I’d really have liked to get a trackday or test day in between Brands and Cadwell but my work schedule simply didn’t allow it. After Brands the car got a good clean and I stripped the front ARB down and cleaned that up and lubricated it as it was quite stiff when I was adjusting it at Brands.
I also checked out the wiring to the master switch. As most readers will be aware I’m using an electronic solenoid for the master switch with a pair of latching pushbuttons wired in series to control it. There’s a bullet connector in the wire running back to the engine bay and indeed this was initially implicated when I had problems with the thing cutting out at Oulton Park last year but a careful inspection showed this to be fine. I also checked the run from the buttons to earth and that looks fine. So I concluded it must be the button playing up – replacing the button cured the problem last time but at nearly £20 a pop it’s a bit irritating. Odd also that Brian’s never had an issue with the buttons on their car.
The weather forecast for the Cadwell weekend was very good, quite a contrast from Brands where it was like a monsoon! I travelled up on Thursday night with a full day’s testing booked for Friday. Instead of the usual 4 x 30 minute sessions this time (as apparently is the norm at Cadwell we had 6 x 20 minute sessions which I prefer as 30 minutes is too long for me.
It’s an absolutely beautiful circuit, particularly on a warm sunny day in May. My fastest lap here last year in the BDN was 1:43 although I had previously managed a 1:41 in the Fury. I got down to 1:42 in the first session and felt there was more to come but I never really improved throughout the day. I felt like I’d improved but the times didn’t reflect it. In fairness most of the sessions were disrupted by incidents and as soon as there’s any kind of incident at Cadwell you get a red flagged session as it’s very narrow and there’s almost no run off.
Qualifying on Saturday morning was pretty uneventful, I was reasonably near the front of the queue to get into the assembly area and had plenty of space around me on track. I felt I was going reasonably well and was making myself push the car into the corners faster – my main focus was trying to get around Coppice at the end of the start/finish straight quicker, keep on the power into Charlies 1, also going a bit quicker round Park and stopping my foot reaching for the brake pedal for the right hand kink after Park going into Chris Curves.
When the results came out I’d got somehow managed to go 1.4 seconds quicker than the day before, still only good enough for 23rd on the grid but an improvement and indeed at 1:40.8 my fastest lap round Cadwell, quicker than I’d gone in the Fury.
The grid at Cadwell is the narrowest on the calendar and I had no plans to attempt any heroics, there really isn’t room to go between cars at the start. I was behind my RGB Pups team-mate Dave Watson in his MNR with another team-mate Steve also in an MNR behind. When the lights went out I got away OK and followed Dave onto the grass to avoid a stalled Scott Mittel. I went past Scott and was about to get back onto tarmac when I spotted another stalled car so I continued to follow Dave up the grass on the left side of the track. We rejoined the track but Dave was slow getting away, then I fluffed my gear change and by this time all the cars from behind had streamed through. I got stuck behind the rather unfinished looking car of Andy Hiley round Coppice then he backed off and waved me through and I got hard on the gas up the hill. By this time I could just see Dave and Steve heading over the crest at Charlies well in front and I realised I was well out of touch. Not much I could do about it so I just stuck my head down and did my best to try to catch them up which I did by the end of the race spending the last lap close up behind Steve but with no overtaking opportunities.
Here’s the first few laps of the race, my camera battery died before I got up to speed:
So, a bit of a disappointing race as for the first time in my RGB career I finished dead last but the good news was that I’d managed a 1:39.52, taking another 1.3 seconds off my lap time from the morning and indeed faster than 3 of the drivers ahead of me and only 3/100 slower than Dan Bromilow. The engine was making a bit of a racket when I came in but the consensus was that it sounded like manifold blowing rather than anything mechanical and indeed one of the manifold nuts was missing completely, a couple of the others needed tightening and 3 of the mikalor clamps holding the primaries into the secondaries were a bit loose.
We had a drivers’ meeting after the race to discuss a number of issues. This was a fairly unpleasant affair. One issue was allowing use of engines later than 2008 so long as they were identical spec which didn’t seem to cause much controversy. Another issue was that of ECUs with some insinuation that some were suspected of running illegal ECUs – you can buy off the shelf ECUs from Honda Racing Corporation and Kawasaki Racing and apparently it’s not difficult to reflash the ECU of the Suzuki. The benefits are being able to tweak the ignition map and raise the rev limit. There was talk of ECU swaps and trying to use control ECUs which given the loom modifications we have to make to bypass immobilisers etc. just seems to be a non-starter to me and in any case a bit OTT in view of the fact that so far as I’m aware there is no evidence to suggest that anyone’s cheating.
The other discussion was on the subject of the underbody aerodynamics. This has already been aired in the forum but again there were insinuations that some cars were in breach of the current regulations whether being simply in breach of the spirit of the regs or possibly also the actual current wording. There was a show of hands on the subject of modifying the regs to restrict the underbody to a flat floor although this wasn’t explicitly defined, with the Spire camp abstaining as they seemed to be the ones most under siege!
Sunday was yet another sunny warm day so after a very pleasant 23 mile ride round some of the Lincolnshire lanes on the bike I checked the car over, tidied up and dismantled the awning. After a green flag lap I got a pretty good start and was behind Dan but with Colin Spicer alongside me on the right all the way round Coppice, Charlies 1 & 2 and along the Park straight. Colin outbraked me into Park and I then tried to hang onto him and Dan but frankly I just wasn’t driving very well and the initially substantial gap between myself and Steve behind me started to dwindle. I was just making minor mistakes, not quite hooking it all together and eventually I outbraked myself into Park on lap 5 and Steve went through and that was pretty much that. No video as someone forgot to put the SD card in the camera …
I was pretty annoyed with myself having hoped to improve on my previous lap time but then actually going quite a bit slower. We came off the circuit and into scrutineering yet again. It emerged this time that they were checking ECUs. This was now the 4th time in 6 races that we’ve all been held back for post-race scrutineering. It was a warm day and I was sweating cobs and really wanted to grab a drink. We waited while a single scrutineer went round inspecting the ECUs of the 25 finishers. We’re supposed to have them in a prominent position and since mine was visible on the bulkhead and difficult to move anyway because of the way the loom’s bound up I’d left it there. What markings exist on a ZX10 ECU were visible but the scrutineer was unable to satisfy himself that I was running a standard ECU so I was directed to wait with a small band of others awaiting some further action. No-one seemed to know what was happening and we were held in parc ferme for about 45 minutes until it seemed to be agreed that in the absence of any evidence that my ECU was illegal and it seemed to be accepted that there wasn’t really much more I could do to prove that it was standard I was then allowed to leave. I was in what you might call serious ill humour by now, apart from my frustration with myself I could really have done without what seemed to me an unnecessary delay when I had to haul the BDN 250 miles back home behind the motorhome then swap cars and drive the 230 miles up to Manchester for an 8am meeting on Monday morning.
Another first for me was leaving the circuit without staying for the traditional RGB presentations – even after I’d got back from parc ferme and loaded the car onto its trailer it was still apparently going to be some time as Tim Gray (who’d romped away to victory in both races) was still down there while the scrutineers sampled his fuel. I simply had to get away so I left and have to say the combination of my own bad driving, the bad feeling generated amongst the usually convivial paddock and what seemed to me to be an unnecessarily long delay saw me driving off feeling about as depressed as the occasions when I’ve driven home with a wrecked car on the trailer.
I’m all for a level playing field but if the measures introduced by the committee impact so negatively on the overall experience then perhaps I’ll be better off taking advantage of the car’s road registration and spend some time blatting round some of my fantastic local roads and do some trackdays instead of spending a lot of time and a whole load of money trekking across the country for 45 minutes of racing and 2 hours plus in scrutineering.