A bit late, but this is what happened at the race weekend at Silverstone last weekend. Don't worry, I didn't bend it again. In fact I had a fabulous time.
We got to the circuit late on Friday. At the last moment I'd failed to get into testing on the friday so I'd signed up for the bikesports race on the saturday so as to get a bit of circuit time.
We parked in with the bikesports people as the RGB space on Sunday as going to be Stock Harch City on Saturday and we didn't want to get involved with that. (Apparently, Stock Hatch is no the world's most popular race series!) We went for a walk around the paddock later and found a few RGBers who had done the test day and were sticking it out in the middle of the Stock Hatches. They said that the test day had been a pretty bad day on account of lots of other people treating it as a race. Apparently the day was peppered with red flags. So, perhaps our strategy was the righ thing.
Got up bright and early, which was more than could be said for the weather which was really overcast. So much for the sunny day that had been forecast. In fact it looked like it might well rain soon, which it did indeed do.
Still, signed on and got the car scrutineered which was even easier than usual. The race I'd entered on Saturday was billed as Bikesports and the 750 Formula. I had thought that this meant that I might get a decent race as the 750 Formula was bound to be slower even than me.
However, although we were still practising together they'd split the grid for the races, possibly because of the RGBers who had signed up. (There were now 4 of us. Tim Pell (Class A), Chris Seaman (Class C), David Wale (C) and me.) After another downpour we set off for qualifying.
The weather looked as though it might stay dry so I stayed on dry settings and hoped for the best. Once we got going it was pretty fraught. There we so many cars on the track (38) that the chances of a clear lap were just about zero. What's more, it was chaotic and at one point I thought the marshals might just as well put the yellow flags out permanently as that'd be easier than continually taking them in and out. I was surprisingly just about in the middle of the field with a 71.65. As the track seemed to really lack grip (Luffield was like an ice rink) that was probably not too bad. I was going to be 15th out of 22 on the Bikesports grid which wasn't too bad given the quantity of really quick machinery.
Pole was something I hadn't seen before in the shape of a Lynx LR1 which was, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely gorgeous. It was also really quick and just drove round the outside of me at Copse on one lap. (But, it's 400kg, had slicks about 12" wide and wings.) Apparently they're selling them for about £15,000. If someone wants to buy me one for Christmas that'd be just fine.
Fastest time in quali was 62.32, slowest was 95.19 which gives you an idea of the mix. Biggest problem for me though was that I hardly ever saw 6th gear. Round a circuit like Silverstone this is daft and it's getting really clear that some of the chaps have a big advantage by not running the Freelander diff which at 3.21 is really rather tall. I just took Martin Bell's word for it that this was the diff to fit when I built the car. It's clear now that this just isn't the case and something much shorter would be a good idea. As it is, the car's geared for about 140mph which it has no chance of reaching as there's no way a puny 135 of Mr Honda's ponies can drag my fat ar$e down the road that quickly.
As it was the fastest I did in the session was 113.2 mph. So, I decided on trying a rather drastic solution. I went along to George Polley and swapped a rather knackered pair of 185 tyres that used to be the front pair of one of my sets of tyres for a nice new pair of 185s. I then replaced the existing rear 205s with these. In retrospect I shouldn't have done it this was as I now have four completely useless 205 spare tyres but for some reason I convinced myself that this was the right thing to do. Using the 185s rather than 205s would shorten the gearing a bit. In fact, looking at the data afterwards the difference is about a 3% reduction in wheel speed at the same RPM. Not very much but it is a little.
So, when the race came around I was essentially going to have to relearn the gearchange points, but as I didn't have high hopes, who cares. As it was the race was a blast! The three class C RGBers were close-ish on the grid and when the lights went out I got a real flyer and passed a whole stack of people on the run towards Copse, including both Chris and David and a whole stack of ADRs. As it was I tried hard not to spin and succeeded! This was made a good deal easier but having had a green flag lap. Luxury, I tell you, luxury.
However, the race was red-flagged on the way down the club straight. Not sure why but as I went back to the grid the recovery truck was picking its way between us so perhaps there was a break down somewhere. The second start was a bit less eventful, mainly because the bloke in front of me was wise to me now and moved right to block me on the start. I still passed him but had to go the long way round. Out of Copse and Chris, David and I were running line astern and obviously doing all right against all the should-be faster ADRs. For those that remember the Team Grolsch ADR was in this race but only did 4 laps. One reason for this was that the gearchange that was bodged at Snet last year to work back-to-front failed. Looking at it later this was hardly surprising as it was still a bodge of Herculean proportions. After that, Chris got away a bit but I carried on behind David. Next lap I got out of Becketts reasonably quickly and outbraked David into Brooklands. A couple of laps later he did the same to me. A couple of laps later I got up the inside, again into Brooklands, but this time made an awful cod's of it and ended up running wide and he nipped back inside me. After that we stayed in those positions until the leaders came through (the winner was a Radical Clubsport whose fastest lap was 61 secs compared to the 69ish that David and I were doing. I dropped back a little as the leaders went through (always difficult for me to avoid for some reason).
All the same it was an absolutely fab race. For the first time for a while I'd been seriously racing someone, and in this case someone I trusted totally not to do anything silly. When we got back to parc ferme we three RGBCers agreed that we needed to do this again. In Parc Ferme we had a good look at the Lynx and David was talking about saving up for one.
The gearing changes were great. In the race I did a 69.43 and my fastest speed was now over 114 mph. Not a big change but I had actually been using 6th gear. This means that the acceleration must have been better. Certainly I could keep up with David in a straight line which I've never been able to do before now. He does have a more sensible diff ratio.
Problem is, I now need to work out some way of getting a different diff into the car. That will need different driveshafts and, probably, a modified propshaft I guess. I could, though, easily get a Ford viscous LSD which would be a good idea.
Crikey, sunshine! In fact, I got burnt. Somehow the thing about raceday is that I forget lots of things like eating and sunblock. I wonder why that is? Mind you, qualifying was awful. There were loads of cars on the track (33 it says here) and although there weren't any red flags, which is a nice change, I didn't really manage to set a decent time at all. I got a half decent lap in early on (lap 4) and then tried to engineer myself a better track position. This was a complete failure as when I let some of the slower cars through so as to build up a gap as soon as I actually went for it one of the class As caught me up on my quick lap and I had to let them past. It would perhaps have been better to just pound around and hope for a decent lap appearing.
My one half-decent lap was actually worse than I'd managed in the race on Saturday and there was definitely more grip on Sunday, probably because the track was much warmer. (Those of you not familiar with such things can just stop for a minute and think about what it gets like on the inside of several layers of Nomex clothing, which is really a sort of sophisticated plastic bag, on a sunny day, in a stressful situation! Hmm, I need to put the washing machine on.)
All the same, I was on the grid, 26th out of 33 and undamaged. Come the start I somehow managed avoid seeing the lights (they're sort of round the corner and they don't have the repeaters that, say, Brands has.) and lost a little bit of time getting away. It was nothing like as awful as last year's start though where I tried to start in neutral. I had started just behind Neil (a class A Fury) and managed to get up the inside of him into Copse. Up the hill to Maggots and there were cars all over the place but not much unlawful although I did get passed by John Cutmore who had all 4 wheels off the circuit at Becketts. Kind of silly that as we'd specifically been told about that in a talking to that we'd had from the Clerk of the Course at lunchtime.
I moved to the right to pass John and he blocked me so I went past him on the left. Unfortunately he then demonstrated that I need to start concentrating on braking later by braking way later and going round the outside of me in Brooklands. (I did pass him later in the race though.) I was, though, slowing as Pete Rope, who had also barged up the inside at Becketts was spinning and I was having to avoid Colin C who was avoiding Pete. In the process Colin D got past but I tagged behind him and passed Colin C along the pit straight and into Copse.
So, that's one lap done and it carried on in much the same manner. That first time round Copse was, though a bit alarming. We'd been told in the assembly area that the Roadsports guys had put down rather a lot of oil in Copse and so it turned out to be. The first time through at full speed (it had been all right just after the start) and I hit the oil/cement dust mixture that had apparently been put down by an MGF that had ended up upside-down. On the marshal's forum it says:
So, on the first time through I hit a large patch of cement dust and the car jumped about 2 car widths to the left. Rather alarming and at this point the camera got scared and stopped working. However, I was still pointing in the right direction and I carried on. Essentially a big dice then developed with me, Henry, David, Oliver and Colin D changing places a fair bit. On one lap I actually managed to pass both David and Colin into Brooklands which was pretty special.
However, Colin then scared the bejazus out of me by passing me into Copse at a quite astonishing speed. He seemed to go past me like an express train and he said later that he tried it without braking at all! He must have lifted at least but it makes you think how fast it could be taken.
There were a few problems with yellow flags though which actually messed up my race slightly. On the last lap I was just behind Henry and I knew I could pass him at two separate places: Copse and Brooklands. I deliberately just stayed tucked up behind him at Copse though as I thought if I did get through then he'd get me at Brooklands because of the tow down the club straight. So, out of Becketts hard on the gas and 6" behind Henry, I easily pull left and start going past him (and he doesn't try and block me). However, I'm about 1/3 of the way past and they put the yellow flags out.
I actually thought about pretending I hadn't seen it but decided that an endorsement wasn't a clever thing. This was actually the second time this process happened in the race, I'd backed out of passing Colin D in a similar manner a couple of laps before. So, I went across the line 2 tenths behind Henry. Worst of all, in parc ferme Colin D said that he thought he'd overtaken someone under a yellow. Indeed he had and this is how he'd got away from me slightly as he was about 0.9 sec in front of Henry at the line. As it was he got penalised 1 sec for overtaking under the yellow which means he appears between Henry and me in the final classification!
Oh well, I was still out of the points but it was an absolutely fab race and has quite rekindled my enthusiasm. I actually came away quite liking racing at Silverstone. Fastest lap was 69.2 but I reckon there's quite a lot more time there once I learn to brake properly.
Max speed in the race was 117mph but that must be tow assisted.
Now I need to get ready for the Brands meeting. This is a double-header on Saturday September 10th. Unfortunately, the As and Cs are mixed up again which at Brands is going to make for a real frenetic race. I'm going to go testing there on Friday to try and sort a few things out, especially with the modified gearing.
The next races are on this coming Saturday and I need to get the car sorted again. The races are at Brands and I've booked in for a day testing on friday. I hope that I can use the time to get a few back-to-back tests done. Hence, Tom's coming with me which will be a great help in getting things done in the pitlane.
So, I've been doing a few small things. I've changed the brake pads for some new ones, mainly because I'll be able to bed them in on Friday properly, at least I hope I will. I've also been sorting out some of the electronic stuff. I've made a small power supply for the camera which is just bolted to the back of the dash at the moment. In fact, it's using the dash as a heat sink. (The white gunk on the photo is heat sink compound.) My hope is that this will allow the camera to work for longer than it does at the moment. The hypothesis is that when the camera gets banged around a lot the batteries jump out of contact and this turns off the camera. It remains to be seen if this is correct.
My last attempt at making a timing beacon detector had been declared a failure. However, closer attention to the logs shows that it probably was working, it's just that there's quite a lot of noise coming from somewhere that's causing a lot of false triggers. So, I've put in some extra little bits of circuitry to try and reduce the sensitivity to such things. Whether I'm successful remains to be seen...
So, I spent last Friday and Saturday at Brands Hatch again. I've come to the conclusion that the Brands Indy circuit is just too difficult for me. All the same, it was a fab weekend and it was even gloriously sunny. Just after we finished racing though, the heavens opened and driving home was a bit of a pain.
I'd booked for a full day testing on Friday and we set to first thing. The weather looked great, although the forecast was a bit duff. However, great is what it turned out to be. It was actually so hot in the morning that after a couple of sessions I was just sitting in the car shaking quietly wondering how I was supposed to climb out of the self-created pool of sweat and actually get over the cage and out of the car. Heaven knows how GP drivers do 2 hours in Spain...
The first session as mostly aside for some initial work, and bedding in some brake pads. So, I spent a fair amount of time sitting in the pitlane. It was enough though to remember how difficult Brands is. I think of all the circuits that I've raced on this is just about the one I find hardest. In particular I seem to have a mental block about Graham Hill bend. I either come out of Druids too wide that I can't get back across the circuit to turn on properly, or I turn in too early, or too late, or hit the kerbs on the exit. One lap, in fact, coming out of Graham Hill bend I hit the kerbs really hard and the car died on me. I trundled along stabbing switches and just went slower and slower until I pulled off at Surtees. Eventually I tried turning off the isolater and turning it on again. This time it all fired up again. I reckon that the vibration had knocked the switch around a couple of degrees, just enough to turn it off. I had a chat with a marshal later who asked me why when they were just coming for me did I wait a while and then get going again. When I explained he said that just this had happened to other drivers.
Anyway, through the day I tried a few things, mostly tyre pressure, damper settings and camber adjustments. I ended up quicker that I'd ever gone before, but still way too slow. Before this my fastest time around Brands had been a 56.3 back in the race in April. (That was before the Donington incident which really screwed up my year.) Fastest time in testing was a 55.4 which is still way too slow. Worst of all, the data logger reckoned I could have done a 54.0 if I'd actually managed to put my best lap together properly. Now, there were problems with traffic (in particular a white Morgan, are you listening out there?) but this is really too big a difference and really tells that I find it very difficult stitching a whole smooth lap together at Brands.
Looking at the video later and I'm appalled at some of the lines I was taking. Ho Hum.
Saturday / Qualifying
It pissed down in the night before race day and we were all wondering what the weather was going to be like. It was very overcast at the start of the day but as scrutineering and so on got under way the sun came out and it seemed like the day might be fine. Once qualifying came around we all trundled through the tunnel. The problem was we had all the classes together so it was going to be difficult getting a lap without a Radical up your bum and as there were a lot of reserves we had something like 35 cars on the track at once.
However, at Silverstone I'd screwed up qualifying by continually backing off trying to find a lap so this time I was just going to trundle round and round and round and see what happened. So, I did so. I got stuck in a few trains and had to forcibly out-brake a couple of people a couple of times but there was a sort of half-decent 56.08 lap on the timer before I came around Surtees just as a yellow appeared to find two cars crunched together on the apex of MacLaren with the drivers out standing on the grass! Luckily they red-flagged it... Both drivers concerned were novices so I guess they can be foregiven. But, I'd want a signed indemnity from the marshals before getting out of my car at that point on the circuit.
Apparently Lindsay had let Pete up the inside in Surtees. Pete promptly spun into Lindsay which pushed them both off, someone else (no-one seems to know who) then came round and bashed into the back of Lindsay's car although he then just carried on.
This means that Lindsay's car, which he took about two years to build, impeccably, has been crunched on each of its two outings this year! We did keep telling him not to take so much care...
After that we only got a couple more laps and it seemed busier, if anything, than before, so that rather dismal time would have to do.
So, I was starting on the 13th row of the grid in each race, although of course there were a lot of class As in front.
So, the lights go out and we set off for Paddock, with much snorting and snarling from our tiny, tiny, little engines. (There had been a couple of Shelby Mustangs out in testing which made a fab noise but were unbelievably slow everywhere other than in a dead straight line. I guess they both had a least 5 litre engines...)
Up to paddock I was just outside Colin C and hopefully he'd seen me which indeed he had. However, on the run down Paddock I was just at the apex (although miles to the left of it) and the car just stopped working again. I stabbed switches and fiddled with the gearchange and eventually it was working again. It seemed like an age although the logs show that it lasted all of 5 seconds. However, in that time just about everyone zoomed past me.
So, I set off after them and passed a few and eventually got up behind Pete Rope again. There I sat for ages just trying to get on terms and get past him. I knew even I was quicker than him but I just couldn't seem to get in contention. Meanwhile, of course, the rest of the field was zooming off. Eventually he ran slightly wide at the exit of Graham Hill and I managed to stuff my car up the inside into Surtees. He said later that he thought I was lapping him but I don't believe him....:)
After that it was a fairly uneventful trundle to the line for a finish in a lowly 21st place and a horrible 14th in class. Best lap was faster than the quali time though at 55.7 so at least that is a very small insignificant amount better.
After the race I was checking the car over and found that the engine mounting had cracked again.
I spent a long time talking to Martin Bell about this and we decided that it would probably be OK to race with, I'd need to fix it soon though.
I have to admit, though, that I'm entirely underwhelmed by the quality of this component. I've heard of all sorts of other problems with it so it's not just me. Let's hope that the new broom at Fishers (that is, Martin, etc.) will sort this sort of thing out soon.
We were the last race of the day and by now it was starting to look a bit gloomy. I did consider putting a bit more air in the tyres to compensate for the lower temperatures but decided not to.
Come the start we set off again and there was the usual melee at Paddock although we all got round. (After we got a severe talking to at Silverstone we've been really good boys and apart from the qualifying incident we were red flag free all weekend.)
I was in the middle of a fracas with Pete, Colin D, Phil and a bunch of others which eventually settled down with me in front of them all! I was quite proud of overtaking a bunch of people round the outside at Druids although I was rather surprised that Colin D in particular gave me room. He's a new boy this year and a really nice bloke, although very tough to race against.
In that situation we set off but I was defending all the time against Colin and the lap times show it. We were probably losing a second just around Paddock to the people in front. I don't think I know how to race in this situation. I know that if I was 5 secs ahed of Colin I could have pulled away but I didn't seem to be able to get that far ahead as I was continually covering the corners from him.
Unfortunately, I then ran wide at Graham Hill bend and Colin got me into Surtees. Still I reckoned I could probably get past again as on some bits of the circuit (especially out of Clearways) I was definitely quicker than him. Unfortunately we then got lapped by Darcy and Gordon G who were in the lead.
I set off after Colin again and then coming down Paddock there was a spinning Mission in front of me. "Oh fsck", I thought. Although I could spell it correctly in my head. "I wonder which way he's going?"
I went wide and went over the green bit on to the bit of track that isn't on the track and missed Gordon although lost a lot of time. I then got done by Pete Rope up the hill into Druids and Gordon M got right up to me at Surtees. Gordon's way quicker than me so I didn't make life hard for him although on the way down the straight I was on my way past again and all of a sudden everyone slowed down. I looked around for the flags and it finally dawned on me that I'd just about let Gordon through on the last corner of the race as presumably they had given us the checquered flag. Batsrads!!!
Gordon was actually 0.11 ahead of me on the line which is a real bummer.
Oh well. Not too bad I suppose, and I'd enjoyed the battle with Colin even though I'd lost out. A pain to drop two places due to avoiding a spinner though...
So, back at the ranch it's time to get the car ready again. I'm doing a track day at Rockingham this weekend so I need to sort it soon. I've been thinking for a while that the car was getting noisier and as they're more rigid about noise at track days I thought I'd repack the silencer so I ordered some new wadding from Merlin. In the past I've use glass-fibre loft insulation but I thought I'd do it properly this time. While I was on the phone to Merlin I ordered a new isolater switch as well. I don't want what happened at Brands happening in a race.
So, I took the sidepod and silencer off and took the silencer apart. This evening I'll repack it. Be just my luck to be noisier afterwards mind you. It hadn't actually blown any of the wadding out. However, a lot of it had gone very hard which doesn't seem to be quite right.
This photo is of the inside which is pleasingly wierd.
The only problem is that, even with the bonnet scoop, it doesn't fit under the bonnet. As I'm thinking of buying some new bodywork over the winter I'll probably just grind a big hole in the bonnet to fit it. If nothing else it'd be interesting to try it at Rockingham to see what it's like. It might also reduce the noise a smidgeon too.
I got the silencer repacked, using about a square metre of the wadding that I got from Merlin which is pretty much exactly what they said it would take.
With that fitted back on the car I put the sidepod back on and the extinguisher refitted. As I was doing this I realised that I'm going to have to get the extinguisher checked/recharged at the end of this year as it's then out of date.
I also replaced the master switch. The new one is much "clunkier" than the old one was, although perhaps that used to be like this one once.
I also fitted the airbox to the carbs, really just to see how much of the bonnet I would have to hack off to try it. One advantage it does have is that it seems to remove the induction noise from the engine, which I guess isn't surprising really. If I'm worried about noise then that would seem a useful addition.
When running the engine I could convince myself that it sounded quiet with the repacked silencer. I could just as easily be fooling myself though.
The problem is, though, as I said above is that I'll have to cut a chunk out of the bonnet to race with this attached and I'm not entirely sure that I've got the stamina for that just at the moment. The problem is that it will have to fit pretty snugly around the airbox to pass the RGB regs.
I got the finals for the Cadwell meeting today. As expected the class Cs are having a separate race although the As are mixed up with the Bikesports cars. What's more, it's an 18 minute race which I'd forgotten.
Hopefully it'll be fun. I am, though, always a little wary of Cadwelll which is really too narrow.
Catching up again...
Not sure I mentioned it but I spent last Sunday at Rockingham on a track day. However, in order to get there I had a bit of sorting out to do. One problem I've had with the car in racing in hot conditions is that I tend to get bits of rubber under my heels and these melt and it gets hard to drive the car, in particular to move between the accelerator and the brake as my heel sticks to the floor. Not a huge problem but annoying. Problem is, I can't figure out any way of sorting it out. I spent a while cleaning up the mess last week, before the trip to Rockingham, but it'd be nice to not have to keep doing this.
The photo here is the heel positions just behind the pedals. You can see the quantity of rubber in all the melted black gobbets of stuff; not pleasant really.
Anyway, I cleaned it all up with some carb cleaner which is a pretty ferocious solvent. It'll be back though.
Next job was to fit the airbox properly, which involves cutting a big hole in the bonnet. This was done with the aid of various grinding devices and some attempts at catching all of the yellow dust created. The latter was largely unsuccessflu and there's now a large yellow patch on the drive.
I ended up with a hole in the bonnet like this. It fits pretty snugly around the airbox and I thought it'd be interesting to see what it was like at Rockingham.
With the bonnet closed it looks like this, not pretty but it should do the job.
After that it was time to set the car up and drag it to Rockingham...
So, I got up at the crack of dawn and dragged that car to the Rockingham Motor Speedway which is built on the ground under an old steelworks in Corby. Amazingly, they seem to have noise problems there even though it seems to be in the middle of a huge industrial area. Sigh...
The first session was awful, as the car just wouldn't pull at all. So, I took the airbox off and it was back to normal. So much for that then. I suspect I could change the jets and so on to get back to how it was but it makes you wonder if it's worth it really.
After that I really just tried to treat the day as a time to get some more time in the car. I did feel pretty good in there and the times turned out, after I got home and looked at the logs, to be about 5 seconds quicker than when I was there back in May.
Problem is, I asked Matt (who was also with me back in May) if he would drive one of the sessions as it'd be interesting to see what he thought about the car. Matt's a pretty successful racer and we're all hoping he's going to win the Caterham Megagrads championship this year. He's currently leading but the possible permutations are bewildering. The thing is, his times were about 3 seconds quicker than me. That is, in my car that's he's never driven before. I suppose the thing to realise is that if I got better then I could drive it that quickly too. As it is, that's about 2.5% quicker than me which would amount to a lot further up the RGB grid.
Or, I could be depressed about it and throw my toys out of the pram.
I'm aiming for the first one at the moment...
Anyway, the thing now is to aim for Cadwell this weekend. There's a been a bit of a fracas about the races for the weekend with all the class A boys objecting to being lumped in with the bikesports chaps. This means that the RGBers are back in a single race with a number of class C and class B people being shoved into Bikesports. Needless to say there's a good deal of upset about this. However, the good sign is that it looks as though we'll get two grids for RGB next season which will be great. If I can just go a bit quicker then I should be getting there.
So, with the scoop having been a disaster for now, I needed to block off the hole in the bonnet. I bunged it up at Rockingham just with some tape but the scrutineers might not like that so I've patched up up with a lump of aluminium, beaten into very roughly the right shape. If nothing else, I suspect it might actually be lighter like this.
What isn't clear is whether the airbox would work any better with either a source of decent clear air or by rejetting the carbs. I'll need to check on this...
Yet again, I spent some time fiddling around with the lap beacon detector. To recap:
Sigh... this is rather tedious really...
(BTW, apologies for the electron-herder speak. If you're not up to this just ignore it!)