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!

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