The Sunrise Sevens. It started with this post, the broken one:
Sixes and Sevens.
Some while ago, 18 Sevens met in the car park at Farnham station for a Sunday morning drive out, the resultant gathering of an invite on the Lotus Seven Club forum a few days earlier. This gathering being the culmination of a series of weekend call-up posts that had grown in popularity.The local knowledge from our rich catchment area of club members had produced some great routes on roads that 'exercised' the Seven's capability. Who wouldn't come back for more? And the popular morning drive had grown in numbers and reputation.
18 Sevens. A little damp on the road, with a 7 am start, but the enthusiasm had defaulted the expectation to 'it'll dry up in a bit'... oh, and did I mention this was about 12 years ago?
The blatiquette was a little different in those days: Follow the leader, or the bloke in front, it was just a matter of keeping up. Normally that worked, but 'normally' wouldn't have factored in 18 Caterham Sevens all in the chase, it was a little outside of our experience and, as it would transpire, most others too. 'Normal' these days now includes the use of Sat-navs for route sharing, a programme like Tyre was in it's infancy back then, even if it existed at all. Remember also, that this was a Sunday morning blat, not an organised cruise or rally with a carefully managed set of MSA guidelines from which to direct the proceedings.
So, 7 o'clock : departure. And a snake of 7evens began to stream out of Farnham. However, the back half of the snake was soon severed by a heavy foot on cold tyres out of the very first roundabout. A nearside Caterham front wheel will go under the armco, if pushed hard enough! The result of a tank-slapper that wasn't 'collected and caught' in this case.
5 cars had already speared off through the Hampshire countryside, oblivious to the developing back story that had spread across the verge behind them, another 4 waiting and wondering where the back 9 had got to...this group were busy circling back, idling and parking on the roundabout exit verges amongst the yellow debris of splintered yellow fibreglass from the stricken Seven.
Not a good scenario, and one that would certainly attract very specific attention from a passing patrol car!
Naturally, the instinct was for everyone to return back to seek their apparently lost blatmates. Even the lead group of 5 returned from various directions to the epicentre of the event... who wouldn't? Stuff to see, things happening , people to help and 'all for one' etc.
Enough! It was time to select an escape route and disperse. The man had his helpers to pick up the pieces, debrief, laugh, cry or whatever you do in those situations, he'll be looked after... but we really didn't all need to be there! Call the AA/RAC as a priority and get cleared before the road-constables decide that what looked like a car race gone wrong, was clearly outside the usual Highway Code guidelines. And, like stretcher bearers in a battle scene, everyone would be in danger taking a round or two!
No winners resulted in that morning's outing that's for sure.
It transpired that in his rush of enthusiasm to get out and enjoy his new car, the driver of the dismembered Seven chose that Sunday to make his Blat debut. Being new to Seven driving and only a few days into ownership won’t have helped!
It's been said that Sevens are easy cars to drive, pretty instinctive, but hard cars to actually drive well. It is a case of knowing the car and, even more specifically your version of it. A standard Seven doesn't exist, so, understanding your skill levels and the capability of your car within a mixed group of wide spread variables is not a simple assumption.7 am on a damp Sunday morning amongst that many Sevens is not the framework in which to discover those differences and, as a driver in a group, you trust that to be a given.
On the inside we're all Damon Hill, or that fella' from Stevenage, and we're all filled with the energy and enthusiasm that the little cars encourage. So, perhaps we can all fall victim to that moment when ambition steps outside of the boundaries of the moment.... however, we usually call that an accident.
That occasion was the last of the big 'public' pre-arranged blats for me.
The Sunrisers were made from the outfall of this group. Local owners, similar spec cars, same outlook. The underlying intent being to enjoy the Caterham 7 as per it's design. That would need clear roads (early mornings) and speculative diary slots accepting of last minute weather based decisions.
Initially it was a group of X-flow 7s that made up the majority of the group, never more than 8 or so on the call-up, with the intention being that a max of 6 cars on a run makes for a workable agile driving group. We've seen the group's cars evolve into a mainly K-series mix and more recently a cross section of Sigma, K and Duratec engined cars ranging from 1.6 litre and 130 bhp up to 2 litre 260 bhp !
Despite the breadth of power differential, road driving is a great leveler and driving in a like minded group is fun, but with any team activity, you need to know and understand each other's road language to a level that predictability can be added to the mix. It takes time to get that experience together and automatically, with that, the speed increases....along with the sense of balance and control.
Familiarity with a series of routes helps of course, however, shared .itn files guarantees no waiting at each junction in the event of separation and everyone can enjoy the drive.... and the subsequent, and now traditional, Breakfast!
It's all common sense now and the process of arriving at the agreed spot fully fueled with knowledge of the plan and ready to go has facilitated some superb morning runs for the 7s. Opportunities are rare that dry roads coincide with a free weekend morning , but it's more rare for a Sunrise Seven driver not to have 'the kit' ready just for the possibility of a call-up. The weather app sits in prime position on the mobile for quick reference anytime from Thursday lunchtime onward.
When it all coincides, it's all worth it. A few less glasses from the wine bottle at 10 the previous night is a required investment, a few fall at that stage, some the next morning when the night hasn't gone well when shortcomings arose! And, simply: having everything ready to go always, saves having to endure a last minute preparation session that can certainly dampen the enthusiasm.
It's Friday afternoon again... the weather satellites gather their data and are busy forming opinions of what's to come. Across the Surrey/Hampshire borders I can guarantee a few blokes are wondering what they've promised to do this weekend and whether disappearing at dawn in their funny cars for a few hours exercise can be factored in...can't squeeze a morning slot in? There's always the night time option too.
The weekend route might even pass the broken post. Although the yellow X means its time is numbered...I wonder if its victim from all those years ago is still driving a 7?
The Sunrise Sevens 2018 : Still here. Still hoping for Sunshine, Clear roads and no pot holes!