Roxie Marandi of Fun Cup UK, caught up with Rob Perry, the big boss at Team Agua Caliente Race Team #177, to find out how the team’s first year had gone. The response, as you’d expect, was perfectly articulated and Rob-ified by our humble and down to earth gaffer
Rob on how it all started
The journey started September 2016, when I suggested to my wife that I might like to race A30’s at Goodwood. “Don’t be daft, she said, you have to be a racing driver to do that”
A few mornings later, I called Silverstone, spoke to a great guy called Matt. An Ards test was booked a few weeks later. “I will become a racing driver”, I thought to myself.
Rob on the Ards test
The morning of the test was cold but dry. There was no one in the race school but the coffee machine was on
Some time later, a young man walked in… aged about 12, how the hell can he teach me to drive and test me in the afternoon?
He looked at me and must of thought… “oh god, another midlife crisis case to deal with!” His expression was a mixture of boredom and fear.
Turns out the young man is very polite and very articulate, and his name is James. He has obviously started to forgive me for being over 50 and we wondered out to a yellowish Renault something or other with a big race number on it. James explained something about how the cars were great for driver training and ards testing but I didn’t listen, it was front wheel drive and French… boring.
The engine sounded alright though and once we started to drive to the track, the gear box felt swift and the suspension was at least quite stiff
James, jumped in the drivers seat and took off like we just robbed a bank !!!! I kept looking over my shoulder to check for police while James calmly talked about braking points, upshift, down shift, balance point, rotation and other stuff I have seen in the movies.
The first lap passed before it had started and we were already on the second
We had now lost the police car so I could concentrate on what James was saying (and demonstrating) and it began to make sense.
I jumped in the drivers seat and set off for a warm up lap. Everything James had told me had gone out of the window and did the most terrible lap (or two) before we pulled in for the first de-brief. James said that all very good but can you drive faster, the car will rev to over 6K and the brakes will stop the car. Do everything you are doing but do it much….much….much faster.
It turns out James, is actually called Mr Littlejohn, and a pretty damn good racer. It turns out his not 12 but might be thirty something, difficult to say with youngsters these days.
I passed the test and became a racing driver at 50.
The little Renault also turned out to quite good and great fun was had testing the limits.
James asked me what I was going to race… Classic cars I suggested. He frowned a bit and said that my driving style (and impatience) might not go well with classic racing and suggested some endurance racing might be more up my street. More track time, less aggression with the driving style etc.
Rob on FunCup
Bloody FUNCUP. I had just become a full-blown racing driver with serious ambitions and here was 12 year old James Littlejohn suggesting I do little FUN races in a beetle. Obviously my driving skills were not what I thought
I was very depressed but cheered myself up when I lost a Police car through a nice set of roundabouts, stopped to wash the car and change my hat before toddling home at 55MPH. I was even tempted to buy some driving gloves to prove how good I was.
My wife didn’t even ask if I passed my Ards, but she would find out the next time we drove to the shops(!) brake, turn in, drift to outside, roll throttle… pin it!
That night, I looked at FUNCUP website. This looked like FUN with some very competitive racing going on. I rang my Mate, Dave Clarke, who lives near Oulton and asked him to go and watch the FUNCUP final. I said:
If it’s any good, we will race next year
Needless to say, he said it was some of the closest racing he has ever seen and it was a 4 HOUR SPRINT… no one gave up and cars were having battles right through the field.
Rob on getting moving
A few calls later, one to Derek Basham, an ex power boat racer and Matt Hogg, a man who like cars and bikes, and we had a race team for 2017
I rang James Littlejohn who put me in touch with Andy Bicknell (DESPATCH BAY car 221) and SOLUTIONS RACING. We met at Oulton on a very cold wet day and tested car 171. The day went ok, if shivering to death is your thing and you like changing your pants every 20mins, but the car felt pretty good up until it met with a barrier which was coming the other way (I think we all know the barrier was not moving at all) and the car was a little bit smashed up!
I bought the car and SOLUTIONS began the rebuild. Lots of testing later, we were at the start of the season and 14th on the grid.
The first half hour passed in a blur and we must have contacted every single car. Certainly the splitter was now buried in the grass somewhere and it was very clear we had an enormous amount to learn, but…
…we were racing, we were racing drivers!
Sure we were over 2 seconds off the pace, our pit stops were like coffee stops but we were all novices… no track racing experience. Sure Dave had some karting experience from years before but cars and racing… all new.
Rob on AG Team #177
The team effort was brilliant, other teams offered support and we were part of FUNCUP
The season passed with many events, minor crashes, annoying car failures, major crashes But the team stuck with it and we finished the season in 19th (I think) with an 11th (I think) at Portimao with some encouragement from Marcus Clutton.
Was it worth it? HELL YES.
I don’t think we could have had so much track time, met so many great people and learnt so much in such a short space of time. Special individuals Like Marvin Hall (on the camera), Julian Floyd (race control), Jay Shepherd and Kate Shepherd (competitors team, but they do so much for the fun cup sport), Andy Durham (SOLUTIONS RACING) who nearly cracked having to put up with 4 novices in the garage (with spanners in the hands) but still manged to produce a quick car and lets not forget Andy Bicknell for selling me the great 171 car. They all make up a great sporting event.
Rob on what’s next in 2018
The car has undergone a huge winter rebuild by Solutions Racing and is ready for a competitive season
We will be running quicker, our pit stops will be better and we hope to be a bit less “novicey” than last year. We will get in the top ten (somehow) and we already know it will be great racing, no matter what position we make.
Rob was talking to Roxie Marandi as part of a Q&A for Fun Cup UK: