27 May 2015

What a difference a Differential makes!

By Phtosports
It's been some time since I raced at Spa Francorchamps, my favourite circuit.  In fact three years have passed since we were last here.  So, when the opportunity to enter the Classic Endurance Racing Series - Historic Touring Cars event, I jumped at the chance.

Ken Clarke Motorsport was taking three cars to the circuit; the Richard Postins TWR Group A Rover; The Anthony Robinson Ex Works Group 1 Dolomite Sprint; and, my Group 1 ex works Rover 3500s.  We arrived at mid day on Thursday, opened the garage, signed on and after a visit from the organisers, we passed scrutineering.

The programme for the weekend was quite sedate, with a free practice on Friday morning, then qualifying in the afternoon and another free practice in the dark that evening.  All of which meant there would be plenty of time to relax.  Or so we hoped.  Not having raced the car here I was hoping to be at least within shooting distance of the 3 mins per lap mark.

From then on my weekend was compromised, no chance of racing at any kind of speed and unlikely to finish any races.  Nonetheless the team worked all day to repair the casing and at least get me out for evening practice which went well if slowly.  In the meantime an old axle from a 2 litre Rover was being transported from Hinckley and would arrive early the next morning.

Although the strength of the axle casing may have been compromised I took the decision to run the day race on Saturday using the existing/repaired axle.  I was pleased to be leading my class comfortably for seven laps, and indeed running among some Group A and Group 2 machinery, although I was slower than my previous best lap time, so it was disappointing when the pinion let go and once again I headed for retirement.

The broken axle showing the repair.
The team removed the offending axle and built the replacement into the car so that we could run the night race.  This was a road axle of some 70,000 mile vintage and not a limited slip item either.  It would be a slow drive to the finish.  Off the line at the rolling start I passed a few cars but I knew I couldn't really compete.  Indeed after three laps the axles started to whine and I was from then on, simply coasting to the finish.

Nonetheless I was comfortably leading the class which was reduced due to attrition, when the safety car was deployed due to a massive oil spill at the entrance to Blanchiment.  We had at least one lap to run behind the safety car before the pit lane opened for the necessary stops, although my class rivals arrived just as it opened.  That then compromised my chances of the class win because having spent another two laps behind the safety car my class rivals caught me up and passed me with a lap to go.

So, second in class and that was only due to the replacement axle which surprisingly held together for the race.

Massive thanks to Ken Clarke Motorsport and the entire team.  As it happens I was the only podium finisher out of the three cars; Richard Postins broke his gearbox when lying fourth and Anthony Robinson suffered similar gearbox maladies when leading the Group 1 (TC2) class.

We shall be back!

19 May 2015

No Pressure Then.....................................

Life has been somewhat hectic since I started my new job in November last year. What with trying to staff a multi-billion dollar project from scratch, and manage $2Bn of it on my own, I think I can be forgiven if I missed something. That something was the need for an international licence in order to compete in the Peter Auto CER Historic Touring Cars race at Spa, which takes place this coming weekend of 22 to 24 May 2015. I had thought I could continue to race on my National A licence if I only entered one event with any particular overseas organizer. Sadly I discovered two weeks ago that I was wrong. So, upon reaching that conclusion, I immediately called Motor Racing Medics +1293 775254 and sought their assistance because in order to upgrade to an International C I needed not only a new medical but also a stress ECG. So, having arrived back in the UK from Turkey on Sunday 17th, I was being put through my paces at mid-day on Monday 18 May. The results were written up overnight and as I write it is 16:30 on 19 May and I am holding my new International C licence. Very impressive. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the MSA licensing team who worked miracles and produced said licence within 24hrs of receiving the form. And so, to Spa Francorchamps with the Rover.

20 October 2014

Algarve Classic Festival 2014 - Historic Touring Car Challenge

He's not a racing driver, he's a very naughty boy.  Paraphrasing Monty Python's Life of Brian at least helped me get over losing a class win after incurring a drive through penalty for crossing the pit exit blend line in the first of my two races at the Algarve Classic.

Picture by Antonio Gomez Grados
I was racing my ex works Rover in the Group 1 class of the Motor Racing Legends Historic Touring Car Challenge, which was combined with the Portuguese series, thus I had 23 other competitors in my class.  For the first race I qualified 7th overall behind Richard Postin's Group A Rover, three Group 2 cars and two invited Porsches.  One of those Group 2 cars was the Vince Woodman Escort RS1600 driven by Dan Cox.  Vince was with us all weekend which was great to see and I have to say that sharing a garage with Vince, Dan and the team was a pleasure.

This was my first visit to this very interesting, not to say daunting circuit.  None of the corners have the direction arrows we have at places like Silverstone or Spa, just  a 100m and 50m distance board.  Then there's the blind brows leading to most of the bends.  I was glad I booked the Thursday test sessions because I certainly couldn't have learned the track in 30mins free practice on the Friday. My mates Mike Bell and Iain Rowley (Delta Motorsport), explained the track to me but not knowing it, their descriptions meant little,  but their encouragement was a major boost to my weekend so thanks chaps.  Of course after a few laps I knew what they were talking about so things became more clear.

Then on race morning, it rained.  

It was more like heavy drizzle but it certainly changed the track surface. After two rolling start laps we set off and I got away well, leaving the lead Portuguese Escort RS2000 to chase me.  I was pulling away quite well so when I came in for my mandatory 45secs pit stop I was just enjoying the track, which at that time, was drying.  I came out from my stop and found the Escort ahead by some margin because they changed drivers in 20secs, then I saw my pit board calling me in, I had no idea why, but my team, including Iain Rowley appeared quite agitated so I came in for a drive through penalty for crossing that blend line. I took the penalty with 8 seconds to spare and completed my last lap in 10th place. So, a loss of a win or at least second in class. My fault entirely. Congratulations to Dan Cox for winning the race and to Richard Postins for 2nd overall followed by the Group 2 Jaguar of Paul Pochiol.

I was determined to put right my error in race 2 on Sunday.  It was a gloriously sunny day, and therefore hot.  I was behind a Jaguar XJS and three RS2000 Escorts who clearly saw me as a threat because as we accelerated from the rolling start, they formed a wall across the track, while the fastest Escort scampered off!  After two laps, however it was just me and the Jaguar, having seen off the other Escorts.  We swapped places around twice each lap but he had the edge on sheer straight line grunt.  Then a piece of luck because the quickest Escort was stopped at the side of the track, so I was second in class behind that extremely wide Jaguar. It was seriously hot and I was trying too hard so I backed away from the Jaguar for a lap to relax, then I got him coming out of the last bend.  Having done so he pulled in for his stop,  I stopped on the next lap, having gone a couple of seconds faster.  I came out in P2 some 13 seconds behind the now leading, RS2000. I closed that gap down and came through on the following lap 4 seconds in front.  I stretched that to 8 seconds and then stroked the car home at a reduced pace to finish 5th overall and first in class.  Unfortunately Dan Cox had to stop the Escort, which left Paul and Tom Pochiol to finish First and Third, with an invited Porsche in second.  Richard Postins was 4th and I was 5th.

So, a brilliant end to the season; although I've only done four races this year, they've been at two fantastic events, Goodwood and Portimao.  The car hasn't missed a beat and will now be ready for next year, thanks to Ken Clarke for the preparation and Tim Clarke for the spannering, Pat for team management and the pit wall timing and lap charts.

I spoke to both Duncan Wiltshire and Louis Quinou about tyres.  I can't find slicks of the correct size for my car, and I'm not alone, the same applies to Dolomites and Capris, so I hope they can get some consensus to run on Yokohamas, or Toyos etc. otherwise I'm afraid these grids may remain severely reduced.