Well, it's back to normal service really: occasional updates, mostly about race prep and slight tweaks. This is no bad thing really given the amount of time that I've spent in the garage over the last few months.
Needless to say, I've got an alarmingly long list of things to do but luckily there's nothing absolutely devastatingly important on it.
The first thing I tacked was making the holes for the steering column and gearchange in the scuttle a little more tightly fitted to the column and change rod. The scrute at Snetterton mentioned this and I suppose it's reasonable. I did this, as in the photo, with some grommets which have been battered about a bit to fit nicely. Of course, there's still little holes down the middle of the various rivets, but they seem to be OK with the powers that be.
Something else that I've been meaning to at least try for ages is a rear anti-roll bar. I finally managed to get around to fabricating something this weekend although, as you can see, it still needs a bit of paint on the little tab that I welded onto the wishbone. As for the front arb the bar is made from 1/2" solid steel, although it could usefully be a tube to lose a bit of weight. Dan is talking about getting some tubing heat treated but he doesn't seem to have got round to it yet.
To be honest, the arrangement here isn't totally satisfactory as yet. I'm using two little rod ends, a female and a male, to connect to the 'bar and really it needs to be a little shorter. I might just set about them with an angle grinder, or cut them up and weld them back together.
The intention is to go testing at Brands before the next race and, assuming that it isn't chucking it down with rain, do some back-to-back testing on suspension things. That is, disconnect all the ARBs and try that; connect the front one, connect the rear one and so on. Of course, there's a myriad difference settings to try but I've wanted to do this for a while. Last time I tried I struck some other problem and just didn't get everything together in time.
The other thing I'd like to try to fabricate is a rear undertray. Many people say they're a good idea and it has to be worth trying. The only problem is, I lent my air-powered shears to Dan... I'll have to cut up the aluminium the old-fashioned way.
Hmm, 3 weeks for the next update. That's not really very clever is it? All the same, there's quite a lot to talk about.
As I said last time, I've wanted to try a rear under tray for a while now. So, I got stuck in and made one. The photo here is early on in the process, with a lump of ally Clekoed to the bottom of the car. You do get a bit of an idea in this of the overall flat floor effect, although I'm still very unconvinced that this has any direct, visible on the stopwatch, effect given the overall non-aerodynamic aspects of the bodywork as a whole.
Eventually this whole thing was attached using yet more Dzus fasteners. I also stiffened up the edges with some ally angle as in the photo here.
Something else I did at about this time was to remake the clutch cable. When I was a Snetterton the clutch pedal was alarmingly stiff, so much so that I kept stalling the car. This time I included rather a lot of graphited grease in the construction which seemed to make things rather better, at least as far as can be detected it he garage anyway. I also moved the heelrest, as what had semed fine in the garage was clearly rubbish as soon as I actually drove the thing.
So, with all that done, I was set up for going to Brands for testing. At least that was the plan before work intervened and I had to pull out of the test day, much to my complete annoyance.
This meant that when I got to Brands for a double header I hadn't driven the car since the allcomers at Snetterton, where I'd driven like a complete duffer. Not too good really for the first RGB races of the season.
So, after escaping from work a little early I got back home (I was in London working), hitched everything up and drove south again, although missing the Smoke we ended up at Brands Hatch. We parked up by Adrian's vast travelling empire and looked worriedly at the weather. The one small crumb of comfort for missing the test day was that the weather forecast had been horrible. Just my luck that it had been fine all day, although it didn't look like it would stay that way all weekend. There was a silver lining to that in that we might be able to try out the cut A048s that we're allowed to use this year, and which I'd bought a set of from George Polley recently and in the photo here. They actually look pretty good, amazing what you can do too a perfectly innocent A048 really. George had said to me that he'd have preferred using a soft compound tyre to start from. The problem with that, though, is that the performance difference would be real. As it is it'd be nice if the performance of these is much as normal A048s, apart from in standing water where you'd expect that they'd clear the water more quickly.
It rained a lot of Friday night and we woke up to a wet paddock and wet car covers and so on. We were on fairly late though so there was a chance that things would dry out. However, it turned out not to be the case and by the time we went over to the assembly area (a long way at Brands) it was pretty wet, although not actually chucking it down. I had decided, all the same, to use the wets, really to try and get some sort of comparison as to how they worked.
Once out on the circuit it was just as frenetic as a Brands qualifying session usually is. What's more, we had 3 reserves out practicing with us so there was a really full track. However, I seemed to be going really well and the track was just full of obstacles to pass. Anthea said after that in those early laps I was the fastest thing on the track. Those first three laps were 67, 65, and 63 seconds and I was really starting to enjoy myself as I was just barging past all sorts of people. Eventually, I'd be bound to get a couple of properly quick laps in.
However, just then a great cloud of smoke and steam, accompanied by an odd smell, appeared inside the cockpit which was clearly not clever. The thing still seemed to be going OK but all the same I pulled into the pits. A quick investigation showed that the coolant hose from the water pump to the oil/water intercooler had fallen off (dooooh) and dumped the coolant all over the exhaust system. In retrospect it was clear that the smell had been antifreeze.
Luckily, probably because it was bloody cold, the engine still seemed fine. So, after reconnecting the hose and refilling the cooling system it seemed fine. I suspect that the reason the hose fell off is that this particular hose came on the new engine and some dozy git forgot to check every single one of the existing connections. Ho hum.
The end result of all this is that my qualifying positions were pretty dire at 19th for the first race (14th in class) and 23rd for the second (12th).
The first race came along and it had now dried out quite a lot. There was a bit of rain in the air but it seemed ok. So much so that I put the dries back on. Come the start I got an OK start, and even managed to get across the track so I didn't get stuck in the melée at the inside of Paddock Hill bend which is pretty much a lottery in my experience.
On lap 2 on the way down from Druids I oh so nearly ran into the back of a crawling Adrian who'd lunched a driveshaft at the start. Luckily, he'd later manage to weld it back up and actually managed to complete race 2, something he's not managed for a while.
So, I'd passed quite a few cars in the first lap and then got stuck behind a pair of battling Strikers: Rob Grant and Richard Wise. I don't think they took much notice of me and I struggled to get past. Eventually, though, Richard got away and got a decent run on Rob up to Paddock. I dummied at the inside but I wasn't totally sure that Rob had seen me so I didn't actually stick it up the inside. However, I clearly fazed him because he spun on the exit and I was off after Richard.
Unfortunately, I didn't make much headway and settled down really. Then Derek came up to lap me and I tried to hang on for the last lap of the race, putting in my fastest lap of the race. At the end I was 12th (9th in class). Not wonderful but considering the lack of testing and the lousy grid position perhaps not too bad.
Sunday was a much nicer day. The sun wasn't actually shining but it was at least dry. I got just about the best start I've ever managed and made up several places on the first lap. I then got stuck in a battle with Andy Grant and Al Boulton. However, a while into the race Darren Gay, a new chap who's an ex-stockhatcher and bought Mike Field's old car, stopped in the Clearways gravel trap. It looked like he'd crunched the front of the car a bit too.
However, a couple of laps later they red-flagged the race; I even saw a couple of white flags which worry me rather more than red ones really. Apparently, as the paddock rumour had it, Darren had cut his hand in the crash and they needed to get the medics out to him. Later on I saw his car in Parc Ferme and it looked as though he'd just gone straight on at Maclaren. The front of the car was very bent. A great shame as this car's got all sorts of trick suspension bits.
So, at the restart, I made another decent start, although not quite as blinding this time. I then got jammed up in a battle with James (class A), Doug (A) and Andy Grant again. To be honest, James and Doug were getting in the way. Later on James let me and I managed to muscle my way past Andy into Surtees. I couldn't get up to Doug though and he used his much larger power to get a second or so away from me.
I finally finished in 13th place (9th). It was Anthea who commented later that it was a bit daft that Doug had been in the way and got a pot for finishing 2nd in class A. Oh well. All the same, a pretty good race weekend.
Back at base, I've now got a few bits to sort. Most importantly, the front right damper is spitting its oil out, I suspect a consequence of the fire damaging a seal or two. The othe problem is the clutch pedal again. My fix turned out to be useless. On investigation I think it's the pedal itself which is binding somehow. In fact, if I don't press exactly square on the pedal it's possible to make it bind up so solidly that the pedal goes rigid; it doesn't matter how hard you press but it doesn't move. Not good really as I bought this pedal box as I thought it'd work better than the naff old Fisher one. I've tried taking it to pieces and reassembling with yet more lubricant but it's not really any better. I'm going to have to have a think about this one...
In the meantime, I've sent the dodgy damper back to Protech and they seem confident that I'll get it back in time for Cadwell. This time I've booked another day's testing so hopefully I'll be able to get there this time...