After a fairly long but uneventful journey and a decent night’s kip in the motorhome in the Brands Paddock we woke up to blue skies and a lovely sunny day. After the signing on and noise test I drove the car back from the pit garage to the paddock where the motorhome was parked. Brands is slightly odd in that the paddock is actually outside the track while of course the pit garages are alongside the pit straight on the inside. There are tunnels between the two but with a max height on the exit of 2.2m it’s a no no for motorhomes. So we were effectively based in the paddock despite having a pit garage for the day. It was obvious on the way back that the speedo wasn’t working. Which also meant no gear indicator and no meaningful data logging.
So the first job on the car was replacing the speedo sensor. On the way back up for the first session all was well again – speedo and gear indicator working nicely. So off I went out on track for the first session. At just under 1.2 miles Brands Hatch Indy is a short circuit but it certainly packs plenty in! Lots of contours, some interesting corners and Paddock Hill Bend spooked me just like I knew it would! For those who’ve never driven here in the FuryBusa I was coming into it in 5th gear at probably about 110mph, you’re coming up to a brow with some marker boards, you know there’s a right hand corner coming up but you can’t see it. You know it’s off camber over the brow with a big dip followed by a big compression. And a huge gravel trap all along the outside. So brain is saying to get on the brakes early. And you realise you’ve scrubbed off loads of speed and get to the brow to find you haven’t reached the corner yet. So back on the power before the apex. I think I got to do it twice before the session was red flagged.
After a short wait we went out again and I was slowly finding my way round when after a couple of laps I found I had no clutch. The clutch was working fine, my pedal however wasn’t. It was offering minimal resistance to my foot and not disengaging at all. So I limped my way back round the circuit to the pits, let David know what the problem was and made my way back to the paddock. First thoughts were that my newly installed bolt had probably fallen out again. On lifting the bonnet I was pleased to find that wasn’t the case. I decided to try bleeding the clutch and discovered there was lots of air in the system. After bleeding it all was back to normal. By now of course the session had finished although it had been red flagged again almost immediately after I came off so in fact having done a total of about 6 or 7 laps I only really missed 1 or 2.
The second session came along and off I went, trying to go a bit quicker. Trouble was that just as my tyres started to come up to temperature the clutch went AWOL again So back to the paddock again. This time I just hopped out of the car, bled the clutch and managed to hop back in again before the 30 minute session ended. It was great. For a whole 2 laps. Then no clutch again.
Time to call in Andy Bates. I really didn’t believe I hadn’t bled it properly, so air was finding its way into the system and apparently only once the engine got hot. We pulled the clutch slave cylinder off, had a good look at it, decided it looked OK with no signs of a leak or any cracks etc. We stuck it all back together, re-bled it and I was just about ready in time to get out for the first session of the afternoon. All was fine until lap 3 when I again had no clutch. I decided to carry on regardless as I really needed firstly to get to know the circuit a bit and secondly to give the newly rebuilt car a bit more of a shakedown. I managed to get down to 56 seconds despite not having a clutch. The upshifts are of course fine, also the change down form 5th to 4th for Paddock Hill Bend always seemed to slot in smoothly but the shifts down from 4th to 3rd at Druids and on the transition from Surtees to Clearways were very unsettling. In both corners you’re changing down as you’re hard on the brakes and turning in. You just have to keep pressure on the shift paddle until it eventually decides to slot in. Not terribly sympathetic to the gearbox but I really needed to get some laps in. I managed to stay out for most of the session, I did come in once to check my tyre pressures after losing the rear end both on the way into and on the power on the way out of Druids but Paul’s helper had mistakenly tidied my stuff up out of the garage and taken it back down to the paddock (Paul had unfortunately hit mechanical gremlins in the first session). So I got David to give me a push to get me rolling and went out to complete the session.
Back in the paddock the next step was to replace the master cylinder. Phil Alcock helpfully provided a spare and I managed to swap it over and re-bleed the system in about 40 minutes. Sadly the problem recurred but I again completed the session. This time David took the tyre pressure gauge up to the pits and I came in half way through and sure enough the rears were at 23.5 psi. David dropped them to 22 which was probably still a little higher than optimal. I carried on going till the end of the session but never really got a lap together and my best lap was again 56 seconds.
A frustrating day, and I still didn’t know what the problem was, but on the plus side the car was driving fine, nicely balanced with nice turn in, no obvious tendency towards either under or oversteer. And I suppose I’ve learned the new skill of driving the car without a clutch! David and I nipped off to Fisher’s 30-odd miles away to pick up the new bonnet that I now don’t really need while Andy planned to make up a new clutch hose on the basis that we’ve looked at the slave which seems fine, we’ve replaced the master cylinder, so all that’s left of the system is the hose. Hopefully it’ll be OK in qualifying tomorrow, if not we’ll then have 4 hours to try to make a Honda slaver cylinder fit …