National B LicenseIt's here! I was like a kid at Christmas it was almost pathetic! It took longer than anticipated however. I rang up after 6 weeks and the chap at MSA said they'd left a message for me on my mobile, number 07575.... as my number actually starts 07979 that could explain things. The message apparently said I sent a cheque for £50, and not £51 which is the actual fee. Oops!

Anyway, it's now here, and the first step is complete. Next for some race wear, when the bank balance has had time to sit down and rest...

As I was finding the chaps in the PBMW forums awfully friendly and full of very pragmatic yet sound advice, I decided to pay them a visit. Actually that was also their advice but still, I thought it would be a great idea to go and learn about my intended new hobby. To be honest it's a bit intimidating going to Snetterton on your todd, looking for some old BMWs then interrogating the first chap you see, but I think I did a reasonable job. A few kindly offered to see me there and answer some questions.

Easytrack PBMW Cup -    Photo Neil Adams / BTCC-Racing.comChief among these was fellow Cambridge resident Kristian who generously took me out in his tangerine and silver machine, after I'd hired a lid and gone through some beuracracy with the admin staff. I should explain at this point that if like me, you hire a helmet at the reception and ask if there's anything else you need to go out on the circuit, expect a re-assuring response that you have everything you need. Followed by a marshal asking you to wave  your circuit wrist band as later on you trundle down the pit lane. Cue going back to the front desk, and being asked "Would you like a track pass?". Yes please, thank you kindly. Of course, you give them that "oh what am I like eh!" sheepish look on your face. However, these are the event organisers, people who dish out penalties and oversee scrutineering, and are therefore people you really, really want to keep sweet.

So after my crash course in how to be allowed on a circuit (filling in next of kin forms primarily) as a passenger, Kris took me for a few laps in his pride and joy. Again, you have to forget how the real world works in terms of driving speeds and safety distances. Maybe I'm being a big jessie but I was concerned how close you are to other cars at a 100mph, and how hard you turn in to corners. Still, I used to be scared going over 60 as a learner driver. Clearly according to my driving license points tally though that wore off pretty quickly, so I've no long term concerns about going racing.

Fair play the guys can't really do anything more for you, and I chatted to some over lunch break (turns out marshalls need to eat too, so the circuit shuts down). They gave out a good welcoming vibe, and in return I promised I hoped to see them again in a few months. These might be fellow competitors, but they are really happy with the state of their championship and want to see it grow successfuly. They seem to have a competitive streak where it matters, but a brilliant camaraderie when the wheels stop turning.

One story that highlights this, was from one of they guys who turned up to Silverstone very excited to drive the Grand Prix circuit for the first time. Several laps into qualifying and his engine shat itself into many pieces - weekend over. Time to go home a broken and dejected man. On route walking through the pitlane a guy asked him why was he looking a "bit down". After explaining why he was going home the bloke said he had a spare 320 engine in his van, and minutes later a handful of complete strangers descended onto his car like mad men. The result was a replaced engine in time for the race.

medicalJust a short update really, to say at this point in time I am now certified healthy enough to go racing! The cost was £80 with my GP for an hour or so. Filled with various prodding, peeing, stripping (slightly) and some freindly interrogation. Mind you, it was interesting looking at my medical notes for the first time going back to my birth, to say the least! Also just to be sure, instead of ticking 'No' to having had a tetnus jab in the last 10 years, I sorted that as well on the same day (nice surprise needle shenanigans there). Just in case I have an accident, am thrown from the car and impale myself on a rusty fence, perhaps.

The license form (which was getting a bit tatty after sat on my desk since September last year) has now finally been sent off, plus £51. So that's the big first expensive part done. Next I think I'll tackle a lid. As I found out at Snetterton on my PBMW fact-finding visit, if you're serious about motor racing you may as well get your own helmet early on.