TR Action Report London Group presented for issue 284 - but unpublished
This year the London Group made its annual pilgrimage to the Classic Spa event in Belgium. As with the earlier annual Classic Spa events the trip was full of surprises and excitement. Firstly we got the initial meet timing wrong, meeting a little bit too late, with the lead car swinging in to the pub car park our leader Mark leaping out taking a quick timed photo, saying hello to everyone very quickly, then shouting "follow me" and screaming off down the M25 heading for the Eurotunnel at Dover. We arrived at the check in with literally minutes to spare. The first real surprise though was that the London Group's TRs somehow managed to roll onto different Eurotunnel trains, this in spite of all arriving at roughly the same time for the same shuttle, in the same queue albeit in different positions. No worries though we regrouped at the first services in Belgium for a well-earned sandwich, drink and natter in the glorious european sunshine. With a happy heart we set off towards Brussels. Unfortunately though, the team was incapable of holding "formation" and as we arrived on the Brussels ring road in the middle of Thursday's rush hour traffic the tail end three hidden by lorries and ENORMOUS 4x4's missed a rather "tricky" turn and basically finished up heading south for Charleroi instead of south-east for Liege. Maps, satnavs, mobiles and of course good luck, meant that by 7 pm all had safely arrived at the circuit campsite Eau Rouge, where we moved into our luxury sheds with decking or chalets as the camp site prefers to call them. A quick trip to the supermarket for supplies then off for a chinese!
The campsite Eau Rouge is known for being potentially very cold at night, hence the old hands insisting we took chalets. The chalets have gas heaters, late that evening on the return from the Chinese one member took it upon himself to light the heater. I must emphasise that no damage was done but after some fiddling and mumbling at the said heater, the subsequent BANG! that echoed around the campsite – and resulted in a "blow this I'm going to bed" or some other similar expression, led many others to leap from their slumber, check their tyres believing they may have exploded, the Campsite owner believing a gun had gone off and a small dog being partially (we are assured only temporarily) deafened, and the occupants of that chalet going to sleep with no heater. For the rest of the stay the campsite owner insisted that she always lit that gas fire. The rest of the group was always very supportive in this action!
So Friday practice day at SPA and our first full day at the track. We had had the fore-sight to order bread and croissants, which of course hadn't stopped Jason roaring out early to a boulangerie to buy bread & croissants, we do eat very well at the London group. Then along in convoy out of the campsite and along the beautiful tree lined valley to the race track entry, then past all the paraphernalia – wall of death, shops and those priceless cars in their temporary garages being fettled ready for practice, then through the tunnel (revving our engines of course) and out to our track side designated parking area. SPA Francorchamps is amongst one of the most beautiful race tracks in the world, nestled in a huge valley with trees all around, and the beauty within is breath taking watching million pound cars being driven around at break neck speeds is a memory, never to be forgotten. We spent the day exploring the Grandstand, all the garages, the different vantage points and the pit stop roof top bar. We were treated to a guided tour of the Celtic Racing garage by Peter Naumann who is not only their lead mechanic but son of Geoff Naumann of the London Group. Celtic Racing amongst other cars race a Porsche 962 class C, 24 hour racer one of the ultimate 1980's racing machines. Later in the evening we headed into the old town of SPA and enjoyed a variety of pizza's in a roadside pizzeria in the sunshine and counting all the Classic Cars trying to park.
The talk around the dinner table apart from the usual derring-dos of the day was the imminent fast laps around the iconic Spa circuit which was diarised for the following morning with some tips from some of the old hands, all was set we were ready to test our TRs on the track the following morning – Saturday
So Saturday after breakfast (only the Boulangerie stuff this time) we headed off to the race track to our designated parking area- which was a lot fuller!! We were joined there by Rob & Sarah Lord in their 6, who were on holiday in the area and had booked to join us on Saturday for the run. We all hovered around the old hands who were watching out for "uniformed "young people on SPA logo's scooters with whistles. Once they arrived engines started, gears were engaged and all with the correct sticker followed them. We were led through the tunnel and up past the grandstand to the Pit lane next to the new starting grid, just outside the garages we had been guided around the day before. Two lines of TR's and other various marques queued up parked up, got out and had a chat. Before we were released every car had to be checked to ensure it had the right sticker. Then as our allotted time approached a message came up that we were to be delayed, due to an accident on track. The conversations just continued. Then finally a whistle went up, engines started and we were finally released for that fabulous drop into Eau Rouge and a blast up the hill and through the trees, some guys raced, other enjoyed the track and the truly amazing scenery. All the London group cars performed well threading through mixed track opposition and returning safely with plenty of dramatic video footage and more tales of derring-do!. Buzzing we spent the rest of the day enjoying all that SPA Francorchamps has to offer. This memorable day was rounded off after a meal at the campsite -all chips served wrapped in paper even if you're eating in! with a late evening return to the circuit to watch the last couple of hours of night racing, fantastic watching the glow of the racing discs and unburnt exhaust gases lighting up the night sky as these racers scream by.
Sunday after breakfast back at the campsite the Group's technical experts were kept on their toes it seemed the cars exertions had unearthed a few "issues". An electrical fault, carburettor control systems tuning, overheating puzzles and a "simple" wheel change due to a flat tyre (not broken spokes!) then back to the track to soak it all up. Sunday night we had a meal in the town and started to talk about amongst other things tomorrow's route as Monday was to be our leaving the campsite day.
The return non-motorway route tracked across the delightful Ardennes back roads and South into France. But the bug got us again an early morning alternator failure had wiped out the Fergusons TR6 ignition circuit so their beautiful TR6 slowed to a complete halt. On a glorious Ardennes slope. Happily this was quickly sorted after a dash back to find them (of course they were the last car of convoy with no walkie talkies and limited cellular coverage!) with a hotwire. Then minimal use of their electrical systems was required to preserve the battery before buying a battery charger and a final blast up the motorway to the St Omer overnight stop. Our leader has a slight over heating problem but 3 ½ litres of water and the overflow pipe from the radiator being returned to the overflow bottle quickly got that sorted. Finally however, 15 miles short of the hotel the battery voltage on the Ferguson's TR6 was insufficient for the fuel pump and the car again rolled to a silent halt, this time on a busy dual carriageway hard shoulder. A quick swap of batteries was made between cars then following a couple of push starts, all the cars were away again and heading for the hotel. A big thank you must go out to Mr Alan Jones, happily swapped his good battery from his TR3A with the flat one of the Fergusons. Our Hotel a regular stop has a Restaurant which is simply fab. After 2 bottles of Champagne (Thanks Leader) we sat down to a simply glorious meal, more drinking, a couple games of pool and of course great banter ensued. At a reasonable hour we all returned to our rooms, with en-suite showers, proper beds with linen and blankets - sheer LUXURY!
The following morning we visited the nearby WW2 V2 rocket launch site La Coupole in English "the Dome" a sobering but fascinating place. The rest of the day included a run out in the sunshine to the coast. Finally returning to the Eurotunnel for the final leg home.
As a sign off to a great 5 day classic car extravaganza, and for final excitement, our leaders TR4A diff exploded on the M20 leaving Folkstone; unfortunately this significant energy release was beyond the technical teams repair capabilities, so, sadly the damaged TR was hauled home on a flatbed.