We’d wanted to go this event for ages but every time it was on, there was always something holding us back like the weather and off course health. We’d been keeping our eyes on the weather forecast and fingers-crossed our health too. It was also Babe’s birthday and it was a good excuse to check it out. But, we weren’t alone. About 2 miles from Santa Pod, we were hit with traffic all queuing to get into the place. Oh…oooh!!!
Flame & Thunder was an action packed day for all the family featuring motorsport stunts and Drag Racing. We witnessed a huge gathering of jet vehicles and experienced 300mph Nitro guzzling Top Fuel dragster along with cars and bikes from various classes of Drag Racing. We watched stunt displays including Monster Trucks, Freestyle Motocross, Drifting and Stunt Riders. Eighties power ballads blasted through the crackling speakers alongside the shimmering acrid haze of exhaust fumes.
We were blessed with near tropical conditions which meant the track remained open all day long with some incredible racing. We parked ourselves in the middle amongst the thousand of spectators on the grassy banks lining the raceway and checked out our surroundings. There was a huge party atmosphere as people marked out their places with deckchairs and colourful mats, having picnics amongst the burning oil, screeching tyres and thundering engines.
On the track, the drag demo’s was on full throttle and were filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful machines from classic v8 muscle to the pinnacle of UK FWD racing and thanks to a couple of rigged wheel-standers there were wheelies left, right and centre all day long. One of the highlights of the day was seeing Chez Williams pilot Andy Morgans Splitscreen Panel van to a new world record of 11.24 at 112mph which was a stunning time in any car – never mind a camper van!
Martin Hills had the world-breaking Fireforce 5 dragster and the funny car Fireforce 3. Both of these cars used a Pratt & Witney J60 engine, as originally fitted to a Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter and delivered around 5,000 lbs of thrust!!! Fireforce 5 ran the quarter mile with an ET of 5.2 seconds, reaching 273 mph. Julian Webb’s Split Second Dragster made. time of 6.9 seconds on its first run at midday, reaching 223 mph. This car used a Viper jet engine and received standing ovation and thunderous applauses from the very appreciative cloud.
With 6,500bhp, Top Fuel dragsters accelerated down the quarter-mile strip of tarmac painfully quickly, burning as much as 20 gallons of nitro methane fuel to get from 0-60mph in 0.3sec and up to 300mph. While accelerating, the driver experienced up to 5g-5 times the force of gravity, and the same when he deployed a parachute to stop at the end of the run. That took 100 mph of the car’s speed in a second, and the whole run was over in 4-5 seconds.
Robin Read also put in a couple of stonking runs in his nitro fuelled, Daimler-engine dragster with an awesome best time of 6.84 192mph and later in the evening, the car running into the darkness looked and sounded incredible. Liam Jones was due to make a couple of passes in his current day top fuel dragster but unfortunately failed to find any traction away from the start-line.
A very welcome addition to proceedings on track was Jason Phelps and the Gladiator Fuel Funny car who made a decent launch earlier in the day before making a spectacular pass under the floodlights. The car hooked up perfectly off the start-line with the header flames lit all the way up to half track where he unfortunately suffered an explosion. Jason was fine but the same can’t be said for the engine! Jet cars were always a crowd favourite and there were 2 dragsters, a funny car and a miniature funny car on site. The four each made a number of thundering passes throughout the day for our enjoyment. Eric Teboul had everyone open mouthed after a couple of passes on his rocket propelled 2 wheel machine with a best time of the day of 5.23 seconds at over 250mph.
The action wasn’t confined to the drag strip as there was plenty to see in the Live Action Arena too. But unfortunately they were running simultaneously as on the track. There was another jet in the hands of Herve Franquin with his Invader jet powered Peugeot 205 who did a fantastic job to light up the bonfire later in the evening, the drifting trio of Team Maximum Lock with late night firework show, stunt quad bike rider Jason Smyth and 2 mighty monster trucks. All went relatively well with the exception of a very near miss from the resident monster truck Podzilla which seemed to be balanced perfectly on 2 wheels for what felt like an eternity before softly touching back down to earth.
We wandered around the paddock which revealed all manner of machinery from show & shine stunners to giant Kenilworth trucks and steam engines and there were plenty to have a go at too from driving a mini monster truck, playing on an interactive climbing wall and having an extreme passenger ride in a drift car. I really enjoyed wandering around the display of steam engines of different shapes and sizes. All were in good working condition displaying working examples of how steam was used to carry out everyday tasks.
There was live high-energy music on the stage from The Saturdays Tribute Act belting out some of group best hits. Their young fans were clambering to be on stage when the singers asked for volunteers to support their performance. Before that, superheroes including Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Super Girl got up on stage and got the party started. A pair of Minions were in demand wandering around the site having their photographs taken with the children.
There was a long queue for the drift rides to join some of the country’s top drifters from Drift Rides, experiencing the thrills of sideways driving and tyre smoking art of drifting. We were enveloped by the smell of burning oil and screaming tyres as the drivers used the throttle, brakes, clutch, gear shifting and steering input to keep the cars in a state of over-steer while manoeuvring from turn to turn. I bet the passengers enjoyed the adrenalin rush of being thrown about in a car around the track completely sideways with smoke billowing from the rear tyres
Rides on the back of the Red Dragon Monster Ride truck were very popular too. The truck was the only tubular framed race specification ride truck in Europe with 6.5 litre Chevy V8 engine. The passengers had to climb on this 11 foot high monster, strapped to their seats and experienced the movement as the truck crushed the cars on its path.
Then we headed back to the car to recharge our batteries with sandwiches and hot steaming coffee. Babe parked the car closer to the road so that we don’t have to walk far on the way back. We brought our deckchairs with us and made ourselves comfortable at the finishing line. It was getting darker and the mercury was rapidly declining. This was the first time we had been here in the dark. The whole complex lit up and Santa Pod in the dark was a different experience on its own.
On the track, the cars were still running and they looked incredible racing down the track. We were sitting right opposite the huge bonfire which was about a quarter mile away. We saw quite a huge crowd gathering and was delighted to see Herve Franquin with his Peugeot 205 doing a fantastic job lighting up the bonfire. We could feel the heat from where we were sitting..
Then the piece de resistance. FireForce 3 put on a night pass joined by a line of fireworks for company. It looked like the fireworks were away first but by the finish line the mighty jet had reeled them in and crossed the finish line first with ease. It was amazing and all of this was topped off by the annual, colossal fireworks display to compliment the whole days’ worth of action. The pyrotechnics displays went on and on and on and … We were so lucky to be sitting here because it was at the end of of the track.
By this time, people were starting to leave. To ease the traffic and stopping people from leaving all at once, an announcement was made that there were extra shows held on the Live Action arena. We stayed behind to watch and so did thousands of other people. By the time the show ended, everyone headed for the car. I bought a portion of hot twice-cooked thick chips to eat in the car while waiting for the traffic to ease, The chips had been eaten and we’d not moved at all for at least an hour. When we joined the queue, it took us half hour to get out of the complex. Horns were blaring away and tempers were rising… Oh dear!!!
Two cars rumble in unison, a final turn to face the long black lane. In slow roll through waiting water pit, then slam the accelerator to the floor.
Engine explodes in violent fury... burn out. The car shudders under the sudden imposed force, tires scream as clouds of smoke envelope.
Traction found, the car charges forward, to be wrenched to stop short of the light tree.
The smell of burned rubber chokes my lungs. An explosion of equal fury, rages to my right.
Two cars creep to the staging line. My car strains for release, surging ever harder.
Inches at a time I roll forward seeking the staging lights yellow glow. Time stands still, two cars have staged in roaring crescendo.
Rumble, shudder, heart pounding, the goal so distant yet only one quarter mile away. I am alone in a tunnel, lights flash down the tree.
Amber, amber, amber. Engine at high idle, brakes struggle to reign in the waiting power. Mind and heart tighten to task...Green Light.
More instinct than decision, release brake, drive the accelerator hard to floor. Driven back into the seat, tires scream in need of grip then a surging leap forward.
Speed builds as engine roars, slam of gears in smooth progression, engine whining to near explosion.
The long black lane is my world, my life. As if in flight, I move through space. Building speed in steady force, all a blur on each side, I dare not view the speedometer.
Nothing of import but a lighted sign ahead, the finish line, glory calls. In forced effort to relax, let the car work, just guide in controlled chaos.
The heart reaches out to pull to end...then it's over. Exhilaration, I am a junky in first rush, adrenaline flows in warm wash.
Coasting now, breaking, rolling to the track exit.
Retrieval of my time slip, joy or disappointment awaits, success is measured in tenths of seconds.
Thoughts of my next run burn hot within.
~Robert Gene Stoner Jr~
After that very exciting adventure, I chilled down by trying out 2 new recipes. It was Deepavali, the Festival of Light, and to celebrate the day, I cooked a vegetarian meal, a spicy pea and paneer curry with curried rice and spinach. It was yummylicious
Spicy pea and paneer curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
227g paneer, cut into cubes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp mild curry paste
400 g potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled
300 ml vegetable stock
300ml tinned chopped tomatoes with garlic
300g frozen peas, defrosted
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the paneer until golden-brown on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add remaining oil to the pan and fry onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add curry paste and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.
Tip in the tinned tomatoes, stir to coat in the spices then bubble for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the peas and fried paneer and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Season and serve it with the curried rice and spinach.
Curried rice with spinach
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp medium curry paste (Madras is a good one to use)
250g basmati rice, rinsed
450ml vegetable stock
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
handful of raisins
175g frozen leaf spinach, thawed
handful of cashew nuts
natural yogurt to serve, optional
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan that has a lid, then fry the garlic and curry paste over a medium heat for 1 minute, until it smells toasty.
Tip the rice into the pan with the stock, chickpeas and raisins and stir with a fork to stop the rice from clumping. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and bring to the boil. Reduce to a medium heat and cook for 12-15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Squeeze excess water from the spinach. Tip it into the pan along with 2 tbsp of hot water and fluff up the rice with a fork, making sure the spinach is mixed in well. Toss in the cashews. Serve drizzled with natural yogurt if you like.
To end the month, Halloween came knocking. Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween became less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candies. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. Over the millennia the day transitioned from a sombre pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.
I was hoping that we’d some brave souls would come knocking on our door but I think they were scared of the darkness. To reach our haunting cul-de-sac you had to walk through a very dark lane with a very old tree drooping in the middle. Anyone who braved through that certainly deserved a lollipop But I think the weather put them off. It was very dark and raining and windy and very cold.
The evenings were getting darker and the nights were getting colder. Leaves were falling as the colour turned from summery greens to . autumnal oranges and reds. It had been a beautiful October. We’d an Indian summer in the beginning but late October smelt of decaying leaves and damp. What a contrast. British summertime had ended and the clocks went back an hour. I don’t think anyone objected to an extra hour in bed!!!
‘I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.’
~Lucy Maud Montgomery, ‘Anne of Green Gables’~