May 12th

Another month rolls by and I'm back again, wittering away...

After sending my duff damper back to Protech I got it back from them in double quick time, very impressive service. Especially so considering the sort of non-service that Dan got from Nitron. So, I put that back easily and re-checked the ride height.

Next thing was the water temperature sender. For some reason this failed at Brands and just stopped working. Instead of getting a new Honda one I bought one from ETB and installed it in a hose adapter I got from the chaps at Rally Design (another source of superb customer service). You can see it in the photo here. Of course, using this adapter is a slight pain as the body needs to be earthed for the sender to work.

That was pretty much it before going off to Cadwell and I had the car on the trailer fully a week before I needed to be away, which must be a world record. Mind you, I then realised that I'd meant to corner weight and had to take it off again but at least I tried. Interestingly, when I came to do the corner weighting I only had to move one spring platform by one turn to get the diagonals to be exactly 50% of the weight. Even more oddly, the car's about 10kg lighter as a result of the winter rebuild. I'm not entirely sure why that is but it sounds useful. Perhaps if I rebuild it again it'll come out another 10kg lighter?

So, it was off to Cadwell for a day's testing and a single 18 minute RGB race on the Saturday. My plan was to spend the morning of the test trying out various suspension things and to start trying to set some decent times in the afternoon.

So, I tried driving round with the dampers on full soft and then on full hard (quite different) and with and without the rear ARB (not much discernible difference). Unfortunately in the session before lunch I had a spin on the exit of Mansfield and the car felt very odd afterwards in that it was steering from the rear. A short inspection showed that I'd bent one of the rear uprights, yet again. I had tried to forestall this over the winter by welding a lump of 3mm steel in across the bushes at the bottom. The sideways load on the upright had just snapped this bit of steel in two. So, over lunch I undid it all and Andy Bates used his gas set to heat it up, hammer it flatt[er] and braze it all together again. It isn't right but it was possible to adjust the suspension to get it nearly into line.

However, now I'm back home I've just ordered some new uprights from BGH. I think I'll also try and get some very long 1/2" bolts to go all the way through the upright as a different way of trying to stop the bloody things bending all the time. Not sure where to get them from though.

So, with the car fixed I set out in the afternoon to try and put some decent laps in. However, I was reckoning without large numbers of cars that had arrived to do the afternoon of the test. I remember now that I told myself last time I tested at Cadwell that I'd just do the morning because the afternoon was impossible. There were lots of Locosts out there that must have thought they were being victimised by RGBs zooming past them all the time.

So, I ended up no faster than I'd been before, in fact very slightly worse. In particular, I hadn't broken the 1:40 barrier that I seem to have erected for myself. Looking harder at the logs now I can see that some bits of the circuit, in particular the top of the Gooseneck, I seemed to have forgotten how to drive.

What's more, throughout all this, I was still plagued by the sticky clutch pedal that I mentioned a while ago. The latest re-assembly seemed to have made it very slightly better but it was still not good, and the lack of control meant that I was slipping the clutch more on slow starts than I'd have liked. Hopefully, it'd hang together OK for the race though.

So, the race day itself dawned just as hot and sunny as the test day had been. I'd actually spent most of the night awake as all the driving the previous day seemed to have strained various muscles in my arms, and in particular my right shoulder which is in a bit of state following a skiing accident some years ago. The end result was that I couldn't really sleep with my arms bent which actually made things rather difficult. What's more, Tom phoned me up at about 0130 in a bit of state because some toerag had broken into his room in College and stolen his laptop. Oh well.

Back to qualifying then. I didn't really do too well with a 1:40.4 (see?) which put me in 12th place on the grid (8th in class). This is all a bit disappointing, although to be honest one of the problem is that, as I've mentioned before, Cadwell just makes me plain sick. However, I know that when it's right it just sort of flows in a very pleasing manner. It didn't seem to be flowing on Saturday, I just seemed to be hoicking the car round the circuit by the scruff of its neck. On one lap I managed a complete cods of the Coppice/Charlies complex in that I turned in a might agressively into Coppice. The upshot was the I understeered off onto the grass and shot up the hill off the circuit, across Charlies 1 and narrowly managed to stop on the grass before I got to the armco at the top of the hill. Phew!

Come the race and it was now really hot and uncomfortable. I say in the assembly area with a large bottle of water and and umbrella to shade me. Once we set off to go to the grid the clutch pedal was feeling really sticky. However, once I was away that should be OK.

I got a semi-decent start although I was pushed onto the grass slightly on the run to Coppice and Colin Duce, who was behind me on the grid having lunched his clutch in practice, got past me. I got past Colin later on in the lap though. He seemed to be going very slowly. It turned out that his nightmare season was continuing in the he'd thrown a rod, probably a consequence of all the bits of clutch that had fallen into his sump.

After that I got stuck in a three way fight behind David Wale and just in front of Andy Grant. This carried on for a few laps and I suddenly had a wierd moment at the hairpin when I just didn't get any drive out of the corner and Andy snuck past. At the next bend it was clear that I was suffering from clutch slip. This didn't surprise me as a lot of clutches had gone in the morning, apparently Andy Bates had supplied 8 complete sets of clutch plates to various people.

So, reluctant to risk actually shattering the clutch as Colin Duce had done I stuck my hand up and pootled in. Later on I arranged with Andy to get my set of new plates and we all went home.

So, an enjoyable weekend but I need to get my head in gear...

In the garage the next day, though, and it was all somewhat murkier. I drained the oil, which I was due to do anyway, and took off the clutch cover. It looked like this here which, as you can see, looks fine. So, I stripped it down completely and it all came apart fine. What's more, all the plates looked completely fine and were all right at the thickest end of the acceptable range of thickness.

That is, the clutch was fine.

On reflection, I suspect that the sticky clutch pedal was dragging the clutch and making it slip. Certainly when we stopped in the paddock the actuator seemed rock solid. At the time we thought that was because of the clutch but perhaps it was actually the pedal jamming it all up.

So, I need to refit everything and decide what to do about the pedal. At the moment I'm strongly tempted to junk the new pedal box and go back to the old, rather naff, but functional Fisher pedals. Problem is, I'll have to find some way of mounting the pendulum throttle pedal. I need to do all this quickly, too, as we're off to Spa in a few weeks for a couple of track days there. I can hopefully use the time as some more testing time.

May 29th

I bought a pair of new uprights so as to replace the bent one. They arrived like this. That is, they seem to have stopped passivating them and provided them as bare steel which is a bit naff. Oh well, I just painted them instead, although I've run out of POR-15 and had to go back to boring old Hammerite.

One thing I did do, though, was to buy some 1/2" UNF studding. Rather than using two separate bolts (which go through the bushes at the bottom) I assembled everything with a single length of the studding through both of the bushes. Whether this improves things remains to be seen.

Back on the subject of the clutch I did something that I've been meaning to do for ages. I welded a different actuator rod onto the clutch lever so that it could be pulled from the other side, which means that the cable can be much shorter and doesn't need to snake all around the engine compartment. In order to make this work I had to make a new bracket to support the cable outer. This is the tripod thing in the photo here (although one of the legs is obscured).

Before my next trip out, to Spa last weekend as it happened, I decided to refit the oil cooler. This has been on and off the car several times in the past. However, I'm still getting oil temperatures in the region of 140° or so which is really rather too high.

So, I refitted the oil cooler, fitting it here just behind the radiator.

After all those little mods I went to Spa last weekend for a couple of track days. I had a pretty good time, although the time on the track was affected rather seriously by the lamentable quality of some of the driving displayed on the track. There was a very large proportion of expensive and quick cars there: Porsches, Ferraris and the inevitable BMW M3s. Although most were driven moderately well there was the usual proportion of complete no-hopers who couldn't quite get into their heads the notion that if that little plastic car was just behind them now and it wasn't before then that meant that it was quicker than them. This is a common problem with track days; many people turn up with very quick cars but are completely incapable of driving them quickly in anything other than a straight line. In most cases the drivers notice that the car behind them is quicker but sometimes they either don't notice that there's a car behind or they actively ignore it. Either way it's frustrating to be stuck behind. In a race situation you'd just dive up the inside in a braking area (and at Spa many of these barges were braking about 100 metres before me into Les Combes) and be away but that isn't possible on a track day.

Oh well. In many ways this is why I went racing in the first place.

As to my driving I was going pretty well. For the first time this year I was getting the car to slide underneath me which was good as it means I'm going quicker. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I was quicker at Spa than I was last year, although of course timing isn't allowed on track days.

Perhaps the best thing from Spa is that the clutch worked pretty well. The new version is much easier to operate, as the new lever is longer than the old one. I seem to have managed to modify it so that I can actually creep the car on the clutch properly, which is a great relief. I hope it stays like that.

After all that, I've got a few small things to do to the car and we're off to a race weekend at Anglesey in a while. This is my first trip there since they've rebuilt the circuit so I've got just the dimmest notion of what it'll be like. Let's hope that the weather is half-way decent, as it's often really dire there...

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