Driving a Defender off-road

When I bought my Freelander, the dealer gave me a voucher for a half-day Land Rover Experience.

Today was the day. 🙂

I went with Bob, my geocaching buddy, to the Land Rover Experience at the Luton Hoo Estate. We spent a very happy afternoon driving a Land Rover Defender 110 through some challenging terrain sections. We had to conquer extremely  steep hills which I didn’t think we’d get up (or down!), a section where the Defender was leaning over so much I fully expected it to fall on its side, plus boulder fields and other hazards. We negotiated narrow trails through woodland, the Defender’s rear end squirming in the mud, and chased flocks of Partridge and Pheasant which for some inexplicable reason refused to simply fly out of our path.

Defender on a woodland trail

Hopefully I’ve learnt some skills which I can apply in my own vehicle (always assuming I’m brave enough). Although we were in the completely capable Defender and not a Freelander, our instructor was keen to point out manoeuvres we’d just completed saying “Your Freelander can do that”. Except for The Big Hill. That one was Defender-only territory.

Sum up: A bloody good day, and when can I do it again?

If you’re interested, this is where we went: www.london.landroverexperience.co.uk.

Silverstone, nearly.

I took my wife & daughters to Silverstone for the GP practice last Friday. We went but we didn’t get in. This was due to the utter incompetence of the organisers. You probably know about this – it was all over the news. Like many others I was extremely pissed off. Silverstone issued a press release promising refunds although they apparently expect us to email them explaining our “difficulties”.

So I wrote an email, quite a long one. Here are some extracts from it.

At no point did anyone from Silverstone Circuit inform us of the situation; e.g. why there was a hold up or when we could expect to get into the circuit. Why was there no communication? Eventually we managed to speak to one of your helpless traffic marshals who told us we would never get in, he remarked that our tickets were worthless. …

…  the second practice session had finished by the time we had crawled to the roundabout where your traffic marshals were attempting to direct spectators through the solitary gate into the parking area. Of course the gate was completely blocked with officials at a complete loss as to what to do with everyone. A single gate for everyone to get in? One entry point? What were you thinking?

In case they didn’t comprehend the length of time we spent in one short stretch of road, at this point I attached some screen shots from my iPhone Maps App showing my progress along the Dadford Road.

You and I both know that Silverstone has received severe criticism over many years regarding the appalling facilities for the fans. What you have spent on peripheral infrastructure, parking, “decent” toilets and proper (as opposed to scaffolding) grandstands is small beer compared to the enormous sums you have spent doing Bernie’s bidding and making everything nice and comfy for your shareholders and the BRDC. You cannot blame the weather for this debacle, this is England. It rains in England. When it rains, the ground in this part of the country gets very wet and muddy. This is not rocket science, you have known about this for years. Despite this you have chosen not to invest in proper tarmac car parking. That said, you had the option to provide a decent Park & Ride service on Friday. You could have planned this well in advance, so you can’t use the “there were no buses available because the schools were using them” excuse. Come on Silverstone, sort it out. And when you have, please let me know. In the meanwhile I shall spend my valuable cash (and less of it too!) on trips to european circuits where they do know how to organise a GP weekend.

I wonder when I’ll hear about my refund?

Value for money

Well I had my car serviced today. I chose my local Toyota dealer over the local “national” independent garage because it was a 20K service. Pretty good job they did too.

Anyway, I just worked out that it was better value for money than I first thought. The independent would have charged me ÂŁ185, plus a disposal fee for the old oil, etc. I would have to add to that the cost of changing the rear diff & transfer gear oil (no idea how much that would be). Compare that with ÂŁ242 at the Toyota dealer. Take off £30 for the courtesy car which I should have paid but negotiated for free. And they gave my filthy car a good clean – a handwash by one of those eastern European outfits typically costs just under a tenner. So that makes the Toyota job about ÂŁ10 more expensive, if that. And I got decent customer service and a free cup of coffee. Not a bad deal after all, really!