2012 Great Western Sprint

I arrived at a misty Castle Combe Circuit at 07:15 ready for the Great Western Sprint.  The car was all ready to go, so I unloaded it from the trailer and, with the assistance of a fellow competitor, got the body off ready for scrutineering.  I signed on and got straight to work ordering a bacon and sausage bap and a coffee.  Straight to the drivers' briefing, I arrived back at my car with enough time for the scrutineer to have a look over my car, bolt the body back on, suit up and head for the pit lane.  I need not have rushed as the day turned out to be somewhat eventful.  One of the first cars on track blew the oil breather pipe off and laid oil from Camp to Quarry.  That took some time to clear up.  Then, car after car stopped on track requiring recovery.  It was 2 hours before I got out onto the circuit.

Heading onto the track and I got straight to trying to take Avon Rise flat.  It wasn't a good idea on cold tyres and a small lift led to a big wiggle.  Since last week, I'd fitted a smaller front sprocket to fit the new chain on and it was confusing me.  Two downshifts suddenly became one.  Or three.  Sometimes two.  Coming over Avon Rise for the last time, I felt something at the rear that wasn't right.  I slowed down and short-shifted the rest of the lap.  Coming down the gears into Tower, the engine suddenly died.  I thought I was out of fuel as a result of the 45 minutes idling in the pitlane, so I dipped the clutch and tried to coast back through the escape road at Bobbies to the pitlane.  The engine died and I came to a halt just after Bobbies.

I hopped out of the car and, as I was putting the steering wheel back on, I noticed the fuel pump switch was off.  When changing the ratios during the week, I'd fitted the gear linkage a spline out of alignment and the gear stick was now an inch closer to the dash.  Whilst down-shifting, I'd knocked the fuel pump off.  By this time, the recovery van had arrived and I accepted the tow back.

Back in the paddock, I saw that the chain was loose.  With the tensioner at the end of its adjustment, I decided to fit the bigger sprocket to get the tension in the chain as it'd clearly stretched.  After 30 minutes with the spanners, I discovered that it still wouldn't quite fit.  Two hours later and the smaller sprocket was fitted on the newly shimmed tensioner.  Wiping my hands, the call to the assembly area came over the tannoy.  Already?  I've not had my lunch yet!

The first timed run was a bit of a rush and the different sprocket was causing me confusion.  It was scrappy and I'm not sure I was in the right gear at any corner.  I came out with a 142 second run, which was pretty poor, and the clutch was slipping so badly it felt like a CVT gearbox!  Still, it was enough to be leading the class for now.  Next time out had to be quicker.

I topped back up with fuel and the second round was on us already.  In fact, when Nick (paddock marshal) called the double driver of the Westfield next to me to the assembly area, I asked him if it was a timing error as it'd come around so quickly.  I hopped in and headed to the assembly area for the last run.  Off the line, the launch was good and Avon Rise tackled well.  Quarry corner was a good effort, but the clutch slip was evident again all the way down the Farm Straight.  Tentative into The Esses, but good enough and the rest of the lap was reasonable, resulting in a 65 second split.

Into Camp and, for once, I was pleased with the apex speed.  I got a bit of lairy oversteer on the exit and the engine bounced off the limiter.  No drive and a horrendous noise - must be the chain.  I coasted to a halt on the exit of the pitlane to make it easy for the recovery guys.  Somewhat annoyed, I was concerned about the attitude of the car with the left rear sagging.  It must be a puncture rather than the chain.  I hopped out to take a look only to find that most of my wheel was missing!

My immediate concern was where the wheel was and if everyone was OK.  I looked back up the track towards the pitlane and the ambulance was heading towards me.  The rescue guy jumped out, concerned for my safety and confirmed the tyre had bounced back off the catch fencing and into the infield.  I was relieved to say the least!  I hopped on the front splitter to balance the car as it was winched onto the flatbed.  There appeared to be very little damage other than a small piece missing from the rear wheel arch and a few mm missing from the bottom of the diffuser strakes.  Good news and a close call.  To top it off, nobody beat my time, so I won the class too.  Perhaps I should've bought a lottery ticket?

A Testing Day

On Saturday, I headed to Castle Combe Circuit for Motoraid, a track day raising funds for Sue Ryder.  The idea was to give some people experience of a Sports Libre car on track, whilst gathering some useful data and getting some track time in preparation for the Great Western Sprint the following weekend.  After signing on and a noise test, I picked up a passenger and headed onto the track.  After a few laps, the session was halted to pick up a stranded Radical.  When heading back out onto the circuit, I felt a bit of chain slap after a couple of laps and headed back in.  The chain had stretched badly and was not fit for use.  A quick trip to a local bike shop produced a new chain, but despite a few hours of fiddling in the paddock, I wasn't able to fit it and headed home before the rain came.

Last night, I set to work fitting the chain.  Ady and Paul came round and Ady took charge.  The chain was just too short to fit with the current sprocket, so I decided to try a smaller sprocket.  Going down two teeth was optimum according to LapSim, but that left the chain too slack, so I compromised on dropping just one tooth on the front sprocket.  That should see me hitting 6th gear for the first time and might actually be a little slower than the larger sprocket as I'll be a gear higher in most places.  I shall re-fit the larger sprocket once the chain's stretched a little on Saturday!

My new endplates are now winging their way towards me and if I get time, I will fit them for the weekend.  They're 300mm long and 450mm high, which will help make the rear wing more efficient.

Mallory Park Sprint

The friendly circuit is how they describe themselves.  They're not wrong.  I arrived on Saturday night under the cover of darkness.  The circuit was signposted from the M69 and I made it all the way to the competitors' entrance without needing the sat nav.  Here is where it got tricky though.  Having not been to Mallory Park before, I wasn't sure where to go and found myself on the opposite side of the start/finish line to the paddock.  Luckily, there were some motocross riders camping too and they explained I needed to take to the track to get to the paddock.  I went back to the hairpin and drove down the track, through the final chicane, the last corner and in through the assembly area to the paddock.  Time for some kip!

The next morning, I was up at 06:00 for a nice walk around the track and a cold shower.  Refreshed, I unloaded the car and ran through my final checks with Cliff, my trusty helper, before heading to scrutineering.  After the drivers' briefing, there was the opportunity for a convoy run.  Having not driven the car since I completed half a lap in August for the Wessex Sprint, this was a great opportunity to get used to the car again and remember how to change gear!

Onto the practice runs and a tentative start.  I lifted into the first corner, feathering the throttle all the way around before jumping on the brakes for the first hairpin.  The first apex was straightforward and fired me straight into the second with a steady throttle taking me into the third and a little more throttle pushing me to the fourth apex and onto the back straight.  Up into 4th gear before jumping back down to 1st for the second chicane, which has a surprisingly fast entry and a long exit, so a big wait before jumping on the throttle.  Flat through the right-left kink up to the hairpin was a little hairy, mainly because of the need to change into 3rd gear mid-corner.  The hairpin is steeply cambered and the uphill braking means you can stand on the anchors really late.  The acceleration out of the hairpin is unexpected, being so steeply downhill and a quick dab of brakes got me through the final chicane before going up through the gears down the hill into the finish.

Despite the tentative start, I'm told I beat the class record.  Not that it matters much as Clive beat it by a further second in his newly rebuilt Radical.  Onto the second practice run and time to give it beans.  The first corner was flat in 4th gear at around 90mph, but the chicane appeared much quicker than the previous run.  From behind, too.  Turning the car back around, I was still only 5 seconds slower than the first run.

After lunch, I was targetting a significant improvement.  On the first run, I made a good stab at the lap and put in a 60 second lap, whilst Clive went sub-60 in the Radical.  I'd made a great go at the hairpin and it felt fluid, albeit with a lurid slide on the final corner.  The final run was all or nothing and a bit scrappy, but a few tenths quicker, despite the wiggle on the exit of the hairpin and compromised entry to the final chicane.  I'll go into the detail at another time with a debug of the data and some video to match.

The final result was 2nd in class, but with Clive taking BARC FTD, I was promoted to 1st in class and 9th overall.  Fellow Bristol Motor Club member, Mike Smith put his Sylva Striker a rather impressive 10th overall, just a second behind me without slicks or wings.  It's amazing what you can do with a bit of talent!

Trailer For Sale

I've relisted the trailer on Ebay after someone complained that I stated it's not a Brian James in the advert.  Call me if you're interested on 0782 595 3858.

New Trailer and Upgrades

The new trailer's arrived.  It's a twin axle Brian James Clubman.  It'll make life easier as I don't have to get the car out of the trailer to work on it and, thanks to a smaller overhang, I can reverse it straight into the garage without the complex winching arrangement I had with the old trailer.

The old trailer is now on Ebay with no reserve!

I've also finished off a few bits and pieces, removing the wing mirrors and passenger seat to reduce drag and weight and re-fitting the front splitter.  Just some oil in the diff, a bit of lube on the chain and a couple of litres of fuel are all I need before the body goes on and the season starts.

That hasn't stopped me thinking about upgrades though.  The diffuser is still on the backburner and I've been looking at making the tiny endplates a little bigger.  Easy Composites do a range of sandwich construction carbon panels, the smallest of which is a good fit for what I need.

I've also been thinking about the data logging I'm currently doing and the best way of adding capability.  Primarily, I want to add throttle position, brake pedal pressure and steering angle, but a few other things would be useful too.  The options seem to be to get an input module for my RacePak logger, use a separate logger for the extra channels or replace my logger with a new model.  The input module gives me 4 inputs for $200USD, whilst I have a small 8 channel logger I picked up for £60, but that doesn't easily log RPM or GPS, so synchronising data will be hard.  I also have to work out how to view synchronised data easily.  I could import it all into Excel, but graphing things in Excel is time-consuming compared to a proper analysis product.  Replacing my current logger would cost me quite a lot of cash as it gives me my rev counter, shift lights and lap times (if I configure it).

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