Modern Cars And Mud

I am returning to one of my pet topics – car parking at the racecourse.

I have to confess this time of the year my car invariably does a magnificent impersonation of a rally car. Now I am not saying it develops a zillion brake horsepower or does 0 – 60 in a nanosecond. Indeed quite the opposite but more of that later.

Now my car is constantly encased in a deep layer of mud and virtually ever ounce of this mud originated from a racecourse, more precisely a racecourse car park.  

I know that car parking is not a priority, especially when a course races only a dozen times a year – but to shove cards into an adjacent field, entirely unsuitable for the purpose is really poor customer service.

Years ago this may not have been a problem but now the majority of racegoers arrive by car and something better than a makeshift option should be provided.

I suppose I should admit at this point I am not speaking from a neutral perspective here.

After 30 years of racing I finally suffered the driver’s ultimate indignity at Hereford on Tuesday. I had to be towed out after being stuck in a bog. Well I would have been towed out had my modern car had an easily accessible towing point.  

It didn’t look too promising when I arrived at the course – there was chaos in the car park as it was clear the ground conditions would not support a large number of cars.

One of the perks us press chaps have is we usually get preferential parking, normally in the owners and trainers area. This area was already starting to cut up and the kindly steward suggested an alternative.

“See those two cars over there,” he said pointing to the far side, “try parking there, it is right by the exit road.”

So I go tootling over, park up and realise I was not very straight. That was my mistake. Trying to straighten up I was aware of the wheels of the car spinning but a distinct lack of forward momentum.

I remember being told it may be better to try reverse in such situations. So into reverse and I was soon back twenty odd feet. So into forward to get back into position. Nothing – apart from that sinking feeling. Bum – so into reverse again – nothing. I was stuck fast and sinking deeper each time I tried to move.

The kindly steward who had pointed me in this direction was mortified he had sent me into a bog and was most helpful.

Despite some pushing and shoving the car would not shift so it was agreed I would leave the car where it was and the tractor would give me a tow after racing.

So come post race I emerged into now what was a considerable bog and noted the tractor was working overtime.

Eventually it arrived at my car and the driver got out and was looking for a towing point. No towing point. It seems there is a towing eye which needs to be screwed in. Really?

Anyway a look in the owners manual told me it was with the tool box, which is with the spare tyre.

Now where is the spare tyre – yep, under the car, now sunk so low that it could not be reached without becoming a competitor in the annual bog snorkelling championships.

I was potentially stuffed. Luckily the Hereford ground staff are less willing to be defeated and soon half a dozen chaps came along, each built like the proverbial outhouse, and they managed to provide enough brawn to push me out.

You certainly live and learn – I thought the towing eyes came permanently attached to vehicles. It seems the hidden towing eye is to improve the aesthetics. Sod the aesthetics I want practicality.

I had actually discovered another drawback with modern cars the previous day.

Anyone who has ever been to the delightful course of Fakenham will know it can be a real pain to get to being in an area where dual carriageways have not been invented.

As a result whichever direction you approach from you are on single carriageway roads, with plenty of bends and few straight sections for overtaking. Add into the mix the major local sources of employment is either the military or farming, then you have a fair chance of being stuck behind a tractor or a military convoy.

So it came to pass as I was driving home from Fakenham I was stuck behind a farmer in his tractor, towing a trailer, bends aplenty and a maximum speed of 25 mph.

Eventually a straight stretch of road was reached, quite short but enough to get past him. I dropped down the gears, dropped my foot on the gas and started accelerating past Farmer Giles.

Then as soon as the revs hit 6,000 and the start of the red it cut out and I was left struggling, running out of straight and the lights of an oncoming car becoming visible.

I just managed to extricate myself from the situation and get past the tractor.

Why did I have a problem? Well, it seems my car is to clever for its own good. Instead of a traditional throttle cable it is all electronic and managed by a box of tricks. As soon as the revs go into the red the black box automatically cuts the power to protect the engine.

Never mind the engine, what about protecting me?

And they call it progress?


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