Exclusive Interview with Recycled Racing
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Shaun Ely & Blair Roebuck
Insta link: @recycledracing
Facebook link: www.facebook.com/recycledracingg
Youtube link: Recycled Racing
Recycled Racing. Just two blokes who figured they'd have a go. 5 years later and it turns out we're not as shit as we thought! An ethic that involves doing the best you can with what you have available. We strive to invest in our own knowledge and develop a pair of cars that can take it to those with considerably higher budgets.
Tell us all about you, why and how you got into the car scene:
Always had something to do with cars since I was a kid. My dad was always dicking about with something or other. Most weekends were spent at either stock cars, banger racing or grass track racing. Then it all got put on the back burner until I got into my early 20's. I worked in the tuning industry for almost a decade. Started out in the air cooled VW scene, progressed into water cooled and then finished up in JDM tuning. Spent the bulk of that time learning various tricks of the trade. I had (and still have) a keen interest in the science behind tuning. It was rare I'd do any upgrades on my own cars without an understanding of the reasons first.
Unlike Shaun, cars didn't run in my blood, but DIY work did. It wasn't until I joined college and developed friends who spent time in the car scene that I developed an interest. After passing my driving test, it took less than a year to sell my grocery getter Renault Clio in favour of a Honda Civic Sport. This car was a gateway drug to all thing's car scene, car shows, SantaPod, tunnel runs and more, another grocery getter to some, but to me it had granted me a way of life, endless circles of friends and started to blur the line between household DIY and modifying cars.
Tell us about your car:
This is my late 80's Peugeot 205 GTI 1600. Purchased about 5 years ago so that I could dip my toe into racing. It wasn't in the best of health when I got it and found out it had a lot of issues the hard way. Been a slippery slope ever since.
The Civic started life as a Thathi green EK3, a true shopping trolley in the Civic world. A friend and I had discussed building a track car and local boy racer having slapped a turbo to it and crashing into a lamppost provided a perfect base car to start with. From humble beginnings and complying with the race series regulations, it's now equipped with the legendary B16B engine. With nearly 100 dyno runs in the book testing and developing parts, it produces 212 BHP @ 9200rpm from its 1600cc naturally aspirated engine. Combined with a full Spoon Sports short ratio gearbox and plated differential, it certainly holds its own against more powerful cars.
How did you get involved in Racing?
My first race was actually as a result of helping a customer of mine with his car. He had an early model Impreza and I had one too. We'd bounce ideas off each other and I spent a few weekends getting his car ready for a few race outings. As a thank you, he offered me half of his seat time, as the race format allowed two drivers to swap during a pit stop. That was it for me. Hooked for life.
Ironically, Shaun's first race was a significant day for me too. I had gone along to support and offer help where I could. The thrill of the paddock, the excitement of racing, the comradery when things went wrong very quickly made track days boring. It wasn't long after that day I was sitting my race license exam and the rest is history.
Why is it exciting for you?
Who doesn't love a bit of friendly competition. The best part is competing against friends. The friendships we've made over the years up and down paddock are priceless. The thrill of taking it to the limit, and occasionally beyond, is something else entirely.
When I first started racing, it was all about the 30 minutes of qualifying and 45 minutes of competitive racing. As the years have passed, the friendships and weekend banter has grown. It's a labour of love, and when all your free time and hard-earned money has been consumed to attend this day out, it's important you extract from it everything you can.
Memorable Race experiences?
There are too many to mention really. From having a steering boss fail and ploughing into the wall at Snetterton, trading positions multiple times per lap with a fellow rival 205 at Thruxton, or the sheer madness of night racing at Brands Hatch, it's all good. But the most memorable race was in late 2018, where poor weather and a sensible tyre and setup choice led to an overall podium finish.
Night racing is by far some of the most memorable racing, especially the most recent outing at Donington where I was ejected from the Craner curves and bounced down the hill into the night at nearly 100mph.
Our first trip to Anglesey Trac Mon last year was very enjoyable. We had previously disregarded the circuit as it was an 8-hour journey towing the cars. We took the plunge and it wasn't long until we reaped the rewards. A totally unspoiled circuit in excellent condition, and the civic loved it, some of its best race finishes yet.
The final thought that comes to mind was an outing at Silverstone on the GP circuit. Almost from the time the race started both cars were running nose to tail, working as a team and picking off everyone in front. Starting from mid pack up to 5th overall was a great feeling. Unfortunately, the civic wasn't quite ready to celebrate and its engine failed with 3 laps to go, but it was par for the course. The sooner you learn that racing is 80% heartbreak and 20% elation, the better.
Have you ever sneezed in the car while Racing?
I've come close a few times. When you're one of the last races of the day and the suns getting low, your nose does that weird shit where you're gonna sneeze but don't.
I've never sneezed, but I've had the pipe that runs from the rear window vent to my face fill up with water and empty itself into my lap the first time I turned left at speed, that was a bit of a shock!
What is the car you have had the most fun while driving and why?
Definitely this Peugeot. It's a bit of a giant killer and it's easy for people to underestimate these little things. They see an old shutter with wonky bodywork and ridiculous panel gaps. But it's a bruiser really.
The Civic is the king of fun. It won't punch your spleen through the back of the seat with outright power, but it's predictable, easy to drive, happy to wag it tail and stop on a dime. Not by accident, it's taken many iterations and a whole bunch of money I will never see again, and hundreds of hours in the garage and testing. Some would call me crazy, but it's about the journey not the final destination.
What is the worst car you ever drove and why?
My first car was a Fiat 126. I'd rather get punched in the dick than ever drive that again. It was the single most horrendous thing I've ever driven. And remember, I've driven air cooled volkswagens.
It's a 1.0 litre automatic Nissan Micra for me. Worst courtesy car ever, never again.
What is your dream Race car and why?
Not sure I have one. I do have a soft spot for the old Group C era cars. But if the opportunity ever came up to pilot some of the old super tourers from the 90's, I'd grab that with both hands.
Never meet your heroes! In terms of driving something on its ragged edge, you really have to come to terms that it might not look the same when you've finished driving it, and that's a heart-breaking thought. With that said, I'd love to do some laps in a proper Honda NSX-R, or anything with a 4 Rotor, I can't think of a better noise.
What mod would you do first to your car?
Proper tyres. Too many people fail to see the importance of proper rubber on the road.
I'd agree with tyres, you need them for every aspect of the drive. Secondly, weight loss, you will see benefits in acceleration, braking, turning and tyre consumption, and often it's free / cheap
Who is your favourite Driver?
I've had a man-crush on Jenson Button for years. Seems like a pretty down to earth guy you could go for a pint with.
Keiichi Tsuchiya, yes if you cut me down the middle it will say Japan. Grandfather of drifting and the Togue.
Are you in it to win it – or do you Race just for fun?
In the beginning it was all for the lolz. The car wasn't particularly well developed and neither was I. But then as time, the car and I have progressed, I set myself goals to finish in the top 10 or so. Or aim to beat one particular car or a specific lap time. That's not to say we don't have fun anymore. We probably have more now than we did in the beginning.
Winning is certainly more than the £5 plastic trophy you get at the end of the day. If it wasn't for the fun in the garage developing the cars and challenging ourselves, the friends up and down the paddock, helping the new guys find a rhythm in the chaos that is their first race, I might have even stopped by now. It's important to set realistic targets and understand that a step on the podium is earned, both in developing the car and more so yourself. I'd sooner leave the circuit with no trophy and a GoPro full of action, swapping positions with my friends, then race in a class of one and get a trophy for just entering.
Where do you usually Race and is it your favourite, why?
The CSCC visits all the major U.K. circuits and some of the European ones too. One of my favourites is Brands Hatch as it's our local circuit. But each track has its own merits and it's a privilege to race them all. The CSCC maintains some excellent drivers' standards, is exceptionally fair, and has a series that's viable for almost any car.
When running at a new track how many laps does it take before you master it?
I wouldn't say I've ever mastered any track yet. But as a rule, I've normally got the hang of a new circuit by the time qualifying is done. At least enough to take things to 80% comfortably then try a few daredevil moves mid race, knowing there's still a bit of headroom.
I always like to start the preparations from home by trawling YouTube for similar cars racing the track, it gives a good indication of what lines might work and which ones can be avoided. It's important to start slow and build it up, both cars recently got Solo2 lap-timers which helps massively when at a new track with the corner by corner split times.
If you were going to start this over again, what three things would you do differently?
I'd build a car from scratch rather than buy one already done like the Pig. Nothing more tiresome and annoying than redoing work because it's not up to scratch.
I'd have started racing a lot sooner. I was financially much better off in my 20's but never pursued it.
I'd have a lot more race tuition before getting my licence. Seat time with a professional is by far and away the single biggest tool in becoming a better racing driver.
I'd have started with the shell on a spit and stripped the underside back to bare metal and put some seam welds on.
I'd have fitted a shorter ratio angry gearbox much sooner, it's some of the best money I've spent and it transformed the car.
A few less special engine builds chasing the numbers would have saved me a good few quid!
What was your worst crash?
I've had 2 big racing offs. The first was with my friend Impreza in my very first outing. Stuck my nose where it wasn't wanted and ended up almost totalling the car.
Second was the steering boss failure, full tilt heading through the bomb hole at Snetterton. Clipped the apex a bit too hard and then wound up in the outside barrier.
My first race ever I managed about 15 seconds between the red light going out, and finding the end of the pit wall, what a baptism of fire. The Civics had its fair share of punts, rubs and gravel traps bless it. It once did about 15 minutes with the front bumper flapped under the front of the car.
What is Your best day on the race track and why?
Each day at the race track has its own merits. If you're lucky enough to come home in one piece then you've had a good day. But the overall podium finish at Mallory Park in late 2018 was amazing. If you'd have told me that a car in the bottom class would finish in the top 3 we met at the wheel, I'd have told you to do one.
Having spent years being left in the dust by a competitor's extremely well developed Ford Puma, the day came when I caught and passed it, and it went backwards in my mirror, its small victories like this that keep egging you on to claim the next giant in line.
My favourite race was without a doubt, Silverstone GP. Both cars running nose to tail, talking on the 2-way radios as we made our moves and worked our way forwards, we were hunting in a pack!
And you're worse?
Like all racing drivers, I hate it when things go wrong. Thankfully it doesn't happen often. I've DNF'd only a handful of times but it's all part of the experience. Crashing your own car is one thing. But damaging someone else's pride and joy is gut wrenching.
The time I had to pull out the race after qualifying. I'd developed a gearbox issue and I could feel the pound signs every time crunched one of the very expensive, only available from Japan gears. I had to pull out the race to save the gearbox, but all of me wanted to just send it and deal with the consequences later!
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully I'm still racing. Even if I'm not, I'd still be a part of the scene in some way or another. Racing friends are a family of their own so I'd never give that up.
You never really stop racing, you just hang up the gloves for a little while. Even if the civic has to go, I'd still like to buy a drive, or just attend the circuits with friends to turn spanners or cheer them on. Until you've been part of the sleepless nights and understand the grind, I don't think you can fully appreciate being chuffed to bits taking a chequered flag in 20th position.
Do you have a routine or ritual that sets your mind before Racing?
I like to listen to some old school Prodigy to get me in the mood. I'll normally sit in the car on my own for a bit. Have a little chat with it. Ask it to look after me. Every racer talks to their car. Those who say they don't are liars.
Add fuel, check engine oil, make sure the wheels are torqued up, make sure all doors and latches are locked and we have radio communication. It sounds simple, but you'd be amazed how many times it's something simple that causes someone to DNF.
Have you won any Competitions, which and how many?
No competitions as such. But in my first season solo, I managed to finish 2nd in class for the year. I backed that up the following year by winning the class outright. That was a big thing for me. Biggest trophy I own.
I went from never ever seeing a trophy to finishing the season 3rd overall in a large class in 2018, to 2nd in class overall in 2019. It's a large class, with some good competition, and progress is progress.
What is your ultimate dream for you and your Team?
Simple really. Bring both cars home after any event in one piece, each with their respective silverware and a thirst to keep doing it again. If we can keep scalping the big boys in the process then great.
Anything else you want to add, links, thankyou links, dedications, video links,
We're lucky enough to have built up some excellent relationships with companies who offer excellent products, quality and value for money. Both cars run the beautiful Summit Technologies Talon digital control matrix and Raptor Wireless Steering wheel controls. - www.summittech.co.uk, We have been lucky enough to spend countless hours in the dyno booth developing the cars with the brilliant Jesse at JCal Ecu Calibration. -
Our Geometry and work we can't complete at home are looked after by the great guys at R2 Automotive. - https://www.r2automotive.com/
Additional thanks to SES, Spoox Motorsport, Cometic, Levine Engines.
The biggest thankyou of all, is to our partners, the term "racing widow" is often joked about, but at times is scarily accurate.
Thanks for the continued support ladies!
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