We’ve been in Hailsham, East Sussex, at Cecilsrentarookie.co.uk’s workshop preparing our Hyundai i10 for its banger race this Sunday.
The workshop is like a giant toy box for grown-up boys. Littering the place were piles of carbs, exhausts, batteries and wiring looms. It was an Alladin’s cave of car bits.
Power tools where liberally spread around the lock-up, a welder (which we’d soon discover was a vital tool) and an axle grinder were hidden away at the back.
But why the geniuses? Well, you might think preparing a car for banger race is a pretty easy job – rip out the interior and insert scaffolding – and you’d be half right. But the real tricky bit here was the i10 was the newest car Cecil and his expert companions had ever got their hands on.
Normal banger racing fodder consists of Grandas, MK3 Vauxhall Astras and that prized machine, the Ford Mondeo.
A Hyundai i10 city car was hardly on their list of must buys…
This presented the mechanical maestros with a unique set of problems. There were complicated airbag set-ups to worry about, wiring looms, explosive seat-belt pre-tensioners and a complicated fuel pump.
But Cecil and his gang tackled them all with ease. The idea was for me to give them a hand but to be honest that meant undoing a few screws and getting out the way for the most part.
Oh, I did make three rounds of tea and coffee, but typically even managed to get that drastically wrong. I think I might just be forgiven for the cup mix up by Sunday.
I’m feeling a bit better about Sunday now – the guys still thought I was mad and said I might as well paint a target on the back of the i10 as the others will be aiming for me anyway, but Cecil explained banger racing isn’t as dangerous as I’d been led to believe.
Having said that he did recount some horror thumb-break stories and hammered home the importance of staying in the car if I ended up on my roof. Apparently more people get hurt after a crash than in the crash itself…
Watching the guys at work was brilliant though. The way they fashioned the roll cage with bits of metal, an angle grinder and a welder was pure Scrapheap Challenge. And they took the car apart quicker than a bunch of chavs on a council estate.
But the real eye-opener was when they realised they needed to chop the exhaust down so it wouldn’t bend in a rear-end smash. They only realised this after turning the car on its side by hand and resting it on a pile of alloy wheels…
A new exhaust was whipped up in a matter of minutes after cutting the old one off. Now my i10 is sporting a stubby motorbike style end can which sounds proper mean.
If you ever wondered how many people it takes to flip a Hyundai i10 over it’s three – here’s the proof…
Tom Barnard – Hyundai’s PR manager – also came along for the day. He helped out more than I did and explained why we were allowed to get our hands on the pre-production car.
Turns out it was one of the first mules of the i10 and was air-freighted into the UK for brochure pictures and mechanics’ training. To get the VAT back on it Hyundai have to scrap it – so just think of this as an elaborate way for them to scrap the car.
Cecil and his team have worked on a huge number of TV projects including Top Gear’s motor home race (remember that?), Sky One’s Vroom Vroom (more to the point, remember that?) and even prepared the cars for the stag do of Shane Lynch, that one off of Boyzone.
That all leaves me safe in the knowledge I’m in good hands. And that’s a good thing because if my efforts today were anything to go by, and I was left to wield the spanners on my own, we wouldn’t even make the start line.
Oh – and one final thought – if all else fails, hit it with a hammer.
A bloody great, massive hammer… it works for Cecil!
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