The long wait for the Birkett 6 Hour relay race was finally over and with my preoccupation with the BDN the Fury has been sitting in the garage where she was parked when I got back from Oulton. In fairness I knew of nothing that needed doing to the car other than refuelling and changing my race numbers.
The Birkett this year is being run on the Bridge GP Circuit which was the ‘old’ GP circuit until last year. I’ve never driven the GP circuit so before heading out for a qualy session with 50-odd other cars on track I thought some test sessions were in order. I’ve taken a leaf out of Dan Bromilow’s book and tried driving it on rFactor which has certainly helped me learn which way the corners go but there are limits to its usefulness.
With 2 days to go Rob Grant dropped out of the team with a leaking Muffett diff so we were down to 4 drivers. We were initially happy to have 5 as it meant a bit more driving time each, but going down to 4 means 90 minutes of driving each and leaves us a bit in the brown stuff if we have any mechanicals on the day.
It also makes fuel more of an issue. The car uses 0.6 litres of fuel a minute while racing, and on a fast, long circuit like Silverstone it may even be a tad more. With a 20 minute qualifying session and 90 minutes of racing that means I’ll need over 60 litres of fuel just on Saturday. So prior to loading up the tank was filled to the brim and then the 2 jerry cans I possess were filled. I was still going to need to get more while there though with 3 test sessions booked for Friday.
As David and ! left the house at 6am on Friday I reflected on the fact that apart from Pembrey this is about my most local circuit at ‘only’ 186 miles! Certainly it was an easy enough drive. It was breezy and cloudy but dry when we arrived and I had about an hour to sign on and get the car ready for the first session. We got out on time and to be honest it seemed much shorter than in rFactor, probably mostly because the FuryBusa has more power and more grip than on the rFactor Caterham! The track is wonderful, fabulous surface, all the kerb are usable unless you start to take liberties, the circuit’s wide and there’s loads of run off. It also flows very nicely, especially the Maggots/Becketts/Chapel section. Hangar Straight was straight into the wind so top speed wasn’t terribly high at about 130mph. I managed to beat my rFactor time by about 10 seconds managing a 2:14.82, Tim had only done a 2:13 so I was pretty pleased.
I got a bit quicker in the second session, getting down to 2:12.93 although there were lots of bits of the circuit where I knew I could go faster, especially Maggotts/Becketts/Chapel which is a left/right/left/right/left complex with the first left being taken flat in 5th and the last left flat accelerating throguh 3rd/4th gears. The last right turn is the most critical, exit speed being everything to give a good start down Hangar Straight. I never quite got Stowe right and found Club Corner quite tricky, a good exit from Vale meant a quick shift up to 4th for the right hander onto the new F1 pit straight but it was easy to overdo it and run wide onto the astroturf which is very squirrelly!
About 6 laps into the second session the car developed a misfire. It felt like it was running out of fuel but I knew it wasn’t. I went back to the pit garage and had a look under the bonnet. Number 2 spark plug cap wasn’t on completely securely so I got back in and went out again. It was fine for a lap and a half but then did the same. I couldn’t find anything obvious and we wondered if it might be the FIA master switch as they’re renowned to give trouble. I had a new one in the spares box so I swapped that over. The 3rd session we got red flagged was OK for about 4 laps and the car was fine. After the restart I was starting to feel optimistic but after 4 laps it did it again and was almost undriveable back to the pits. The lambda sesnor was reading 16.0 during the misfire which is horribly lean, suggesting a fuelling problem.
I checked out the low pressure fuel pump which seemed OK, and Andy Bates checked the injection fuel pressure which was a bit low but probably not enough to account for the problem. Then Andy spotted that the MAP (manifold air pressure) sensor was dangling in the breeze and had become disconnected from the loom! I got the car back together feeling reasonably optimistic that that had to be the problem, I was just surprised it ran as well as it did before the ECU spat its dummy out! We got the cars fuelled up and lined up in the rather crowded pit garage and retired for beers and barbecue in the increasingly strong wind.