple of sub-competitions bringing an extra element to the final results:

1 Brian 0m 46s
2 Peter
0m 52s
3 Tosh
1m 02s
4 Guy
1m 03s
5 Jimmy
1m 12s
6 Karl
1m 18s
7 Gordon
1m 54s
8 Mac
1m 56s
9 Alastair
2m 26s

A brilliant win for Brian at his first attempt with the new track, his time of 46.69 seconds beating Peter into second place, despite the Treasurer's superbly smooth style and very gentle persuasion seeing all balls in place in less than a minute. A good third place for Tosh, only just beating Guy by the merest of margins: 0.63 seconds. Jimmy showed a surprising adeptness with the new rig, placing himself fourth only a handful of seconds behind, with Karl keeping up the Knox family block in sixth place.

Many thanks to Tosh and Brian for bringing along a beautifully presented new challenge and running the event on the night, points in the Superstars Championship to all those who took part, tonight's result seeing Tosh retake second place from Lee by a single important point, whilst Peter now climbs to sixth, level with Gary.

Next week: The Reaction Test: do you have the lightning like reflexes of a scalded cat, or are you more the sort of person who sees the Highway Code stopping distances as something to hopefully aspire to on a good day......?

Radio Controlled Autotest - 10 July 2019

2019 July RC Autotest

Laverick does a mini Ken Block.

There was never a more convincing display of the differences between the generations than was exhibited at the Whickham and District Motor Club on the night of the 10th July 2019, when the Radio Controlled Autotest was held in the upstairs room at Kibblesworth Workmens Club.

The competitors ranged in age from their early twenties to those past retirement age, and it was certainly never more apparent in which camp those taking part were sitting, as the younger members seemed not only perfectly at ease with the car and controls, but showed a fluency that could only make the senior members of the club look on in awe, as they pirouetted around the cones and spun the little car about its axis, flying through the course as if it were the most simple exercise in the world. For those in the other camp, it was a much more laborious affair, with a huge number of changes in direction and shuffling back and forth to line the wee car up for the many garages and gates.

Of the younger, faster members it was only new member David Leach who fell slightly by the wayside, touching a cone and picking up a fail for his efforts, whilst all the others cleaned the course simply and mostly elegantly, their familiarity with the controls more evident with each passing second. In contrast, for the older members the exercise was much more thoughtful, as each of them could be seen to be consciously working out which control to move which way to make the car move in the desired direction. Not so much painful, but probably more painfully obvious that it was not a natural activity for them. The look of concentration on their faces was a real picture, compared to the ease with which the young'uns had tackled the task.

As each member took their turn, it became more and more obvious by the time differences that there was to be a distinct line between the generations: amongst the more senior members, Gordon was quickest, although his time was not particularly representative as he demolished a grand total of 17 cones in what could only be described as an homage to Jonathan E. in the 1975 film Rollerball, where the aim appears to be to destroy everything in your attempt to win. Not to be outdone, Guy proved every bit as effective as Gordon, matching him cone for cone, although it has to be said he did it in a much more stylish and subtle way, rather than the much more aggressive manner employed by the bullish senior Bradford. All of them, though, taking twice as long as the more fresh-faced competitors.

Eventually, after every 'driver' had taken his turn, the times were all added up and fails counted, to produce the final results:

1 Gary 1m 08s 0F
2 Matthew 1m 19s
3 Phil 1m 26s
4 Brian 1m 37s
5 David 1m 12ss
6 Tosh 2m 51s
7 Peter 3m 30s
8 Gordon 2m 42s
9 Guy 3m 04s

A great win for Gary, showing a skillset that had everyone amazed at his performance, his skill and dexterity proving more than a match for everyone else taking part. A good second place for Matthew, whose car control was slick, measured and tightly controlled, beating Phil by seven seconds; the Chairman bringing up the top three with a solid performance, sad to be third but very pleased to beat Brian who came home in fourth, just unable to match the pace of the top three.

Many thanks to Matthew for bringing a very well charged RC car along, also Tosh and Brian for setting up, creating and drawing the route, together with their efforts in picking up and repositioning the many cones that were scattered far and wide throughout the night, often so much so that garages had to be rebuilt in a split-second to allow certain competitors to continue their course....

Points in the Superstars Championship to all those who took part, tonight's result sees Tosh make a little ground up on Lee, whilst Gary's win helps him up to sixth place closely followed by Matthew whose win nets him a two place benefit.

Next week: The Steering Wheel Challenge: a game of balance and a thorough understanding of the laws of physics, which will put some of our members at a distinct disadvantage immediately.....

Karl's Well Overdue Quiz - 3 July 2019

2019 Karls overdue quiz

There's an old phrase that says 'All things come to those who wait' - originally used by the English poet Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie in her poem 'Tout vient a qui sait attendre':

'Ah, all things come to those who wait,'
(I say these words to make me glad),
But something answers soft and sad,
'They come, but often come too late.’

For the competitive members of Whickham and District Motor Club those words of Lady Currie rang very true, as that wait had almost become a tradition, that monthly expectation, the frisson of excitement as we all awaited 'The Quiz that Karl Forgot'. It had become a bit of a joke amongst the members, a vain hope that someday, somehow, it would magically appear and surprise everyone.

And that is exactly what happened on the night of the 3rd July 2019, when to the immense surprise of all, members were welcomed to the club by a stack of carefully printed sheets of paper containing an assortment of (mostly rallying) questions. However, in what was a rather surprising move, the questions were all pretty historical, with none more recent than 2010, and some much older than that, going back to 1965. It was enough to make some members baulk at the prospect, even with the lure of the opportunity of some valuable points for simply making the attempt. However, their loss would be to others' gain, much to the obvious delight of Tosh and Brian, who are well known for their almost complete lack of knowledge in all things rallying! This would give them both the chance of some points in the Championship, and in Tosh's case, some very much needed help.

As Tosh and Brian sat down and scanned the questions through furrowed brows, they had not immediately realised the significance of their participation: at that precise point, unbeknownst to them, they were the only competitors taking part, and had the situation continued unchanged, they would have won the quiz. Sadly for them, within just minutes of starting the quiz, Peter arrived, shortly followed by Guy, resulting in a situation where arguably the two most unwelcome people were now taking part (or at least, when one is trying to win a quiz).

There were no other takers on the night, each of them feeling the questions were too difficult. A strange situation, when there were so many points up for grabs, but then who knows what goes on in the heads of others? For those who did, it would be a generous night.

Although Karl was keen to work out the results at home and publish them the following week, those present were less enthusiastic at the prospect, wanting to know the results now. And so it was, as Karl did his quick calculations and produced the final results as follows:

1 Guy 8 pts
2 Peter 6 pts

3 Tosh and Brian 5 pts

A great win for Guy, although even he was not as high scoring as expected, - perhaps Karl's quiz really was as difficult as Tosh and Brian had at first thought. Arguably the perfect quiz result for Peter, finishing second with a full six points and skilfully avoiding having to organise the next quiz. Tosh and Brian almost delirious with delight at their third place, netting them more points than they dared to imagine for a quiz night, so major smiles all round in the Townsend household. Well, maybe not all round, as it was actually Tosh's 43rd wedding anniversary tonight, and having been asked earlier if he was taking his wife out for the evening, had replied 'No, she doesn't enjoy the Motor Club'. Still, he did buy her some delicious cake, which went down well. Literally.

Many thanks to Karl for not only finally putting on the quiz but also showing his very generous side and bringing along a very much appreciated selection of fine and tasty biscuits, which were certainly enjoyed by all present. They almost brought forth an additional quizzical element as the present members tried to decode the biscuit codes before tasting. Their efforts were not altogether successful, unlike the biscuits which were a huge hit.

Points in the Superstars Championship to all those who took part, tonight's result seeing Guy move up a very impressive six places to eleventh, whilst Peter moves up to eighth. Tosh now closes the gap on Lee considerably, whilst Brian surges ahead in the Championship. Phil's non-participation this evening now puts him in a more vulnerable position as Peter and Guy creep up the Championship ladder.

Next week: The Radio Controlled Autotest: a game of skill and dexterity and very careful positioning, where only the slightest slip can cost you oh so very dearly.....

Rally Simulator - 12 June 2019

2019 Rally Simulator

Sand and Gravel.

As a small boy living in North-West Kent, I often used to see the Bexley Sand and Gravel lorries delivering their loads around the area and so I grew up always associating sand and gravel with the Wells brothers, Eric and Clive. They'd bought Manor Farm in 1962, quarried the land and set up a ballast works beside the A2, which is still in situ to this day. It's now run by the Chapman family who bought the business from Eric and Clive in 1994, nowadays selling much more than the gravel I remember as a child as I watched the lorries go past, kicking up the dust into the warm, sunny air as we played in our shirts and shorts.

However, shirts and shorts were very definitelky not the order of the day on Wednesday the twelfth of June 2019, which was a truly miserable day, with incessant rain all day and everything and everybody outside getting soaked through as they went about their daily business; so it was a blessed relief to each of our members as they entered a beautifully warm and comforting Kibblesworth Workmens Club that evening to see all the familiar faces of the Motor Club and Lee and Ewan's excellent video gaming rig all set up for a superb evening's entertainment. Lee had set up a challenge this time that differed slightly from the norm; the game was Dirt Rally 2 and this time it would consist of two rounds of rally driving, one on tarmac, one on gravel, with accumulated times deciding the finishing positions. The cars were set up with manual gearboxes and the added complication of suffering from damage should the relevant competitor decide to be just that little bit too exuberant in their approach, and this was to prove significant when the final times were calculated.

Each competitor was given the exact same car and stage: no changing of tyres or driving aids, nothing to give any one person even the slightest advantage (unless of course, that person actually had the game themselves, in which case they would obviously have the advantage of familiarity with the route). For the majority, though, it would be an even playing field, and the best would rise to the surface and show the rest the way to go.

First stage was Baumholder Kreuzungsring, a fine tarmac base with the expected predictable handling characteristics of the sealed surface, whilst the second stage brought in that gravel, New England, Hancock Hill Sprint Forward. The car was a FWD Citroen C2 and that was enough to catch out the unwary and those that were very unfamiliar with the vagaries of a Front Wheel Drive Rally Car. Suffice to say that in the words of the old adage: it certainly sorted the men from the boys!

It was easy to tell those that knew the stages, the ones that knew exactly what they were doing, but it also inversely brought out some real talent; those competitors who had not driven the game before, except for the last time it was in the club, yet managed to set some fantastic times despite their obvious inexperience; others simply struggled dreadfully, not comfortable with manual gear changes, not knowing which way the stage went, struggling to understand the cryptic instructions of the co-driver, simply driving on sight and trusting to their own abilities. The spectacle was strangely mesmerising; club members all sitting around the rig, watching intently, not daring to take their eyes off the screen, for fear of missing that split-second movement that could make the difference between winning and losing, could finish a challenge in a heartbeat, could plunge a strong attempt straight into the abyss.

The atmosphere was not only palpable but also electric; the concentration intense, as each competitor sat in their very comfortable seat, making their individual adjustments and settling down for their turn. At that point, time simply stopped, no-one else could help them, they truly were on their own, with nothing but their individual ability to dictate their final placing. It was the modern equivalent of the gunfight at the OK Corral, only this time their cars were their guns and the stage was the bad guys.

By the time the final members had taken their turn, it was all down to the accumulated times: and following some fairly quick mathematic calculations on Lee's part, he had the results to hand:

1 Ewan 6m 36s 178s + 218s
2 Lee 7m 00s
188.3s + 232.7s
3 Jamie 7m 15s
206.5s + 229.9s
4 Brian 7m 32s
203.7s + 249.6s
5 Karl 7m 35s
205.7s + 250.7s
6 Alastair 8m 31s
224.7s + 287.5s
7 Phil 8m 33s
241.4s + 272.3s
8 Tosh 9m 25s
271.6s + 294.9s
9 Jimmy 10m 37s
254.5s + 383.1s
10 Matt 11m 52s
317.1s + 215.3s
11 Gordon 12m 01s
296.3s + 425.9s
12 Gary 12m 15s
255.4s + 480s (DNF)
13 Cameron 16m 00s
480s (DNF) + 480s (DNF)
13 Emilia 16m 00s
480s (DNF) + 480s (DNF)

A truly superb drive from Ewan saw him take victory by a very impressive 24 seconds from Dad Lee, his style and grace showing that he was as fluid a driver in this virtual game as he had ever been behind the wheel of his physical car last season. Father Lee also reinforcing the fact that the Tindalls are not only a family of true competitors but they will also go 100% for the victory whenever they have that opportunity. Having locked out the top two places it was good to see that Jamie gave them a good run for their money by finishing third, only fifteen seconds behind Lee, whilst Brian finished a superb fourth despite not having driven the game at all beforehand except on Video Game Simulator nights. Karl was suitable gutted to finish fifth, a bare three seconds behind Brian, his exuberance causing him to lose time due to a few offs and damage.

Many thanks to Lee for bringing the rig to the club on what was a truly appalling wet and windy night, however it is very true to say that it really lifted the spirits of the assembled club members - and to see a very healthy fourteen club members take part in the challenge was a brilliant spectacle on a normal Wednesday night.

Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, tonight's result sees Lee take a massive leap over third placed Tosh, although Brian maintains his lead in the Championship despite the efforts of the assembled Tindall assault. Tosh drops back further, his challenge for the runner-up spot becoming weaker every event, whilst Ewan starts to push Phil for fourth place.

Next week: A Map Based Event. Who knows what wonderful challenges lay in wait for those who love cartography? Only time will tell.....


Kenny's Collecting Competition - 22 May 2019


Whether you believe in climate change or not, we have certainly had some interesting weather over the past couple of weeks and so it was with some trepidation that we awaited the evening of the 22nd May 2019 for Phil Kenny's much anticipated Foot Rally. As it transpired it was a glorious evening (which would have obviously brought out the climate change deniers in droves claiming global warming was a good thing) with beautiful sunshine and a lovely warm feel to the air: the perfect atmosphere for this type of event.

The only thing that could have caused a spanner in the proverbial works was for the event to be cancelled, and that was a very real possibility due to Phil's current workload; he has been travelling a good deal lately and was finding the time to organise the event properly very challenging indeed, so he decided to instead put on a nice, simple treasure hunt around the village so that he didn't disappoint anyone who had been looking forward to the event.

The rules were very simple: each crew/team was given a list of items to find and a time limit of 30 minutes to collect them all; each item not collected would earn a fail, as would each incorrect item or minute over the time allocated to collect all objects. A first glance at the list suggested the task would be simple enough, however looking further down the sheet there were a few unfamiliar items and unrecognised terms: who knew what wild garlic leaf looked like, or how an Aesculus Hippocastanum leaf would catch the eye of the casual observer? Allied to the exotic sounding Bellis Perennis flower it seemed the challenge would not initially be as straightforward as it would first appear.

The obvious items were there too: a ring pull from a drinks can; a plastic bottle top; a metal bottle cap and a crisp packet. These things are the staple diet of the Foot Rally, included generally to give even the most hapless competitor the opportunity to think they might have a chance. The Dandelion stem was there too, reminding me vividly that when I was a child of nine years old all the kids in our street were convinced that if you picked a Dandelion you would wet the bed. In that, like many, I took the chance; tomorrow morning would tell.

As each crew set forth with their usual confidence, scouring the area around the Club for crisp packets, bottle tops and cans, (the rather double-edged sword of modern society's tendency to simply discard unwanted and finished items and cast them to the ground without any care or attention) the crews were lucky enough to find a good number of items within easy reach: five off the list almost without looking! With a list of only ten items the final five should be fairly easy to collect.

The truth of the matter was soon apparent: although a yellow flower petal (that wasn't a dandelion or picked from somebody's garden) should have been an easy pick, there seemed to be a complete dearth of the pesky blighters around Kibblesworth this evening; and as the 30 minutes inexorably ticked down and crews became more jittery about the impending penalties for exceeding their time, smart phones were brought out and Google was consulted: what was an Aesculus Hippocastanum leaf? How would I recognise the beautiful and elegantly named Bellis Perennis flower? Just what shape was, and where would I find, a wild garlic leaf?

For some of our members who lived in the more rural areas it might have brought a small advantage; those who walk with their dogs amongst the Hawthorns, Ash and Oaks, or religiously watch Countryfile or Springwatch, the names and shapes might have had a more familiar ring than those who spent more time at traffic lights, negotiating steep speed bumps or staring at their speedometer to check they were not exceeding ridiculous 20mph limits as they drove along a deserted street at 2am. Nevertheless, as they say, each to his own, and some may find advantage in other areas on other events.

The final results, once organiser Phil had checked each sheet and the collected items carefully, in accordance with his criteria: 'My decision on any items will be final' was as follows:

1 Tosh and Brian 29m 1F
2 Lee and Ewan 7m
3 Jonny and Cameron 12m
4 Jimmy and Alastair 21m
5 Peter and Matthew 31m

A great win for the super-competitive Tosh and Brian, using their full allocation of time and returning in 29 minutes with an almost full complement of items, only falling short on the impossible to collect White Clover Flower (Phil's own very clever Dirty Dog inclusion) due to it not actually flowering for another month. These are the things that make this sort of event special; knowing what to look for and what not to. A full complement of points for Brian and Tosh, helping Brian extend his lead over Lee and bringing Tosh just a little bit closer to the senior Tindall, who with son Ewan earned a great second place even though they only spent an incredible seven minutes collecting items, and a full ten points in the Superstars Championship. A great third place for Jonny and Cameron helping them close the gap on the top ten.

Many thanks to Phil for putting the event on despite the pressures of work that are undoubtedly affecting the time he has available to be an organiser; thanks also to all those who took part tonight, your participation is key to the success of the Championship, and there is always the chance that as the season progresses, your points haul will increase and you will move up the Championship table.

Next event: the June Navigational Event: a chance to not only shine brightly and show the rest of the club just how good you are at interpreting the cryptic - and very often confusing - clues provided and make your way successfully around a tortuous route with no fails, but also the opportunity to do so with such an apparent air of grace and simplicity it belies the hidden tribulations that nobody truly appreciates.

The Superstars Championship is not only alive and well, but becoming more competitive by the day!

The wasted wheel change - 15 May 2019

190515 Ewan

The Dunning Kruger Effect.

In truth, as men, we have almost all been there at some point or another. In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.

The night of the 15th May 2019 was a case in point, where the Wednesday evening challenge this time was to change a wheel in the now very popular 'Pitstop Competition', although the additional twist to the event tonight was it had to be done whilst wearing the very disorientating 'Beer Goggles' that make you see the world as though you really had consumed too much to drink and were seeing double. There was the risk, of course, that for some of our more salubrious members, that may have been a distinct advantage, whereas for the majority, it surely had to have at least some effect on their performance.

The proof, of course, had to be in the pudding, as it were. Anyone who floundered could quite reasonably claim that their abilities were significantly inhibited by the application of a pair of glasses that simulated being very, very drunk, whilst those that did spectacularly well certainly would obviously raise a few eyebrows as to their capabilities whilst under the influence...

Nevertheless, it would be fair to say that pretty much everyone who took part truly believed they could handle the task, that their ability would not be significantly affected by wearing the beer goggles, and that their times would be quick enough to silence the critics and show them once and for all just how manly a man could be, with or without the drink.

The reality, as is so often the case, was so very different from their expectations. Whilst almost everyone quickly assimilated themselves to the task of getting the wheel brace in the right position and spinning the nuts off within a few seconds, the really big problem was already lying in wait for them, quietly pending its time, building itself up to the point where it would rear its ugly head and thrust itself into their face just when they needed it least: getting the wheel back on the studs! Whilst there were a very lucky few who managed this by pure fluke the very first time, for the majority, this was a herculean task; one which for many was nigh on impossible, one which caused so many swear words to be uttered it was superbly comical.

Matthew was first to go, setting a very respectable time although he did have one nut loose costing him an extra 5 seconds. Gary went next, his time a good bit quicker than Matthew's but with the added advantage of having all nuts tight and so no penalty time to add. Brian was next, his time quick, getting the wheel back on fairly rapidly although obviously not as quick as he wanted as one of the wheel nuts had somehow managed to roll outside the immediate area, causing him some valuable time searching for it. Lee came to the wheel next, his experience showing major benefits as he spun the wheel brace impressively rapidly, getting all the nuts off in a shade over 20 seconds and then getting the wheel back on almost immediately. His time was amazing, and looked to be unbeatable.

As each subsequent competitor took their turn, it became more and more apparent that the single biggest issue was their ability to locate the wheel on the studs; some managed it beautifully well, others struggled so much it was almost painful to see: Tosh took a full, agonising 50 seconds just to locate the wheel, ultimately finishing in seventh place; without that dreadful time delay he would have been much further up the leader board.

Nevertheless, the night was entertaining, the laughter rich and rewarding, the spectacle something to commit to memory and recall with gusto just when you really needed a lift.

Final results, after what was a side-splitting evening of entertainment, showed that the Dunning Kruger effect was alive and well and living in Kibblesworth Workmens Club and being fostered by Whickham and District Motor Club:

1 Lee 96.34s
2 Jimmy 101.70s
96.70 +5s
3 Brian 123.32s

4 Gary 146.83s

5 Phil 147.79s

6 Matthew 157.29s
152.29 +5s
7 Tosh 164.71s
159.71 +5s
8 Ewan 170.92s

9 Cameron 178.76s
168.76 +10s
10 Mac 196.13ss

11 Jonny 211.69s
151.69 +60s
12 Kev 212.28s

13 Matt 215.29s

A truly brilliant win for Lee, amassing a haul of twelve points in the Superstars Championship lifting him significantly clear of the chasing pack and starting to threaten Brian for the lead. A great second place for Jimmy, showing that he was not only on the ball with regards to technique, but also with strategy (as he knowingly winked at Lee). A solid third place for Brian, his eight points added to his total tally to keep him at the top of the table, whilst Gary's fourth place brings him level with Ewan in fifth place and sets everyone up for the forthcoming season.

Many thanks to Gary and Phil for bringing the rig, and also to Tosh and Brian for the beer goggles, all combining to produce a really enjoyable event that brought another different aspect to the traditional wheel change competition, and one that really did throw the cat amongst the pigeons. The Championship table gets all mixed up, with places changing and competitors moving up and down once again.

Next week: the Foot Rally. Not in its normal home environment, this time it looks to be a remote event incorporating a drive out to the start and then a wander around a totally different area; who knows what this can bring up, and just how it will all pan out in yet another Superstars Championship event!

The White Sticks Rally - 8 May 2019

2019 Pantomime Horse

The Pantomime horse.

The beauty of some of the games and challenges each week at Whickham and District Motor Club is the way they develop over time. The great thing about having the same format for an event is that it gives the true competitor the opportunity to develop their skill at that game and enable them to hone that skill to a fine art. There is, of course, the opposite argument that practice makes perfect, and one could argue that repetition brings with it perfection at the cost of equality for all.

However, for the really competitive member, they will always want to improve and that with dedication and application, it will ultimately enable them to win fairly and squarely. The original concept for some of our challenges has in some cases evolved significantly over the years (take the Kinetic Car Race for example) and swung back and forth between the very simple to the almost impossible.

Tonight's game was the Blindfold Rally - first thought of a number of years ago where the 'driver' was to be blindfolded and the 'navigator' directed him around a course of cones, the aim being to guide the driver around the course cleanly in the fastest possible time without hitting any cones. This did of course result in some confusion, with good navigators accruing good scores for their driver, whilst suffering and not scoring well due to poor navigation on the same driver's part. This had then developed over time as a game involving only the individual competitor, using a pair of 'Beer Goggles' that gave him double vision, although that later reverted back to the crew concept with the driver using completely blacked out goggles preventing him from seeing anything, relying once again on the skill of the navigator, with points being awarded to the combined team.

Tonight, however, a new concept was born: not only did the driver have blacked out vision, but the navigator had two sticks, which he used to 'steer' the driver around a difficult course without hitting any cones. Whilst it sounded simple, in reality it was rather more surreal, as while some of the navigators chose to talk constantly about where they were directing their crew member, others simply maintained a stony silence, preferring to use their sticks as guides and trusting their drivers to understand their gentle instructions and move accordingly, much like human diviners seeking the water of life.

Cameron was first to go, with Father Gary carefully directing him around the course, Cameron very tentative, father Gary as cautious as could be. They were clean after the first run, subsequently swapping places and allowing Gary to drive whilst Cameron gave him directions; it should be noted that Gary was particularly good at interpreting Cameron's instructions of 'Right, Left' as actually meaning 'Correct, move to your Left'. The crew was clean and had been the first to set a target to aim for. Lee and Ewan were next, dad Lee steering Ewan around the course quickly and cleanly, before swapping over and performing as well as before, to eclipse the first crew's time by almost half. Tosh and Brian were next to go, their technique radically different from the two previous crews, Tosh bringing Brian home in an extremely quick time that looked to be very hard to beat. They swapped over and Brian was off at once, steering his father around the course cleanly and precisely, however the very slightest of misunderstandings caused Tosh to sidestep very slightly at the top of the course, just stepping on a cone to record the first fail of the night. Brian's groan was painful, as he knew this had cost them dearly, making them at least third and possibly lower.

Phil and Gordon were next to the start, yet within a second of moving off Phil had clipped the starting gate, recording his first fail, and whilst the rest of his run was virtually faultless, his final act was to walk into the finishing gate to record a second fail. As Gordon ventured forth from the starting gate, the game became more comical by the second, with Phil bending down to Gordon's level, quietly speaking to him and taking on the uncanny semblance of a male nurse in blue scrubs guiding an elderly gentleman to the toilet. Now there was only the final crew of Peter and Matthew to take their turn. Peter was precise and direct, steering Matthew around the course with clear instructions and stopping Matthew whenever he thought there was a possibility of clipping a cone. Their time was good, their first run clear; it was now down to Matthew to steer Peter around the twisty course without contact.

In what can only be described as the perfect imitation of the archetypal pantomime horse, Peter stared blankly into space, with Matthew following him around, bent double at the waist, watching Peter's feet like a hawk, stopping and checking each gate and cone to ensure a clean and perfect run. They may not have been as quick as Tosh and Brian, but crucially, their run was clean, with no fails, and that was what mattered more than anything else.

The final results showed that speed without accuracy is never as good as a clean result, with everyone's final placings as follows:

1 Peter and Matthew 157.73s
2 Lee and Ewan 164.68s

3 Cameron and Gary 323.21s

4 Tosh and Brian 136.10s
5 Phil and Gordon 234.86s

A really good result for Peter and Matthew, both gaining very valuable points in the Superstars Championship, whilst Lee and Ewan's result lifts Lee clear of Tosh into second place. Lee and Ewan's points adding to their total and bringing them further up the Championship table every week; Ewan now leapfrogs Gary Laverick into fifth place, who is now beginning to suffer due to the pressures of work. Cameron's third place bringing him a good haul of points and more than doubling his current points tally to bring him ever closer to the Superstars Top Ten, whilst Tosh's minor yet very painful mistake costs him his place in the table, leaving him with more work to do to regain his place from Lee, who now creeps a little closer to Brian who also suffered from Tosh's mishap. Phil and Gordon both score valuable points, and though their tally may not have been considerable, they were after all more points than anyone who didn't take part, and that could well be key to their final position at the end of the year.

Many thanks to Tosh and Brian for putting the event on, a great and very enjoyable little variation on an otherwise straightforward challenge. Although not a huge turnout in terms of teams, the event still attracted ten competitors, all scoring points in the Superstars Championship. When it comes to the final months, and scores have to be dropped, these could make all the difference.

Interestingly, when first explained to the competitors, it was mooted that maybe a clipped cone could just add five or ten seconds to the crew's time, but, as Tosh and Brian have always maintained, it should count as a fail, nothing else was fair. Had they agreed to the ten second rule, they would still have won by a fair margin, even if they had clipped a second cone. Maintaining fair standards does not come cheap, but it certainly does exactly what it should, and that makes it a fair contest.

Next time gentlemen, next time.....

Peter's Particularly Pernicious Prank - 1 May 2019

2019 Tabletop Round 2

The one second rule.

For some people, the TableTop Rally is something of an acquired taste; for others, it can be something of a trial. Some people just don't get it, whilst others will spend an inordinate amount of time persevering just to crack the cryptic clues and get to the end. Others, however, relish the thought of the event, as to them it is not only a real challenge but something to attack with absolute relish with the aim of beating all others with a perfect score and superfast time.

Years ago the Whickham and District TableTop rallies were quite complicated and long lasting affairs, often taking well over an hour to complete and causing much wracking of brains and frustrating competitors to the point of giving up. These days, however, the modern WDMC TableTop is a single sheet affair, with most competitors (even the novices) able to complete the event in little over 30 minutes, sometimes much less. The quality of the clues remains as difficult as ever, yet the format has changed enough to make them more enjoyable, less stressful and much quicker.

Tonight's event was organised by master mindbender Peter Metcalfe, who admitted in his own words it was probably his least prepared event ever, having taken him only just over an hour and a half to set up, yet it really was as good as any the club has seen put on in the past few years. Dubbed the 'Rover's Return', there was a good mix of tulips, cryptic clues, junction descriptions and sections with CRO (Coloured Roads Only) and CAR (Consider All Roads) to make the competing 'tabletoppers' think twice before committing their route to paper.

In true fashion, the title of the event held a hidden clue: 'Rover's Return' (and he needs a bath). For some it meant nothing, yet for others (and maybe those who are fans of either the crossword puzzle or Tabletops of years gone by) it meant a little more: 'Rover' - perhaps a dog, 'he needs a bath' - could he be dirty? Putting the two together revealed what Peter was intimating: this TableTop contained a 'Dirty Dog' moment; a term immortalised by Club member Colin Fish many years ago when he introduced particularly tricky clues that could be taken more than one way, the obvious answer always being the wrong answer - hence the phrase: 'The Dirty Dog'.

Whilst the first four sections were, although testing, very straightforward, the fifth section was the one that had lulled everyone into a sense of false security; this was that Dirty Dog. In section three the clues were so very straightforward: TJ TL suggested 'Tee Junction Turn Left' whilst XR SO was obviously 'Cross Roads Straight On'. This was of course the hook that held the worm, the bait that caught the fish. Going into section five almost everyone started to plot the junctions as they thought the instructions meant; yet very soon they ran into a problem when the instructions just didn't fit the roads. For those who were on the ball, they quickly realised something was amiss, and double checked the instructions only to find that Peter had substituted the obvious direction for other instructions: XR now meant 'Tee Junction', whilst SO meant 'Turn Right'. For the others, their inbuilt conditioning had them thinking that TJ could only ever be Tee Junction, and XR could be nothing other than Cross Roads. The trap had been well and truly set, and competitors were falling over themselves to put their necks in the proverbial noose.

This was that 'Dirty Dog' moment, and just how quickly each competitor realised the tricky substitution would define their position in the results. Some got it straight away, whilst others took much longer, yet the standard rules would always apply: to finish first, you must first finish, and so a clean result would always trump a fast but dirty time.

The final results would actually reveal something that had never ever been seen at Whickham and District Motor Club before:

1 Brian 9m 15s 0F
2 Tosh 9m 16s
3 Lee 27m 20s
4 Guy 18m 55s
5 Ewan 18m 20s
6 Matthew 33m 30s

In an absolutely amazing result, Brian took a very well deserved victory beating long time TableTop Master Tosh by the absolute smallest of margins: a single, very important second. In what was almost unbelievable, and certainly nothing that had ever been seen at WDMC before, the result was decided by the most incredible margin - 0.0018% - the equivalent of driving all the way from Newcastle to London and arriving second, just 29.16 seconds after first place. And if you thought that was amazing, then third place was even more exciting: Lee Tindall, having only started competing on TableTops for the first time ever in September last year, not knowing anything at all about them, came home in third place with a totally clean sheet, beating not only his son Ewan but also Guy. This was a brilliant result and one to truly savour, in one, a superb achievement.

Many thanks indeed to Peter for putting the event on, a cracking little challenge and one that really did have everyone thinking for a while. Points in the Maps challenge to all who took part, Brian overtaking Guy and moving into the lead of the Championship, Tosh moving up a few places into third place after his disastrous showing in the first event, whilst Lee claims a very impressive third place with a showing that emphasises that, despite his protestations to the contrary, he has a steely determination to win that belies his easy-going manner: his determination is visible for all to see.

For the casual observer, this shows the 2019 Maps Championship is certainly not a foregone conclusion; if nothing else, it reinforces the fact that this season we have a more determined, ambitious and hungry competitor that is as determined to take this Championship to the wire as at any point in the past fifty-odd years.

Everything is to play for, all you have to do is watch this space!

Radio Controlled Autotest - 24 April 2019

2019 Fiesta RC Car

XV1 - The Number 16

Four squared. The age at which you can join the armed forces, get your own adult passport, legally smoke and get married (and in Scotland, without your parents' consent) although doing all that in one day would be a massive undertaking. Chuck Berry sang about a girl who was Sweet Little Sixteen, those of that tender age in the Isle of Man are lucky enough to vote, whilst for the geeks amongst us, it's the base of the hexadecimal number system, which is used extensively in computer science. And for those who love all things Brexit and don't do metric, it's the number of ounces in the jolly old British pound.

At Whickham and District Motor Club on the night of the 24th April 2019 the number sixteen was particularly significant, for it represented the number of people who took part in the Radio Controlled Autotest organised by Matthew, Tosh and Brian in the upstairs room at Kibblesworth Workmens Club, on what was a brilliantly lively night both upstairs and down, with all manner of banter not only during the event itself but also during the Chairman's announcements.

The format was disarmingly simple: power the Remote Control Ford Fiesta around a simple course of four garages, two roundabouts, a slalom through a complex of five bins and stop astride a gate between two final bollards. Penalties were given for any bollards hit, so a clean run was the order of the day, the criteria being that 'control' was the operative word - all against the clock and under the critical eyes of the other competitors. Most did reasonably well, some performed superbly whilst others were not so fortunate. One thing that added a little extra challenge was the position of the controls: this particular controller had the steering on the right with the throttle on the left - perhaps this could be an advantage for those who were a little less familiar with the 'standard' settings employed by PlayStation and X-Box consoles.

Considering that the aim of the game was to steer clear of the bollards and come home with a clean sheet, there was a surprisingly high incidence of contact between car and cones, with some members managing to hit almost every garage, sometimes almost seeming to confirm their inability by reversing out and then clobbering the same bollard a second time, much to the amusement of the assembled throng. For others, accuracy was paramount; their concentration intense, their actions deliberate, their result a vindication of their intentions.

Ultimately, there were only six clear rounds, with all other competitors managing to hit at least one bollard; whilst the average number of bollards hit was 4.2, some managed to exceed that by quite an impressive margin. Many were just the gentlest of kisses, whilst others gave us a display that was unerringly reminiscent of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Tony was arguably the unluckiest on the night, his very impressive 53.25 second time ruined by a single touch on one bollard, dropping him to seventh overall. In the WDMC RC Autotest, as my Mother used to say, 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness', although she never drove an RC car.

Final results, once everyone had done their miniature rendition of Ken Block on linoleum, were as follows:

1 Gary 51.62s
2 Matthew 1m 02.62s

3 Brian 1m 11.37s

4 Lee 1m 16.37s

5 Phil 1m 22.09s

6 Tosh 1m 49.22s

7 Tony 53.25s
8 Karl 1m 05.18s
9 Gordon 2m 05.49s
10 Ewan 1m 05.62ss
11 Kevin 1m 24.69s
12 Peter 2m 03.99s
13 Jamie 1m 24.38s
14 Jonny 42.87s
15 Cameron 1m 20.34s
16 Alastair 2m 40.71s

A brilliant result for Gary, proving the old adage that once you've got it you rarely lose it, bringing the skills of his youth to the fore and smashing the time with a hugely impressive result of just over 51 seconds. The only person to beat his time was Jonny, however in his attempts he managed to blast as many cones into the crowd as there are days in the week, emulating the starburst display of the Red Arrows, only this time in plastic milk bottles. A great second place for Matthew, his beautifully clean run resulting in a time only just over a minute but missing Gary's time by eleven seconds; a great third place for Brian, his super clean and careful drive netting him more good points in the Championship to maintain his healthy lead.

Many thanks to Matthew, Brian and Tosh for putting the event on, bringing the car and bollards and setting everything up with yet another interesting and challenging course. Points in the Club Superstars Championship to all who took part, Lee inexorably moving up the leader board, now to second in the Superstars Championship to tie with Tosh, Phil sitting solidly in third just ahead of Gary and Jamie who now vie for fifth position. Matthew's result brings him into the Top Ten: could this be the start of his own Championship challenge for 2019?

The next event in this year's Superstars Championship will be the Blindfold Rally: maybe this time with another subtle twist to the proceedings? Who knows what that might be; all you really need to know is that if you want the championship points, you really need to be there to take part.

Pit Stop Competition - 27 March 2019

Pit Stop Wheel

The Minute

What is it about the minute? What strange and compelling draw does the minute have on us all? Why is the minute so important to so many?

The word "minute" comes from the Latin pars minuta prima, meaning "first small part"; we talk about being "just a minute" when called for dinner; we say it won't take a minute when we are doing something we don't think will take very long; we have seen the films: One born every minute; Gone in sixty seconds. The Minute. So significant to so many.

On the night of the 27th of March 2019, just two days before the UK was originally meant to leave the EU, the minute suddenly became a very important figure. It was the night of the second Pit Stop Challenge of the year, and expectation was just as high at Kibblesworth Club as it was at Westminster. It is probably fair to say that the better evening was had at Kibblesworth, where there was at least a definite result.

Phil was first to go, and to the amazement of everybody set one of the fastest times ever seen for the event; everything went right for him on the night, the nuts spun off amazingly quickly, the wheel was off in a trice, back on at the first attempt followed by all the nuts without any trouble whatsoever and then spinning the wheel brace like a dervish to give him an incredible 1m 6.39 seconds to really stake his claim for the win. Incredible. Gary followed, obviously keyed up by his co-driver's result and presumably thinking that not only had all the stars aligned but the high pressure currently sitting over the UK must be causing fantastic things to happen to metal. In truth, he could very much have been right, as his time of 1m 11.93s was his quickest time ever.

Lee was hanging around, biding his time, watching and waiting. He said he was waiting for Brian to take his turn, and so the younger Townsend went next. It was not to be his night, as nuts didn't spin, the wheel was not as accommodating as it had been for Phil and Gary, and it all just seemed to take those precious few seconds more, all reflected in his time: 81.66s. Tosh was quick to follow, not expecting great things, and in this didn't disappoint; although he looked to be fairly quick to start, he just couldn't get the wheel aligned up when putting it back on, losing valuable time and eventually ending up with a quite disappointing time.

Lee was next, settling himself down with a very measured expression, concentrating on his target, thinking hard about how to take victory in this event. Always competitive, never holding back, Lee was out to win. He positioned the wheel brace very carefully, steadied the wheel, took a deep, slow breath and held it in for what seemed like that minute. He looked at Gary, slowly exhaled and asked: "Ready?" On Gary's affirmative answer he was off! It was, to be honest, a joy to watch; his hands smacking the brace and twirling it in a blur, dropping the nuts on the floor and on to the next one without hesitation, the wheel off, touching the floor and then back onto the studs almost immediately causing Tosh to wince in anguish at his own unfortunate attempts. Before anyone could almost take a breath, the wheel brace was banged onto the floor with a shout of "Done" and all eyes went to Gary for the time.

It looked quick, it felt quick, everyone knew it was quick. The only slightly uneasy face was Phil's, having set such a quick time himself he was now the one who was holding his breath. And it was quick, too: even quicker than Phil, by just over a full second. Lee was elated, although of course he was now in the same position as Phil had been; top of the times for now, but with many more to take their turn. As it happened, no others could match his time, some doing well to start, but finishing badly; others whipping the wheel off in record time but struggling to get the nuts to spin when replacing the wheel; the rest just not hitting the target time, it was, just too quick on the night.

Final results, once everyone had kneeled, squatted or stood in front of the rig to attempt to make their mark, were as follows:

1 Lee 1m 05.30s
2 Phil 1m 06.39s

3 Gary L 1m 11.93s

4 Brian 1m 21.66s

5 Tosh 1m 24.60s

6 Karl 1m 36.85s

7 Gary W 1m 38.14s
1m 33.14 + 5s
8 Cameron 1m 58.49s

9 Gordon 2m 02.11s

10 Ewan 2m 08.04s
1m 58.04s + 10s
11 Guy 2m 21.5s
2m 11.50s + 10s

A brilliant result for Lee, pipping Phil to the win and gaining maximum points in the Superstars Championship; a great second place for Phil, beating his average Pit Stop time by almost 15 seconds with a superb display of dextrous brace work; a great third place for Gary, also hitting the sweet spot tonight and amassing a healthy points haul.

Many thanks to Gary and Phil for putting the event on and bringing the rig and all associated hardware. Points in the Club Superstars Championship to all who took part, Lee moves up to third in the Superstars Championship, Ewan drops down as Phil takes his place and Gary moves up the ladder.

Lee, however, was not yet finished. Determined to better his time, he set himself up for an unofficial speed run at the wheel. It was very apparent he was on a charge, and the times were what was at risk. Going for it with all guns blazing, his first "off the record" run was an amazing time of just a fraction over a minute: 60.48s. Not satisfied with that, he went a second time: this time he was a fraction quicker, just 60.36s. Everyone watching knew what was coming next: and true to form, Lee came back a third time, determined to crack the magic minute. Amazingly, even though he slightly fumbled one wheel nut he was even quicker on his final attempt, finishing in just 60.23 seconds. By this time, the hands were sore and the time was ticking on, so Lee left the challenge hanging by a thread: but we all knew just what was likely to happen the next time the Pit Stop Challenge is held......

Next week: Karl's long awaited Quiz: whilst we have all been waiting almost as long as Brexit, hopefully the questions won't be three years out of date.

The Filling Station - 20 March 2019

180912 Filling Station


For many Americans of course the initials QVC stand for Quality, Value and Convenience. For those members of Whickham and District Motor Club that attended on the night of the Spring Equinox 2019 they may instead have stood for Quantity, Volume and Capacity, which of course was far more appropriate as it was the night of Tosh's Filling Station challenge.

So what exactly is the Filling Station Challenge? Just look at the acronym above - it is a test of a member's perception, of their evaluation, of their imagination and of their sense of understanding of Quantity, of Volume, of Capacity.

The concept is very simple: take a container of unknown capacity containing a liquid, pour what you think is a specific quantity of water into a different container of unknown capacity, then weigh that volume of water and see just how close you are to what you thought you were dispensing. The results are often surprising, sometimes amazing, usually unexpected.

To make everything fair, we looked at the science. A litre is the standard unit used to measure volume. A kilogram (kg) is the standard unit to measure mass. From 1901 to 1964, the litre was defined as the volume of one kilogram of pure water at maximum density and standard atmospheric pressure, so we decided to use water as our standard medium for our challenge. (To be honest, as we were working to the nearest 5g it didn't need to be measured to atomic levels). :-)

This meant we could simplify the measuring process to weighing the amount of water in the container, and convert it directly from milligrams into Cubic Centilitres (cc).

The challenge was to guess three distinct volumes of water: 500cc, 300cc and 200cc. Each try was weighed and the results noted, with each cc over or under the target amount attracting a point. The winner would be the member with the least number of points.

It is one of the most interesting things to watch people working out in their own time, just how much they thought a certain defined volume of water was. For some, they slightly under of overestimated, for others, their attempts were wildly off the mark. For two of our competitors, their mental calculations proved to be absolutely spot on with perfect scores, whilst some were just nowhere near. Nevertheless, just about everyone at the Club took part, they all enjoyed it immensely and the anticipation at the revealing of the results was palpable.

Those results were, for some, quite a revelation:

1= Ewan 40 pts
1= Tosh
40 pts
3 Brian
50 pts
4 Matthew
55 pts
5 Alastair
75 pts
6= Cameron
85 pts
6= Peter
85 pts
8= Guy
80 pts
8= Jamie
80 pts
8= Jimmy
80 pts
11 Karl
95 pts
12 Gary L
1120 pts
13 Phil
135 pts
14 Emilia
140 pts
15 Gary W
175 pts

A brilliant result for both Ewan and Tosh, showing that they certainly have an eye for a quantity of liquid. Could it be that Tosh is so familiar with the standard British Pint that he knows just how much is left before going to the bar for a refill, whereas Ewan has an infinite appreciation for just how much fuel is required to reach the end of an event before running out that he can see it without trouble? Who on earth would know? A great third place for Brian, reinforcing the fact that no matter what challenge is thrown at him, he always manages to be very close to, if not at, the top of the results. A superb fourth place for Matthew, showing a rare and surprising side of his knowledge, and a brilliant fifth place for Alastair, showing that a good result is always possible no matter wherever you might personally think you may end up in the final placings.

Many thanks to Tosh for putting the event on and bringing a myriad of accoutrements along to facilitate the event, for not only setting up all the paraphernalia on the night but also creating a great atmosphere by successfully inviting almost everyone to take part on the night. Points in the Club Superstars Championship to all who took part, positions changing once again (as is quite normal during the early stages of any Championship battle), Ewan catches up with Dad Lee in another father/son battle and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all.

F1 Simulator - 6 March 2019

1903 F1 Simulator

The Simulator

It is a well-accepted fact that 'Practice Makes Perfect', and that is why for many years young men undertook their rite of passage as apprentices as they looked ahead to the day they became qualified and started their working lives proper, whether that be in the shipyards, as builders, joiners, brewers or whatever. Doing something over and over will always help you to initially improve and eventually perfect your technique, and subsequently go on to become, hopefully, a master of your trade or profession.

For those of us who like to compete in Motorsport, that practice is essential, whether it be the sighting laps of race circuits, the familiarisation of pacenotes and tulips, the careful learning of just how a vehicle responds to differences in road surface, tyre pressures or weather conditions. The results are then clear to see in qualifying sessions at race circuits, or when a rally crew are so familiar with each other they instinctively know what the other is about to do or say.

However, all of this takes time and money, and the opportunity to actually try out and hone these skills in an appropriate place; certainly not the public road, but private roads and tracks cost money.

Hence the rise of the simulator. Often dismissed as nothing more than a 'video game' by those who either don't understand or otherwise don't fully appreciate the subtleties built into today's programmes, they are a very valuable tool in the arsenal of those wishing to improve their skills, especially as the dynamics of today's crop of race and rally games has progressed so far that they have the most amazing ability to really simulate exactly what a particular vehicle would do, on that day, under those conditions, in that configuration. To our incredible good fortune, we can now enjoy the most amazing and wonderful experiences for less than the cost of a reasonable night out.

Having brought their race simulator setup of seat, steering wheel, pedals and large screen TV to the Club last year for what was a very enjoyable and successful evening's entertainment, Ewan and Lee Tindall once again ferried the entire assembly to the club on Wednesday the 6th March for a very much anticipated night of Formula 1 simulation. The setup was quite impressive; the seat was extremely comfortable, the adjustment plenty for all who took part, the controls reasonably easy to understand. Ewan also made the game very fair by offering each competitor a full five laps of the Interlagos circuit in Brazil, in order to let each and every member familiarise themselves completely with the rig in their efforts to get fastest time of the night.

Despite there being a Cheviot meeting taking place upstairs, the take up was still very healthy, with eleven drivers taking part in the challenge. Some were good, some were great, others not so impressive. For many it was probably the first time driving with the 'Halo' which was an unusual experience. For others the manual gearshift would have been another new concept to grapple with, whilst some were not bothered at all. The middle order looked to be the most competitive, with third to sixth covered by a shade over half a second, whilst those at the lower end were not quite as close. Most entertaining drive of the evening was provided by Matthew 'Mashfoot' Price, who proceeded to slam into more walls than a full season at the Brickyard, much to the amusement of those watching. Sublime drive of the night went to Ewan, who showed that it was possible to drive around the circuit carrying much more speed through the corners than anyone else, in the most delightfully smooth manner possible.

Final positions, after everyone had qualified to the best of their abilities, were as follows:

1 Ewan 1m 10.557s
2 Lee
1m 14.112s
3 Jamie
1m 15.682s
4 Paul
1m 15.734s
5 Jonny
1m 15.810s
6 Brian
1m 16.284s
7 Karl
1m 18.270s
8 Phil
1m 22.339s
9 Peter
1m 22.874s
10 Tosh
1m 25.401s
11 Matthew
1m 28.589s

A superb and not unexpected win for Ewan, showing that he certainly had the skill and dexterity to sweep all before him tonight; a brilliant second place for Dad Lee, his result bringing him a special bonus of a leap up the Championship standings; a great third place for Jamie, his usual quiet self, just getting on with it and achieving a good result to boot.

Many thanks to Ewan and Lee for bringing in the rig and organising the event on the night. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, this week's results seeing a real change in the standings and perhaps the signs of Lee's ambitions for the year; always competitive, he looks to be building his challenge for 2019 early. Brian and Tosh maintain their positions but the older Townsend now looks more vulnerable to attack: and with Ewan's result bringing him leaping up the leaderboard, is this a sign of the coming of the Tindalls? Are the wolves starting to circle already?

Next event in two weeks’ time, the Filling Station: a test of skill and an appreciation of volume, though not this time of the audible type. Who has the spacial awareness to take the win? We will have to wait and see....

Steering Wheel Challenge - 20 February 2019

Steering Wheel Nurburgring

It is often said that the simplest games are the most entertaining and enjoyable, and that may well have been the case on Wednesday the 20th February when WDMC members took part in the first Steering Wheel challenge of the season. In simple terms the challenge is little different from the little games we played as children where we had to get a series of small steel balls into various holes. Our own Steering Wheel Challenge takes it a small step further by adding a motoring twist of making the game the shape of a motoring circuit and fitting it to a steering wheel, all against the clock.

To be fair the event always attracts a good entry, mainly because it is quick and simple and relies on the individual skill of the competitor, together with a healthy dose of luck (if you are lucky enough to get a good few of the balls in the holes at first go). Technique is everything in this game, and those who don't understand the different principles of least action approach vs the direct Newtonian equations of motion may well struggle to comprehend just why some people can manage to get all the balls in all the holes in such quick times, whilst others take more than a few minutes to do the exact same thing.

Technique is everything.

First to try his hand was Peter, starting well and getting the first few balls in place well, but then struggling to get the final few into place. His time was steady but not fantastic. He commented that it was almost as if there were magnets under the test to stop the balls going into the holes. Gordon followed him immediately, again setting off in hot pursuit but slowing down as he found the last few unwilling to drop. In an almost identical huff of frustration, he commented that it almost felt like there were magnets under the game.

Gary was next and was an absolute joy to watch as he rapidly got almost all the balls into their holes in around 30 seconds, grasping the second wheel with confidence and slotting them all home to record a fantastic time of only 51.48 seconds - that would take some beating! He was followed by Lee, confidently grasping the wheel and getting everything home in a very respectable time of only 1m 35s to place him temporarily second. Lee was followed by Matthew, Karl and Alastair, all doing their best but ultimately realising that Gary was pretty much assured of his place.

The Brian took the stand, known for his very rapid placement and unerring accuracy, he was off like a shot, determined to not only beat Gary but set a time sufficiently quick to stop Tosh from nipping in and snatching the place from him. He was quick, very quick, and recorded a blistering time of just 38.01 seconds to move into the lead. Tosh came next, always very competitive, always very quick and accurate, one eye on the challenge and another on Brian's time. He was off immediately, almost all the balls in the first game straight into their slots, a few seconds hesitation on the last couple, then onto the second wheel in a trice, slotting each of them home in the shortest of time, getting the most difficult ball in first and then just finishing off the rest. Until, that is, the first one popped out, causing a few valuable seconds to elapse before it dropped back into place. That time was crucial, as it netted him a total time of 44.83 seconds, some six seconds slower than Brian.

Guy and Phil were last to go, and Phil went first. It looked almost as if he had the hands of God as he amazingly dropped almost all the balls into place in the quickest time seen in many months, quickly grabbing the second wheel and incredibly almost all the balls simply dropped into place, leaving just three to go. Phil finished off those three in the twinkling of an eye to record a fantastic time of a mere 34.31 seconds, almost guaranteeing him victory.

Only Guy was now left to see if he could take the premier position. He started well, but the run was simply not with him tonight; although he got a good number of balls in place early on, there were a couple of rogue balls that simply would not go where he wanted them to, each one hovering at the very edge of the holes but just not dropping in, causing Guy much frustration as he desperately tried time and again to drop them into place. He did eventually, but at a cost. He was not to be victorious tonight.

Final positions, after everyone had done the very best to be the most dextrous of devils, were as follows:

1 Phil 34.31s
2 Brian
3 Tosh
4 Gary
5 Lee
1m 35s
6 Karl
1m 46s
7 Matthew
1m 50s
8 Guy
2m 47s
9 Gordon
3m 08s
10 Peter
3m 13s
11 Alastair
5m 42s

A superb and unexpected win for Phil, taking the victory and thoroughly enjoying it to boot. A great second place for Brian, almost taking the win had it not been for Phil's amazing start, but beating father Tosh in the process to further emphasise the skills of the young can beat the experience of the more senior members. A fine third place for Tosh, not that many seconds separating him from the win but certainly enough to make him up his game next time.

Many thanks to Tosh and Brian for bringing in the Steering wheels and tracks, and organising the event on the night. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, this week's results seeing Brian and Tosh increasing their lead at the top although Phil's 12 points move him up to third, followed by Lee and Gary as Jamie slips down to sixth.

Next event: Lee and Ewan's simulator night; get yourselves ready for a video game extravaganza - hopefully it will be Formula 1, but then you never know what will appear on the night.

February's Fast and Furious - 13 February 2019

2019 Fast and Furious

Motor. Club.

Two words that go together so beautifully well. For many years the car was referred to as a 'Motor Car', eventually being shortened to just 'Car' or even 'Motor'. Some of our older members might even remember the truly appalling song by Alexei Sayle from 1982 called 'Ullo John! Gotta new motor?' - there was a reason it took two years to become anything like a hit, although the spin-off TV advert 'Ello Tosh! Gotta Toshiba?' from Toshiba featuring Ian Drury was far more successful. There are still people today who refer to their vehicles as simply 'motors'.

Whilst there are of course a huge number of clubs of many different types around the world, there are few that arouse as much passion as the 'Motor Club', and at Whickham and District Motor Club we like to keep the passion alive and kicking as much as possible by holding weekly competitive events where club members pit their skills against each other in the pursuit of both excellence in competition and points in our regular Club Championships.

This week it was a stalwart of a modern man's upbringing: Scalextric! There are few toys that arouse the passion and competitive spirit as much as these tiny electric cars, racing around a pre-determined circuit at breakneck speed, pitted one against the other in a bid to beat your opponent and taste the sweet nectar of victory. It is of course one of the simplest of games, only requiring a little floor space and a number of willing volunteers to replace the often erring and wayward cars as they spin or fall off the edge of the track.

The competition was very straightforward: each competitor was to race against one another over two heats of ten laps, their times added together to give a total cumulative time. The top eight would go forward to the quarter-finals, the winners of which would then race each other and so on to the semi-finals and ultimately, a 20-lap no holds barred race for the glory of Scalextric champion! (Well, for February at least).

The heats were bravely fought, some were very accurate but slow; some were very quick but went off a lot; some were at times quick and other times slow, others were just not good at all, whilst there were those that shined like a beacon above the rest. The volunteers did a sterling job, replacing the tiny cars as they hurtled off the track, deftly slotting the vehicles back onto the track as quickly as they could, hopefully not delaying the racers or causing them too much loss of track position.

The trick to being a successful driver was to be as smooth as silk. Peter Metcalfe had been as fair as possible by bringing two cars that were very evenly matched, however the track itself was actually the cause of most of the problems on the night. There were two cars, one red, the other silver, and each driver raced each car to keep it fair and even. Unfortunately, there were parts of the track that suited one or the other, and it was a real feat of skill to keep control of each of the cars and prevent them from becoming as wayward as they obviously wanted to be. Some competitors fell very much victim to these lost seconds as their cars were replaced on track; their guides sometimes refusing to sit in the slot first time, causing the slightest of delays that seemed to be exaggerated as their opponent flashed by, gaining valuable metres in the process!

As the event progressed the atmosphere became, just like the cars, more electric; as each racer fell by the wayside, those remaining became more alert, their concentration more intense, their focus more direct. The quarter finals went to the semis, with Guy facing Peter in one heat and an all Townsend battle of Brian vs Tosh in the other. Peter's smooth driving was to be rewarded by a win as Guy went off early, losing just enough time to make catching up an all but impossible task. Then, almost as if Groundhog Day had just started all over again, Tosh suffered the very same fate, by the very same method, as an early off caused him to lose too much time, and in his frantic efforts to catch up with his son, he was just too wayward, too lairy, too wild and didn't have the pace to make up the difference. Brian was far too smooth and simply uncatchable.

The final was therefore to be Brian vs Peter. This time it was a 20-lap marathon, winner taking the glory. A spin of a coin decided who could choose their car, and it was Peter that had the pick: his choice was to prove his best decision of the night. By picking the silver car, he had that slightest of advantages of the inside track on the most slippery part of the circuit, allowing him that most important element of control as the tiny motor would undoubtedly run wide: a luxury that Brian was to find sadly missing. As they set off, there was nothing to choose between them, then Brian ran a tiny bit wide, his red car sliding almost gracefully off the edge of the track, the resultant few seconds causing him to fall an immediate half lap behind. His next lap saw a similar lapse of traction, causing him to fall a further half lap behind: he was now a full lap down and Peter was driving as smoothly as a man possibly could. For Brian to win now he would have to charge like a man possessed, throw caution to the winds, and hope the wee car would have enough traction to stay on track as he battled back from the brink of defeat - still, he had almost a score of laps to do it. But Peter is a wily competitor, he certainly knows the score, and knows that a smooth and unhurried pace, staying on track and not doing anything silly would net him another Scalextric victory.

And so it was to be. Peter's quick but steady progress brought him the victory he desired, and Brian had to settle for a very well deserved second place.

1 Peter
2 Brian

3 Tosh

4 Guy

5 Matthew
6 Ewan
7 Lee
8 Karl
9 Gary
10 Jamie
11 Jake
12 Alastair
13 John

A Great win for Peter, showing that a smooth and steady pace will almost always beat those who charge off without being mindful of the idiosyncrasies of the slot car challenge. A very good second place for Brian, his beautifully elegant driving on the night only failing him in the final with the very slightest of errors, unfortunately that one being the architect of his downfall. A great third place for Tosh, also winning the Fastest Time of the Day with a very rapid 84.49s - a pity that his off in the semi-finals cost him the chance to compete in the final. A superb fourth place for Guy, only narrowly losing out by virtue of the slippery outside track that caused him to slip off in the manner of many before him, losing him time that was all but impossible to regain.

Many thanks to Peter for bringing in all the equipment and sorting out what could have been a difficult challenge very successfully. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, this week's results seeing a reversal of second place as Tosh retakes the place back from Jamie. Phil and Gary now tie for fifth, whilst there is now a three-way tie for eighth place between Ewan, Guy and Karl.

Next event: The Steering Wheel Challenge: a test of skill and balance and hand-eye coordination; an event that is gaining in popularity, whilst providing untold frustration to others. Get your gob-stoppers out and roll them around a tin lid to get into practice; it could just be the thing that gives you the edge....

Coulson's Competitive Cars - January 23 2019

2019 Civic Race

There was of course a time not that long ago when the fourth week of January would have probably only seen at most two events in the Whickham and District Motor Club's competition calendar.

Now those times are in the past and we are lucky enough to have taken part in no less than the grand total of five events since the start of December, making this the most competitive start to the season ever.

Thankfully we haven't so far had to suffer the prospect of taking part in competitions outside the Motor Club yet, as the weather, although cold up to now, has certainly turned much more icy these past couple of weeks and made the prospect of leaving a perfectly warm and cosy Kibblesworth Club something we haven't had to consider.

Competition has been as enthusiastic as ever with no less than eighteen existing members taking part so far together with new signee Cameron Whitley who although technically not a member for the current year, still showed a healthy willingness to join in the fun tonight and take part in Jamie's January Junket and see just how well he could do against the might of WDMC's assembled experts. A certain proportion of that previous sentence may not be 100% accurate by the way.

Nevertheless, a total of ten competitors signed up to show the world their amazing skill and dexterity in guiding a car around a race circuit on a cold and crispy January evening. Some of the competitors taking part may not have had the full range of skills that might have been expected on the night, whereas others certainly had the enthusiasm and confidence on display, though it might not have converted to results in the manner they actually expected it to.

The course was chosen by Tosh: the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit. Though he eschewed the full choice of aids he was kind to all others concerned and selected a dry circuit, cosmetic damage only to the car, full driving aids and automatic gearbox. The car was chosen by Gary: a Honda Civic EP3 Type R in that most traditional of colours: R81 Milano Red - there really could not be any other choice and the car looked absolutely amazing.

Jamie opened the betting with both a serious and competitive lap: his best at 2m 48.3s would give everyone a very healthy target to aim for and one that would require everybody to take a little bit of a risk and push a little bit harder than they might have otherwise been comfortable with. A good start. Gary came next, easing himself into the race gently with his first 'sighting' lap but then absolutely nailing it on his second with a time only two seconds slower than Jamie to state his case. Brian was next, looking to be struggling with the handling of the car; possibly the penalty of not having the X-Box experience and therefore having to adjust his PlayStation fingers accordingly. His time of 2m 49.8 seconds was quicker than Gary, what he considered OK, but accepted was always beatable.

Jonny was next, and as he took the controls it was immediately obvious to all who were watching that he was as familiar with this game as he was with a grinder and cutting torch. The car seemed to simply float between the bends and looked so smooth it was abundantly clear to all watching that this was not only going to be a very quick time but possibly the one that really set the standard to aspire to for the night. And so it proved to be, with a time of 2m 44.3 seconds it certainly looked to be the winner.

Nevertheless, there were of course still some very competitive members waiting in the wings to show how well they could challenge young Jonny. New boy Cameron put his best foot forward, improving his times from lap to lap, but never able to match Jonny's time, which now looked increasingly safe.

Until, that was, Lee Tindall stepped up. Now Lee may not have looked much like the man to take the fight to the younger Chrisp, but then as we have very definitely learned from our years of competition, nothing at all should ever be taken at face value. Lee, as it happens, was a delight to watch, and though his first lap of well over three minutes might not have set the world on fire, his times subsequently tumbled more rapidly than a parade of clowns on the Moscow State Circus, with Lee eventually finishing with a best lap time of 2m 48.0 seconds to assert his authority as 'The Man', taking Jamie's place by the same period of time that it takes to blink a human eye. Stomp.

Phil followed Lee and it must be said that his attempts at beating the clock were very probably some of the most entertaining minutes that the Club members have seen in months and months. This was not the stuff of legends; this was not the drive to end all drives. But then, depending upon your point of view and your perception of what counts as quality, perhaps it actually was. It was certainly a drive to be remembered, a drive to commit to memory, a drive not to be forgotten. But it was not quick. Entertaining, but not rapid.

Alastair came next, full of confidence, nee arrogance, his demeanour shouting that this was his event. Standing tall and staring at the screen with controller in hand, he looked as though he had the game at his mercy. As it happens, none of the above was anything like the reality; his times were all around the three minute mark, eventually topping out at 2m 54seconds. He was followed immediately by Karl, standing tall and asking all the right questions about who was fast and who was furious, who was there to beat and how many laps did he have. Three was the answer, and that just seemed to galvanise him into action, his first lap a steady 3m or so but his second and third laps only a whisker apart at 2m 53.3 and 2m 53.4s. This would place him sixth and crucially above his cousin, that family rivalry once again coming to the fore.

Last to go was Tosh. Never expecting to do well, he would be happy to keep it on the tarmac and come home with any result within a few seconds of the pack. His first lap was as expected, a steady, sighting lap. Not quick, but setting his view according to his preference (and doing so multiple times), finding roughly the right lines and braking marks, of which there were many variations, before going for a better second lap, which was a full ten seconds quicker, although not particularly clean. Tosh's third lap, however, was looking much better, with cleaner lines and better braking, all within the confines of the circuit and definitely looking to bring him a much better placing than expected. That was, unfortunately, until he went off in a spectacular fashion, losing him not only all the time he had gained but a good bit more besides. Sad to see such a potentially good lap go to pieces, but it did look as though Tosh might just be starting to get the tiniest hang of this Video Gaming lark.

Final results, once each and every driver had not only fired themselves up but also fired themselves down the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, were as follows:

1 Jonny 2m 44.3s
2 Lee
2m 48.0s
3 Jamie
2m 48.3s
4 Brian
2m 49.8s
5 Gary
2m 50.6s
6 Karl
2m 53.3s
7 Alastair
2m 54.2s
8 Phil
2m 58.0s
9 Tosh
2m 59.7s
10 Cameron
3m 00.3s

A Classic win for Jonny, showing he not only knows this game but has the ability to beat all comers when it comes to the crunch; a dozen points in the Superstars Championship as reward for his efforts; a truly superb second place for Lee, showing that the video game evenings are not only the preserve of the young; a great third place for Jamie, perhaps a surprise considering it was his own game, but then again very satisfying to know that though it was his own game, he did not clean up as others have done in the past.

Many thanks to Jamie for putting the event on, bringing his X-Box and game and having something different from the usual Rally Stages. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, this week's results seeing a sudden change in the top positions with Jamie unseating Tosh from second and Lee catapulting himself up to fourth place in a stroke with two brilliant results from two concurrent events.

Next event: The February Quiz. Who will be putting the event on this time? Will it be Karl, who hasn't put a quiz on since Pontius was a navigator? Or will it be the postponed Christmas Quiz from 2017? Perhaps it might be yet another of Tosh and Brian's famous 'Cars in Films' quizzes that nobody has a clue what the answers are?

Who knows? The only real answer can be found by attending the club on the evening of the 6th February 2019, when all will be revealed.

Metcalfe's Mental Mark - 16 January 2019

2019 TT Rd1 Instructions

The number 7.

It has had significant impact on millions of people throughout the world over many centuries. Most famous of all were the seven ‘wonders of the world’: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The world was said to have been created in seven days. The number seven is also featured in the Book of Revelation (seven churches, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven stars). The Koran speaks of seven heavens and Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in Mecca seven times. In Hinduism there are seven higher worlds and seven underworlds, and in Hindu weddings the bride and groom walk around the holy fire seven times during the wedding ceremony. In Buddhism the newborn Buddha rises and takes seven steps.

Indeed, Seven is also the basis for many myths and folklore; various parts of the world had beliefs about the seventh son of a seventh son; each rainbow has seven colours and there are seven days in the week. There are seven dwarfs in Snow White, and in Japan there are Seven Lucky Gods, who have a ship called Takarabune, the Treasure Ship. For many aficionados, the Lotus 7 was the finest car the company ever made, spawning a myriad of similarly styled cars from a host of manufacturers. It is a well-known fact that if you ask people to name a number from one to ten more will choose number seven than any other number. 7 is, of course, supposed to be nothing other than lucky.

On the night of the 16th of January 2019, however, the number 7 may not have been quite so lucky for at least one of our club members. Peter Metcalfe had organised a wonderfully excellent Table Top Rally in the same manner as most of his recent events: a single page of relatively straightforward instructions, taxing for some, enlightening for others, no real dirty dogs and enough different aspects of Table Toppiness to challenge the novices whilst still satisfying the purists. In short, the perfect Table Top for the day.

The event started with a nice, clearly identifiable point on the map, followed by a series of cryptic clues before reverting to pairs of numbers. These were swiftly followed by a herringbone, moving on to another section consisting of nothing but numbers. For those who do the Times Crossword, it must have seemed quite easy. For those who chop trees down for a living, it might have been possible at the start but started to appear more difficult as each section was attempted. This would be less clear than at first expected.

Whilst at Whickham and District Motor Club we don't actually have any members who chop trees down for a living, there were enough members in other modes of employment who would sympathise with such men if they had been members, especially as the following instructions were to be in and out of the same grid square multiple times in different directions all without crossing your path or using the same road twice. Having managed all this, the sting in the tail was to draw a straight line between two churches, then cross that line seven times. Seven. For at least one member that number seven was to prove his undoing, as it must have somehow ingrained itself into his mind in such a way as to be at the forefront of his thinking to the exclusion of all else. Seven.... Seven....

The final instruction to draw that straight line was from the church in grid square 5465 to Grid Square 5168, yet for Tosh, that infamous seven had already taken over, it had been burned into his mind, it was as if a flaming torch had seared the number into his brain, and he could not see 5168, all he could see was grid square 5768, and in the most delicious irony, there actually was a church in grid square 5768. So Tosh drew his line, extremely carefully, ridiculously accurately, with the finest of lines a pencil could ever draw, between those very two churches.

Incredibly, as if to reinforce his dreadful mistake, the line ran absolutely perfectly along a twisty, winding road, criss-crossing the most twisty section of the lane with that most perfect of results: seven crossings. It was just right, everything checked out. His confidence at an all time high, his time quick, certainly fast enough to win this event, and as he rechecked the last section of the route, he could see that all was well, and so he shouted 'time'. Now he only had to wait.

Final results, once Guy had checked with Peter's supplied instructions, were as follows:

1 Guy 11m 31s 0F
2 Brian
14m 6s 0F
3 Gary
18m 24s 0F
4 Tosh
11m 28s 3F
5 Matthew
42m 41s 8F
6 Lee

A superb win for Guy, stamping his authority on the Maps Championship at a stroke with a very comprehensive win; a brilliant second place for Brian, not very far behind Guy and producing another immaculately clean score with no fails, followed by Gary with yet another clean sheet. Although Gary might have been a little bit slower to complete the event, he did it cleanly, which is the first principle of Table Tops: get the route right and you will always beat those who are quicker but less accurate.

For Tosh the results were a real surprise: 3 Fails? That was a crushing result! How on earth could that be? As always, Tosh was far more interested in how he had made the mistakes than he was in his final position. He had simply read a seven instead of a one. His 5768 was actually a 5168. For Tosh, that seven was crushing.

However, there were some thoroughly good points for Matthew, showing his absolute dedication and perseverance by not giving up and completing the event with good points in the Championship.

Many thanks to Peter for putting the event on, and especially to Guy for stepping in at the last minute to run the event in Peter's absence. Points in the Maps Championship to all who took part, this event just going to show that even if you think you have it in the bag there is always the possibility that things may not be exactly what they seem.

Next week: PlayStation. Hopefully not another Rally Game, but then again it could always be tarmac. Flex your fingers, rub your eyes, settle yourself down and get into the digital zone: The first PlayStation round has arrived in the 2019 Championship!

Seven? Forget the film, this is serious.

2019 TT Rd1

Kinetic Car Race - 9 January 2019

2019 KCR

There are, of course, some fabulous songs that have been sung down the years about driving. Whether your favourite is 'Thunder Road' by the Boss, 'Road Runner' by Bo Diddley, 'Cars' by Gary Numan or in the case of Gordon Bradford, the truly wonderful 'Crash' by The Primitives, each of us may well have had a song in mind as we all took to the track to try our hands at being the Michael Schumacher of Kibblesworth Workmen's Club on the night of the 9th January 2019.

Whether what you actually saw that night was an amazing homage to the great man or instead a desperately poor representation of the inability to make a toy car perform a simple task can only really be answered by looking at the results of the event, and that would certainly

This time, the Kinetic Car Race was just that little bit different: gone was the mechanical advantage of the spring-loaded catapult system employed before, and in its place was nothing more than the Kinesis offered by the application of the driver's hand and eye coordination, together with an understanding of mass, velocity, thrust and a sound appreciation of the effects of friction on a car this time constructed entirely of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene rather than the traditional die-cast metal with which we have become so familiar.

The format was as normal as a Gregg's Cheese and Onion Pasty. Nothing was changed for this event and the traditional scoring sheets, laid down equally along the track, each with their simple scoring system clearly visible, sat there, waiting for the little car to come to rest with only the smallest of tyre contacts touching the sheet. That would be, as Mark says in Love Actually, enough. Enough to score the marks on that particular sheet, and certainly enough, if previous Kinetic Car Races are anything to go by, to get you well and truly on the way to a good result on the leader board.

Gary was first to go, and it was immediately apparent that this time the scoring would be more difficult. No longer could a competitor calculate the odds by working on an initial pull-back distance and then apply logic and reasoning to work out the optimum next attempt; this time it was all down to a combination of feeling and the careful execution of measured power and direction of thrust of the wee Lego vehicle.

It certainly didn't always go according to plan; for Gary he couldn't get the wee Lego car to land on anything at all; for Brian, his best was a single score of 60 points. Matthew fared no better than Gary, missing everything on the track and scoring the equivalent of falling off the top board at the diving Olympics. He handed the small plastic vehicle to Tosh, with the warning that the car would need more than the usual amount of force to get it even off the line.

Tosh sent the small car off and was immediately surprised to see the good push he gave it only allowed it to reach the first scoring sheet, however it was a score, and that would certainly mean he wouldn't finish last. His next go was even more forceful, bringing a score of 40 points to put him firmly on the leader board. Each of his subsequent turns would be more and more aggressive; he was determined to see if he could reach the elusive and highly desirable 100 point score: and in his final attempt, he did just that, adding a massive amount to his total and ending up with 150 points. This would take some beating!

Phil was next, netting a healthy 40 points, whilst John, Jake and Jamie all failed to score a single point in all fifteen goes. It was starting to look as though this challenge was a far harder one that anyone had imagined. However, Lee was next to try his hand, and was immediately on the pace with a score of 20 on his first attempt. His second scored just as highly, netting him 40 points in just two goes. His next two were unfortunately not so good, and it looked as though he had peaked a little too early, but then, like Tosh, he showed he had saved his best till last, with a solid 40 points coming on his last attempt.

Peter hit the ten point mark on his first run but just couldn't repeat his success on any of his subsequent runs, whilst Alastair, Mac and Gordon all failed to score even a single point, although they were the architects of some of the most impressive crashes seen during the evening.

This meant the last man to go was Guy. Maybe not so much one of the traditional high scorers, but then this game was never about that: anyone could be a champion, anyone could, in the words of Savage Garden, crash and burn. For Guy, this was to be his opportunity to show the others just how the application of thoughtful evaluation and careful preparation would result in a score that would place him higher than over 50% of the evening's competitors. This was his time. His first three attempts brought forth no score at all, but his mind was evaluating all the elements of the event, and so it was at his fourth run he scored a valuable 20 points to place him in the top 35% - not bad for the last man standing!

So final results, once the top third had shown how brilliant they were, whilst those at the bottom had shown how absolutely dreadful they really could be at such a simple task, were as follows:

1 Tosh 150 pts
2 Lee
80 pts
3 Brian
60 pts
4 Phil
40 pts
5 Guy
20 pts
6 Peter
10 pts
7 Alastair
0 pts
7 Gary
0 pts
7 Gordon
0 pts
7 Jake
0 pts
7 Jamie
0 pts
7 John
0 pts
7 Mac
0 pts
7 Matthew
0 pts

A crushing win for Tosh, instantly putting him up to his familiar second place in the Superstars Championship, a brilliant second place for Lee, proving he loves to compete despite having been away from the club for so long on business, and a solid third place for 'Max Attack' Brian, increasing his lead in the Championship already and showing he is as determined to go for the Title as ever, even this early in the season. Good points for Phil, Peter and Guy, all very valuable and helping them to rise above those who simply couldn't make their cars hit the mark on this occasion. An incredible eight-way tie for seventh place, having never been seen before, and quite amazingly, in a total of 70 attempts this evening, only eleven actually scoring points, with Tosh and Lee claiming six of those scores between them.

Many thanks to Gary and Brian for putting the event on, and for adding a little frisson of excitement to an event which we might have otherwise all expected to be the same as normal. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, a big change in the leader board just as we would expect so early in the Championship with positions changing around once again. It is early days yet.

Next week: Peter's Table Top Rally - the start of the 2019 Maps Championship, and one to challenge the mind and test each competitor’s interpretation of exactly what is in the organiser's mind: will there actually be a dirty dog, or will competitors just spend an inordinate amount of time looking for something that doesn't exist? Only time and Peter will tell.......

Amazing what one man can do with only his fingers

2019 KCR Crash

PitStop Challenge - 2 January 2019

190102 PitStop Challenge

Early January doesn’t bring with it the best of the weather, although to be fair it is generally just very cold and frosty with the crispness that comes with temperatures that hover around the zero mark.

Not that the prospect of a cold evening would normally keep the members of Whickham and District Motor Club away from their normal Wednesday evening meeting, especially as tonight was the first meeting of 2019 and a good opportunity to meet up after the Christmas break and wish each other a Happy New Year. The evening was a very relaxed and informal one with everyone generally just talking together, chatting about their respective Christmases and how they had spent them; the feeling this year was that most had enjoyed a very peaceful, relaxed affair with nobody really doing much other than chilling out and kicking back after what has been a pretty mad year for everyone.

However, nothing stands still at WDMC, and the Superstars Championship is already a month old, with the first event - the radio controlled Autotest - almost a month ago. This is the first year that the Championships have all started back-to-back, with the new season beginning immediately following the last. The RCA was a great event to start the Championship year, with ten competitors all vying for victory and a surprise result that certainly threw the cat amongst the pigeons as far as positions were concerned, with Jamie taking the top spot and Ewan coming a close second.

This week, however, would almost definitely see a change in the leadership, as the event is not only one of the most hotly contested, but would bring some of the old stagers out of the woodwork to show the young whippersnappers just how it is done! The Pit Stop Challenge has always been one of those events where you simply cannot tell who is going to do well and who will do badly, and although skill undoubtedly plays a massive part, there is always the element of Lady Luck that dictates just how fortunate some will be in putting the wheel back on the studs and just how freely the wheel brace will spin for some, whilst sticking for others.

Brian would be the first to go: flexing his fingers and cracking his knuckles, he was always going to go for the win. Having found himself in what was for him an uncomfortable third position in the Championship table after the last event, he was determined to put an end to that situation and reclaim his rightful position at the top of the leader board. It was of course perfectly achievable, but then again there was always the spectre of Jimmy Knox, who, although rarely competing in the Wednesday night events, does have his favourites, and the Pit Stop Challenge certainly figures highly in that category. Brian, however, was aiming to put the block on Jimmy's challenge; his ultimate target was the win, and his face showed nothing other than fierce determination to make it so.

Watching him attack the rig from the very first millisecond, few would argue that he was going to be anything other than victorious; he absolutely stormed the first part and had all the wheel nuts off in a shade over thirty seconds, the wheel was off and on again in the blink of an eye, Brian lining up the studs with impeccable accuracy, then spinning the nuts back up with amazing speed. His time, although not the quickest we have seen in this competition over the years, was extremely quick: 1m 10.74seconds and a target for every following competitor to aim at. The marker had been well and truly set.

It was, of course, an achievable target. Every subsequent competitor could have beaten that time, but as each one came to the rig and tried their pest, they fell those few critical seconds short. Gary less than three seconds behind; Tosh only seven seconds adrift, Karl not quite getting there as well as he had hoped. Gordon struggling with the brace, not quite spinning as well as he had intended. Phil, fresh from his awkward fall at the garage, looking very promising until he made the fateful mistake of rechecking all four nuts and taking those few vital seconds longer to record a time eight seconds slower. Guy was next, both deliberate and purposeful, his application and intentions superb but his time unfortunately suffering because of it. It looked very much like Brian was on the home stretch.

And then of course, up came Jimmy. Known as the King of the Wheel Change, he readied himself for the challenge, looking carefully at the rig. First he stooped, then he knelt down, then he stood up. It was almost as if he was trying to get himself into the perfect position. In truth, there was something missing; he didn't look quite as poised as he normally does. Eventually he cracked his knuckles, took up his position, then in a flash he was on it, slotting the wheel brace deftly onto the nuts and smacking the free arm purposefully to break the nut free. The nuts spun almost willingly, flying off the studs, Jimmy dropping them directly onto the carpet and on to the next in a flash, whacking and spinning the nut off once again and on to the next in a trice. The wheel was off and onto the carpet, then almost straight back on but just not as smoothly as he would have wished, that microsecond of delay causing a grunt of displeasure, nee frustration, and then it was home; the nuts were back on and spinning up tight, his fingers whirling like a dervish and almost as quickly as he had started the brace was banged down on the carpet to finish.

But what was his time? Was it good? Had he beaten Brian? Had he reclaimed his crown as King of the Wheel Brace?

Incredibly, he was only third, slower than both Brian and Gary. This night was obviously not to be Jimmy's. A superb result for many, but in Jimmy's eyes, a failure. That was the end, no more would take up the challenge, and the event was done.

So final results, once everyone had done their best to emulate Guy Martin at Williams F1, were as follows:

1 Brian 1m 10.74s
2 Gary
1m 13.42s
3 Jimmy
1m 14.61s
4 Tosh
1m 17.66s
5 Phil
1m 18.23s
6 Karl
1m 25.92s
7 Gordon
1m 46.04s
8 Guy
2m 00.48s

A superb win for Brian, cementing his place as the most competitive player in the Superstars Championship; an absolutely brilliant second place for Gary, his fastest ever time on the PitStop Challenge in history, with not a loose nut in sight! A third place for Jimmy, unusually, yet not the last time we will see him attack this event with his usual gusto.

Many thanks to Phil and Gary for putting the event on. Collecting the rig and setting everything up is no mean feat, and we certainly appreciate the effort the guys put into hosting this event. Without members such as these, we would have no Wednesday night events. Points in the Superstars Championship to all who took part, a big and immediate change in the leader board which just goes to show how even one event can make a big change and taking part is key to everyone's Championship Challenge!

Next week: the Kinetic Car Race, where skill and luck play equal parts; and as was so beautifully said at the start of the 1960's Stingray programmes: 'Stand by for action! Anything can happen in the next half hour!'

Radio Controlled Autotest - 5 December 2018

2019 RC Crash

The Whickham and District Motor Club's Championship Year is something that is not only looked forward to with a healthy degree of anticipation but also incredibly well contested, and so tonight's event, being the first round of the 2019 Championship year, was certainly no exception.

Tosh and Brian were the hosts and tonight they put on a slightly different variant of the traditional Radio Controlled Autotest by introducing not only a secondary element but also a second vehicle: in times past there has occasionally been a problem when some competitors take so long to complete the test that the poor batteries start to die in the car. This of course is not an ideal situation and so in order to prevent such an event occurring again they introduced the concept of a second car for the 'return journey'.

In essence, competitors had to navigate a twisty section of the route in one car before parking it and switching to the second vehicle, then guiding that car to the finish via a series of gates and garages in the shortest possible time. Time could of course be gained here by the quickest of controller changes, however, whilst this should have been extremely easy to understand, it soon became apparent that there were some for whom the concept of 'rapid turnover' would be an alien concept.

First up was Phil; not feeling his best and looking extremely tired to boot he was, as always, game for a challenge, and did his best to complete the course as quickly as possible. To be honest, his ability behind the proverbial wheel was very apparent as he completed the course in a very respectable time of 1m 6seconds. This set the target for each subsequent competitor. Gordon was next and although the finesse of a radio controlled car may not have come naturally to him, he certainly made a very good stab at it by completing the course in only 1m 21s.

Jamie was up next and to say he was sublime would be an understatement: he looked as though he was at one with both car and controller, his smooth action and fluid control setting him immediately at the forefront, his time a reflection of his ability: a very impressive 50.3 seconds: that would be a time to aim for and one that each following competitor would very probably struggle to beat.

Tosh tried his best, but as usual, he just didn't have that innate understanding of forward vs reverse and just which way to turn the wheel for which direction he was travelling, and this of course cost him very valuable time. Nevertheless, he posted a time of 1m 51s which was pretty good for him and would have seen him very happy, had it not been for a very unfortunate incident as he laid down the first controller with the slightest and most inadvertent of brushes to the trigger, causing the car to plunge into the back of the garage and penalise him an immediate point! That was a mistake that though he will not make again, this time it counted and so would drop him down the results.

Guy was next, a man who admits he definitely finds the intricacies of the RC controller challenging, a black art understood by only the youngsters and very definitely not something that comes naturally to him. To be honest, that became apparent within the first ten seconds, when Guy's attempt at navigating the first gate resembled the car crash scene from the first Blues Brothers film: the carnage was not only impressive but also comprehensive. At that point Guy did the most sensible thing: gently laying down the controller he uttered that most subtle of phrases: "This is not going to get any better, I retire". There is a certain integrity in a man that can say that and walk away with his pride; most would struggle on and make an absolute pig's ear of it, but Guy knew his limits. His skills lie in other areas that will stand him in good stead later in the Championship, where others may struggle. This is a long year, and points are available each and every week.

Peter, however, has no inhibitions; for him he is content to blast his way to either victory or obscurity, either way is fine by him. This week, it was not to be victory, but he did show immense perseverance and his efforts were rewarded with a good showing to finish just behind Tosh.

Alastair stepped up to the mark with high hopes; all eyes were on him as he carefully weighed up all the options and took careful stock of the route. As he was counted down the anticipation was high - could he beat Jamie? The short answer was no, as Alastair found the wee cars a little more trouble than he was expecting, catching bollard after bollard and even exiting one garage via the side wall to record more fails than anyone else. True to say this was not his finest event, but then it was the very first of the Championship year, and there is a long way to go.

Ewan then stepped up to the mark, a confident smile on his lips and a determination to his face. He set off extremely well and looked to have it in the bag, his first section a blistering 24seconds and plenty of time to complete within Jamie's time; however, a slow changeover and the slightest of hesitations saw him post as final time of 53.24s, putting him in second place.

Brian was next, having watched all before him and planned his execution with the precision that only he can bring. He was off like a shot, smoothly transitioning between the first two gates with ease and guiding the RC car into the first garage neatly and precisely. The nest section was clean and quick, his changeover smooth and unhurried but with a determination to succeed. For some reason, the second half had the tiniest of misdirections, causing Brian to reverse the miniature car for just a second or two to get the aim just right; it was to prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back: the cost of doing so adding a fateful few seconds to his time and placing him third overall.

It looked like everyone had had their turn and everyone was just about to pack up when Karl walked in; a late entry to be true, but a valid one nonetheless. He considered the route carefully, asked all the right questions, and then set his mind to beating all before him. Perhaps he left it just that bit too long, perhaps he was more tired than he appreciated, perhaps he was just not on form tonight; whatever the reason, he posted a time of 1m 12s to place himself between Gordon and Tosh. Perhaps next time he should try his hand earlier in the evening, maybe that is the key to success.

Fin al results, once everyone had tried to be the Tron of Kibblesworth Club, were as follows:

1 Jamie 50.3s
2 Ewan
3 Brian
4 Phil
1m 06s
5 Gordon
1m 21s
6 Karl
1m 12s 1F
7 Tosh
1m 51s 1F
8 Peter
2m 48s 2F
9 Alastair
1m 55s 8F
10 Guy

A Great win for Jamie, showing he has not only the skills and reactions of youth on his side but also that he fully understands the intricacies of the RC controller; a great second place for Ewan, putting him second in the Superstars Championship for 2019 and securing his place as a true contender for the crown; a good third place for Brian, maybe not the result that he wanted but certainly good enough to set him up for a concerted challenge for his seventh Superstars Championship.

Many thanks to Tosh and Brian for putting the event on, the RC Autotest is always a very well received event and one that certainly brings out the competitive spirit within the club. Tonight was no exception, with ten members competing for places and all getting themselves ready for the 2019 Championship.

Points in the Championship to all who took part, this is of course the very first event in the 2019 Superstars Championship and there will be many more points to be had for every event held in the future, so each and every member has an equal chance of winning the 2019 Championship. No more events to be held now until the New Year, when the PitStop Challenge will be held in early January, where we expect to see Jimmy Knox flex his knuckles and powder his hands to take the challenge to the many. Who will challenge him? Watch this space to find out!

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