Our tale begins at 10:30 pm on the evening of September 13th. I had been showcasing the SP-1 demo car and delivering a brief presentation about the company and the car at the AGM of the Congleton and Macclesfield Advanced Drivers and Riders (thank you for the warm welcome and the delightful cakes!).
On my way back, roughly 10-15 miles from home, I attempted to shift into 3rd gear, only to find it had mysteriously vanished. 5th gear was also nowhere to be found. In fact, it became evident that anything other than 4th gear was no longer an option. Approaching a set of crossroads, I found myself wishing for the traffic lights to turn green, allowing me to inch closer to home. Unfortunately, the lights stubbornly stayed red, and after dismissing the idea of running the light, I coasted to a calm stop, completely stuck in 4th gear.
After lifting the rear cover, the root of the issue became clear. The two components of the gear selector interface, once inseparable, had divorced. Without a toolkit at hand and no way to engage the clutch and push the car simultaneously, the demo car remained stranded at the crossroads.
Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, I had to make the awkward call to the “long-haired general” (credit to Tony Williamson) and request a rescue. Second, I was supposed to head to Cadwell at 5 am the following morning, and the entire day now hung in the balance.
Upon arrival, we moved the car off the road, found neutral, and returned to base to fetch the trailer. We eventually retrieved the SP-1 around 12:30 am.
I knew we didn’t have any pre-made replacement parts in stock, or any pedal blocks but I recalled seeing some of the updated design laser-cut plates (yes, the whole episode could have been avoided had we updated the demo car to the new design before now). Indeed, we quickly located these, and I began cleaning up the separated pedal block with the intention of putting it back in action. Fuzzy-headed welding and reassembly were completed around 2 am, and I retired to bed, unsure of what to do about the Cadwell trip.
By 5 am, I was up again, unloading the car in the dark and pouring rain to conduct a test drive before deciding whether to attempt the journey to Cadwell for the afternoon. The test was successful, and I loaded the SP-1 once more, trying to make the best decision on how to spend the rest of the day. Cadwell was approximately a 3-hour drive from our location, but the weather forecast suggested a reasonably dry afternoon. Fueled by several cups of coffee, I set off for Lincolnshire, reasoning that any track time would be more than if the gear selector had failed on the first lap, rather than the previous evening.
The rain persisted throughout the journey to Cadwell, and as I neared the destination, I wondered when I might encounter the clearer weather that had been predicted. Unfortunately, “never” seemed to be the almost inevitable answer. Upon arrival at Cadwell, I found that most participants had refrained from driving much once the rain had set in (though I have immense respect for those dedicated souls who continued despite the weather). It wasn’t until after 4 pm that the weather finally permitted a dry line to form, and by this time, the fatigue from lack of sleep had truly taken its toll. It didn’t feel like a safe or sensible decision to put the SP-1 on the track and risk creating more work to complete before its first MOT the following week.
While the lack of track time was disappointing, it did offer an excellent opportunity to converse with others in the paddock about Aardvark Racing and the SP-1. The general feedback was that many people I spoke to were unaware, and in some cases, incredulous, that such a track-focused car could be built in kit form starting at £25,000. It has given us much to ponder regarding how best to convey this through our marketing and activities in the coming months.
A frustrating 24 hours, but made all the more enjoyable as a result of reuniting with GT-R owners Phill Rooney and Tony Williamson, and I eagerly anticipate joining them for another track day before the season’s end when we can get back to comparing GT-R to SP-1.