The weather forecast was good and after the 230 mile trek to Brands on Thursday evening I found Andy Bates and got the gear cable. After a pleasant couple of beers with Paul Rogers, Tony Gaunt, Gary Goodyear and their wives on Thursday evening it was back to the first night in the motorhome this season.
I got up early and got the gear cable swapped over to find it no better. The first session was hopeless, I was really having to fight to go up the box using the left hand to pull and the right pushing the other side of the paddle. By the end of the session my fingers and wrists were aching like mad. And then I pulled into pit lane to find smoke billowing out of the engine cover air intake! Ian Baldwin was handily placed with a fire extinguisher but when we got the cover up there was no fire but plenty of oil that seemed to be coming from somewhere up the top end of the engine and clearly had gone onto the manifold.
Before the next session I rerouted the cable to get a much smoother run but it seemed little better. I thought the oil leak was from the cam cover and found one of the rubber washers under a cam cover bolt missing. I tried a couple of copper washers and some ATV. The second session wasn’t really much better, the gear change was a little better but still too bad to allow me to concentrate on actually driving the car. At the end there was more oil in the engine bay
I was tucked in the corner of the paddock, Kawasaki Korner in fact as I was parked next to Gary Goodyear who has a ZX10 engined Contour and on the other side of him was Tony Gaunt with his ZX10 engined Wolfe. Tony was very helpful during the build and is a font of knowledge where the Kawasaki engine is concerned. He was very helpful on Friday too and after the two of us had fiddled about with the gear cable for ages we concluded the main problem was that the actuating arm on the gearbox shaft is probably just a bit too short. Although you can compensate for this by attaching the cable nearer to the pivot on the paddle it does mean there’s far more force going through the cable. With a 3.2 metre cable this means it binds up where it goes rounfd corners. We ended up moving the cable mounting at the paddle end as close to the pivot as we could to give maximum leverage and decided that was the best we could do. I still couldn’t work out exactly where the oil leak was from but suspected top end – the trouble is it tends to get blown all over by the air flow in the engine bay. So I cleaned it all up and frantically tried to get the car back together to get out for the session after lunch.
I got out with less than 10 minutes to spare and thankfully the gear shift was still far from what I’d like it to be but was quite a bit better and was certainly drivable. so I managed to bimble round for a few laps then came in again and checked on the oil leak. This time there was just a little tiny weep around the suspect cam cover bolt. Tony found a fibre washer to add to the copper washers and I was then pretty confident that the problem should be sorted.
I decided not to go out for the final session and let Austen have it. Amazingly enough despite his extra 40 horsepower he managed to avoid the Paddock Hill gravel. The car got a clean and it was time to chill for the evening. It was a pretty stressful day and I really hadn’t had a chance to even think about trying to go faster. To be honest my main goal for the weekend was to get some more seat time and try to take the car home intact, after my disastrous spin at Llandow I was consciously being pretty tentative and deliberately avoiding exploring the limits of the BDN’s adhesion.
On the positive side there had been no issues with fuel pressure during the day, I downloaded the DigiDash log to find the pressure had stayed rock solid throughout, so that was one teething problem out of the way. And of course the engine had been singing away all day with no issues so my fears on that front appear to have been unfounded. It had been a warm day but the cooling system was doing its job well with water temperature only getting to the mid-70°s and oil temp up to about 95°
Saturday morning arrived a little overcast but pleasantly warm and with no rain forecast. I went off to scrutineering not really expecting any problems but was somewhat surprised by the scrutineer (who’s usually fine) deciding to pick on my harness eye bolts. It was pretty much the first thing he checked – he poked a pen up into the boss from underneath and he reckoned I had the wrong eye bolts fitted as they weren’t long enough. I have to admit I didn’t feel terribly stressed because I knew he was wrong! I assured him they were the ones that came with the harnesses from Demon Tweeks but it wasn’t good enough. So I borrowed a screwdriver from one of the interested bystanders, unclipped the harness and unscrewed the eyebolt. It’s a UNF thread and therefore quite fine, so it actually took quite a lot of revolutions unscrewing it by which time I could see that the scrute realised he was wrong. I got it out and showed him the full inch of thread and he commented that it was “right on the limit”. After checking my wheel bearings and the master cylinder locknuts he bailed out and went to get my ticket. Back in the paddock Brian was flabbergasted of course! We speculated that if the boss had been 2 feet long we’d have needed a 2 foot long eye bolt to satisfy him
Qualy was OK but no more. I was right at the back so within a lap or so the quicker boys were lapping me which compromised my laps. I was just happy to get a bit more seat time in. The session was uneventful – the gearchange was definitely better, the oil leak was cured so I was a pretty happy boy. I was somewhat crestfallen that despite feeling I was going OK I was over a second slower than on Friday! Tony then spotted that I had a load of play in my throttle cable – the locknut on the adjuster had vibrated loose meaning I was only getting about 80% throttle. Ho hum …
The weather was still fine for the first race early afternoon and I was 19th on the grid. My first dry start in the BDN. It was a bit off-putting that I was on the downhill part of the grid so as soon as I took my foot off the brake the car started creeping forwards. I got a good launch initially then let the clutch up completely just a little too early and bogged the motor slightly. It was still a pretty good start but then I b*****ed it up by missing second gear! I had Dan Bromilow behind me in his Fury but he was clearly quicker than me and soon got past me. It was then a bit of a lonely race. The car was fine and seemed to be handling nicely although I still wasn’t really pushing terribly hard. My fastest lap was about the same as my previous fastest in the Fury and just over a second faster than the morning qualy – having full throttle available did seem to make a difference!
The car was fine and needed nothing other than fuel and a quick look over. Our second race was the final race of the day, the weather was still holding and it was a nice warm afternoon. I was 19th on the grid for the second race too and this time got a better start and got past Paul Rickers and almost alongside Dan but was pretty tentative into Paddock Hill and Druids and Paul got through followed by Tim Gray who was racing the AB Sabre from the back of the grid. As the race settled down I was tucked up behind Ben in the ex-Cutmore Westfield. This turned into a fun race – Ben’s driving has come on no end and he’s pretty comfortable in the Westy now, the big difference was that he was comfortable sliding it around whereas I was being cautious in the BDN so he was opening a gap every time we came out of Druids and was considerably quicker than me round Clearways. I had more power and better aero so could gain on the straight and with an overdose of brave pills could have overtaken him into Paddock Hill on a few occasions. I was getting very confident in the BDN’s braking which gave me plenty of opportunities into Druids, as I got more confident the BDN was better round the fast left hander at Surtees. Eventually I got past Ben on the brakes into Druids and then got away from him with a couple of quicker laps before easing off a bit. I did lap a few of the back markers as there are a few new guys racing this season but it wasn’t long before the leaders caught and lapped me so the rest of the race was spent watching mirrors.
Here’s a video of race 2. Apologies for the lack of sound – the video worked flawlessly all weekend but for some reason it’s completely dropped the audio.
As I came slowly down pit lane after the race there was a horrendous noise coming from the engine bay, I initially thought it was the top end but decided it sounded more like an exhaust blowing noise. So I headed back to the paddock and parked up. Listening to it again I wasn’t sure but Tony Gaunt came to the rescue again, he gave the engine a good blip and declared that it was exhaust. So I either have a loose or cracked manifold which isn’t the end of the world.
So, after a rather frustrating and stressful Friday testing Saturday went well. OK, so I was Captain Slow but my goal had been to do the qualy and 2 races without any incidents and to learn a bit more about the car and I’d accomplished that. Last year when I started to improve in the Fury I was generally gaining a couple of seconds a lap from previous visits to circuits, in fact at Oulton Park last October I’d improved my PD by a massive 5 seconds. I’m confident that I just need to drive the BDN more and start to gradually stretch its legs. I also don’t think I’m getting anywhere near full power form the ZX10 yet, apart from lack of a decent airbox and the fact that it hasn’t been mapped it’s probably running on an ignition retarded map – when I swapped the engine over the wiring coming from the gear position sensor has been bodged presumably where someone fitted a TRE and there are a couple of wires dangling in the breeze. So I now need to sort these and fabricate an airbox then get it mapped. Gearing’s also an issue, I could almost do the whole of Brands Indy without using above 4th gear, it was only when I was getting a bit quicker that I was needing 5th at the end of the straight. I’ll leave the gearing as is for now because the next race is at Snetterton which has a longer straight and hopefully I’ll need the taller gearing.