Well, that went well. Or Not.

Having been rather too buried under customers hovercraft during 2014, I hadn't managed to get back racing this season.

My new Cobra Formula 2 hovercraft was sporting a rather sexy Rotax 453 two-stroke engine (yes, yes, I know....!) in place of the hugely powerful but too heavy GSX-R600 Suzuki 4 Stroke. Lift system was carried forward from the previous craft -a fter all, it hovers beautifully and never lets me down (A Simonini Evo2 paramotor engine, it even has the luxury of electric strart!) But as the last race meeting of the year was at my favourite track, and was a European (more/better craft and top level racing) I decided we'd finish the Cobra off and have a bit of fun.

A few frantic nights work and we were ready.

After all, we were also holding the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association AGM (The HMA - more about that later) at the same venue on the thursday before, so I kind of spotted a sneaky day-off on the friday. It all fitted (actually Friday was spent smashing posts into the ground and building the course so that bit didn't work out!) but it was nice to be there in plenty of time.

A brief test of the new Rotax 440cc engine showed it pulled like a train....it passed the float test (always a nervous time for a fat bloke like me!) so I joined the back of the grid. No practice, I wasn't ready. In the race, it was clear the engine needed some set-up, when it did pull through into the rev range and the power valves opened... it was superb! But most of the time  - it didn't!

Anyway, finished the race pretty much last but with a plan and after a bit of tinkering tried again. This improved things a bit in race 2.... until the poreviously faultless lift engine cut. Dead. Just like that.

On a pretty much blind brow.

About 5 seconds after I'd overtaken Bananaman.

The ensuing impact wasn't his fault - it was mine for stopping in a damn stupid place.

In true 'hovercraft impact' style, his craft lost a couple of segments - the back of mine was trashed. The hitter always suffer much less damage than the hitee - all he had to do was push the rudders into the path of the blades and The 110bhp contained in the blades blew apart, did some severe damage, bent the fan frame and ripped out every last flow straightener and cone. The good news is that the hull is untouched and the running gear is fine - in any case the fan frame was temporary so thats no big deal.

Oops.

The message my friends is - don't rush building things. I should have started earlier and taken my time. Of course, the engine started up straight after the race, but somethign meant it failed on the day and mor etesting - in fact any testing - would likely have found it.

But - it was a great meeting, caught up with some friends I haven't seen for a while and superb racing from a challenging but very fast course.

And just to prove that there's always someone who has a worse weekend than you....this clip is from the start of a Formula One Race. Conrad Beale rolled his craft going into the first corner and was very, very lucky not to be collected by Greg Lallemand who was right behind him. Conrad ended up in hospital for observation and brain scans (a bit of a surprise as I'd always thought Formula One Hovercarft drivers had no brains!) but was released a day later. No doubt he feels pretty second hand, and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Thanks to Ross Hammond for some top-quality HD coverage!

Ross Hammond _ Facebook.mp4 (5.80 mb)

So - it'll soon be christmas which means May bank holidays not that far away - Best get on with mending it I guess!