Well, it's now Monday after a huge amount of work last week and being at Cadwell over the weekend. It's all been a bit of a curate's egg and I'll try to get you all up to date. The number of complaints I've had about not updating the site for a few days!
The fixed chassis came back to me last wednesday. Interestingly, they've changed the design of the chassis by adding the two side-to-side plates. According to Mark Fisher it's about 7kg lighter as a consequence, although he was a bit vaguer about torsional rigidity.
Of course, this all means that rebuilding it was a bit more difficult as many of the things that used to fit neatly onto the old chassis are just not going to fit.
To cut a long story short a bunch of people came to my garage on Thursday and put in a huge effort to turn the pile of bits back into a car. Special thanks must go to Adrian, Dan, David, Jonathan and Ali who all turned up for some of the day. I have no idea how I could have got it done without all these people.
As a consequence of everyone's stirling work I spent some time aligning the car on Friday morning. Oddly, I had assumed that the new chassis design would have exactly the same geometry as the old one. However, this is not the case in that I just left the coilovers in the same position as they were in the old chassis and when just bolted into the new one the ride height was much higher. And, this was much higher than could be accounted for by the now missing 7kg.
Half way through the morning I phoned the 750 MC and booked in for the allcomers race on Saturday. It's clearly the only possible testing time I'm going to have.
Eventually everything was finished at about 1pm and, after packing up everything (most of which was now spread around the far corners of the garage) we finally set off at about the worst possible time of 5pm. We got stuck in the inevitable jam on the A14. However, we got to the circuit at some late time that I've forgotten. We set things up (the big advantage of the motorhome is that this essentially involves putting on the handbrake) and wandered round to see people. We then got dragged out to the pub by Colin and Graham which at least meant we didn't have to cook. On the way to the pub it pissed down with rain which was slightly concerning for the weekend.
Saturday, though, dawned bright and sunny (I was up at 6am for some reason) and after wandering around, prepping the car and so on I went to sign on. When I booked for the all-comers race on Friday I was told that I was the last person in and I was just in time for Robin to get me on the sheets. However, my name was suspiciously absent. However, I filled things in, told them my transponder number and then got the car ready.
Scrutineering was uneventful and eventually I got down to the assembly area for qualifying. The last time I had been at Cadwell was nearly a year ago and although I could remember where the corners went I certainly didn't know what gears etc to use. In the assembly area it started to rain which was not good. However, it disappeared again fairly quickly. Shortly after, we set off and I had a fun time learning the circuit properly again. It was pretty greasy through the twisty section and my lack of an LSD was highlighted by frequently spinning the left rear if I got it up on the slippy kerbs on the way out of the hairpin. It might have been quicker to go all the way over and use the grass/rubber there but I didn't think of that at the time. The car, importantly, seemed to be going fine. The times weren't very impressive but it was good enough for about half way up the grid with a 1:49. Highlight of the circuit really was the Coppice/Charlies section where you can retain a huge amount of speed through the first corner up the hill and have the difficulty of getting in the initially blind Charlies 2 in such a way that exit speed onto the Park straight is high.
The race was later the same day and we lined up with me promising myself that I would overtake absolutely no-one on the way down to the first corner. When the lights went out I did pull away slowly but this big gap opened up and, it would be rude not to, I snuck into it. Carefully round Coppice and the Charlies and I was close up behind a Striker. (Odd this, it was definitely a Striker but it isn't on the results sheets. They must have called it something different for the day.) I thought I might be able to get past him into Park but it wasn't going to happen so I just stuck behind him for another lap, still checking how the car was going, and then cleanly outbraked him in to Park. Compared to what happened later this was a nice simple overtake with the other driver not making it easy, but not making it deliberately difficult either.
After that I was in a bit of a gap and I just started trying to get the times down a bit. In fact, apart from the opening lap, every lap in the race was faster than in qualifying. A good deal of that is due to the circuit condition though.
In my mirrors there was an XR2, which I later found out was one of the Hot Hatches and as such probably has about 250-300 bhp. He was clearly a lot braver than I through the twisties as on every lap he closed up through the mountain and hall bends and then I pulled away from him again. I even pulled away on the short run from the hairpin to Barn. All the same we had a fun time and I eventually finished in 13th place. Not exactly wonderful but the car was undamaged at least.
Sunday was again bright at the start of the day but after a while the clouds started threatening and there were bursts of rain. Our qualifying was at 1020 and while we were sitting in the assembly area the heavens opened and it absolutely pissed down. After a long wait we eventually got out and it was pretty wet thought Hall Bends but nothing awful. We went a bit quicker down the back straight and all of a sudden the car was aquaplaning and I was a passenger. It transpires that there was a load of standing water on the straight. To be honest I'm not impressed that they started the session at all and the conditions were awful. I ended up in the barriers next to Gordin Milner who appeared to have really stuffed the front end of his car. I had clearly hit the back end and the car seemed a bit reluctant to go but I got it back up to scrutineering where we did a bodge job on the rear bodywork which was in a bit of a sorry state. They let me back down to the assembly area where it transpired that my session was still going on. In fact, all the cars were on the grid after another red flag. I joined the back of the grid and we went off again but it was immediately obvious that the car wasn't happy and behaved completely differently in right and left corners. So, I pulled in and trundled back to the paddock where I could have a good look.
It was clear, when you looked at it properly, that the right rear had a rather significant amount of toe-out. So, we (by this time Jonathan had arrived and we had sterling support from many other RGBers) took the bodywork off and had a closer look. It seemed as though the wheel itself was bent, but rather worse so was the upright, the lower wishbone and a rose joint.
But, it seemed as though it might be fixable and we set to and took it apart while sitting in a swamp. To cut a long story short we hammered the wishbone straight(er), replaced the rose joint with one blagged from another RGBer (thanks Fenn!) and severely brutalised the upright into a straighter position with a lot of help from James and Phil. (The former had a 41mm socket, the latter a vice.)
Before we did all this I went to see the CoC who said that I could indeed start from the back of the grid on account of having done the allcomers race the previous day.
With it back together and the brakes bled it seemed a bit better but needed a huge amount of adjustment on the suspension to get the rear toe about right. But it now seemed ok-ish and eventually I got down to the assembly area and joined up at the back.
Once the lights went out I hung back. In fact, I actually waited for Mark in front to move well clear before starting off. With everyone else gone I tried to hoon it a bit round Chris Curve and Mansfield (which are pretty high G right and left corners) to see if anything was going to break. It seemed fine so I decided to have a bit of a go. So, I crept up to the back of the pack immediately in front and passed Lindsay, Mark and Judi fairly easily. In the distance was John Cutmore who's a newish bloke. He doesn't seem to mix with the rest of the the RGBers in the paddock. What's more, he's been involved in quite a few incidents this year already and, so I'm led to believe, has had at least one run-in with the CoCs about driving standards.
Anyway, I caught up with him fairly smoothly. I think I was probably taking about a second a lap out of him and eventually was stuck up behind the back of him. I realised this was going to be difficult but the bloke was an absolute animal. Everywhere I was a bit quicker he just started weaving and on a narrow circuit like Cadwell and with me being a bit careful this was very difficult. I must have been behind him for 4 laps or so trying all sorts of things. I was way quicker out of Charlies 2 than him but just couldn't get past due to him putting his car right in front of me all the time. Eventually, though, I managed to sell him a dummy half way down Park Straight by going right and while he was moving right I went left, past him and then moved tight in front of him. (The fact that I could do this at all tells you how much faster I must have come out of the corner.)
Thereafter I spent a lot of time defending as he was driving, I thought, like an idiot. On what turned out to be the last but one lap he was clearly going to do something silly into the hairpin and I didn't want to be part of it. So, I followed a classic line and was rewarded by him spearing across the grass on the inside, across the front of me and over into the runoff and the barriers. The fact that he did actually get going, albeit now a lap down, is testament to the value of the runoff that they now have at the hairpin.
After that I just cruised to the line, athough fuming a bit. It was, though, my fastest lap of the race which says something about how I was being held up. I got a big cheer from the marshalls post half way down the Park straight so they must have appreciated the dummy selling. And, an even bigger cheer from the grandstand on the way in.
Still don't know why they'd start a quali session with water all over the straight though. Talking to Darcy later it seems that Gordon and I were on a slightly different bit of the circuit from everyone else and, I guess, hit some deeper water as a consequence. But, these things aren't rally cars with huge knobbly tyres... Watching the video later was a bit horrifying, as the car just starts to spin with apparently no movement from me and the wheel just straight.
If nothing else, I feel that my racecraft is slowly improving. The fact that I am occasionally able to pass people in less than benign circumstances is clearly a good thing.
Now, I need to get the car sorted again. I want to replace the bent suspension components and I need to do yet more GRPing of the bodywork. The car was looking really tired after its trip into the armco with mud all around and I'd really like to spend some time getting it all nice and clean and making the body shinier. May not have the time though...
I've been getting on with the fettling needed for the next race. First thing was to strip the right rear suspension apart. These parts here are the bent ones, although it isn't really obvious in this photo. These bits do work, after a fashion, so I shall clean them up and hang onto them. In fact, I've decided after the fettle-fest at Cadwell that I need to take rather more bits to races with me, although I doubt these will be there. I will work out some way of taking a vice with me though, and some way of clamping it to my trailer.
I phoned Martin Bell on Monday and ordered some new bits. They aren't here but when they are it won't take long to put the suspension back together. It'll take rather longer to align it again though.
Next up it was back to my favourite topic of bodywork. The dinge at the rear of the car had left the imprint of the armco all over the place, in particular at the right rear corner so I did the now usual thing of holding the outside all together with tape while a layer of matting was put on the inside of the damaged area.
It ended up like this and when it's all gone off again it'll be back to gelcoat and filler to smooth it up and yet more painting.
There's a couple of cracks at the front of the car that need fixing too. However, they aren't the end of the world.
I heard today that the club is amalgamating the class A and C races for the meeting at Brands, which is at the end of next week. That's a bit of a pain because apparently some people have been bumped to a reserve list and some people aren't going at all. I'm hoping that I'll be OK.
Well, I got the finals for the Brands race at the end of last week and I am on the list. I must admit that I was thinking about skipping the race, as things were getting a bit pressured with getting the car sorted, again. What's more, I could put the money saved into an LSD fund as I think this is something that I'm sorely missing and might even reduce the likelihood of spinning slightly. To that end I did phone up Quaife to find out how much it would cost to get my diff fitted with ATB internals. The total cost would be about £700 which is a not inconsiderable amount of money.
All the same I got on with sorting the car and it's just about done now. I finsished sorting out the rear bodywork with the aid of a lot more elbow-grease. I was quite proud of this genuine 1970s style Escort Mk II look for the rear spats. I did think about leaving it like this but decided that spraying it red was really a necessity. I actually got a half decent finish on the paintwork. However, as I couldn't be bothered repainting the entire tub (mainly because I really couldn't face buying more race numbers) I need to put a bit of work into disguising the boundary between resprayed bit and the older bit.
There was also a small amount of damage to the front bodywork (I think as I spun round I actually bashed all four corners) and that is also now sorted out and resprayed.
I got the new suspension bits from the Kit Car Workshop and fitted them fairly easily. I do still need to finish doing the suspension alignment though which is quite tedious on one's own.
One problem that re-reared its ugly head was the issue of studs turning in the front hubs, as discussed before. As it had happened again I put a bit more work into finding out what was happening. Eventually, it became clear that for some of the wheel nuts/stud combinations the nuts were binding on the ends of the studs before the wheel was tightened. This meant that the tightening torque was entirely directly towards twisting the stud in the hub which duly gave way. So, I ground a couple of threads off the end of each stud. I also ground a bit off the inner end of each wheel nut (they're big things, don't worry!) so that the inner doesn't hit the hub before the wheel is tightened, which is another problem I've had. The problem with doing this is that the nut and the conical washer that it uses can now part company with each other, so I'll need to be a bit more careful with them.
After this I cleaned the car! (You can still see the water in this photo...) I was a bit depressed about how tired the car looked at Cadwell after a trip into the mud so I wanted to get it looking at least a bit better.
I've got a slight problem with the bodywork fit actually. After the Mallory crash I managed to get the rear tub back together in such a way that it was a bit wider than it used to be. It is possible to squeeze it in but it doesn't like it and it telds to molest the catches a bit in this position. I think I'll make some little brackets to attach to the sidepods to hold the tub in position. If nothing else they'l probably stabilise the rear bodywork a bit more than it is at the moment.
Finally something small. I reattached the fan to the car, which I took off a while ago to save a bit of weight. The problem is, I worry incessantly about the engine overheating in the assembly and on the grid. So this should reduce the worry slightly.
The new chassis has rather better mountings for the radiator than the old one. It still wasn't a case of just bolting it together but it didn't need the brackets that I made up before. What's more, there's a bit more clearance between the radiator and the steering rack than there used to be.
I'm actually starting to get a bit more enthusiastic about the race this weekend, probably as a consequence of getting down to only a few urgent things on the list. I'm a bit concerned that practice, in particular, in going to be frenetic. They've got all the RGB classes together and there will be something like 35 cars on the track during practice. With a lap time of something like 50 to 55 seconds that's really rather busy.
I've spent a lot of time over the last couple of days aligning the suspension, again. In particular I've been setting the rear toe very carefully, and also aligning the rear wheels so that they point along the line of the chassis. (I'm sure there's a proper word for this.) All of this was done with the little laser gadget I made a while ago. It's amazing what you can do with that and some trigonometry. (I also made up some little bits of card that stuck out from the front wheels so that I could see where the beam was when the laser was on the rear wheel. I guess this is the 21st century equivalent of the traditional approach of "stringing" a chassis.
The big problem with doing the alignment is the repetition of taking things to bits, adjusting something, putting it all back together again and so on. I've been told that a good idea is to make up some rigid replacements for the dampers so that you can take the wheels off and do the setup without putting the car on the ground. This sounds like a very sensible idea and some time when I have a moment...
OK, I know I'm late updating the site but I've been busy. Honest!
Anyway, first things first. The important point about the weekend is that I didn't bend the car at all. However, let's look back a bit first.
I finished off last week with a few little things on the car. First thing was the mounting for the GPS antenna. I seem to be getting slightly dodgy data from this so I thought I'd make sure it was right on top of the car. So, I made the little plate you can see here and attached it to the top of the roll-cage. Experience at Brands is that it just may have improved things a bit. I need more experience to tell though.
At the end of last week I took a couple of wheels along to a local tyre fitting emporium. The intention being to swap the tyres from the wheels that were nadgered as a result of accidents onto some better wheels. This was done and I then made sure I knew which tyre was which, as I've got two sets. As I seem to keep getting confused about this I marked them so that I could tell them apart.
As you tell, I've got set 1 on the car at the moment, which is the originals. However, after the weekend at Brands, which was really hot and generated some very high tyre temperatures, I suspect at least one of the tyres (the left front) is going to be well past its best.
As you can see in the photo, I still have a couple of spare rims. I hope I don't need them too soon.
Finally, I spent a while tidying up the car and cleaning it. Finally it doesn't look too back.
With that done I packed everything up so that we could make a sharp exit to Brands. There was the small issue of a friend's wedding to go to first but after that we set off late in the evening to get down to the circuit.
The summary of the race day is really that I, and the car, survived. Apart from that:
When we got to the track it was nearly midnight on Saturday evening. All the same, a lot of RGBers were already around having unilaterally decided to camp in the Roadsports section of the paddock. Like lemmings we followed them and parked between Neil and Colin, chatted, covered the car, chatted some more and went to bed. Lots of people asked after Adrian who had had a nasty engine fire at Cadwell, as they continued to do for the entire weekend.
I woke up about 6am Sunday morning (it was race day, I always do) and peeked out of the window to brilliant sunshine. Got the car off the trailer, prepped it, signed on, walked the track, chatted more, scrutineered, chatted again and at the last moment put the race kit on and went over for qualifying. By this time I had let air out of the tyres about 3 times. It was so hot and there were lots of stories about testing the previous day when Martin "sideways" Brooks had apparently scored significantly over the ton on tyre temperatures. (Apparently he's an ex rally driver which might explain his propensity for going into all corners at a slip angle of about 80 degrees.)
So, over to the assembly area where sat and roasted and luckily they let us out really quickly.
Now then, I really, really wanted to get out of this weekend intact without a huge amount of fixing to do. I also wanted to try and carry some more speed through the corners. So much for the latter ambition.
Qualifying was, as expected, frenetic. With 30-odd cars on the track and including the class A cars it was bound to be like that. Most significant observation was that it was hot, and slippy. Slippier than a slippy thing in Slipber. In particular, any trips wide at Clearways ended in a series of interlinked Torvill and Dean moments. Also, it was so busy that getting a good lap was impossible. I did, in fact, manage to get to a point where I thought I could manage to get a decent lap in and as I was barreling down the main straight I saw the chap on the rostrum grovelling down by his feet and something like 2 nanoseconds before I got there he produced a chequered flag. I did think about pretending I hadn't seen it but decided that they probably wouldn't have given me the time anyway and why upset them.
Fastest lap was a pathetic 56.2. I'm sure I could have gone waaaay quicker than that. However, the datalogger reckons that my best bits glued together were only worth another 0.9 of a second. Mind you, that would have moved me about 7 places up the grid. As it was I was a deeply pathetic 25 out of 29 on the grid.
Still, even though it was a crap qualifying I was still determined not to bend it in the race. I made a fairly sedentary start and all the places I made up I lost under braking for Paddock. (I was not going to spin on cold tyres again.) On the way up to Druids I seemed to be between the main pack and a few back-markers. Round Druids and on the way down to Graham Hill bend there's carnage on my left. On looking at the video, Gordon M and Steve Savage had tangled and there was bodywork skittering all over the place. At the time it just seemed like just another GRP explosion. I'm used to those!
Bugger, I thought, another red flag and pretty much cruised down the Cooper straight and in the process let Mike Allen past.
Hmm, oddly there were no red flags and we kept going. Next time down from Druids there were a few bits around but nothing too serious. Rats! I was now out of touch with the pack. Clearly, you should not pre-judge the marshalls/CoC decisions...
So, I rammed my way past Mike Allen again into Surtees and set off after the pack, I must have been about 10 seconds down by now. Tail end charlie was Neil and I set my sights on him and hauled him in slowly. Then, I spent a few laps tussling with him. He has rather more power in his car (it's a class A jobbie) and although I was way quicker through the corners than him I couldn't get back in touch after the straights where he pulled away. One lap, though, I got a decent drive out of Paddock and got up on the inside into Druids. (I think that Jonathan's super photo, above, is of this moment.) This is where my non-existent racecraft deserted me and I didn't run wide on the exit and left too much room. Hence, he could keep up with me into Graham Hill bend where he had the inside line.
All the same, I carried on tussling but couldn't find a way past until the leaders started hauling us in and the inevitable torrent of blue flags appeared. First problem was that I let Jonathan past. "That's odd", I thought, "surely he can't be lapping me?" The horrible realisation dawned that I had let past someone I should have been racing...
Then, on the run round Clearways, James came up behind. Another fast class A Fury and I let him through on the inside. He took an age to get past though (he said later that he wasn't sure I'd seen him) and I had a bit of another Torvillesque moment.
Down the straight where we got the last lap board and into paddock, over the brow just in time to see Neil spinning and going backwards towards the gravel leaving James absolutely no-where to go and there was the inevitable coming together.
I was sitting in the car feeling about as bad about Neil as I would have been if it had been me. Even worse, I found out later than Helen (Neil's wife) had delayed in the assembly area chatting to Anthea as Anthea had later on told her how nervous she was about me. Hence, Helen ended up just seeing Neil's car parked in the gravel and no idea what had happened.
I finished unscathed but in a deeply pathetic 19th place. I've spent some time since then poring over the datalogs and a couple of things are apparent. Firstly, I am now driving pretty consistently. The times in any given sector tend to all be the same within a couple of tenths, barring the odd slow one where I probably let someone past me.
The other issue seems to be that I am carrying a half decent amount of speed into the corners but I don't seem to be getting onto the gas as early or as positively as I could. It is clear that I need to get some tuition to sort out my head and so I've arranged with Tim Harmer to go to a track day at Oulton Park on July 19th. Before then I shall do some more of the great long to-do list, but it's quite nice that there isn't a huge rush at the moment.