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Another banked oval in Surrey!


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#1 Cirrus

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 18:18

Now, effete southerners, like myself, will be aware of this, but how many TNFers realise that there is a purpose-built banked oval circuit about six miles from Brooklands, with a great, sinuous hillclimb/sprint course within it. It's situated right next to the M3. The MOD had a vehicle facility on the site for many years, but not any more, as far as I know. McLaren used to test there in years gone by, but in those days there were traffic lights at one point of the course, and if you jumped a red, you might end up second best in an altercation with a Chieftan!

With Brooklands being invaded by Mercedes Benz, (if you enter KT13 0QN into Google Earth, you'll see the site before much of the the recent works), could there be a future for Longcross?

To have a look, enter "Longcross" into www.streetmap.co.uk (pick the one in Surrey), or enter "Kitsmead Lane, England" into Google Earth, and you'll see the circuit at the bottom of the window.

It would be a shame to see it go to waste, wouldn't it?

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#2 Macca

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 18:42

Without wishing to get too political.................sadly, being so close to London and so valuable as probable building land, I believe it is already earmarked for sale, as so much MoD property has been in recent years.

Paul M

#3 Cirrus

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 18:45

I know, I know....... but the romantic in me..................

I've actually driven the oval (in a Mercedes 190 Diesel)

Cale Yarborough - Pah!!!

#4 RS2000

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 19:57

Most will also have seen Longcross on earlier Top Gear programmes (before they moved and managed to annoy the residents near Dunsfold and make that a problem as a potential sprint venue).
Longcross has a brief respite for stage rallies and sprints as the first planning application for luxury housing was refused. Little chance the next one will be.
Motorsport at Longcross also suffered for a time because of a fatality on a classic run that used it.
It's not that banked - especially from the jump seat in a Commander tank transporter!
So many venues suitable for grass roots motorsport like sprints are currently unavailable because of the "trackday" explosion. Others are being lost (North Weald this week to Sunday market parking). Any ideas for any such new venues, especially any remotely accessible to the south east, please suggest them and the information can be passed on.

#5 HistoricMustang

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 21:18

Yes, it favors Darlington, here in the States.

Kind of "egg shaped". :wave:

Thanks,
Henry

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 13:24

As - at one time - a frequent user of 'the Chobham test track' at Longcross - I would point out that the banked western curve is only very modestly 'super-elevated' as they used to say, with the outer lip barely three to four feet higher than the inner verge. It is - or at least was - part of the FVRDE (Fighting Vehicles Research & Development Establishment) - the main workshops and offices complex for which are sited the other side of the M3 Motorway, connected by overbridge to the test track. One of my cousins was a long-time technical officer at the FVRDE and I believe was deeply involved in development of the celebrated 'Chobham Armour' for AFVs.

Back in the 1970s I remember driving along the M3 under that bridge to be confronted by the sight of a Soviet tank - I think a T72 - rumbling across it above my head. I think it must have come from the Golan Heights, probably ex-Syrian??? It was clearly undergoing some kind of evaluation, in any case at this 'top secret defence establishment' (joke).

One time in a 450S Maserati around the banking I came upon a prototype APC which threw a track link rubber block in my path, bouncing and clattering along the track in my path. I was only running very slowly (naturally) so I stopped and hopped out to pick the darned thing off the track. I grabbed it firmly - sizzle! - yelped and dropped it instantly, it was just below red hot and my fingers and palm blistered instantly. That took some weeks to heal. It had been a well meaning but intensely stupid thing to do.

The winding infield road through the woodland at the eastern end is known as 'The Snake', and the map cannot show its truly amazing change of gradient as it soars and plunges through the birch woods.

A friend of mine had a major accident there in a single-seater when a rear suspension ball-joint sheared, broadsiding him towards a brick-built 4-foot square raised drain cover on the shingle verge. Fortunately the car's tail struck the adjacent bank first, which jacked the front end of the car so high into the air that it swung clean over the brickwork before falling back to earth the other side. Had the car collected that brickwork drain housing broadside it would have fitted between the front and rear wheels against the side of the cockpit and - without any medical presence on site - I shudder to think what the outcome for our driver could have been... That car was very badly damaged in any case and we unzipped the crushed tub that afternoon and had it rebuilt by Mo Gomm at Old Woking over the next few days in a memorable crash (literally) programme.

You could never tell when you might encounter some kind of tracked AFV clattering along anywhere ar
ound any of the blind corners, and it always seemed pretty clear to us that should we hit one, or one should hit us, it would be our fault regardless. I was most aware of this in the Napier-Railton, and also when I was the first journalist to drive Bob Jankel's 6-wheeler Panther, for 'Road & Track'.

McLaren used Chobham to run-in F1 gearboxes and the McLaren F1 road and GTR racing Coupes also did many miles of development and shake-down running there - also promotional filming and photo shoots. Countless action sequences for dreadful British B-movies and TV series like 'The Sweeney' (and worse) were shot at Chobham which was never adequately disguised with white lining and road signs to look at all convincing.

BMW's contemporary head honcho was one who added to his reputation there as a lead-footed driver of extraordinarily little brain when he shunted a McLaren F1 into the trees there, to parallel his celebrated Black Forest somersault in a sister car - both incidents being hushed up/glossed over at the time.

With woodland right to the edge of a track bounded by pebble/shingle verges barely a metre wide, the prudent would always come close to respecting the assigned speed limitations on the course.

But on a motor-cycle journalists' test day there, an unfortunate writer went off on the back stretch onto the officer's club golf course which formed part of the infield, hit a tree and was killed.

The course was also used for a minor club rally event special stage (or perhaps a sprint?) as recaled by RS2000 above in which -if I recall correctly - an awful incident befell a TVR owner with his daughter (who I believe might also have been pregnant?) as navigator/passenger. At the end of the M3-side straight they entered the long semi-banked curve at an impossible speed - I think due to a brake failure - and one or both suffered fatal injuries in the inevitable impacts. The place certainly did not/does not take prisoners and I have always been acutely aware of this when I have driven there. Get the job done...but show the place due respect, and leave a margin.

DCN

#7 BRG

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 14:02

I was part of the group that first got Longcross opened up for motor sport events. It was used for testing etc, as Doug and others recall, but until there was a change of Commanding Officer, the military were not keen on organised events with sole use of the track. But they relented and it has been used regularly ever since. All was rosy until McLaren used it to test gearboxes – I believe with a certain Dr Palmer at the wheel. The sound of an unsilenced F1 car got some local residents fired up and as a result, rallying (which had already been going on before and which had never really bothered them until then) got the attentions of the local environmental health officer and we had to start worrying about noise. Mainly it was Metro 6R4s that were the problem, as they could be heard even over the steady rumble and drone of traffic on the M3 motorway next door.

As Doug says, it takes no prisoners. Some rally crews discovered this on the Snake. Seeing the gravel drainage ditches at the side, they would instinctively use them, only to discover that a) they were very loose gravel and slowed the car rapidly and b) that those regular brick drains hidden in the gravel would rip off a wheel and/or overturn a car easily. Elsewhere those drains wrote a few cars off – notably the Barrett’s of Canterbury Rover 3500 SD1 which ran wide and struck one really hard. Instant (very) short wheelbase Rover!

The test-hills – there are three ranging from 1-in-3.5 to 1-in-2.5 (STEEP) – were always fun. Going up and over the top edge can lead to a spectacularly long flight across a large flat area. One guy flew so far, he hit the retaining wall on the far side. And going down took a lot of nerve, firstly to dive off the edge of an apparent precipice at speed, and then to deal with the serious compression at the bottom. And runningoff on to some of the cobbled and pave sections could be damaging as they were designed for testing tracked military vehicles, not cars.

Everyone who watches any car programme on British TV or reads the British motoring press has seen lot of footage and stills from Longcross. For instance, most Autocar magazine car-tests will feature a shot of the car in a fast corner, with a cobbled section in the foreground – that’s at Longcross.

#8 Stephen W

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 14:24

Longcross is still on the list of MSA Sprint Venues. As to which club hold the license I have no idea but there will still be a valid license in existance.
:wave:

#9 bradbury west

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 14:43

DCN/BRG

Is it true that the direction of travel changed at a certain o'clock, and everyone was expected to know this? Or is that just a fairy story?

Roger Lund

#10 BRG

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 15:22

I thought it was usually anticlockwise in its regular use - and there are arrows showing this. But whether they are reversible, I don't know. It sounds a plausible tale that might be consistent with the military mind!

For rallies, you could go in any direction you liked as you have sole use for the day.

#11 ghinzani

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 16:08

Is it owned by Qinetic? They are the bastards who threw us out of our Kart track at Forest Edge after we'd spent 8 years building it up. Reason given "motorsport does'nt fit with out public profile" - I believe after someone had been killed in a rally on one of their sites near London. What galls me is the farqhuars then turn around and sponsor a Sports Prototype and now Williams F1. I'm assuming those two faced bastards dont think someone could die in a F1 or Le Mans car and bring them bad publicity? Or did they just want Motorsport off their land so they could carry on selling off once public land for their own profit? Oh sarcastic me!

#12 BRG

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 17:18

Longcross WAS a Quinetic site, but not, I think, anymore. The part north of the M3 motorway (the factories and offices etc) has closed down and is now vacant. The track (south of the M3) is still in use. I presume that the whole site is now in the hands of developers who want to build housing, but whilst they struggle to get planning consent, they can still make a buck renting the track out.

#13 RTH

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 17:51

This is the state owned defence R&D company the government are now just in the process of privatising when everything is supposed to be a secret these days this does seem illogical to say the least.

#14 ghinzani

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 18:16

Originally posted by RTH
This is the state owned defence R&D company the government are now just in the process of privatising when everything is supposed to be a secret these days this does seem illogical to say the least.


Who meanwhile spend our hard earned taxes on frivolous things like Motor Racing :drunk: but not the promotion of club motorsport it seems. :mad:

#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 18:43

Track direction - YES they did change it around.

It was usual to turn left out of the surfaced 'paddock' area, straight behind the trees parallel to the southbound M3 the other side of the tall 'security' fence on your left, and almost immediately into that long semi-banked left-hander.

Track direction was indicated by a large red arrow on white background board opposite the point at which one joined the track. At what seemed to me to be random, the track controllers would occasionally emerge from their control tower and flip the arrow. Heading clockwise you would turn right and head off on a long straight with the M3 fence to your left, birch woods to your right, before passing the Snake on your right and into the far right-hander, round to the back stretch.

My crusty chum Goddard, of course, drove out there one day with the arrow pointing anti-clock, and contrarily set off clockwise. Fortunately one of us managed to intercept him just in time - I think attracting his attention by hitting his driver's window from about 30 yards with a well-aimed wooden chock. :stoned:

DCN

#16 RS2000

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 21:00

Next competitive event there is, I think, the "multi-use" (MSA terminology for "single venue") Stage Rally on 19th February, run by Craven Motor Club (Richard Burns old club). The next Sprint is scheduled for 23 April, run by Sutton and Cheam Motor Club. The sprint track licence does not permit racing and sports racing cars, so a Caterham or Westfield usually sets BTD (arguably, less safe to sit in than the banned cars!).

Obviously no spectators but I'm sure all organiser's there would be pleased to hear from possible marshals, however inexperienced, if anyone wants to take a look at it.

#17 Stephen W

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 09:42

Originally posted by Doug Nye
Track direction - YES they did change it around.

It was usual to turn left out of the surfaced 'paddock' area, straight behind the trees parallel to the southbound M3 the other side of the tall 'security' fence on your left, and almost immediately into that long semi-banked left-hander.

Track direction was indicated by a large red arrow on white background board opposite the point at which one joined the track. At what seemed to me to be random, the track controllers would occasionally emerge from their control tower and flip the arrow. Heading clockwise you would turn right and head off on a long straight with the M3 fence to your left, birch woods to your right, before passing the Snake on your right and into the far right-hander, round to the back stretch.

My crusty chum Goddard, of course, drove out there one day with the arrow pointing anti-clock, and contrarily set off clockwise. Fortunately one of us managed to intercept him just in time - I think attracting his attention by hitting his driver's window from about 30 yards with a well-aimed wooden chock. :stoned:

DCN


I seem to recollect a sprint run there a few years back where in the morning they ran in one direction having two practice and two timed runs, followed in the afternoon by two practice and two timed runs in the reverese direction! The results were given seperately but the awards were based on combined times from each competitors best timed run.

:wave:

#18 BRG

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 10:15

Originally posted by RTH
This is the state owned defence R&D company the government are now just in the process of privatising

No, it is not state-owned - Qinetiq was sold off in 2001 to Carlyle Group and is a private company - although the UK government retain a Special Share which protects UK interests and stops them flogging it off to the Chinese or Americans or whoever. So you must expect them to want to make the most out of their assets and that may not be helping motor sport unfortunately.

#19 MrAerodynamicist

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 18:19

I don't know the exact figures, but the MOD only sold a minority share off to Carlyle Group . The majority of it is still currently owned by the state. Which will only stop being the case when the IPO goes ahead.

Originally posted by RTH
This is the state owned defence R&D company the government are now just in the process of privatising when everything is supposed to be a secret these days this does seem illogical to say the least.

Anything ultra secret will be in the lap of DSTL. As a risk to secretacy, floating QinetiQ should be seen in the context of a defence industry already dominated by stock exchange listed companies (BAe, Rolls-Royce, MBDA, Lockhead, etc). Just look at who runs AWE these days!

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#20 BRG

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 13:45

Originally posted by MrAerodynamicist
I don't know the exact figures, but the MOD only sold a minority share off to Carlyle Group . The majority of it is still currently owned by the state.

Faulty memory on my part - I checked and the exact situation is QinetiQ Holdings Limited is jointly owned by the Secretary of State for Defence (56.5%), The Carlyle Group (30.5%) and the employees of QinetiQ (13%). However, the Minisrty of Defence does not have day-to-day management control of QinetiQ as Carlyle holds the majority voting rights.

Interestingly, the largest defence industry on the world is that of the USA, which does not and never has had any state-owned companies at all. And they seem to manage their secrets as well as anyone else.

#21 ghinzani

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 10:02

Is there any competition still taking place at Longcross? I've used the train station a few times in the week to get into London after coming up the M3, sadly it doesnt operate at weekends or else it would be ideal.

Sounds like most of the surrounding areas owned by the Sultan of Dubai, however I guess Qinetic wont be finding many takers for housing development there now - which can only be good for motorsport.

#22 onelung

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 10:41

Looks even better on Google Earth - enter "Longcross, Chertsey, Surrey" and zoom in.
So now I know where the term "Chobham armour" originated... (as Homer Simpson would have it ... duh!)

#23 Stephen W

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 10:43

Originally posted by ghinzani
Is there any competition still taking place at Longcross?


According to the MSA website there are 3 rallies and two sprints currently scheduled for 2009.

Rallies - 5th April, 10th may and 22 November
Sprints - 19th July and 16th August

:wave:

#24 ghinzani

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 10:47

Originally posted by Stephen W


According to the MSA website there are 3 rallies and two sprints currently scheduled for 2009.

Rallies - 5th April, 10th may and 22 November
Sprints - 19th July and 16th August

:wave:


Thanks v much - I guess it would have to be as a volunteer though as its non-spectator isnt it?

#25 Stephen W

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 10:53

Originally posted by ghinzani


Thanks v much - I guess it would have to be as a volunteer though as its non-spectator isnt it?


Not sure but I would have thought any of the organising clubs would be only too happy to get an extra marshal!

:wave:

#26 P. Dron

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 13:29

Here is a column I wrote about the scary place...

http://www.telegraph...-Longcross.html

#27 HistoricMustang

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 13:50

Originally posted by onelung
Looks even better on Google Earth - enter "Longcross, Chertsey, Surrey" and zoom in.
So now I know where the term "Chobham armour" originated... (as Homer Simpson would have it ... duh!)


Henry :wave:

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#28 PhilG

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 14:23

Originally posted by P. Dron
Here is a column I wrote about the scary place...

http://www.telegraph...-Longcross.html


My dad was there for 5 years in the sixties as a motorcycle tester, spending time between there and the off road track at Bagshot Heath, where he was paid to rag round on the latest bikes too see what broke.

He always raved about the grip levels round snake mountain, he could get his pegs down on trails universal tyres on a good day.

Must see if i can get a look round there with him, it'll be a bit of a 'during the war' moment, but cool all the same.

#29 ghinzani

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 14:27

Originally posted by P. Dron
Here is a column I wrote about the scary place...

http://www.telegraph...-Longcross.html


Peter is there a page 2 to this article? Or do you have to be registered to read on...?

#30 RS2000

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 14:38

ACSMC tarmac rally championship also has an event scheduled there 15 Feb 09, as well as Apr, May, Nov.
No spectators. Marshal volunteers welcome I'm sure.
Even closer date-wise is the 2wd-only rally at Longmoor (quite different military venue not to be confused with Longcross but not a million miles away). Further afield, Bovington is due to be back for a rally in March 09.

Much of Longcross was further developed with money from "The Iranian Tank Project" for the then Shah, which, after the 1979 revolution, was the basis for the stop-gap Challenger 1 for the British Army.

#31 ghinzani

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 14:43

Originally posted by RS2000
ACSMC tarmac rally championship also has an event scheduled there 15 Feb 09, as well as Apr, May, Nov.
No spectators. Marshal volunteers welcome I'm sure.
Even closer date-wise is the 2wd-only rally at Longmoor (quite different military venue not to be confused with Longcross but not a million miles away). Further afield, Bovington is due to be back for a rally in March 09.

Even closer date-wise is the 2wd-only rally at Longmoor

I saw that, might be worth a trip over to Petersfield for that one I reckon, although Ive never marshalled/volunteered. Is Bovington the tank museum place?

#32 RS2000

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 14:55

Originally posted by ghinzani Is Bovington the tank museum place? [/B]


Same general site but the test track is to the north of the Royal Armoured Corps HQ/classrooms/workshops and the museum is to the south, so no direct access between the two other than round via public roads.

Museum 8 Nov 2009
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#33 P. Dron

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 15:21

Originally posted by ghinzani


Peter is there a page 2 to this article? Or do you have to be registered to read on...?


No, that was all. It was just a short piece that I wrote for the Telegraph's Saturday Motoring section, which today, for the first time since its creation (in 1993 if memory serves) is not a separate supplement. For some reason it has been combined with Your Money. Perhaps it will be inside Gardening next week. Tough times...

#34 David McKinney

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 16:02

Originally posted by P. Dron
For some reason it has been combined with Your Money

Thanks for that, Peter
I just thought they'd left the supplement out of my bundle
And I always bin Your Money without even opening it, as there's no such thing as My Money :lol:

#35 P. Dron

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 16:37

They have sacked the Motoring Editor (Peter Hall), presumably believing that motoring is at an end. They have also sacked Sam Leith (Literary Editor), presumably believing that people no longer read books. But they have also sacked McKie the Obits Editor. Now that is rather puzzling. But no more so than that they seem to have kept Jasper Gerard and Bryony Brainless. Oh dear, I seem to have strayed off topic. I think I shall have a stiff drink and lie down in a darkened room...

#36 markpde

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 16:59

For the best view of Longcross, go to maps.live.com and search for Kitsmead Lane, Longcross, Chertsey KT16 0; click on Bird's eye, hide the labels and scan around. Live Search maps are up to date and offer Bird's eye - aircraft, not satellite - views in many (but not all) areas. If you're lucky, you might find excellent and quite recent views of your house, if you search for your address - just depends where you live (Bird's eye views are not yet available everywhere). In all cases, on the Bird's eye views, click on the arrows down the left hand side of the view control to rotate through N, S, E & W.

For Brooklands, on maps.live.com follow Cirrus' instructions and search for KT13 0QN - the Mercedes Benz museum etc. is there on the Bird's eye views but not on the Aerial (older, satellite) views. Before you hide the labels: such evocative street names - Locke King Road, Segrave Close, John Cobb Road, Edge Close, etc...

(I've only been to Brooklands once, on the way to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1995 - I went looking for it but then kind of stumbled upon it - part of the banking next to a retail park. I'm not embarrassed to confess that there were tears in my eyes. I'd bought the Foulis reprint of Tim Birkin's autobiograpy, 'Full Throttle', at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in 1976 at the age of 20 - the lad on the bookstall, who was about the same age, said, "Bloody 'ell!" - I don't think he understood why someone his age would be interested in such 'old' stuff! Birkin's been my hero ever since.)

Shame we couldn't have a full-on, Brooklands/Daytona-style banked circuit in the UK. Rockingham is a brave effort, but in this economic climate, I don't suppose it would even have been built now.

#37 RStock

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 17:21

Originally posted by HistoricMustang


Henry :wave:

Posted Image


That looks like a "roval" , not an oval .

#38 ghinzani

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 18:02

Originally posted by markpde
For the best view of Longcross, go to maps.live.com and search for Kitsmead Lane, Longcross, Chertsey KT16 0; click on Bird's eye, hide the labels and scan around. .


Christ theres a golf club in there too! That birds eye view is superb.

#39 RS2000

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 18:16

Originally posted by ghinzani

Christ theres a golf club in there too!

The big house with that used to be the Officers' Mess.