8 May 2012

Flip top beer bottles, finger trouble and crow pie.

That got your attention, but more of the title later. 

The 360 MRC 6 hrs of Snetterton, held on 5th and 6th May was not only bigger this year; it was also possibly the coldest meeting I’ve attended in recent years.
Our weekend started on Tuesday evening when I discovered that instead of booking a day testing at Snetterton, I’d booked the day on the Brands Indy circuit.  No refund, but I managed to book the day at Snetterton so although it cost twice as much, at least I’d get to drive the Capri on its new tyres and run the engine in as well.  That was the finger trouble!  

Arriving in London from Doha, at 06:10 Thursday morning, by 07:30 I was enjoying coffee and a bacon sandwich at home!

We collected the Capri from Ken Clarke at around 2pm on Thursday and made our way in rainy conditions to Snetterton and gained access to our garage (No. 25) at around 5:30pm.  We unloaded the Capri, bikes and tools; kettle etc. and made our way to the Warraner Premier Inn in Thetford.  We’ve stayed here before and always found the staff to be pleasant and friendly.  This trip was no exception.  We were joined that evening by an ever improving John Smith, MSA Steward and co organiser of the 360 MRC 6hrs. It was good to see him looking well and enjoying driving his new car too.

An early breakfast and I signed on for testing at 08:00 on Friday it was dry but seriously cold.  The idea was to bed in new brake discs and run the engine in.  I plodded around using no more than 5000rpm for the first 20mins, increasing to 6000rpm for the last ten minutes.  Then we replaced the old pads with new Yellow Stuff pads from Pagid and I went out to warm everything up and scrub the new tyres in.  After five or six laps I came in and we re-set the tyre pressures.  Out again and I was running at around 2:27 secs, pretty consistently.   

Peter St. Barbe came along to provide assistance and entertainment and we returned to the track for one last half hour to see what time I could set running full revs etc.  I got down to 2:25.09 so not too shabby.  Bearing in mind the car is a Group 1 car with fairly basic modifications, it is unlikely to go much quicker than 2:22, so I wasn’t unhappy.

Saturday dawned sunny but still cold and we would be qualifying and racing both the MGB and the Capri.  In fact the MGB would qualify first, followed immediately by the Capri.  The reverse was true for the races in the afternoon.  A logistical challenge to say the least!

I was lying fourth on 2:32 in the MG when at Agostini on the third lap of qualifying the oil light flashed and I stopped.  I gave the marshals the location of the garage and hot footed to the assembly area to get into the Capri.  I finally qualified the MG in 7th so not too shabby.  
The Capri proved to be reliable and I qualified 11th against some interesting machinery, including a Porsche 917, a D Type some Crossles and Gordon Streeter’s extremely quick, modified Anglia.

The aftermath of the Cann Aston at Agostini
I watched practice for the 360 and like many, was saddened to see the Cann Aston Martin in the wall at Agostini.  Dr Palmer doesn’t believe in gravel traps and thus running off the track on to the grass will be punished especially if the grass is wet.  Clearly whatever the cause, the front of the Aston needed a total rebuild.  To the team’s credit they set to and it would be out for the second practice session on the Sunday morning, only for a rear stub axle to shear and put the car out for good!  Likewise the green ex Kremer Bros. Alfa Romeo Guilletta suffered rear end damage and was out.

A Saturday evening, post practice bar b q was arranged with head chef Grant MacDonald on the grills.  He kept the Cann team fed and watered as well as those hardy individuals who were camping in what must have been freezing conditions on the night.

So, to the Oxxxxxx breakfast Sprint (not allowed to say “Olyxxic”) on Saturday afternoon.  The rolling start went well and as expected the modified Mustang and the more powerful Starion turbo went by me, both also taking Gordon (10th) and the Honda Civic that qualified 9th.  I couldn’t keep up with Gordon but I was having a good time defending my position from the 917 behind me.  In fact Gordon had suggested that he had a diff problem (he usually says this kind of thing just before heading off into the distance) so when I smelled differential oil, I naturally thought it was him and backed off in order not to be part of his possible accident.  Then as we came through Palmer I looked in the mirror to see where the Porsche was.  It was right behind me in the smokescreen!  It turns out that the offside rear axle seal had broken and the differential oil I smelled was mine!  I thought I’d carry on to the pit stop, so after one slow lap I pulled away from the Porsche and headed off on what would be a lonely race.

I was rounding Coram when Gordon pulled into the pits for his compulsory stop.  I passed him, so at that time I was leading him on the same lap.  The Mustang also stopped and then a lap later I stopped.  After the stop and checking the diff with Tim Clarke, we decided just to go for it.  I was pleased to put in 9 laps all within .9 secs of each other, the fastest being 2:25.15(ish), so consistency isn’t a problem.  I overtook the Starion and for whatever reason the Mustang stopped, so I finished where I started in 11th!  I still can’t figure out where Gordon lapped me though.  Go figure as they say.    

Anyway, it was time for the MGB 50 race and I went straight from a 250bhp Capri on sticky tyres, to a 130bhp MGB on historic rubber.  It was a standing start and I got up to 5th which became fourth when the Cottingham MGB retired at the first corner.  I was at the rear of a four car train that was pulling away from the rest, so I set too to pass Jon Sandiland in third.  He made life difficult down Bentley Straight but I got inside him at Nelson twice, only to see that I would be baulked by the second placed car at Brundle so I had to back out.  Then on lap five I got the oil light problem again.  The engine revs died and I lost fourth place exiting Agostini.  I got back into my stride and was catching fourth place at Murrays when I was passed for fifth.  Eventually I settled for sixth, a way back from the leading pack but a long way ahead of the seventh placed car.

That was the end of my racing for the weekend.  We packed everything except the bikes etc. and headed off to the hotel, after making sure the aforementioned bar b q was under way.  At this time the Cann crew were working hard on the Aston and Max Tyler was still fettling his £160 Porsche 924!
The racewear.co.uk max tyler (no capitals) 924
At midnight a (fortunately false) fire alarm got us all into the car park.  After sharing a few  a humorous minutes in the car park with Max and his family we were all allowed to return to our rooms.  

The Les Ely BMW
Les Ely was racing his BMW 2000 to raise money for a friend who has bone cancer.  So on sunday morning I went to wish him and his team well.  Also Jon Sandilands was running in the RAF Association Mini so I went to see him and tell him we can resume our battle at Silverstone in June.  The team was raising money for its charity so again, I hope they achieved what they wanted. 

I went to speak to Mike Bell who had spent the first practice session running in a new engine.  He and Cliff Ryan would be running his orange (Tango) 924.  They would eventually finish 6th and third on the podium (more on that later).  Cliff raised £600 for the Marie Curie Trust in a recent swimathon.  Max Tyler finished as did MG David in his 924.

So to the title:  Before we set off to home, we met up with Grant and Terri Mac Donald who were sponsoring the prizes as www.Ten-Tenths.com.  I told Grant that we were just going to get some water for the journey home and he said that he wouldn’t drink anything in which fish had sex.  I suggested that perhaps beer would be unwise when driving because it makes a mess when you spill it.  However the water bottles had flip tops, so I wonder if there’s a market for beer in similar receptacles?  Hmmm.
The Bell/Ryan TANGO 924

I confess that I have never had a good word to say about Pagid brake pads due to previous experience.  But, after this weekend I can tell you that they were very good in the Capri and I don’t think we put much wear on them either!  Can somebody pass some ketchup to go with this crow pie please?

The top three positions in the 6hrs race were occupied by Caterhams.  These cars are quick, nimble and significantly, difficult to see.  Listening to the excellent Radio Le Mans commentary they likened the Caterhams to the Le Mans Prototypes and the remaining cars to the Le Mans GT classes.  Seems to me there may be the makings of a development for the event in this.

Now the roll call:  Thanks for the support and assistance from Ken and Tim Clarke, Adam, Peter St Barbe and of course Pat.  Well done to Claire, John Smith, Carol and the entire 360MRC team for making it all happen.   Thank you to all the marshals and officials and of course Terri and Grant (who were also on the bank on Saturday) without whom there’d be no event, because it started on ten-tenths.  Also it was good to see John Turner (Chairman of FISCAR) and Andrew Kitson (the motorsport artist) who both took photos and supplied their own stories.

Also worthy of note was the excellent win for Joe "Zefarelly" Allenby-Byrne in the Touring Cars race on Saturday.

We will be out again at the MG Car Club International Festival 22 to 24 June at Silverstone, with the Capri in JD Classics and the MG in the 50th anniversary race.  Come and say hello.

More pictures here.

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