Yet again, I'm starting off down the track of building a car. This time, though, the objective is really rather different. This first entry is an attempt at getting up to date.
The whole background for this is really one of a bit of frustration. Firstly, having built two high performance road cars I find that I get very little real chance to drive them. When I go get out on the roads I'm always stuck in a traffic queue. I live near Cambridge and it's just about impossible to find a decent road to drive on that isn't already populated with some numpty doing at least 30mph less than the speed limit. Very often, the aforesaid numpty has accumulated a queue of other people who even though they don't wish to pass the person in front of the queue they want to make it impossible for everyone else so they drive half a car length behind. Once you've got a train of three or so of these people you're stuck. Overtaking them is rarely safe and it's impossible to "hedgehop" as there's no space to pull in. So, you might as well drive around in a diesel Mondeo most of the time.
One alternative to this is track days. I've done quite a few of these some of which have been written up on this site. However, they're fairly expensive and, again, your progress is often limited by incompetents. What's more, a lot of track days take place on airfields which, although they're great for shaking things down soon start to pale with the low quality of the surface and the poor layout.
Against all this, my friend Matthew Burrows has recently been competing in the Caterham Graduates championship. I've spectated a fair few times this last season and got to really appreciate what he's been up to.
Hence, after a lifetime watching motor sport I started wondering why I didn't have a go myself. For some reason I've never got involved, kind of odd really in that the thing I really enjoy watching is the cheapie club end of the spectrum. I grew up just round the corner from the Curborough sprint course and spent many happy hours there in my teens, having cycled there and blagged my way in for free.
So, if I was to get involved the next choice was how. At first I thought about sprinting or hill climbing. However, after much thought I decided that going the whole hog and getting into racing was the thing. I might, however, change my mind at some point!
So, if it was racing, what sort? I considered things like the Graduates but put that aside as I prefer something that's a bit more varied, although there is obvious appeal to the "all cars the same" sort of formula. Eventually, I looked at the things offered by the 750 Motor Club, who have long been the bastion of the cheap end of motor racing in the UK. They have their origins in pre-war Austin 7 racing which was about as simple as it got; they still seem to keep on with that principle.
They run a bunch of formulae and the most interesting ones for me were the kit car championships. There are essentially two of these: one for car-engined cars and one for bike-engined cars. Careful reading of the regulations reveals lots of important detail differences between them, apart from the obvious ones. Perhaps most important, for largish people like me, is that the minimum weight limits are quoted excluding driver in the car-engined variety and including driver in the bike engined series. I fail to understand the former as it seems to unreasonably favour little drivers. Still...
So, the likely choice was the bike-engined series. That has the other advantage that all the bike engines come complete with a 6 speed sequential transmission, so you end up with the sort of gear change that you see on BTCC videos on the TV. What's more, the bike engines make a glorious noise, with rev limits at about 11,000 rpm. They use positively lunatic levels of technology to get surprisingly large amounts of power out of very small engines. Doubt if there's much that can be said about their longevity though, but who cares?
So, it was the 750 Motor Club RGB (road-going bike-engined) series then. The next choice was the class. In 2004, there are going to be 3 classes:
Of these the choice seemed pretty clear in that the regs for class C are rather simpler so as to make the thing a bit cheaper. What's more the competition in class C looks rather more concentrated, so that would probably be a good place to start.
Next decision was the car. Looking at the current entries in the series then there's a lot of Jeremy Phillips' designs: Furies, Phoenixes and Strikers along with a bunch of Locost-alikes and the odd Westfield and Caterham. On reflection I wanted to have something with a complete body; both because it would probably be a bit more aerodyamically efficient and provides a bit more "crushability" around the driver. (One thing I will not scrimp on is safety, this car is going to have a full roll cage, for example, even though that implies a weight penalty.)
That left the Fury and Phoenix. After some consultation I decided to go for the Fury, even though it looks as though that will be a bit more expensive. One good reason for going this way is that I'm reasonably sure I can get my fat arse in one of these. Another reason is that there is an agent for Fisher fairly locally to me: the Kit Car Workshop in Rushden near Northampton.
I went to see them and got a ride in the passenger seat of their race machine (although on trade plates on the road). That was an electrifying experience, made more so by the complete absence of windscreen or aeroscreen on the passenger seat meaning the air flow over my helmet threatened to lift the helmet followed by me, out of the car!
Then I thought of a problem. Obviously I would need to get a race licence. The first step here is to apply to the MSA for a copy of the "Go Racing" pack. This comes with a video that you have to watch (several times seeming to be a good idea!) and the application form that has to be filled in. This form has a medical aspect that has to be filled in by your doctor and in looking at it I realised (fairly obviously really) that there is an aspect that relates to colour blindness. Now, I am colour blind. I have protonopia which is the red-deficient form of what is often (gruesomely and totally inaccurately) called "red-green" colour blindness. This isn't normally an issue, apart from when playing snooker as the reds and the brown are hard to distinguish. However, the MSA regs say that someone must have "perfect colour vision in that primary red and green can be distinguished". Now, I do not have perfect colour vision but I can sure as hell distinguish red and green, especially as their primary varieties.
So, with some trepidation it became clear that I should clear this issue up first. So, I got the medical and got my doctor to write something sensible on the form. Next, you need to have an ARDS (Association of Racing Driving Schools) test. This is a combination theory and practical test and I booked myself into the school at Thruxton circuit last week. I must admit that I was as nervous as hell but it was fine really. In the practical bit of the test they aren't looking for you to drive really quickly, just to show that you're capable of building up speed slowly and not actually falling off the track. The theory bit is almost trivial although it does need the application of a bit of common sense and a decent memory of what all the flags are.
So, with my racing licence application now filled in, I needed to get a car sorted. There was still one choice which was to either build a car or buy a second hand one and fettle it somewhat. For a while I was strongly tempted to do that latter as it would probably be cheaper but eventually I decided that I would really like to build something else. So, I finally went up to Rushden again today and placed an order for a Fury chassis. I ordered an IRS chassis as the regs next year call for a radial control tyre and having the ability to set the rear wheel camber angle will likely be useful.
The chassis will probably not be ready until the end of January, but I probably need to get stuck in on getting bits together. So, here we go again...:-)
A while ago I participated in a group buy on the bike-engined cars mailing list. So, the only part I actually have for the car is the sprocket adapter, as seen here. I think it just fits over the existing chain sprocket on the output shaft of the gearbox and provides some place to bolt a propshaft to.
Not really car building. However, for some time I've wanted to make a rather larger bench for the garage. Another car-building/cam7 friend got hold of a large piece of kitchen worktop that was being thrown away from his company's office. It was certainly huge and difficult to get here. However, with it here I bought some other bits and pieces and turned it into the thing shown here. Unfortunately, I now have to rearrange various bits of the garage (such as some storage bins and power sockets) before I can get it in position. It should make life a lot easier though.
Mind you, it will support an even vaster quantity of crap than the current bench.
in case you've got to this frame directly and can't get out, go here.