I woke up to blue skies and after a wander round saying hello to folks I went over to sign on and add my name to the entry list for the BikeSports race. I also took my front wheels over to George Polley for a pair of nice new (and round!) tyres, the old ones were pretty knackered – the nearside one was pretty worn out with a bit of flat spotting but the offside one had a huge flat spot on it.
After that I just had my usual routine prepping and scrutineering at 10 o’clock was without drama. Qualy was at 11 and as I got into the car to head off to Assembly the dash was displaying a coolant temp alarm, telling me it was 149°C! I knew this was a lie and after checking the water pump was working and there was enough coolant in I decided to ignore it and set off. In Assembly I disabled the alarm as it was preventing the dash displaying my gear indication. After a little time in Assembly we headed out onto the circuit. The track seemed pretty slippery, especially while the tyres were still cold and I ran wide a couple of times at Copse – I knew this was a corner that I could improve my time on as last year I was bottling out and going too slow round it. I wasn’t really sure whether I was sliding round because the circuit was a bit slippery or because I was just going a bit faster. The car was going well although my alternator light came on after a couple of laps. Grrrrr! The water temp sensor started to behave normally, not sure if maybe I’d had an airlock. I saw a low 1:07 on the dash although I didn’t really feel like I’d hooked up a good lap, there were loads of yellow flags. I was managing to stick with Tony Gaunt which I usually can’t and when he let one of the BikeSports through he let me through too. Eventually there was a red flag and I soon found out why as I slid my way round Copse on a trail of oil left by an unfortunate Phil Alock whose engine had blown. That ended the session and back in the paddock most seemed to think it was a bit slippery. I was fairly pleased to have taken almost a second and a half off last year’s fastest lap time at 1:07.1 (1:08.5 last year).
I stuck the battery charger on the car and Brian Baldwin came over and we had a chat about the fuse blowing. He was surprised a fuse could stop the alternator charging. In the end I decided to just make up a small cable to bypass the fuse although this wasn’t without some trepidation, something was causing it to blow. Brian came over again and had thought about it again and we wondered it it would be better to wire the rectifier output direct the the battery – this is apparently how Derek’s ZX12 is wired. By now time was getting short. Richard had arrived and as I connected the new wire to the battery they noticed smoke coming from under the scuttle. I disconnected the wire, lifted the rear body off to discover the ballast resistor from the FIA master switch to earth was melting. I then realised that with the switch off the bike loom positive was connected to earth via this, so this was actually correct behaviour! So back to plan B, the wire bypassing the fuse. It did give me an idea though – at Cadwell the engine had been cutting out due to a dodgy master switch and I now wondered if the master switch could be momentarily connecting the bike loom to earth while switched on. So I disconnected the connection from switch to earth. A quick check revealed that it did still kill the engine when switched off. Although I had a high degree of suspicion that this was the culprit (as nothing had changed in the wiring otherwise) I still left the wire bypassing the fuse.
In Assembly us RGBers made up at least half of the grid. I was in the row behind Tim although he’d qualified almost 3 seconds quicker than me and I had a shiny yellow Radical behind me. It turned out that this was Nick who had been a visitor in the RGB forum, nice to put a face to a name. It was his first ever race, although he’s done kart racing before. As the Bikesports are on slicks it meant we had a green flag lap, so we all made our way round trying to get some heat into tyres. When the lights went out I got away nice and cleanly and drove round Mr. Hoverd. Again As expected he soon barged past although on this occasion he didn’t leave much room and there was a small risk of him gaining a bit of blue paint on his red car as he came around the outside then dived in front of me into the apex at Becketts. I was right behind Doug Carter in his Busa engined Genesis Evo and I was a bit surprised to be hanging onto the back of him all the way down the Club Straight and into Luffield. I seemed to get a better line out of Luffield and got ahead of him down the Pit Straight. A BikeSport came past me on the way into Copse, but both of us ran wide over the rather slippery astroturf and Doug came past me. There was loads of oil all the way down the Club Straight, round Luffield and half way along the Pit Straight and I found it really off-putting. It was all on the racing line so you were always a bit uncertain of the grip and the clouds of dust coming up made for very poor visibility. Doug slowly eased away from me but nowhere near as quickly as usual. I could see Nick in my mirrors until I made a mistake running wide coming out of Copse again and he went through. He then got away from me until about 2/3 of the way through the race when I got some quicker laps in, I saw a 1:05.89 on my dash although the official timing says my fastest lap was 1:06.99. I suddenly found Nick coming back to me quite quickly as he had caught Judi but couldn’t get past – as I had found previously although Judi’s fairly slow into the corners she’s quite quick out of them and along the straights. I’ve learned you just need to be fairly aggressive and brake late and go up the inside, which I duly did the next time we came into Becketts, passing both of them. I wondered if Nick might get past her and come back at me but this was the penultimate lap and I took the chequered flag with clear mirrors having started 11th out of 16 I finished 9th (2 of the faster boys DNF’d).
Here’s what footage I’ve got of the Bikesports race – my camera switched off after 4 minutes or so of the race:
Back in the paddock I refuelled the car, cleaned my visor and decided to try sticking the fuse back in for the RGB race. We were called to Assembly early and I was parked up alongside Austen – I hadn’t really seen the timesheet and was slightly surprised to see that I was 14th on the grid, my best result ever. It wasn’t just the newbies behind me either, I’d out-qualified a couple of drivers who were normally quite a bit quicker than me – Richard Wise, Tony Gaunt and James Walker. On the grid I had a good start and made up a couple of places and surprisingly didn’t lose them on the run from Copse to Maggots, indeed I was able to hold my own. Unfortunately there was a crash on the exit of Becketts – David Wales’ car was stranded sideways in the middle of the circuit, someone else had gone off left and there were cars swerving everywhere. I managed to nip round the back of David’s car and got back on the gas but as we arrived at Luffield the red lights/flags were out. It was too late to reform on the grid so we all trooped round for another lap and past the stricken cars at Becketts. David’s car seemed to have lost the whole front offside corner including the wheel, Andy Cunningham’s Riot was parked where he’d gone into David and the marshals and medics were everywhere. Everyone seemed to be OK and we went back to the grid.
At the restart I had another good start and was diving into the same gap as Austen so I backed out as I know he’s a tad aggressive As it was I was tucked right behind him coming round Copse and I just drove past him round Maggots and was in front turning into Becketts. I had a look up the inside of Colin Chapman coming into Brooklands but backed out on the brakes and followed him round Luffield, Woodcote and up the straight then round Copse. I was very tight up behind Colin coming out of Becketts and got good drive and the car just accelerated much faster than him. I found myself coming up behind Al Boulton quickly and went up the inside into Brooklands but was carrying just a tad too much speed. I didn’t dare try to change down so just concentrated on avoiding running too wide and into the gravel. I was just on the kerb and though I’d got away with it but the right rear must have gone into gravel and I spun round. As the nose of the car went back into the circuit Austen collected me. Bits of fibreglass flew everywhere and there was a big spray of oil from the front end with a brief puff of smoke. I hit the kill switch, unclipped my harness and got out of there. The marshals recovered the car under yellow flags and I watched the rest of the race from behind the barriers. I was rather gutted to say the least, but this crash was all my own fault.
Once the car was behind the barriers I could inspect the damage. The new bonnet was a real mess and the spigot on top of the oil cooler (that I’d already straightened twice!) had let go hence all the oil. The left hand steering rod had a slight kink and the bonnet mounting hinge was trashed (again!) but apart from that everything else looked fine, the radiator was untouched and the chassis hadn’t been hit. The marshals of course were very helpful, with lots of suggestions involving gaffer tape, T-Cut etc. Once the race finished they helped me gather up all the bits of GRP etc. They did say I had to go the the medical centre after the race but frankly I forgot.
So, that was the end of my weekend. On reflection, I do of course feel fairly stupid. Having said that it’s inevitable that if you’re trying you’re going to make the odd mistake and have some spins, everyone else does. In the past I’ve been accused of not trying hard enough and being too conservative (I know you’re reading this Bates!) and I was starting to worry that I’d never get up to speed. Had I maintained my spot behind Colin and Al and kept Austen at bay I’d have finished 8th overall, a bit of a change from my usual 22nd or so.
A couple of people have in the past commented that my car didn’t seem as powerful as it should have been, most notably Derek who did a sort of drag race at Snett early in the season and was able to easily out accelerate me. I’ve not wanted to labour it as it sounded like an excuse but at least after this weekend I know my car can go fast and be competitive – the airbox has had a dramatic effect and has proved well worth the effort. It was noticeable how much more I was seeing the shift lights as the engine was revving out much more cleanly. I haven’t had the car mapped on a rolling road as I knew there was little point with the PiperCross foam filter, but now I have a decent induction system (and once I’ve fixed the car!) my next job is to take her to PDQ to get the Power Commander mapped properly. I can then get accustomed to driving her as a proper Class A car.
Here’s the footage of the RGB race: