THI MOTORSPORT
THI MOTORSPORT

2012 Season

ROUNDS 6 & 7, SNETTERTON SEPTEMBER 22/23rd

This is my final report of the season, from the double header round at Snetterton. 300 circuit Saturday, 200 circuit Sunday. 

As usual, we'd booked the Friday test day to familiarise ourselves with the track. So with some good grub packed, we headed up to the circuit on Thursday evening so that we were nice and relaxed for the day ahead. Pit garage 6 was to be our home for the next few days and also became the dining area for a 6 hour-long cooked chilli that evening. Just superb.

Friday morning, we were up bright and early, fuelled and ready to go. Scuffers arrived with the car and it was time to blast around for the day. We hadn't really done any setup work on the car since its first outing this year and had been experiencing a fair bit of understeer. Having to wait to get on the power out of the slower corners was losing us lots of time over a lap, so sorting this out was the main priority. Patrick, owner of Quantum Racing Suspension had also popped along to see the car and help with damper setup which was nice. The car ran perfectly all day and we got the EP sequential gearbox working even better than ever with some small sorftware updates. However, we were struggling to sort our understeer problem. The car is now pruducing a quite considerable amount of grip and although the Kumho V70's are absolutely amazing, unlike the 255 rears, the 205 width fronts are probably at their limit. After shredding 2 sets of them we found ourselves at a dead end and hoped that the new medium compound fronts would cure the problem for the Saturday. The only other issue with the car that day was the amount of noise it was producing!!! Having been black flagged and summoned up to race control early on in the day, we were made aware of the fact that we were louder than an F2 car and congratulated for managing to achieve this!!!!! All our sessions were therefore spent short-shiftling which was real distraction from actually learning the track. With the day over we re-packed the backbox and gave the car a quick once-over. It was then time to settle down for the evening, so we fired up the barbie and spent the rest of the night socialising with the rest of the paddock. Good times.
 
Saturday. With a strong coffee and a bacon bap down the hatch it was time to get going again. It was arranged at the start of the year that Simon would be driving the car for this round of the double header, the 300 circuit, just as a way of me saying thanks for all the help. It would also be good to see what the car was capable of. After sign-on, briefing and transponder collection we were all set. Geary, owner of Eliseparts had also come along for the day to experience a Time Attack event first-hand and to see all his products at work. The first warm-up of the day allows an analyist to sit in the passenger seat, so with Geary strapped in, Simon set off to give him a taster. The session ended and all was well. Geary, not having ever been out on track in a car of this spec and running one of his new gearboxes, stepped out of the car quietly. In this report I can't really go into how he described his experience or what effect it had on his internal organs, but suffice to say he was both impressed, but pretty shocked at the same time!!!!!
 
The time that Simon had set in the first session with Geary on board was quite impressive. I was therfore really looking forward to seeing what could be done in the practise session with brand new front tyres fitted. However, having set off and us having waited on the pit wall for several minutes, Simon hadn't yet passed us. We didn't know where he was on the 3 mile circuit or what the problem could be, but he was nowhere to be seen. We did eventually find out that he hadn't crashed and where he was, but it was only a while after the session had finished that we saw the recovery truck making its way back to the pits with the car being towed behind. As is turns out, one of the driveshafts had sheared clean in half. This particular shaft had been on the car since it was converted over 6 years ago, so it hadn't had a bad innings at all!!! Luckily, in the back of my van I had the other 6 year old one that was previously on the other side before the new gearbox went in. We had about 2 hours before the point scoring quallifying was due to start, so set about swapping over the shafts. Half an hour or so later and the car was back together, ready for business.
 
Qually. The plan was to sandbag a little bit but if possible still get full points and leave the best for last, i.e the final. We got Simon out of the garage and into the pit lane before anyone else so that he could get a clean lap straight off. The understeer we had been fighting with was now pretty much gone due to using some fresh rubber and on his first flying lap, Simon set a time of 1.57. This was some 6 seconds quicker than anyone in our class and 2 seconds quicker than anyone else competing. Even the Pro guys who were on full racing slicks!!!! Result. This caused quite a stir and we started getting lots of visitors to our pit garage who had come to see what was so special about this little plastic car. We also had comments from other competitors, photographers and marshals expressing how menacing the car was out on track and the obscene speeds Simon was taking the corners and how late he was on the brakes. Remember, this was still in sandbagging mode!!!!
 
Final. The tyres were still looking perfect and the weather ideal. Simon left the garage, crawled down the pit lane and then hammered it up the pit exit onto the track. After a couple of minutes he came into sight again with his lights on, signifying he was ready to go for a fast lap. The sound of the car passing down the pit straight, flatshifting through the gears was simply incredible and again, the speed taken into turn 1 looking quite ridiculous. Simon set a couple of high 1.57's again and came in for a tyre pressure check. Those adjusted he went back out, but with the session close to ending he only had time for one last fast lap. Once again the car came into sight entering Corum and was looking faster than ever, seconds later firing up the pit straight spitting flames shifting into 5th and again going back down into 4th for turn 1. It was a low 1.57. Enough to beat every other car there by around 5 seconds, but nowhere near as low as planned. Coming into the pits Simon was holding something on his lap. Oh dear........ I'd forgotten to remove the passenger foot rest and it had jumped out of the footwell and gone under the pedals!!!! Simon had grabbed it and had driven around with it on his lap which wrecked his last lap, the Aim dash showing that he had been on a 1.55 lap!!!! A bit gutted about this but all of us very pleased with the win, the day was over. Presentations finished, it was time again for another huge barbie with friends and family.
 
Sunday. This was my day in the car and although I was excited about driving, we had the championship in the bag due to the amount of points that we had accumulated. I still wanted to win, however I felt quite relaxed. The weather forecast was doing it's best to erradicate that feeling though. It was warm up time and we all lined up to go out. At this point the weather was still ok and I spent a couple of laps warming my tyres, remembering lines and braking points. After a lap or two I was down under 1.20 and came in for a tyre pressure check. Out again and I went for a few faster laps and ended the session with a relatively stress free 1.16. It was only the morning warm up but I was delighted to be top of the board, including the Pro Class drivers. If the weather was going to hold out I knew that there was a 1.14 on the cards, if not a 1.13 or lower. The car was just so predictable and safe to drive that a 1.16 really felt like a bit of a non-event. This was a good thing and proof of how sorted the car is.
 
The practice session was dry, however to save my tyres I decided to sit out and watch the other competitors blast around. Again, this was not a point scoring session, however no one did better that a 1.16 lap which gave me a bit of a confidence boost.
 
An hour or so went by waiting for the start of the qually sessions and the skies were starting to look steadily grumpier. Up until that day I really hated driving in the rain, as it not only scared me but means slow progress and longer laptimes. So, whilst praying for the evil looking clouds to fade away we jacked the car up and loosened the wheel nuts in readiness to fit my list 1a tyres. Sure enough, half an hour before our session was due to start the heavens opened. List 1a tyres on and it was qually time. The whole 20 minute session was spent going round very steadily in 4th and 5th gear, looking for the grippiest sections of tarmac and staying well clear of the slippery run-off strips. Funnily enough I really enjoyed this session and had instantly become more confident in the car. Better still, I had somehow come 1st in class even if I was driving around relatively slowly. The 50 points in the bag were very welcome indeed.
 
As the finals grew drew closer the weather didn't change. This caused lots of red flags and with a huge oil spileage to add into the equation, the delays grew longer and longer. Eventually however, we were called out for the last time. I did exactly the same as before and just spent as much time going round as possible, getting slightly quicker with each lap. The conditions were horrible with very, very poor vision, but I still managed to reduce my previous time by a further 6 seconds near to the end. I decided to attack slightly harder for the last few minutes. This was a mistake though, as I then lost it coming through the 'Bomb Hole', doing several 360's before coming to a rest in the grass. There was no more time to go for another lap now and I came back to the pits to find out I'd got 3rd place. Not too bad I suppose, but most importantly the car was ok and the championship was ours. The overall feeling of winning was slightly masked by a bit of controversy that had been haunting us since the Saturday evening, eventhough we had done absolutely nothing wrong. I can't begin to explain how silly it all got, but it's all done and dusted now. End of day presentations signified the close of the season. We all packed up, said our goodbye's and went our separate ways.
 
I have to mention and give huge thanks to all the people involved with the car this year.
 
Firstly, Scuffers for helping build the car for this year, his constant development work and technical support throughout the season. Also a big thumbs up for his superb driving at the last round and bringing the car back in one piece.
 
Geary, Joy and the whole team at Eliseparts for their support and the use of their workshop on many occasions. I also have to commend them for their superb race products, many of which my car makes great use of. Especially the brand new EP sequential gearbox which is a thing of beauty. This has been a huge undertaking for alot of people to both design and make, but the end result is something quite outstanding and a real joy to use.
 
Patrick and the team at Quantum Racing Suspension for their skill in making brilliantly effective dampers and for their interest in my season in Time Attack.
 
Simon McBeath for his expertise and help with my aero package. This aspect of the car has functioned better than we ever envisaged for something that I basically made in a shed over the winter months.
 
My good friends Peter Sparrow and Sam Cox for helping me at the events and my wife and kids for putting up with me being a complete petrol head!!!

It's with a tinge of sadness that I've written my last report of the season. I've had a week to enjoy our success, but it's now time to shut down and do without my motorsport fix for the Winter months. This has without doubt been my most enjoyable season to date, both on and off the track. The Time Attack paddock really is a great place to be and I have made some very good friends. Next year is a year out for me again and a chance to spend a bit more time with my family. However.......... my car most certainly won't be having a year out and we have already made some quite exciting plans. We will be developing the car further in as many areas as possible and giving it the power that it now deserves and can handle. Watch this space and thanks for taking time to read this.

ROUNDS 4 & 5, ANGLESEY AUGUST 11/12TH

I'm afraid this is going to be a rather long report as Anglesey was a double header. The International circuit layout on the Saturday and the coastal layout on the Sunday. At this stage of the season I'm lying in 3rd place and quite a few points off 1st, so needed to have a good weekend to stand any chance of winning the championship.
 
Well, after almost 10 hours of stop/start driving we arrived at the circuit on the Thursday night, ready for our test day on the Friday. It had been a long day of trawling through traffic, so after getting the car off the trailer and into our pit garage we put our tents up, sunk a few beers and it was off to bed.
 
Friday. Test Day.
 
Waking up at Anglesey circuit was a real joy. The weather was gorgeous, the views stunning and having a nice relaxed breakfast together with our other competitor friends made me realise how much I love everything that competing in this series brings and how lucky I am to be able to do it. Anyway, briefing out of the way and it was time to spend as much of the day as possible learning the circuit. The circuit was a real gem and much, much better than I expected, although the back straight is probably the most terrifying part of any track I ever driven. A bit like Corum at Snetterton but then flat out through the gears, very fast, constantly bending and with an uphill, blind 90 degree left turn at the end. I did a few 10 minute sessions and all was good apart from a duff gearbox temperature reading which was annoying. Out for another quick session and a few laps in I shifted into 5th. The car violently juddered and lost drive. I slowed, put the clutch in and then went back down the gears. I then accelerated through the gears again to see what would happen and the same problem occured. I pulled into the pits thinking that I'd broken my box and that my weekend was over.
 
We let the car cool down whilst having some lunch and then went out again to see if the same problem occured. This time the car started jerking slightly straight out of the pits and continued getting worse. All of a sudden I completely lost drive and came to a halt on the side of the track. This was not looking good and I had to get a tow back to the pits. My gut instinct told me that this time I'd had a fueling problem, although the tank gauge was reading 15 ltrs. I filled the tank up with an extra 20ltrs, turned the key and the engine fired straight away. Therefore, I headed out on track again to try and work out what was going on. Weirdly, I noticed that the fuel gauge was now reading 20ltrs and not 35ltrs as I'd expected and that my gearbox temp readings were looking more believable. The engine was now pulling fine and I also had all my gears back. Completely confused and unable to work out what was going on I gave Scuffers a call. Within a few seconds of describing the various issues he told me that I had an earthing problem. This made complete sense as there were so many different problems occuring. However, as the car was now working as it should, we were not able to do tests and isolate the fault. So we started removing cable from all the earthing points on the car, cleaning the contact patches, lubricating and re-fitting them. We checked the battery and then completely removed the Cartek electrical cut-out unit for an inspection as they are known to fail quite often. Having said that, I have never had a problem with my current unit and as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it. Again, cleaned and lubricated it got wired and bolted back in. The test day was now over, so it would be a case of checking everything was back to normal on the morning of competiton day during the practice sessions. With our jobs finished we all went for a walk across the track to the cliffs to try and find a little beach that we had spotted on google earth. Sure enough there it was, a tiny, secluded beach which we had completely to ourselves for the evening. After enjoying a lovely refreshing swim we headed back to the pits to relax and have a nice bbq. On retreating back to our tents we realised that we had a problem. No one had enforced that the competitor only camping area had remained free from general visitors and so we were greated by rows of tents, surrounded by loud drunk youngsters blasting out music from their car sound systems.
 
Saturday, Anglesey International circuit. 
 
After about 3 hours sleep we emerged from our tents feeling quite angry and making as much noise as possible in an attempt to get our own back. After getting changed into my race gear and attending the driver briefing I got back to the pits to find everyone cleaning my car. Amusingly, they had all got fed up with the state of it and couldn't live with it any longer. Result!!!! Time for warm up. By now I could navigate the track without thinking about it and started to concentrate on lines, finding grippier parts of the track and generally reducing my laptimes. I was quite happy with my progress and was really loving the circuit as it really suits the smaller, more nimble car. It's also very hard on brakes and tyres and I could see the heavier 4wd cars struggling slightly to get into and out of all the hairpins and other tight turns efficiently. This is where I would make up my time hopefully.
 
The practice session then got underway and I started leaning on the car more as my confidence grew. It was in this session that I set my fastest laptime of the day, a 1.34. Although my tyres were still ok, I think they were now getting to the point where they were past their best and I sort of realised that I probably wouldn't go any faster. I could see by the time sheets that I was fastest in class and also faster than a number of the Pro cars on slicks. Hopefully this would be fast enough to beat them in the point scoring sessions and that they weren't just sandbagging.
 
Qualifying. Just as I suspected, I struggled to go any faster but still did enough to take the full 50 points available. I was only half a second up on my closest rival though so knew I couldn't relax in the final.
 
Final. I set an early banker lap just to make sure I'd get some points on the board and then went for it. I thought I'd done a really good lap but came in to find out I was over a second down on my previous effort. Not good!!! The competitor leading my class in his Evo was ahead. Weighing just over a tonne and packing around 750 bhp he was very fast on the straight parts where I will always struggle. So I headed back out to try and nail one good lap. My tyres were already up to temperature so I attacked the circuit as hard as I could and got back down to a 1.34 again and pitted. The Evo was still out and my pit crew told me that he was really flying around on a fast lap. This was worrying, but apparently as he came onto the pit straight he was pushing hard and had a moment, getting very out of shape and losing time. I'd pipped him by a tenth!!! I later found out that he'd unfortunately broken his gearbox and engine in the process, meaning his weekend was over. This was a real shame, as I was really loving the close competition. Anyway, with the podium presentations over it was time for another bbq and some beers to see the evening out. Yet again however, our plans to get a decent nights sleep was scuppered. The organisers had decided it would be a great idea to organise a full-on drum & bass night at the circuit with the loudest sound system you've ever heard. There was no way that any living creature within a 5 mile radius was getting any sleep until this was over!!!!!!!
 
Sunday, Anglesey Coastal circuit.
 
After a few hours sleep it was time to get going again and I must admit that I wasn't feeling particularly enthusiastic. Sleep deprivation and driving around a humid race track all day do not go hand in hand. As soon as I hit the track for warm up however, all of my moodiness dissapeared. I had some fresh tyres on and was loving the different circuit layout which now included the twisty 'corkscrew' section but which omitted two longish straights. This layout would suit my car even more then. By the end of this session my best lap was a few seconds lower than my nearest rival and I was infact ahead of some of the Pro Class who were on slicks.
 
Due to a sudden downpour and the track looking quite slippery, I decided not to do the practice session as I knew there was no chance of reducing my laptime. Instead I just watched the others go round. At this point I realised that Phil Glew (former Clio Cup champion, BTTC driver and recently a Works Lotus Sport UK team Evora S driver in the Britsh GT championship) had been given the keys to one of the very powerful Pro Class Impreza's, running slicks. This could be rather interesting I thought.
 
With the weather back to normal and the track dry once again, it was time for qually. As before, my tactic was to put in an early banker lap just to make sure that I would get some points and then try and improve during the rest of the session. The car ran beautifully once again and for this session put me 1st in class with a 1.12 lap and 4th overall. This left me feeling fairly confident for the final as I was about 4 seconds faster than the next person in my class.
 
Within no time we were all lined up again, ready to head out for the finals. The weather was still lovely and the track conditions good, however one thing that I was struggling with was the amount of tyre debris on the back straight. Back in the pits after every session I had literally been picking handfulls of melted tyre from the insides of my wheels. There was so much that within a lap I was left with the effect of my wheels being completely unbalanced and going down the fast back straight with the steering wheel behaving like a road- workers kango gun was not pleasant. Anyway, I tried to block that out and just went for it. Coming back into the pits to check pressures etc I was told that I was in 1st but that I was about a second off my previous pace and lying in 5th overall. I wasn't happy about being slower and went straight back out for another attempt. Again, the vibrations through the steering were awful but I managed to reduce my previous best time by another 1/10th and get back into 4th overall just as it started raining. Out of interest I ended up about 8/10ths off the pace of Phil Glew in the slick shod Impreza. Presentations over and a quick shower to remove the horrible sticky champagne that I'd been covered in and it was time to drive home again.
 
So, a superb weekend with 2 x wins and maximum points in the bag. This now puts me in 1st place in the championship. However, with the last event of the season at Snetterton another double header, there are still plently of points up for grabs to decide the championship winner. One thing is for sure though, with Snetterton suiting the big power 4wd cars and more potential for bad weather, I will have to drive very well to stand any chance. I have got one secret weapon though. Scuffers will be driving the car on the 300 circuit and I can't wait to see what the car is really capable of. Watch this space!!!
 
 
 
 
 

ROUND 3, BRANDS HATCH, JULY 8TH

With the 2nd round of the season wasted due to a small electrical problem, I was keen to do well at the 3rd round and my home circuit, Brands Hatch. I know this circuit like the back of my hand, however I thought it would be a good idea to get a days practice in prior to the event. As it happens it was very lucky that I did, because an hour into the day my supercharger shaft snapped clean off, meaning my pulley was somewhere out on track and my engine was being starved of fresh coolant due to the belt coming off. Not good but at least it didn’t happen at the actual event. This matter was dealt with early the following week by fitting an up-rated shaft along with a smaller pulley and a quick re-map.

 

We arrived on the Saturday before round 2 ready for some test sessions in the afternoon, however due to the horrible weather I decided not to bother and watched the others sliding around. At the same time I was keeping my fingers crossed for decent weather on the Sunday.

 

I woke up early the next morning to find that everything was still soaked and the skies looking menacing. Sure enough, the first warm-up session of the day arrived and it was raining. Wet tyres on and out we went. These tyres had been really confidence inspiring at Knockhill, but at Brands they weren’t working well at all. I couldn’t brake, turn in, accelerate and had horrible understeer everywhere. Later on the practice session was done in the same conditions, so I started getting a bit depressed at the thought of qualifying and finals being the same. There was really nothing I could do to improve things and I didn’t want to start experimenting with set-up in case the conditions suddenly became suitable for dry tyres.

 

It was now about 3.30pm and we hadn’t had any rain for a while and things were looking up for the qualifying session. With about 10 minutes to go we swapped the wet tyres over for my dry weather Kumhos and my mood instantly improved. It seemed like an age but the 10 minutes wait was finally over and we all lined up to go out. On leaving my garage however, I was suddenly told to stop, turn off the engine and wait. Someone in club class had dropped oil around the whole track on the racing line right at the end of their session. Eventually we got out and it was still dry, but along with the diesel sprayed everywhere by the display racing lorries, there was cement dust covering most of the track which isn’t the most confidence inspiring stuff the turn in on, especially around paddock hill bend !!! This session also seemed to be plagued with breakdowns and off’s, maybe due to the slippery conditions, I don’t know. It was therefore very hard to get into it, as the red flags kept popping up on my fast laps. In the end I managed to get a couple of reasonable laps in but wasn’t particularly happy knowing that I should have done better. I was also hampered very slightly by a strange boost cut high up the rev range in 4th gear, meaning that I had to short shift into 5th down the pit straight. Anyway, my 51 second lap put me in 2nd for this session so I couldn’t really complain.

 

Now it was just fingers crossed time for the finals, which again seemed to take forever to creep up on us. With about 15 minutes to go the weather was still looking good and I was all ready to go out. All of a sudden however, the heavens opened changing the track into an ice rink again. Such a poor time for it to happen, as I now didn’t really have time to swap over my tyres again. I therefore decided that as I was going to be dreadfully slow anyway that I would risk going out on my dry tyres and see what they could do. We all went out and I straight away tried to get as much heat into my tyres as I could by swerving around and breaking as hard as possible. Funnily enough they felt a fair bit better than my wet weather tyres although I knew I was on a knife edge in terms of on/off grip. This was confirmed a little later as I pushed too hard coming through Graham Hill, ending up on opposite lock and only just managing to catch the slide on my third attempt!!!! The end result of the session was a 60 second lap, leaving me in 6th and about 1.5 seconds off the person in 1st place.

 

So again, a disappointing result for me and a very testing day indeed. The fact that we have to drop 2 rounds out of the 7 we do means that I can forget Knockhill and Brands in the hope that the weather conditions are good for the rest of the season. I just hope that I can get my act together. The next round, a double header takes place at Anglesey on 2 different circuit layouts.

 

 

 

ROUND 2, KNOCKHILL, JUNE 10TH

The second round of the season was to take place at Knockhill in Scotland, our furthest venue to travel to by far. We set off on the Thursday in order to get a few miles out of the way and then picked the car up en-route on Friday morning. After a pretty nasty drive we arrived at the circuit at 6pm. Marquee up, curry and beer consumed and it was just about time for bed.

 

I got up very early on Saturday morning having not really slept at all. The plonker in charge of 'Radio Knockhill' had gone home but left all the tannoys blaring out music non-stop through the night!!! Anyway, today we had booked a little test session just to get used to the circuit again. We only had 3x 15 minute sessions in the afternoon available to us, so the morning was spent setting our gear up and doing a couple of minor jobs. The test sessions all went ok and the wet track allowed me to try out my new wet weather tyres and scrub them in. The last session waas dry enough to put on my dry weather Kumho's and get a heat cycle through them ready for competition the next day. I was glad to have got out but the 15 minute sessions were far too short for my liking and didn't give me enough time to sort out my lines properly. I would have to do that in the next mornings practice sessions before qualifying!! Anyway, the car was running perfectly and didn't need anything doing to it before Sunday. Therefore we settled down to a few beers, fired up the barbie and chatted for the rest of the evening with the other competitors.

 

Competition day.

 

After a much better nights sleep I awoke and started getting ready for the day ahead. It was a very, very miserable looking morning with lots of fog and fine rain. Not what I was hoping for and I was just praying for a dry afternoon. I signed on, went to the driver briefing and collected my laptimer from TSL ready for the morning warm up. This was a wet session running my wet weather tyres so I just took it easy and learnt a bit more about the track.

 

A couple of hours later and it was time for practice. The weather had improved but only enough to allow a vague dry line out on track. Therefore we decided to put on the proper tyres and just be careful not too come off line to avoid getting in trouble. Again, lap times weren't a concern for this session.

 

The day was running very smoothly and the qualifying session was brought forward a fair chunk. The weather was much clearer by now and the track was dry. Brilliant. I headed off out for this important, point scoring session to see what I could do. The idea was to go for as fast a lap as possible to bag 50 points and then improve on it in the final to take a further 100 points. Everything felt good during the session and I put in a decent lap and came in, having changed tyre pressures half way through to try and even out the grip. I cam in and parked up. I had set the fastest lap, a 54, but not having any driver/pit crew communication, couldn't be made aware that another team had reacted to my time and sent out their driver again to better my lap. I was pipped by about 3/10ths in the last minute. I was a little gutted but not too worried as I still had the final to go, although I now know I really need a driver/pit crew radio system in order to be able to react to this sort of thing more efficiently.

 

Due to some carnage in one of the support races our finals slot got moved back a little. Luckily no more rain appeared and it was time to go out. I was feeling quite confident at this stage as I knew I had a good 1-2 seconds to reduce my time by and I had now worked out where to do it. Tyres up to temp, I set off on a fast lap. The lap was going well and I knew I was a fair chunk faster that ever before being far more aggressive. However, coming into the last turn, the hairpin, I got onto the brakes slightly too heavily over a bump in the track sending myself into a low speed spin. I ended up facing the wrong way and tried to get going but couldn't get out of 3rd gear. I managed to get going and crawl back to the pits but knew something was badly wrong. I suspected the issue was wiring and took apart the connector going from my steering wheel paddles to my gearbox ECU. The wires had all ripped out, obviously being pulled hard when I was on full lock during my spin. I knew my weekend was over and got out of the car feeling absolutely gutted as I knew what could have been. Unfortunately I hadn't really set any other decent times during the final as this was my first proper lap. This left me in fifth which now translates to me being in 2nd place in the championship overall........just.

 

Once again, the car ran perfectly all weekend and I think we must have been the only team who didn't need to do anything at all apart from changing wheels and feeding it V-Power!!!

 

So, apart from an hour or so required to fix my wiring I'm ready for the next round. Brands Hatch is on the 8th July and I am hoping for a good result there to hopefully get me back in top spot. Fingers crossed.

Round 1, Cadwell Park, May 5th

Well, after a six months of hard graft and a final month of even harder graft the first round of Time Attack appeared as if from nowhere. The car was finished in time and  even had a couple of hours testing to iron out a couple of issues. I however was far from ready, having not driven the car for well over a year. Feeling full of confidence, I was not!!!  

 

With the car loaded and the van full of tools, a friend of mine and I left for Cadwell after work on the Thursday. It was good to know we were at last on our way, however the weather reports for the weekend were not filling me with joy. On arrival at the circuit late at night the heavens opened and we started putting up the marquee. Soaked to the bone we turned in for the night. It was 2.30am.

 

Test Day

 

7am and we were up again, ready for a good day of testing and making more changes to the car. Scuffers rolled in at 8 and we all headed off for breakfast bap, a chat and to attend our briefing. As soon as we were done we made the decision to get on with some changes before going out. First off we hooked the computer up to the gearbox ecu and made some fine adjustments to the shift settings. This was followed by the car being strung up to check toe. The rear end was altered and the front left alone, apart from some camber shimms being bolted in place. Then we also treated the car to drop of 5mm at the back and 10mm at the front in order to get the front splitter working more efficiently.

 

All done with the pressures set on my new Kumho V70a's, Scuffers and I headed out for a gentle blast to bed in my new tripod joint. Well, I thought it was going to be a gentle blast!!!!! After half a lap we were already moving at speeds that were making me feel a little ill. The car felt good and we came in for a break. We were happy that all the upgrades were again working straight out of the box and that we had no balance issues. The car was very, very stable at all speeds, especially the back end and we were therefore able to back off the rear wing to it's lowest downforce setting to try and gain some straight line speed.

 

Now it was my turn and time to re-learn the car and the circuit, ready for competition the next day. As I've already said, I haven't driven the car what I would call properly, for quite some time, let alone a car that has had some major changes both mechanically and aerodynamically. Brands Hatch had highlighted some faults and I hadn't really had enough seat time. I have to say I was really quite scared!! Anyway, I got in and headed off, telling myself to stop being a wimp. Within a few laps I realised I had nothing to worry about. It was like being with a really good friend who you haven't seen for a while. We just picked up where we left off at the end of 2010.

What an awesome machine.

 

After a while I came in. Scuffers and I had a chat about the car and I think we both got a little bit excited about it. Dave Porter had come up for the day and now got buckled up ready for a few laps with Scuffers. Watching them pound round the circuit was a sight to behold. Simon was making every single car out on track look slow, although I knew they weren't. I think Dave liked it and it was nice to see his reaction to the car and to have someone else there who could appreciate what's gone into it. Simon and I then had another chat about the car and got even more exited about it. One thing he said made me realise we had created something quite special.

"F**k me, this thing is fast".

 

Happy with the car, eventhough I still hadn't had all that much time in it I called it a day. Besides, it was now raining. And related to this, one major problem I had now fully realised was the fact that I had been given some very bad advice about which wet weather tyres to buy. My Yoko AD08's were going to be lethal in the wet and rain was forcast for competition day. Feeling really stupid about my lack of research and very worried about driving in the wet with these tyres, I made a decision to drop out of the first round if it was going to be declared wet. There was no way I was going to risk my car, myself or causing a dangerous situation for another competitor who was on proper wet tyres. Feeling depressed about this for most of the evening we did a few more bits to the car, had a nice barbie and went to bed.

 

One thing that did cheer me up in the evening however and something which will stay with me for quite a while, was watching Olly Clarke, son of Roger Clarke in the Roger Clarke Motorsport 'Gobstopper', pound around the circuit in one of the late test sessions, in hard rain. There was no fear, no hesitation. He had the circuit to himself and was going around at speeds that one wouldn't think possible in these conditions. The sound and sight of the Gobstopper going down the pit straight at full throttle, through standing water and at well over double the national speed limit, was something else and made quite an impression on me.

 

 

Competition Day

 

 

After a good nights sleep I awoke at 6.30am, took an anti-sickness tablet that I for some reason now have to take for such days and got up. I was instantly depressed by the fact that it was raining and went around the paddock, asking around to see if anyone had any wet weather tyres I could buy. Not even the tyre trucks on site could help. Oh well I thought, let's just pray for the rain to stop and for the track to dry out.

 

The car was given a little spruce up with a wet rag and off to the driver briefing it was. This cleared up a few questions I had and we were ready for the morning warm up. Lining up in the holding area for the first time made me realise what I was going to be out on track with and having followed the build blogs of some of the cars I was next to made me feel a bit uneasy. There was some serious machinery. As soon as we got on track I felt better and made myself some space to learn the lines. Again the car felt good but there were areas that were still greasy and damp which weren't good for my confidence. After the 20 minute session I came in. My fastest recored time was a 1.45 I believe. Brilliant I thought, a whole 2 seconds less than my winning time in 2010!!! I was wrong and in completely the wrong time bracket. My best time in 2010 was a 1.37. How the hell am I going to make up 7 or 8 seconds I thought?? Surely I wasn't going that slow.

 

Some time passed and it was almost time for the practice session. However, it had been raining hard and the track officials declared the conditions as wet. I opted to wimp out, leave the car in my marquee and made my way down to the club house to watch the rest of my group go out. Not a good feeling and my seat time was trickling away. 

 

The skies, although looking gloomy, decided not to release their slippery contents onto the racetrack. It was going to be a dry qualifying session and I was thrilled and feeling much more confident, although still unsure of how I was going to reduce my laptimes by such a huge amount. This session was for points and again, we all lined up in the holding area, the Pro and Pro Extreme cars on their fresh slicks, engines burbling, adrenalin pumping. We all went out and warmed our tyres for a lap or so and then everyone's lights started to go on, signifying that they were on a fast lap. I had found some space and headed over the mountain ready to go for a fast lap. Lights on I exited the last corner at full throttle in 2nd onto the pit straight, the new Wavetrack LSD doing a great job, flat-shifting into 3rd, then 4th, then 5th before dabbing the brakes and turning into the first corner. This was my first properly angry lap and the car seemed to come into its own, all the various race parts teaming up to get the car around the corner safely. This lap gave me lots of confidence and I got a good idea of how much I was going to be able to trust the car. One thing was very apparent and that was that the tyres were quite staggering. They would not show any sign of struggling with what I was asking of them and could clearly take alot more.

 

This session left me with a very low 1.34 lap, some 10 seconds faster than my last session and over 3.5 seconds faster than my fastest time in 2010. 3.5 seconds is a hell of alot of time, but the best thing is that I knew I could still go much faster. Bear in mind that my time was only 2 seconds off Steve G's outright Time Attack lap record at Cadwell in his much, much more powerful and better driven Audi Exige. If I was a betting man, I would say that with another few sessions to learn the track better I would be able to achieve a 1.31 dead. I dread to think what Scuffers would have managed given the chance, as he's considerably faster than me. So, I was top of my class by over a second and pleased with my time.

 

An hour or so later and the weather was still looking good, ready for the finals. I was really looking forward to improving on my qualifying time and headed off. As before, I warmed my tyres, found some space and turned my lights on, ready for a fast lap. Straight away the lap started better and every turn and braking area was improved on compared to the last session. Things were looking good until I came around the fast left hander into the turn before mountain. There was a car on a cool down lap. I kept my foot in, braked as late as I could and went round him. I knew this had ruined my chance of going quicker than before but kept on going. The lap was still a 1.34, but I hadn't gone quicker. My next lap was also hindered. I set off on another fast lap and again managed to find more pace through the corners, however going round the long right hander in the back section of the track and shifting from 3rd into 4th my gearbox decided not to play ball and left me in neutral. I struggled to get drive again, but managed to get back to my garage and parked up. This was obviously an electrical glitch as my gear display was going balmy, the potentiometer most likely at fault, as it tells the GCU what is going on. I have since found out that there was no issue with any of the equipment and that a cable had loosened and had got munched by the tyre.

 

Desparate to know if the one time I had set was fast enough to put me in first place, I headed down to the timing office. Eventually the results came out and I had indeed done enough. In fact I was second on the whole board, including the 2 slick classes. The war of attrition had taken its toll and some of the other cars had broken down, unable to finish the day. I was chuffed with the result, although gutted I didn't have the chance to go quicker. The second place car was however only a couple of tenths behind, so I had been lucky.

 

All in all a great first event for me and the car with a 1st place.

 

The engine performed brilliantly with its improved breathing, making a noticeable difference to its power output.

 

The aero changes, although mostly home-made, but with input from Simon McBeath worked very well.

 

The brand new EPTuning sequential gearbox is an outstanding bit of engineering and has performed brilliantly, although let down by my cable routing. Bear in mind that the box in my car is the first of the production batch to run in the world, in competition, with only a couple of hours of testing. A true testament to the amount of work Scuffers and Geary have put into it over the last couple of years.

 

The tyres are a revelation and anyone who tracks their Exige/Elise should try them. You will never go back to anything else. (wet conditions excluded)

 

The Quantum dampers have been left completely untouched from 2010 and have soaked up everything thrown at them. They are utterly brilliant.

 

The gearbox electronics are already being sorted and the next round is at Knockhill on 10th June. I cannot wait.

 

 

 

 

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