Once my blood pressure had settled down a bit after the Cadwell weekend I had a think about a couple of jobs I’ve been meaning to do for a while. With a four week gap till the next weekend at Donington it would appear that I had plenty of time, the trouble is that it was getting on a fortnight before I could bring myself to get on with it and the annual trip to Le Mans was the weekend before Donington.
The blowing manifold at Cadwell was a pain, largely because the manifold is very inaccessible. The heat shield I made to sit just behind the bulkhead had to slide in from the side meaning the sidepod and rear radiator duct had to come off to get at it. Also it simply didn’t seem to really do a very good job and my back always gets pretty uncomfortably hot after 15-20 minutes on track.
So I whipped off the sidepod and duct, pulled out the seat and removed the bulkhead. I could then make sure the mikalor clamps were all in the correct positions and tightened them up. I had an idea involving making a pair of triangular aluminium panels that would sit between the chassis members with the sheet flush with the back of the tubing. This way I could completely close off the engine bay with a 25mm layer of air between these panels and the bulkhead.
It wasn’t terribly difficult cutting the panels and bending a 25mm flange along each edge and fitting some rivnuts to the chassis rails to fix them to. I suspect quite a bit of heat will get transmitted directly to the bulkhead via the chassis rail but I’m hoping this should improve things. Here’s the upper of the two panels.
I’ve always intended to duct in the oil cooler as well and have put it off until now as I thought it was going to be a bit of a pain to do. On warmer days my oil temp is getting up to 120° which isn’t really much of a problem but it would be nice if I could get it running a bit cooler. The oil cooler sits at the rear of the near side sidepod but has substantial gaps around it so only a fraction of the air entering the sidepod duct would be going through the cooler. The cooler sits on the sidepod floor so the lower surface isn’t a problem, the gap down the inside edge is only narrow and is out of the airflow anyway so I wanted to try to block off the outside and upper edges. Once I’d worked out how I was going to do it it only took an hour or so and the job was done.
The weather forecast for the Donington weekend was really awful, strong winds and lots of rain. True to form I drove up on the Thursday evening through monsoon conditions and arrived in the paddock to find the seats and harnesses waterlogged and the car looking pretty bedraggled from all the spray behind the motorhome.
Tim Gray and the Spire boys were all there of course, I think to beat them to the paddock you need to get there around the Tuesday of a race week! It was good to have a quick catch up with them, they’re all a good bunch and are completely obsessed by cars and racing. I parked up behind them and managed to stick my awning up without too much trouble on my own. The wind picked up and although I’d strapped the awning down to the trailer and all my spare wheels I was still a bit worried about it when I went to bed. After a pretty wild night with the wind rocking the motorhome around I woke up to a strong wind and grey skies. Austen and his Dad arrived and we decided to arrange his bus and my motorhome into a corral and stick the awnings up between them to try to get a bit of shelter. We’d signed on for the trackday but didn’t get the camp sorted till about 10, none of us RGB boys were particularly keen to venture out on track in the wind and rain.
When I did eventually venture out I had on my spare wheels with the Toyo Proxes on which at least didn’t aquaplane anywhere but there wasn’t much grip to be had. I did a few sessions pussy footing around being overtaken by every man and his dog then just before lunch we started to get a bit of a dry line. I switched back to my normal wheels but over the lunch brake it rained again, following which I took Ken out for a few tentative passenger laps. It then stopped raining and the track dried out properly. It was still very windy but much more fun and I started to enjoy myself a bit more. The car was feeling much better around Craner than last year when the rear was very unsettled.
My rear tyres were looking pretty tired, especially the left one and since it seemed we were inevitably going to have a wet session this weekend I decided to give George Polley a ring to bring a pair of tyres for me to fit over the weekend.
For my last session at 4:40 Al Boulton very kindly offered to come out with me to see what advice he could offer. Apart from the odd cringe-worthy mistake I didn’t drive too badly and we had a debrief when we got back. His main comment was that I was struggling to get the power down coming out of the corners with the car trying to oversteer. He thought the front end was very well planted and the brakes were very good. My lines were OK but I was tending to turn in a bit too early particularly at Redgate and I wasn’t using enough of the apex kerbs. We had a chat about how to increase the rear end grip which Al thought was more about mechanical grip than the aero balance. One thought was to fit softer rear springs but since I don’t have any that wasn’t an option for this weekend so I decided to try stiffening up the front dampers a bit along with the front ARB.
Saturday morning the weather was still windy and very overcast but the rain looked like it would hold off. In scrutineering the scrute spent a long time looking at my helmet then asked if I’d had it painted. I explained that it came out of the Sparco factory like that. He then said my red BS sticker was in the wrong place! I advised him that that too had come out of the Sparco factory like that and had attracted no comment in the last 4 years I’ve had it! Scrutineering was pretty delayed apparently because a couple of scrutes hadn’t turned up so my cunning plan of getting my tyres fitted after scrutineering started looking a bit dodgy. I came up with the cunning plan of getting the new tyres fitted onto the spare set of wheels, it’s clear the Toyo Proxes weren’t such a good idea as they seemed but at £140 for a set of 4 they didn’t exactly break the bank! Polley also had a pair of tyres to fit my fronts so I nipped all 4 of my green set of wheels round and got them on the car with a bit of time to spare before qualifying.
The weather fortunately stayed dry for qualy although the first couple of laps were very congested, I was also being even more tentative than normal on my brand new tyres, then after 4 laps Mark Conroy in Gordon Griffin’s old Mission went into the gravel on the outside of Coppice so we had yellow flags there for the rest of the session, in fairness the car was in a dangerous place for the marshals to recover it. The situation was compounded when someone else binned it at the chicane which then resulted in yellow flags from Coppice, all the way down the next straight and the chicane meaning if you came up on someone slower you couldn’t overtake for ages. My fastest previous lap round Donington was 1:21.41 and despite me being pretty slow round Coppice and feeling I could generally go faster round most of the track I managed 1:21.17 so a modest improvement.
The weather amazingly stayed dry for the race at 5:30 and although I didn’t get a bad start my lack of confidence on cold tyres meant I lost places into Redgate to Steve Moran and Steve Malyon. Steve Moran’s a couple of seconds a lap slower than both of us but Steve M didn’t get past him until approaching Goddards, I got past him on the finish straight but bottled out going into Redgate offline. I didn’t get past him until the approach up the hill to Coppice and by then everyone else was up the road.
James Walker had spun at the chicane at the end of the first lap and eventually caught me up and he went through at the chicane when I went too deep. Then Colin Spicer caught me up having gone off the track earlier in the race, he too got past fairly easily. Then I ended up in the gravel at Coppice. It took me a while to work out what had happened as I went from on line and accelerating away from the first apex to flying into the gravel with the engine at full chat in an instant. Seems I’d got onto the throttle but managed to get my size 12 over the brake pedal as well so as I accelerated I hit the brake which was never a good thing to do
Once the race finished the marshals towed me out and I completed the drive of shame back to the paddock and got on with clearing the gravel out of the car. Fortunately I’d just gone in forwards so there was no stone chip damage and actually not that much gravel in the undertrays. Then it was beer o’clock and time for a barbecue with Austen and some of the guys from our Birkett team.
It stayed windy and wet overnight but in the morning the forecast was for the weather to clear and give us some sunny periods. I managed to get out on the bike for an hour then set about tidying everything up, taking the awning down etc. so I could get away once the race finished.
For race 2 I tried my best to put thoughts of gravel traps out of my head. All I had to do was press one pedal at a time, how hard could it be? At least this time we had a green flag lap so a chance to get a bit of heat into the tyres, and after a reasonable start I just about kept in touch with the cars in front – Tim Hoverd, Chris Scopes in his MCR LMP and Steve Robinson just ahead of them. At the chicane at the end of the first lap Colin and Austen came together so I passed Colin parked facing the wrong way and passed Austen as he limped round the Old Hairpin with damaged front suspension and bodywork. Steve Malyon was paying close attention behind and is clearly regaining his confidence big time after his shunt at Silverstone last year. As we completed the second lap I was less than a second behind Colin Spicer who then got ahead of Chris Scopes who as slow going into Redgate. Then on lap 4 Colin ran wide exiting McLeans and went onto the grass and rejoined behind me. My main problem was simply slowing down too much for the corners and I soon allowed Steve M around the outside into Redgate and then I had a recovering Colin Chapman in my mirrors. He got past me easily into McLeans then the other Colin went past at the chicane and that was the end of the action for the race.
Pretty dismal performances. The car was a bit better on Sunday, not quite so oversteery and I’m certainly not blaming the car. It’s all about confidence, and I haven’t got any right now. I’m simply not pushing myself, staying in a comfort zone, braking too early and not really trying to race the guys who I know I can keep up with. The best example is Schwantz curves, the left hander between Starkeys Bridge and McLeans, I established quite early on in the weekend that I could keep on the power in 5th gear around the apex and yet lap after lap I found myself backing out of the power around the start of the kerb. I’ve now got 6 weeks to regroup before Anglesey.
At least the shenanigans over the regs seems to be getting sorted out the committee seemingly having realised that major changes rendering most of the grid illegal were probably not a good idea.