An Extract From The Book: Mr Clops & Mr Balls – Silverstone By Kelvin Rush.
Although Mr Clops was extremely disappointed that Mr Balls wouldn’t be driving a car, it certainly didn’t dampen his own enthusiasm. He forgot all about Mr Balls, as he arrived at the garage, and was given a white disposable balaclava and a black crash helmet. The anticipation increased tenfold as he caught sight of the racing cars on the grid. They were a bit smaller than he’d imagined, with a choice of colours: red and white, green and white, or blue and white. The nine cars were in rows of two, with a single car right at the back. The strong smell of petrol fumes only added to the excitement. The impatient drivers were all stood around, waiting for the stewards to allocate the cars, when suddenly three of the drivers scattered like crazy ants.
They obviously knew the drill and were desperate to get in a car near the front. The curly-haired man, who’d now replaced his size thirteen boots with a pair of tatty trainers, shot off like an Olympic sprinter to the front row of the grid, and dived into car 14. Seconds later there was a scuffle, as the other two drivers both tried to get into car 6. They were both determined to get on the front row. Mr Clops was astonished when he realised one of the drivers was Winnie, the eighty-five-year-old. She must have known the other driver as they began swapping insults.
‘I was here first Peter!’ she shouted ‘You know I always have this car! I don’t like any of the other cars, you idiot!’ Peter was showing no mercy. ‘Not this time Winnie! You always get your own way but not this time, you silly old bugger!’ Just when it looked like it was about to turn nasty, an angry looking steward called Jeremy intervened. He’d encountered these two before. ‘Right that’s enough…..! I’m sick to death of having to deal with you two! Peter, let Winnie have the car please. I don’t know what all the fuss is about anyway, the cars are all the same.’ Peter, who had one leg in the car and one on the tarmac was livid.
‘Oh yes! I thought as much! I knew you’d take her side! She always gets her own way, just because she’s a blue rinser! And the cars aren’t the same! Some of them are that old, they rattle when you get past fifty! Just like her!’ Peter was still remonstrating, as he very reluctantly removed his leg from the car and went looking for another one. Winnie clenched her fist in victory, as she carefully climbed into the car. Jeremy adjusted the seat until she was comfortable, before strapping her in. ‘I wish you’d behave yourself Winnie,’ he said smiling. ‘You’re always upsetting Peter. Sometimes you’re more trouble than Old Ma Baker.’ Winnie, who had already removed her false teeth, wrapped them in a paper towel, and put them in her trouser pocket for safe keeping, gave Jeremy a cheeky flash of fleshy gums. ‘He’ll survive,’ she said. ‘He’ll be even more upset when I beat him on the track.’
— The rift between Winnie and Peter had been bubbling away for quite some time. It all started a few months ago, when Peter accidentally clipped Winnie’s car from behind, as they approached the first bend on the warm-up lap. The car was sent spinning out of control and crashed into the safety barrier. No one was injured, but the marshals failed to restart the car, so Winnie’s race was over before it had even started. She accused Peter of deliberately causing the accident, and they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since.
All the cars had now been allocated by the stewards. Mr Clops was given car number 2, the one right at the back of the grid. He was actually quite relieved to be at the back, as he knew there were some experienced drivers in the field, and no doubt they would be setting off very fast, and trying to overtake each other. He certainly didn’t want to be involved in any accidents, and especially not on the first few laps. His intentions were to get used to the car during the warm-up laps, and then take it from there. He walked over to the car and gave it the once over, before putting on his balaclava, and squeezing his head into the black helmet. It was tighter than two coats of paint, and needed several twists and adjustments, before it felt relatively comfortable. Jeremy then helped him into the car. His skinny body easily slotted into the cockpit, with his backside firm and snug on the seat. His legs were almost stretched out fully, with his feet resting on the pedals. Jeremy strapped him in, before showing him the layout of the car.
Mr Clops was surprised at just how low down he was, no more than a few inches from the ground. There were no fancy dials or controls either. Just a push button to start the engine, a speedometer, a rev counter, a clutch, break and accelerator pedal, a tiny steering wheel, and a 4 speed gear box, with a small chunky gear stick poking out. He was a bit disappointed, as he’d seen Lewis Hamilton on TV, sat in his own cockpit on race days, and that didn’t look anything like this one. He began fiddling around with the clutch, break, and accelerator pedals, followed by the steering wheel and gear box, trying to get a feel for the car. He’d done a bit of go-kart racing in the past, but he’d certainly never driven at high speeds before. He was sat in the car waiting for the warm-up laps to begin, when something caught his eye in the car mirror. The next thing he knew, Mr Balls was standing right in front of the car, holding up his smartphone taking pictures.
‘Oooh….. look at you Mr Clops, thinking ya Jenson Button. I thought I’d take a few pics on mi phone before you start the race, to show the lads down at The Old Peacock.’ Mr Clops, who was never one to miss a photo opportunity, willingly obliged and began to strike several poses. He unclipped his seat belt and sat on the side of the car with his arms folded, trying to look cool. He then noticed Jeremy marching towards him, and he didn’t look pleased. He was annoyed with Mr Clops for removing his seat belt, moments before the race was about to start. ‘Excuse me sir! Can you get back in the car immediately please! Or you’ll be disqualified!’ Mr Clops didn’t argue and quickly sat back down in the seat. Jeremy strapped him in once again, before turning his anger onto Mr Balls. ‘Who are you!? What are you doing here!? No one is allowed in this area, except for the marshals, the stewards and the drivers! If you want to take photographs you need to stand behind the safety barrier!’
Mr Balls didn’t take kindly at being shouted at. ‘Well I am one of the drivers if ya must know! Or rather I’m not but I should be!’ Jeremy was keen for the race to start and in no mood for silly conversations. ‘What’s that supposed to mean? Either you are one of the drivers or you’re not. And considering all the cars have drivers sat in them, I assume you’re not.’ ‘Well I am one of the drivers, but I can’t drive cos I’m too fat. I’m just over the eighteen stone limit. I should be driving a car, cos it’s mi fiftieth birthday, and coming here was a birthday present from Mr Clops, and now it’s all gone tits-up.’ Jeremy tried to show a little understanding, but failed miserably. ‘Oh, well I’m sorry to hear that sir, but I need you to leave now, so we can get this race started.’
‘Yeah Whatever!’ said Mr Balls, feeling a little aggrieved. He then bent down to give Mr Clops a little encouragement. ‘Good luck Mr Clops, av a good’un, and make sure ya come back in one piece,’ he said, tapping him on the shoulder a few times. Mr Clops, who now had his visor down ready for action, raised up his thumb, and nodded in appreciation. Seconds later Mr Balls was gone. Finally the race could now get under way. Then….. just as the marshals were about to instruct the drivers to start up their engines, Philip James the driving instructor, appeared on the grid. Once again an enraged Jeremy rushed over to see what the problem was. He calmed down slightly when he realised it was Philip, who he knew fairly well. ‘Alright Philip, is there a problem?’
‘Oh hello Jeremy, sorry to trouble you but I’ve lost someone, I thought he may be around here somewhere. He’s a rather large man with a beard, wearing white trousers, an Hawaiian shirt, a panama hat and sunglasses. You can’t miss him, he’s a bit conspicuous to say the least. I don’t think he would get on the short list for MI5, that’s for sure. He also smells of Lynx Excite deodorant. Anyway, he seems to have disappeared into thin air. Have you seen him?’ Jeremy’s calm was wearing pretty thin. ‘Yes, you’ve just missed him Philip, try reception, he might be there. Now we really must get this race started.’ Philip apologised once again, before heading off to find Mr Balls.
The cars were split up into two groups for safety reasons. There were five cars in the first group and four in the second. Each group had a pace car, which was a tuned up Renault Clio, driven by a professional driver. The drivers pushed in the ignition buttons to start the cars. The sound of the engines was deafening. Some of the inexperienced drivers increased the decibels to an ear popping level, as they revved the engines recklessly. Mr Clops, who was in the second group, pushed the clutch pedal down with his left foot, and put the car into first gear. Both his hands were firmly on the steering wheel, as he waited for the pace car to pull away, so he could finally get to drive the car. He was only seconds away from releasing the clutch and stepping on the gas, when he felt someone banging on his helmet. He looked up to see Mr Balls shouting at him, desperate to be heard through all the noise.
‘I’ve lost Philip the driving instructor! I was told he was here! Av ya seen him!?’ Before Mr Clops could answer, Jeremy, who was right at the front of the grid, sprinted over at great pace. He flipped his lid big time as he tried to manhandle Mr Balls towards the safety barriers. Suffice to say he wasn’t very successful. Mr Balls was furious. ‘Hey…..! What do ya think ya doing…..!? Get ya hands of mi…..! Who do ya thing ya are!?’ ‘Look sir! Can you leave please!? The race is about to start! Why have you come back!?’ ‘If ya must know I’m looking for Philip, the driving instructor! I was told he was here!’ ‘Well he was here sir and now he’s not! So can you leave please…..!? PLEASE!!’
This time Mr Balls didn’t argue and trotted off with his tail well and truly between his legs. Moments later both pace cars pulled away to begin the warm-up laps. The stewards instructed each driver to slowly move away in a single file. All the drivers in the first group left the grid without any hitches. However, three of the four drivers in the second group, (including Mr Clops) stalled their cars. The stewards dashed over to assist, and began to shout out instructions: ‘Give it more revs! And let the clutch out slowly!’ said one steward. ‘Make sure it’s not in gear when you start the engine!’ said another. It took one driver five nervous attempts before he finally got the message. Eventually all the cars got away safely.
For the first two warm-up laps, Mr Clops cruised along at the back, learning the corner lines and breaking points, and mainly getting familiar with the car. But by the middle of the third lap, he was becoming increasingly frustrated. His top speed was no more than 20mph, and he’d not even been out of second gear. For safety reasons the pace car was purposely going slow, as it allowed the drivers to get used to the cars and the circuit. However, Mr Clops was being slowed down ever further by the car in front. The car in front was at least ten meters behind the main pack, and Mr Clops couldn’t understand why it was going so slow. ‘Bloody hell!’ he screamed through his helmet. ‘We’ve got a well seasoned Sunday afternoon driver on the track! And I’m stuck right behind him! This guy must think he’s driving a bleedin milk float or summat! I’d be going faster in a tailback on the M25! Can you speed up pal!?’ Mr Clops, who was normally a mild-mannered man and not one for swearing or losing his cool, seemed to be turning into a road rager.
— You were allowed to overtake on the warm-up laps, but only on the straights. Normally, the marshals would hold up a blue flag to the slower car in front, who would then be expected to move across to the right, so the faster car behind could drive past on the left hand side. In any case, Mr Clops was far too busy learning how to drive the car, without being distracted by marshals and blue flags. On the final warm-up lap, the top speed had only slightly increased to 30mph. All the cars were led back into the pit lane. The pace cars disappeared, and the nine racing cars lined up on the grid. Finally the drivers would be let loose on the track. Now the real fun would begin…..
The marshal who was stood at the front of the grid, slowly released each car one by one. Although the drivers were told in the briefing, that it wasn’t so much a race, but more of a personal driving experience, that certainly didn’t resonate with several of the drivers, including Mr Clops. They were all very competitive, and determined to cross the line in first place, and also claim the fastest lap. The milk float driver in front of Mr Clops set off like a snail in the annual garden race. Mr Clops followed behind, stalking his prey like a hungry cheetah ready to pounce. All nine cars were now out on the track. As the milk float driver came around the first bend and onto the straight, Mr Clops made his move. He stuck his foot down and breezed past the car, like an angry gust of wind. It certainly wasn’t the best overtaking manoeuvre ever seen on a race track, as the milk float driver was only going 28mph. Nevertheless, Mr Clops screamed out like he’d just won the Monaco Grand Prix. ‘Come OoooooN! Bye-Bye Mr Milk Float Man! Go and deliver your red top! Seven more cars to get past!’
That seven became six, then five, as two cars collided with each other halfway down the back straight, leaving debris all over the place. Both cars spun off the track, with one crashing into the car tyre safety barrier, and the other into the advertising board. Both drivers raised an arm to the marshals to confirm they were ok, but their race was over. Because of the accident, the yellow flags were out immediately, so the seven remaining cars had to slow down. Moments later the safety car appeared. For the next four laps, the seven cars trundled along behind the safety car, so the stewards and marshals could clean up the accident scene.
At the end of lap five, the safety car pulled off the track, and the cars set off once again. However, cars 8 and 16, who were in front of Mr Clops, for some reason followed the safety car back into the pit lane. The drivers must have lost concentration during all the slow laps, and looked a bit foolish as their race was ended prematurely. That meant five cars were now left on the track. Mr Clops knew there could be no more than a few laps left. He’d spent half the time following the pace car, and the other half following the safety car. He’d not driven faster than 35mph, and considering he was driving a so-called racing car at Silverstone, he was a little disheartened to say the least. He knew if he wanted to win the race, he had to make his move quickly.
Leading at the front was car 14, driven by the curly-haired man. Behind him were the two arch-rivals: Peter in car 12, followed by Winnie in car 6. Mr Clops was next in car 2, and bringing up the rear was the milk float man in car 4. The curly-haired man throttled away from the rest of the pack. He was by far the most experienced driver in the field, and was comfortable driving at high speeds, even at 120mph. He was obviously going to win the race, and would no doubt be setting the fastest lap. Unfortunately for him however, he got a little cocky, and went too fast around the hairpin bend. He lost control of the car, locked up the breaks, and skidded for a good few meters, before coming to an abrupt halt on the grass. He made his situation worse by stalling the car. Although he eventually managed to re-start the car, by the time he got back on the track, he was way behind the field.
Peter was now leading the race. He could see Winnie in his mirror, only a few meters behind. He was certain she would try and overtake him on the next straight. As he came out of the bend and onto the straight, he purposely placed his car on the left-hand side of the track, ready to defend his racing line. He knew Winnie could only pass him on his left-hand side, and had no intentions of letting her through, even if the blue flags came out. As it happened, Winnie had a cunning plan of her own, as she came to within half a meter of Peter’s car. Both the cars were travelling at over 80mph, so Winnie’s plan was even more impressive.
She moved her car to the right, as if she was going to overtake. Peter cut her off. Then she moved her car to the left. Peter once again cut her off. She then played her joker card to perfection. In a split second, she moved her car to the right, then to the left, then back to the right again. She completely flummoxed Peter, as he didn’t know which racing line to defend. He left a gap on his left-hand side, just wide enough for Winnie to squeeze through. It was a move Michael Schumacher would have been proud of. Winnie raised a fist in the air for good measure, as she pulled away from a very disgruntled Peter, to began her final lap.
Mr Clops had a bird’s eye view of the whole incident and now prepared to put his own plan into operation. He was only a meter or so behind Peter’s car, as they both crossed the line for the final lap. He stuck to Peter like a rash, as he stalked him around the track, waiting for his opportunity. As both cars came off the hairpin bend and onto the home straight for the final time, Mr Clops made his move. He pulled out from behind Peter’s car, and floored the accelerator pedal. He shot past Peter faster than Bernie the Bolt, doing 90mph. Peter, who had now been overtaken twice, tried to respond but the fight had gone. He just didn’t have the nerve or the heart to go any faster.
Winnie thought she’d already got the race won, and began to slow down halfway down the home straight. She never even looked in the mirror to see Mr Clops closing in. Mr Clops tried to keep his car in a straight line to gain maximum speed. Seconds later he was half a meter behind Winnie, as he caught site of the marshal holding up the chequered flag. The adrenaline rush was palpable, as he pulled up at the side of Winnie’s car, only meters away from the finishing line. He was certain he was going to win the race. Then, on his left-hand side, out of the blue, like a flash of lightening, came car number 4. It was the milk float man. Superman would be more apt. Mr Clops was stunned, like he‘d just been zapped by a fifty thousand volt taser gun.
All three cars were now side by side, as each driver vied for glory. Moments later they crossed the line, with not a fag paper between them. Some of the stewards and marshals had been watching the race from various points around the circuit, and congregated at the finishing line to savour the moment. They’d never seen anything like it before. They all applauded vigorously as the three cars sped past. The marshal was waving his chequered flag that fast, it slipped from his hand and went sailing high into the sky like an arrow, before landing on the grass. There was some debate as to who had actually won the race. Mr Clops was convinced he’d won, and was absolutely ecstatic, as he began to beat his chest like a mad gorilla. ‘Yeah! Come On! You Little Beauty!’ Winnie was convinced she’d won. ‘No one gets passed little old Winnie! Not that loser Peter! Not anyone!’ she said, before popping her false teeth back in, ready to give her victory speech. The milk float man on the other hand, didn’t seem all that bothered. He was cooler than the coolest cucumber, as he quietly chewed on his gum.
The five cars slowly pulled into the pit lane in single file, and were directed by the stewards to park up on the white grid lines. The stewards then released the seat belts, and helped the drivers exit the cars. Mr Clops was still buzzing, as he ran over to Winnie and gave her a great big hug, while lifting her off the floor and swinging her around a few times. ‘It’s the flying Gran!’ he shouted laughing. Winnie removed her helmet. The sweat was pouring off her face and neck. She was wearing a rather odd-looking black hair net around her head, and looked like a happier version of Ena Sharples. ‘I bet you’ve not been in many close finishes with an old wrinkly like me,’ she said. Mr Clops then went over to the milk float man to congratulate him. ‘Well done! That was an incredible finish! I never even saw you coming! You were like a bat out of hell!’ The milk float man’s unassuming demeanour never altered, as he patted Mr Clops on the shoulder. ‘Not bad for a milk float man,’ he said.
The three of them handed in their crash helmets and balaclavas, and headed off to the debriefing room. By the time they got there Peter and the curly-haired man were already sat around the table. They each found a seat and sat down in anticipation of the result. The other four drivers who didn’t complete the race, had all left the experience centre before the race had even finished. Philip James the driving instructor, walked in and stood at the foot of the table. ‘Hello everyone I’m Philip James, one of the driving instructors.’ He then noticed Mr Clops.
‘Oh hello there Mr Clops, I saw the finish, everyone’s talking about it. It’s one of the best finishes we’ve ever seen. By the way, Mr Balls is waiting for you in reception.’ Mr Clops, who was that engrossed in the race, completely forgot about Mr Balls. He felt a little guilty for having such an exhilarating experience on the track, when Mr Balls wasn’t even allowed to drive a car. ‘Did Mr Balls have a good time Philip?’ ‘Oh yes…..! No doubt he’ll tell you all about it when you see him.’ Philip then shouted out the car numbers, and handed the printouts to the drivers, with their individual lap times. The drivers were busy mulling over the information, as Philip prepared to announce the results. ‘Let me just say something before I announce the results. In my eyes you’re all winners. It takes some bottle to get on a race track.
Anyway, without further ado here are the results.’ (None of the drivers seemed that interested, except for Mr Clops and Winnie, who were like two giddy children playing pass the parcel, hoping to win the prize.)
‘In 5th place………. Car 14.’ (That was the curly-haired man.) Everyone clapped, even the curly-haired man, sarcastically it has to be said.
‘In 4th place………. Car 12.’ (That was Peter, who angrily mumbled something under his breath.) Again everyone clapped. Mr Clops and Winnie were both getting anxious, hoping their car wouldn’t be called out next.
‘In 3rd place………. Car 2.’ (That was Mr Clops. His expression said it all. He looked like he’d lost his wallet and found a quid.)
Winnie was getting nervous and excited at the same time. ‘Come on little Winnie,’ she muttered to herself. ‘You can do it lass.’
‘In 2nd place, and also the prize for the fastest lap, with an amazing time of 57.5 seconds. Car number………. Wait for it………. Car number………. 4.’ (That was the milk float man. He just sat there chewing his gum, very matter-of-fact.)
Winnie screamed out in sheer elation.
‘YESSSSSS! YESSSSSS! YOU’VE DONE IT LASS! YOU’VE DONE IT! WELL DONE!’
‘And in 1st place, your friend and mine, in Car number 6, the one and only………. Winnie.’ Everyone applauded, even Peter, as Winnie punched the air with both fists. The top three drivers all received a certificate, with the milk float man getting an extra one for the fastest lap. It was an experience none of them would ever forget. Mr Clops said his farewells to the drivers and Philip, before making his way to the reception area to find Mr Balls.
An Extract From The Book: Mr Clops & Mr Balls – Silverstone By Kelvin Rush.