La Pommeraye: the Build Up

Charlie Martin - Hillclimbing - La Pommeraye 2016

Normally the time in between hillclimbing races is a good opportunity to unwind and focus on what’s coming; and after Hébécrevon this time has been invaluable and allowed me to make a few minor repairs and adjustments following the car’s first proper drive of the season.

There were also a few little jobs to do to the van, namely finding space for the spare front wing I’d just bought as it’s currently stored on the bed and not really the most comfortable thing to snuggle with at night! Unable to spot anywhere that it would go, I realised that a cargo net hanging from the roof inside the garage would be perfect – it doesn’t weigh much but it is pretty bulky so this was an ideal solution.

The other job was getting the alternator checked, so after a late night trip for a 16mm spanner I removed it and dropped it in for repair the day after returning. Thankfully they found a fault and replaced the part on the same day, so I’m hoping that’s all the problem was… I’ll know soon enough once the car has had a good run, as this should be sufficient to put enough charge back into the battery to turn the engine over a number of times – on croise les doigts.

Charlie Martin - Hillclimbing - La Pommeraye 2016

In truth I really need the time after race one to check everything as the following two races are back to back weekends rather than the usual two week gap, and once I leave for race four (Beaujolais villages) I leave everything in France.

This means that any jobs really need sorting now so I can test everything out, even down to what I leave in the van as I travel out with hand luggage only on Easyjet to keep the cost down. I’m very well organised after last season and I find that the more forward thinking you can do the less stress you will have to potentially to deal with – that’s the plan anyway!

All go on and off the track

It’s been a pretty full on week with my focus shifting away from racing with an invitation to No. 10 Downing Street on Monday as part of International Day Against Homophobia on May 17th. I was there as an LGBT activist and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I was standing right next to David Cameron at one point as he mingled and chatted with everyone before he and Nicky Morgan gave speeches.

Charlie Martin - Prime Minister

I met a lot of very inspirational people and left feeling positive and lucky to be living at a time when freedom of expression is something we can increasingly take for granted.

With my focus switching back to racing, I’ve been reviewing my on-board footage from last year and comparing it with a few other drivers on YouTube with the aim of improving significantly on last year’s times. La Pommeraye is a fast course and there are a few more contenders making the trip over to the Loire to form a total class of six pilotes (as we’re called in French).

The weather forecast would indicate that we’ll have thunder storms to deal with on Sunday too, although being Thursday as I write this anything could change over the next few days…

Although I don’t necessarily enjoy racing in the rain due to the simple fact that everything gets wet and it’s therefore less enjoyable (you have to clean everything afterwards too), I often tend to drive quite well so it can be a good thing after all.

They often say the rain is a good leveller and 2015 saw one of my best results in soaking conditions at St Ursanne les Rangiers for the Swiss round of the FIA European Hillclimbing Championship where I took fastest lady and 3rd Formula Renault in class, so I’m not too troubled… but then La Pommeraye is very fast.

Preparing for La Pommeraye 2016, Charlie Martin

It’s also organised by Automobile Club de L’ouest (A.C.O) the very same club who run and organise 24 Hours of Le Mans, and I won’t deny the fact that it feels pretty cool arriving in the paddock and seeing their logo displayed prominently on all the billboards. I’m a big fan of endurance racing having visited the famous race in La Sartre three times, so it’s nice to dream for a moment!

There will be a week (or just under) to relax before the next hillclimbing round at St Gouëno and my girlfriend is coming racing with me for the first time so I’m really looking forward to a little break and a chance to explore the Atlantic coastline which is a part of France I’m yet to discover.

I don’t have much of a plan but we’re not far from St. Nazaire, so the plan is to drive there first before we find a nice spot to park the van, preferably overlooking the sea without fear of being towed away! I’ve never tried this before and I’m not quite sure on the restrictions to living a nomadic existence in France, but I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Come back to Euro Car Parts soon to find out how Charlie got on at La Pommeraye.