ARDS Test: The Medical
The final piece of the jigsaw to be granted an MSA National B Race License is to book and pass the full medical checkup.
It is essentially the same as what you’ll need for top quality life insurance. Most Doctors charge around £100 for this.
I did some searching around, and found others had paid a lot more than this, and some as little as £50!
On a recent first aid course at work, I asked the instructor on the off-chance he’d know someone who could do a good price, and as it turned out he did! As a PCV license holder, he was subject to regular medicals, and used a Dr Hill based in the West Midlands area.
I called the number I’d been given, and spoke directly to Dr Hill (I’ll add his details below) – no nonsense, nice and friendly, and he offered me his first available appointment on a weekend.
This involved a bit of a trek to Shrewsbury, but getting somewhere closer to home would be a longer wait, and at least it’s a pleasant drive out that way.
And he said it would be £40! Bargain!
So the day came, and off I headed, praying my urine sample didn’t leak in the car on the drive over (as it turns out, a can of Guinness exploded in my car on the journey, but I suppose it’s a more pleasant smell to put up with).
He prodded me about a bit, asked the important questions (about diabetes, epilepsy, non-motorsport related mental defects etc), listened to my heart and breathing, and did a full eye test for vision and colour blindness.
I’m pleased to say my eyes are perfect. My blood pressure, on the other hand, wasn’t.
The first time he took the pressure, he’d been asking me about what I was racing and stuff. I’m sure this might relax most people, but even typing about the chance to climb into a Formula racing car now gets my adrenalin going!
Added to this, I’d woken up with The Lurgy.
So I had it recorded at 140/90 on the form – which isn’t ideal, but shouldn’t cause any problems.
The whole thing was done very quickly and efficiently, he stamped my ARDS license application form, and I was out the door within a very short time to go and find things to do in Shropshire on a Sunday when you’re ill.
I gawped at a few floods in the area and then went home to get the last parts of the film filled in ready for the New Year when I could send it off.
So it’s all in the post – practical and medical tests done and dusted, passport pic attached, and within the next week or so I should be sent out my first ever National B Race License!
In the mean time, the Motorsport International Show is on at Birmingham NEC shortly, so I shall hopefully get my race equipment cheap from there.
Then it’s time to talk about getting the Formula Vee booked in to a test day – and I can take to the wheel for the first time and see…
Who knows? If I’m Senna or Slow!
Bring it on!
*** If you need a reasonably priced medical check, and are based close enough to the Wolverhampton/Shrewsbury/Kidderminster area, contact Dr Hill on 07802 690 896.
Read the other blogs in my ARDS license series:
Driving A Car On A Race Track
“So what was it like to drive a car on a race track, Nasty Evil Ninja?”
Well, I wish I’d had more laps!
Two days after my ARDS test, I’m sat here watching the British Touring Car Championship and my adrenalin is going mental. How can fate put me on a racing track for the first time (in a car) and then say “Well, actually you might get another go next year at some point.”?
It was essentially a road car I was in at Silverstone. I didn’t know that they’re supposed to me pretty rapid cars until afterwards – 2 litre turbo with 225hp. One of the hottest Hot Hatches around. I thought it was a bit slow…
I had a Hell of a lot to take in, and many things to adjust about the way I was driving.
I made sure I was trying to use every inch of the track – keeping right to the edge on the corner entry, getting two wheels up over the curb on the apex, and then drifting out with two wheels over the exit curb where it was safe. The racing line is where you will make up most of you time, especially on a damp, greasy circuit like it was all day long.
I know I could make up a few seconds a lap straight away on the brakes just by braking later and harder. I could make up more seconds by pushing harder in the corners, as I had more traction to go.
But that’s where I’m kind-of in unknown territory!
I have no comparison. I know it’s advised to go at 80% of your ability on the test, but where was I?
As I’ve never done it before I have absolutely no idea. Thinking about it, nobody else overtook me all day – apart from two sideways Nissan 350z’s driving by those super-fast Playstation 3 Nissan GT Academy geeks. I did try to hang on to the back of them but I just got a bit more ragged, and as soon as we hit Hangar straight their 125hp more took them well away.
I overtook some of the others, but that doesn’t really tell me much because I don’t know how hard they were pushing. I didn’t get a chance to actually follow anyone around, which is a bit of a shame. Or a good thing? Who knows!
One thing I am well impressed with, is that when the time came to sting my test laps together I instantly dropped into The Zone. A huge calm came over me, and I was totally relaxed and focused. Even my breathing was perfect and normal – not hyperventilating or holding my breath at all.
That bodes very well for the future. If I CAN drop into that state at will, then it means I can think clearly and feel everything that’s going on, rather than feeling rushed and having get by purely on reactions.
I’m hoping the actual feel is much better in a Formula Vee single seater. I expect it was all feel much more accurate than a hot hatch, and I think I’m ready to have that.
Compared to a riding a bike on track… I don’t want to say driving a car is ‘easy… but it’s far less busy. Because I’m used to having to brake from 170+mph and deal with acceleration of 0-60 in under 3 seconds, plus having massive forces working against your whole body the whole time, actually getting a car around a track is far less challenging.
Of course, getting a car around a track faster than 30 other people will be a whole new ball game, and the difference between a respectable pace and pushing right to the performance limits will be massive.
I know now that I can at least string some solid and consistent laps together, and that’s a huge relief.
It’s a base.
I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of balls it takes to jump off that base, and what kind of rush it gives me!
Taking The ARDS Test – This Is It!
Read Part 1 for the morning part of the day here: https://nastyevilninja.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/taking-the-ards-test-the-morning-preparation
After lunch was where it would all matter. I’d expected to have a LOT more laps in the car in the morning to get used to it, but apparently not!
We all went into the classroom, watched the ARDS video to refresh ourselves, and immediately took the written test.
The first section was all about knowing the flags, and stating which flag you’d expect to see in a given situation, and whether it would be waved or stationary.
Easy – except I had problems remembering if a red flag would be waved or stationary or whether it mattered! And then brain fade about the ‘mechanical failure’ flag as to whether it was black and orange or black and yellow! ARGH!
The rest were very obvious multiple choice questions, such as:
Your car is on fire. Do you:
Pull over by a crowd of spectators. Stop in the middle of the track. Pull over near a martials post so they can use their fire extinguishers to put out the fire quickly and safely. Jump out of the car and dive in a nearby toilet.
It took about 15 minutes to do the test, then we split into the same groups again – mine was first out on track as the others headed off to rag a Caterham with bald tyres around for some more skid control.
Back in the 2.0 litre turbocharged Mégane Renaultsport 250, and I’d decided to slow everything down. The track was still wet and greasy (did I miss that excuse out before?), so I braked nice and early (and pretty lightly) and went back to one of the best ways to ride a bike fast on track – make sure you’re inches from the edge of the tarmac and concentrate on hitting the inside curbs in the right place.
Doing this and being conscious of progressive braking without any lifting off and on again, I think I was going immediately faster than the morning session.
I’d become familiar with the track – apart from one moment trying to take a left hairpin on a fast right sweeper! Meh! I stayed on and corrected it without disaster… Good job, too! There was no £20 damage waiver available, so we’d be liable for all damage to the cars!
I was feeling much better as we came back in for the short break as my instructor took the other pupil out for his laps.
Back in the car and Neal talked me around a couple of laps before telling me he was going to shut up and let me get on with it as he marked me. I had to string about 5 laps together flawlessly.
A calm came over me and I went totally relaxed, breathing steadily. In the zone 100%.
I braked into the first corner and slipped it straight into bloody 6th gear again for the exit! NOOO!!!
I didn’t let it rattle me and sank straight back into the rhythm.
They say you should drive at around 80% of your ability and concentrate on being smooth. That wasn’t working so well for me earlier, and I’m totally sure those assessed laps were by far my fastest of the day.
There was a Ferrari and Aston Martin out on track driven by people on ‘Experience Days’, and they may well have been surprised as my little Mégane sailed past them!
I even overtook a few others in my group, with a rather lovely shimmying drift as I passed around the outside of someone on a fast sweeper – I watched the instructor out the corner of my eye hoping he hadn’t noticed! I kept it all controlled, though, so figured I’d be ok with that one!
After a few laps he told me to pull in and head back to the Experience Centre, and started marking my score sheet as we sat outside.
I could see a lot of A’s mixed in with a few B’s as he graded everything from mechanical sympathy to gearshifts to lines.
He then had to tick a few boxes, and delayed for a lonnng time over one as he mulled it over, eventually ticking that, too.
He told me I’d passed, but not to tell the others as they might not have theirs yet, but put an advisory on my sheet that I would benefit from further training even though I had passed – something I totally agreed with.
I felt a bit emotional sat in the car. I mused that I might even shed a tear after my first race win!
Then I remembered I didn’t know if I’d cocked up on the written test, yet…
At least the pressure was off, and I had a good laugh booting the Caterham around for the rest of the afternoon as the others did their track test.
Arriving back after that we all got our results, and I think most of us had passed!
I even got a Novice sticker (yellow background with black diagonal cross) to put on the back of my car next year! Not bad for £400!
So I am now an Officially Licensed Racing Driver – something I’ve dreamed of since I was around two years old!
I’m also fully aware that I’m at the bottom of a very steep learning curve.
But this is going to be fun!
Taking The ARDS Test – The Morning Preparation
“What experience do you have?”
“Loads of bike track days, and car skid control courses and, err, stuff.”
“What are you going to race?”
“Formula Vee, next season!”
That was the last moment I felt confident on the day of my ARDS test!
Luckily, not everyone there (there were about 18 of us) had done loads of car track days and stuff, so I wasn’t alone in my lack of experience, but then the instructors spent the next part of the morning basically telling us all we weren’t going to pass today. I guess this was a good thing, as it knocked the cocky straight out of you. Especially when you learn that Silverstone is the toughest place to pass the ARDS test (although this can also work in your favour as Race Stewards will look on you more favourably if blame needs to be apportioned for an on-track incident).
After a brief chat about the basics that we should already know (race lines, car physics, under and oversteer etc), we split into two groups – one group going off to the skid pan whilst my group were first out on the proper track.
The instructors were people I almost recognised. If I could remember their names you’d probably know a few, too. I clocked Ian Flux who I know from old Formula Vee and Tuscans but hadn’t seen him since I was tiny. He wasn’t my instructor, so no chance of favouritism there!
I got Neal. If you know who Neal is, please let me know, because I didn’t get his surname, and the sheet he filled signed I never got to take home! He was great, anyway!
So, I was literally one of the first to jump in the Renault Magane Sport test cars. The six speed gearbox felt flawless, but, not being a car I’ve ever driven before the controls were a bastard. The throttle was too sensitive, the brakes too sharp. Heel & Toe was ditched immediately – I had far too much else to worry about.
We pulled out onto the Silverstone International circuit which I have never seen before in my life and began wishing I’d looked at on YouTube. It is very fast, and not the simple 4 corner layout of the National track that I was expecting!
So that’s all my excuses. In the first session we did about 15 mins worth building up speed (instructor first for a few laps then me), and I realised I was In Trouble.
It was my first time EVER driving a car on a race track. I went into 6th gear a few times when I wanted 4th, and was braking, coming off the pedal and then braking a bit more into corners. I was feeding the steering wheel a little instead of keeping my hands at quarter-to-three. My lines weren’t terrible, but transitions were ragged and nothing was very smooth.
There was no way I would pass unless I seriously got my act together. And fast.
We had a second session for 15-20 mins and I was consciously trying to improve everywhere, plus looking through the corners and doing a respectable pace.
And I think pace was my biggest problem overall. I have absolutely no frame of reference to what a fast car is on a track.
On a bike track day I’m busy all the time. On the edge of my abilities, but not exceeding the bikes limits.
In a car it’s the opposite. Because I’m used to thinking at 1000hp-per-tonne performance levels, cars are S L O W…
I had far too much time braking into corners. I could have done some knitting and still made the corner. The car felt so much slower that it almost felt like I was coming to a complete stop before the tight corners, and then waiting an eternity to get back on the power.
Once race driving is in muscle memory and I can do it all naturally without over thinking it all, this may well work to my advantage – but it was a major problem for me here.
Neil showed me a different way to hold the gear stick to improve my changes and stop getting 6th gear by accident. Great, but this meant I had just a few laps left before the test in which to completely rewire my brain of how I’ve shifted gear on the roads for the last two years…
Next was the skid control, with the cars on cradles to simulate oversteer around a course of cones. This was no problem for me, as I have done skid control in cars before, so was more a bit of fun getting it drifting.
Going into the lunch break I knew I’d improved a lot, but I still had a massive amount of work to do on my driving.
I put my chances of passing at 50-50. 60-40 at best.
I’d have to take 10 steps back and find a solid foundation to build on to have any more chance of passing the test today…
Read about the actual test in the afternoon here: https://nastyevilninja.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/taking-the-ards-test-this-is-it
EROTIC STORY: “Drive Me To The Edge!”
He was watching her as she drove.
It was a huge turn-on to see her handling the car, bare legs straining against the pedals, and the lazy way she caressed the gear stick, sliding her slender fingers over the steering wheel.
The atmosphere between them was electric. He was already hard in anticipation, willing his erection away so he could give her the full show.
She was squirming with her own wetness. They spoke briefly, but they were both glad they could use the radio as a distraction – not that it was distracting either from what they were about to do.
She had scouted out some of the quieter roads a few days before, finding the spot in a gateway that she pulled into now.
Fucking dog walkers were the main problem – they popped up everywhere! Then again, so might Doggers, if they knew what was going on!
She pulled on the handbrake and switched the engine off.
Sun shone over the surrounding fields, a warm breeze softly rustling the hedgerows. The sound of a distant tractor floated in through the open windows, and they both took a deep breath of fresh summer grassy air.
When they looked at each other the whole world outside the car could have caught fire. They flung their arms around each other – lips meeting first before their arms wrapped around each other, hands hungrily moving over each others backs.
His hand unfastened a few buttons on her shirt and slipped inside to cup her breast, her eager nipple hard to his touch.
“I want to feel you inside me” she breathed at him, shifting her position to face him better. Her hand ran over his inner thigh, then slipped between his legs. He looked down with interest before she found the seat mechanism and slid his seat backwards to it’s furthest point.
He giggled a bit and was about to say something about funfairs, but then she was stretching her leg over his lap to straddle him.
Her hands scrabbled at his trousers, as he lowered the back of his seat so he could lean back a bit, and the summer air felt cool to the hotness of her hands as she sprung him free.
She worked both her hands on him slowly, looking deeply into his eyes. His hands held her hips, then ran down her thighs, lifting her short skirt and touching the bare flesh beneath.
She moved herself forwards, still holding him in one hand and pressing his cock against her so he could feel her own dripping wetness.
Groaning, one hand went back to her breast, and she stroked his penis with one hand as she thrust her hips against him, herself letting out a cry as she slid against his slick shaft.
Her legs stopped her as she tried to move forwards onto him, and he moaned in frustration as his tip was briefly inside her before she pulled away again.
She placed her hands on his chest, holding him back in his seat, and then shimmied herself around so she was sitting on his lap, her legs outside his.
She pressed her hands into his chest as she lifted herself up, and then lowered herself slowly onto him, her head thrown back as he slid deep inside her.
Holding him inside her, she turned lay her her back onto his strong shoulders, turning her head so they could kiss. She moved her hips in a wave motion, and then pressed her thighs together and squirmed over his lap, and he whispered her name in her ear at her tightness around him.
One hand held her firmly around her waist, the other unfastening more of her buttons before massaging her breasts.
Her hand moved as she opened her legs again, and he looked down over her breasts as she stroked gently at her clit, feeling herself get even more wet knowing he could see her.
She lifted her feet and put them on the edge of the dashboard, lifting herself up his length as he moved both his hands around her to steady her and hold her tightly.
Suddenly she brought her thighs together sharply, making him cry out, and that cry making her cum hard. Her spasms set him off, too, thrusting himself deep inside her as her muscles clenched tightly around his own throbbing penis, and he bit lightly on her earlobe as he came with her.
Their desperate movements slowed and his hands held her more gently. They kissed softly, her beautiful eyes locked on his, as she softly rocked her hips.
Eventually she slid off him, and they drove back to civilisation, leaving the radio switched off.
Their smiles sang better words than any song could have…
Heel And Toe/Blipping On Downshifts
The other morning I was chuffed to bits, having just used near-perfect heal and toe technique whilst braking for the end of the dual carriageway on my way to work!
I had decided that it wasn’t worth me learning the heel and toe braking technique, as I know far more racing drivers who don’t use it than who do.
As mentioned previously, I suspect it’s one of those big black clouds that people see as the near-impossible difference between us lesser mortals and Racing Drivers.
Either way, I figure this is worthy of a separate blog.
So what IS Heel and Toe?
Well, the basic aim is to blip the throttle as you shift down a gear, which will match the engine revs and result in a much smoother gearshift. Because the revs are better matched between gears, you don’t get that jolt as the clutch takes all the strain of equalising the revs between gears, and so the tyres are also far less likely to lose grip as you downshift already on the edge of traction.
You need to brake using the ball of your foot below your big toe, so that half of your foot is over the throttle pedal, and as you press the clutch in and change down a gear, you tilt your foot so you catch the accelerator briefly, and then let the clutch out again.
Some keep the top half of their foot on the brake and twist their foot so they touch the accelerator with their heel – hence the name ‘heel and toe’. I chose to use the side of the foot after watching some YouTube videos of how drivers like Ayrton Senna did things. You can’t argue with the technique of the best racing driver ever!
It’s kinder mechanically, but also you get that sporty WHOM-WHOM-WHOM sound which sounds beautiful through a tuned exhaust. Bonus
On a bike it was one of the first advanced riding techniques I learnt, and I use it all the time as it’s now second nature, just like clutchless upshifting. For the two-wheel version you simply whack it down a gear with your foot and quickly flick your throttle hand to match the revs. Far easier than a car, it has to be said!
A few nights ago I got to have a proper play around tight, twisty lanes in rural Worcestershire, and got lots of practice in. My success rate of using heel and toe jumped from around 2 out of 10 shifts at the start of the week when I first tried it, to a solid 8 out of 10!
Maybe I will have mastered it enough to use it in the ARDS test?
This morning I also had my first crack at it whilst wearing my Vibram FiveFingers. Awesome. They are PERFECT for it, because you have all the essential feel plus the flexibility!
It was, however, just pointed out by a cow-orker that driving barefoot is illegal. I wonder how that would go if I got pulled over driving in the FiveFingers?