Sunday, 14 December 2008

More expenditure!

I've been spending more money in my pursuit of lightness and speed!

Firstly, I've bought an aluminium racing seat from Kirkey Racing Fabrication.

I just need to work out how to mount it!

I'm also picking up a nice bit of head work in January:


It's been given a good workover by Roger at Sabre Heads - ported and polished, skimmed slightly, has 1mm oversize valves and improved valvetrain.

It comes with a spare inlet manfold which has been port matched:

To make the most of this, I'm currently looking at an ECU upgrade along with a 4-1 header although I need to get the clutch done and my rust sorted out so budget may be tight.........

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

New purchases

For the past year, I've been running my car with a four-point Schroth Profi-II harness. The shoulder straps were mounted to a single eye-bolt on a tab welded to the roll over bar. However, from 2009, this arrangement will not be acceptable as the MSA are requiring that the shoulder straps have separate mounting points.

I've therefore purchased a Hard Dog Harness Bar from Performance5. This bolts to the seatbelt towers and allows the harness straps to be wrapped around it, effectively giving two separate mounting points.

I've also bought a set of lightweight 14" alloys from a Mk1 1.8iS. These weigh around 4.5kg and will be fitted with a set of Toyo T1-R in 195/45 14 which will be lighter and will have an 8% smaller circumference. So, a significant weight saving plus smaller wheels = faster acceleration. At least, that's the theory!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Winter planning commences

At this time of year my thoughts turn to what I can do to go faster next season. I've had some wild and crazy ideas - some of which are pure fantasy - some of which might make it to fruition.

First thought was to sell my current MX-5 and buy another one. My idea was to buy a 1998 RS-spec Roadster (Japanese market Mx-5) as the spec includes a 6-speed box, torsen LSD and bilstein dampers. There's a guy selling a white one (the new black!) on Pistonheads right now for £3300 and he's just along the road from me.......

Second thought was to go to 'the dark side' - Forced Induction. This is the cheapest way to get some serious power in an MX-5. For around £4,000 I could have around 220bhp...........

Trouble with both these options is I would need a belly load of cash and with the 'credit crunch' biting, I don't have much. So......

I got thinking about weight reduction. My car was corner-weighted in April and weighed in at an elephantine 1148kg with half a tank fuel and me in it! So, I have come up with the following weight reduction plan:

1. Remove the soft-top and frame (save around 25-30kg)
2. Fit a motorcycle battery (save around 5kg)
3. Replace steering wheel and remove passenger airbag (Save around 2-3kg)
4. Remove radio, speakers and aerial (about 2kg)
5. Lighten bonnet and boot lid (2-5kg)
6. Lighten front and rear bumper mountings (1-2kg)
7. Remove power steering (3-5kg)

The first item will leave me cold and wet but I had planned on getting a removable hard-top to keep me dry.

So, If I go through with it all, I could get the kerb weight down to about 975kg. That would give me a whopping power to weight ratio of 144 bhp/tonne! Should be enough to beat a 205 Rallye ;-)

If I do all that and find another £4,000 for my 220bhp, I'd have nearly 230bhp/tonne - that's in Lotus Exige territory !!!!!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Champion again !!

I just got the results for the Windowcraft Lowland Speed Championship and I managed to bag first place in Class A8 (Marque Road Sports Cars)!

This is a real bonus for me which I wasn't expecting as I had focused on the Northern Speed Championship this season.

So, I'm a double champ this season!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Champion !

Final round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship went without a hitch and despite being slow enough to only be 4th in class on the day, I got my 25 points and finish the season as Class R2 Winner!

The pleasure of winning is quickly replaced by the dread of having no motorsport over the winter. I might have to take up production car trials for a laugh.

Thoughts start turning to next year. Should I stick with the Mazda, should I bolt on that supercharger, should I buy a Westfield, should I buy a Peugeot 205, should I quit while I'm ahead? Answers on a postcard (unless you're selling a Peugeot 205)........

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Kames Charity Sprint


Just back from a very wet and dreary Kames where EACC had organised a Charity Sprint for the first time in a few years.

Not many souls braved the atrocious weather but even so, it looks like they raised a fair amount for the Cash for Kids appeal.

There was only one other competitor in my class - Alastair Matheson - who normally drives a TVR Griffith. Unfortunately, he had some oil pressure problems and had to turn out his other car - a lovely old Porsche 944 S2. With the relentless wet weather, it was probably just as well he didn't bring the TVR!


This was my first competitive outing on the Marangonis and I have to say I was a bit worried given the reports on their wet weather performance.

My first run was a very tentative 117secs. The Porsche did 117 too.

Second run I managed 113secs and the porsche did too! I decided to make some adjustments to the suspension (soften it up). Worked a treat! I managed 109secs on my first timed run - Porsche managed 114secs. I knew he had too much to do at that stage

Final run and the rain got a bit heavier again - I posted 111secs and the Porsche managed 112secs.

So, a class win in the rain, on Marangonis and I beat my previous best wet time!

Looking forward to tomorrow now!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Gearing up for Season Finale

It's a while since I posted - I've been away to Birmingham on a training course for work and then I've been busy re-grouting the bathroom so the car has taken a backseat for a couple of weeks.

It's only a week until the final round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship at Kames on Sunday 5th October. I wasn't at the last round at Harewood but the results for my class (R2) were as follows:

Paul Rigg 72.19 sec
Chris Harris 72.50 sec
Dennis Hope 79.62 sec

This means that the provisional class standings going into the final round are as follows:

Kevin Hamilton (me) 157 points
Denis Hope 146 points
Paul Rigg 122 points
Chris Harris 104 points
Andrew Suter 98 points
Richard Lewthwaite 70 points
Jon Lyth 64 points
Margaret Farquar Rigg 20 points

With 25 points up for grabs at Kames, it looks like the only person who can beat me is Dennis Hope but only if I fail to get a timed run. So, fingers crossed!

In preparation for the final round, I'll be competing at East Ayrshire Car Club's charity sprint on Saturday 4th October. It's going to be run anti-clockwise so it won't really be much practice but it should be good fun.

Friday, 5 September 2008

More testing

I had another session at Kames tonight. This was the first outing with my brand spanking new Marangoni Zeta Lineas. These tyres get rave reviews amongst the sprint/hillclimb fraternity but get slated for normal road use, especially in the wet.

My first impressions are fairly good. I started with cold pressure of 27psi and after 2 runs at Kames, pressure had risen to 33psi. They seem to get heat in them very easily and the compound seems very soft for a List 1A road tyre.

Handling was good for brand new tyres - a wee bit squirmy at first but once they heated up it was spot on. Managed some understeer/oversteer transition coming out of the hairpin and they seemed to hold on well through the paddock bend.

They won't last long though. I reckon I've scrubbed about 1mm off them in just 8 or 9 runs tonight.

I'm due back at Kames next week for more testing. I must try short-shifting out of paddock to see if I can save a gear change at Gemmell's................

Friday, 29 August 2008

Going Faster

I've got loads of time to think about how to improve my times before the season finale at Kames on 5 October.

I started with a test session at Kames last night, courtesy of East Ayrshire Motor Club. Despite arriving late due to a road closure, I managed about 8 runs all for just £10. I got some great tips from a Kames regular, Lesley Sheridan, who was kind enough to sit in on a run. She reassured me that my approach to Paddock bend was fine but I could carry more speed through Norrie's and Gemmell by taking a different line. I put it into practice and, boy, did it feel quicker!

I'll be back at Kames for more testing in a fortnight and by then I'll have my new tyres too............

I've ordered a set of Marangoni Zeta Linea in 195/50 15. These are ultra sticky List 1A tyres which, by all accounts, should save me a second a run! They cost a princely sum of £33 each fitted - so it's not a huge risk if they turn out to be rubbish. Time will tell........

The final piece of the jigsaw is to save a wee bit more weight by fitting the Elise passenger seat that's been littering my garage for 9 months. I'll give that a go in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Forrestburn Hillclimb

Forrestburn 24 August 2008
Photo: SkinnyDoug

Yesterday was my first outing on the hill Forrestburn since I had 'fallen' off the track back in April, ending just a few metres from a very deep reservoir. This was near the forefront of my mind as I sat on the startline waiting for the green light.

I eased myself in with a nice gentle practice run of 62 secs. I was hopeful I could get near my previous best time of 58.64 secs. However, my second run was in the 61 secs and I was still being very cautious at the first corner where I went off in April. The third run of 60secs was a bit better but still disappointing.

By the last run, I had managed to get down to 59.04 - about half a second off my best.

On the positive side, I had managed to keep it on the track and, as I was the only championship runner in my class, I get 25 points in the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.

This means the top 5 (unofficial) class R2 positions with two rounds to go are:

Kev Hamilton (me)Mazda MX-5157
Dennis HopeMGF VVC113
Andy SuterCitroen Saxo98
Paul RiggMGF VVC97
Chris HarrisLotus Elise80

This lead gives me a cracking chance of clinching the Class at the final round at Kames on 5 October.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Busy Weekend

Forrestburn Picture
Photo: Giles Guthrie

I'm all set for a busy weekend.

On Saturday, I'm at the Culzean Autoclassica show at the beautiful Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. My sponsors, MX-5 Scotland, asked me to attend to represent the club and I was happy to oblige. I've given the car a quick clean ready for the show....

On Sunday, I'm competing at the Forrestburn hillclimb. This counts as rounds of several championships including the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship and the Windowcraft Lowland Speed Championship.

I'm currently leading Class R2 in the Northern Championship and should bag 25 points on Sunday to consolodate that position. I'm not sure where I stand in the Lowland Championship but I'll need to get a good time to gain decent points.

My goal is to beat my previous best time of 58.64secs set in April.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Cumbria Classic Car Show

Yesterday I did my bit for Wigton Motor Club and helped out at their annual Cumbria Classic Car Show. The event, billed as the largest classic show in the north of England was indeed a big deal with apparently over 400 entrants.

I pulled the short straw and ended up marshalling entrants as they arrived at the entrance gate. These folk take their polishing seriously and some were a wee bit miffed at having to drive into a muddy field but there you go.

I managed to get my car displayed, pride of place, in the Wigton club display. Would you believe that out of 400 cars, mine was the only MX5. Lots of folk showed an interest and I even caught some kids taking photos of it!

Anyway, I took a few photos on my camera too..........

Cumbria Classic
The Racing Five

Cumbria Classic
Some MGBs

Cumbria Classic
A very unusual sight

Cumbria Classic
I'd love one of these

Cumbria Classic
Testarossa !

And finally......

What the hell is that noise??????? (could it be the snoring of a certain Wigton speed series competitor?)

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Kames Sprint - 3 August

Kames 3 August 2008
Photo by SkinnyDoug

I just realised that I hadn't posted a report about my latest sprint outing. Such was the excitement of getting a trophy at Elvington that I plain forgot!

Anyway, there wasn't a whole lot of good news to report. The weather started very iffy but cleared up later in the day and I was up against the usual seriously quick competion of the Exige S of Graeme Bremner/Jennifer Clyne plus a very nicely sorted S1 Elise (Michael Stout). Making a welcome return was the Porsche Boxster S of Melvyn Hartley with the class being joined by a beastly TVR Griffith 500.

So, having the lowest power to weight ratio by a long shot, I didn't hold out much hope. I was hoping to get in a decent time close to my personal best of 100.26 secs set back in April at the first meet of the year.

Kames 3 August 2008
Photo by SkinnyDoug

However, it was not to be. The best I could manage was a low 102 secs which bagged me 4th out of 5 in class. Can you guess who I managed to beat?

Well, it was the Griff! It was just a bit too much of a handful around the twisty confines of Kames and he had a hard time keeping it on the track (and failed on a couple of occasions). The Boxster managed a 101sec run so I wasn't far off him.

There was a good spectator turnout and it was nice that several folk came up during the day and asked about the car. A couple expressed an interest in getting MX-5s which is good to hear.

SkinnyDoug posted some good pictures on his web gallery. I've pinched the best ones of me for the site (hope he don't mind!)

I've been invited to a couple of classic car shows over the next two weekends - first up the Cumbria Classic Car Show at Dalemain, near Penrith on Sat 17th - then Culzean Autoclassica on 23 August.

Next competitive outing is at Forrestburn on 24th August. The end of the season approaches...........

Monday, 4 August 2008

Elvington Sprint - 2 August 2008

Round 8 of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship was held at Elvington Airfield near York on Saturday.

I travelled down on Friday night to a lovely wee B&B called Trowthorpe Grange, near Market Weighton. The journey down was uneventful and I managed a good night's sleep before heading over to Elvington on Saturday morning.

The weather started damp and with heavy showers forecast, it promised to be a challenging day's motorsport.

The event was well organised and run by York Motor Club and had attracted a diverse entry of cars ranging from a fantastic looking Juno to a Volkswagen Passat Diesel Estate!

I was in a class of 7 which included 2 other championship runners (Andy Suter in his Saxo and Dennis Hope in his MGF). The rest of the field comprised a 2.0 litre Clio, a Fiesta ST and a couple of Focuses. Having done my homework, I knew that the main competition would come from the Clio and the Fiesta ST. My best time from last year (in perfect conditions) was 91.04 secs and whilst I'd beaten both the Clio and Fiesta drivers last year, they were both in new cars.

The first couple of runs were a bit of a wash-out and it was difficult to learn anything about the dry grip available. I managed to get the car completely sideways coming out of the last corner and I'm sure I crossed the line at a 'jaunty angle'! However, I knew I was on the pace posting times within a second of the Clio and the Fiesta at around 92 seconds.

The first timed run came along and as the weather had cleared, I decided to go all out to get a decent time - just in case the rain came back. I managed to get a half decent start and through the first half of the run without any major hiccups. Coming into the last corner, I overcooked it, the car understeered wide but I managed to correct with a slight lift and back on the power to slide over the line again. Result - 89.9 seconds. I was well chuffed. I was already over a second faster than last year, I was a second faster than anyone else in the class and I was over 3 seconds faster than my nearest championship competition (Andy Suter on 93.09).

Run 2 came along and after a cracking start, I chipped away another half a second posting 89.54 secs. The Fiesta was now down to 90.51 secs but the Clio had done a blistering 88.37 secs. I was stunned (again!) - he'd dropped 4 seconds in one go and I couldn't see me catching him.


As run 3 approached, so did the rainclouds. There was a mad dash for the start line to try and get our runs in before the rain but only 2 cars got out before the most horrendous downpour I've seen in years. I just missed getting out and I had to sit on the startline for over half an hour whilst the rain passed over and then the marshalls frantically made the track safe. Even with their efforts, the track still had large areas of standing water and the best I could manage was 96 secs. It was good fun though! With such a wet track, no-one could better their earlier times but by the end of it, the track was virtually dry again.

The officials then had a debate over whether a fourth timed run could be offered. eventually, they agreed that it was permissible and we were called to the start line. One last chance to clinch the class win but I would have to shave over a second off my time.

I got a poor start but quickly made up for it through the first couple of corners. I had picked up a wee tip from one of the other competitors to straigh line one of the chicanes and it worked a treat - hardly any need to brake. Round the final corner the car understeered again and I lost time correcting it but posted a respectable 89.16 secs. I knew I'd missed out on first in class but I was hopeful of second.

Back at the pits, I nervously waited for the results to be posted. I couldn't believe it when I saw the Fiesta driver had posted 89.16secs - exactly the same time as me. However, I posted the time first and I had beaten him on all the other runs so I was hopeful.........

Hopeful enough to hang around for the awards presentation and I was chuffed to bits when they announced that I had got second place and presented me with a nice wee trophy.

As for the other class championship contenders, the results went as follows:

Me (MX-5) 89.16 secs (25 points)
Dennis Hope (MGF) 91.21 secs (24 points)
Jon Lyth (BMW 325) 92.25 secs (23 points)
Andy Suter (Citroen Saxo) 92.26 secs (22 points)

I reckon than leaves me first in class with three rounds to go but the official positions have still to be published. One thing's for sure, it's going to be very close and it could go right to the season finale at Kames on 4 October........

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Knockhill Tracknight

(Picture: Skinnydoug)

I attended the tracknight organised by Dreadnought garage at Knockhill last Friday and had an eventful couple of hours.

As ever, the weather was very wet to start with and this made things slightly exciting with lots of spray and standing water. The car felt very twitchy and right enough, on my first session, I managed a comedy spin coming out of the chicane. Some kind soul (Thanks Ben!) caught it on camera and posted it on YouTube

After coming in, I reduced the tyre pressures by 4PSI and it felt a wee bit better but I don't think the Toyo T1-Rs are that great in the wet. I should probably have softened up the suspension but I didn't want to get down on my hands and knees to change the settings!

By the end of the evening, the weather had improved and we started getting some reasonably dry laps but I wasn't really in the mood by then.

There were some serious machines there including the ubiquitous Evos and Scoobies. My favourites were the Lister Jaguar C-type (sounded awesome) and the Mustang Mach 1 (in the colours of Eleanor!). Hats off to both drivers for being brave enough to take those cars out.

I've sort of gone off these types of trackdays - I seem to spend too much time looking in my mirrors rather than having fun and exploring the limits of the car.

Next outing is at Elvington on 2 August.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Scammonden Result

There were several surprises during my trip to Scammonden Dam for the 6th round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship yesterday.

First up was the distance. I hadn't realised how far it was - the round trip was 490 miles. I travelled down on Saturday night and camped at a site behind a pub near the village of Marsden. After a good night's sleep, I awoke to blue skies and brilliant sunshine - great!


After a run through some lovely West Yorks countryside, I arrived at the venue and nearly had a fit when I saw the paddock arrangements. We had to park on a slope, on 2 foot high grass. At least it was dry.


The scrutineer came round and gave the car a very cursory once over and it was time to walk the course. Then came the second surprise......

The hill is unbelievably steep! It might only be 550 yards long and have just 4 corners but the gradient is a real test of grunt. Or in my case, a real test of lack of grunt!


Practice runs were a fact-finding exercise. I found that snatching second gear just before the first corner gave a faster exit and enabled a quicker run up to the second corner which was a very steep, tight right hander. This second corner was crucial because it was at this point that the gradient really kicked in. Getting a good exit here would set up the car for a good run up the rest of the hill.

My competition for the day was Paul Rigg and Dennis Hope double driving the MGF. Chris Harris in the Elise was a no show. For a while it looked like it might be quite close. By our fourth run, Dennis had done a 31.9, I had done 31.7 and Paul was on 31.5 - all quite tight. On run five, Paul pulled out the stops and managed 30.44. I was stunned. I couldn't see where I was going to make a whole second on such a short course. Worst of all, Dennis was at my heels. I desperately needed to beat Dennis so at least I could claim 24 points and stay joint top of the class in the championship.


I hadn't completely given up hope of pipping Paul so for my last run I decided to give it all. So, I'm sitting at the start line and just as the light went green there was this enormous rumble - it sounded like the big end had gone. Undeterred, I floored the throttle and took off up the hill. Up to second gear and round the first bend. I noticed the marshalls looking skywards????? I carried on up the hill as fast as I could muster and all the way up I noticed the marhsalls and spectators looking up. Why weren't they watching me????

I got to the top to discover that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had just flown past with the Lancaster and Spitfires - nae wonder folk weren't watching me in my poxy Mazda!

Anyway, I posted a time of 31.06 - not enough to get near Paul who did 30.3 on his last run but good enough to claim 24 points and keep me in contention in the championship.

My next competitive outing is at Elvington on 2 August but I've got a trackday at Knockhill to test a few things before then..........

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Scammonden Dam Hillclimb

Next outing for the MX5Scotland sponsored RacingFive is at Scammonden Dam, next to the M62 in West Yorkshire on Sunday.

The climb is round 6 of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship. My class (Roadgoing Production Cars over 1400cc) is very close this season. :D

All the front runners have completed three rounds and I'm currently leading on 73 points. Hot on my heels is Paul Rigg in the race-prepared MGF VVC 160 on 72 points then joint third are Rich Lewthwaite in the Seat and Chris Harris in the 190bhp Elise on 70 points.

Both the MGF and the Elise are competing this weekend so I really need to beat them to consolidate my position. I only managed to beat them once - at Kames where I had local advantage and the weather on my side. I'm hoping my recent alignment and practice at Llandow will give me a fighting chance.

I'll have a full report on my return and hopefully some photos too.

You can see a video of the course here (.wmv format)

The rest of the season is shaping up as follows:

2 August - Elvington, York (Northern Championship)
3 August - Kames (Scottish Championship)
24 August - Forrestburn (Scottish and Northern Championships)
4 October - Kames (Northern Championship)

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Cumbria Classic Caper

Motorsport of all forms relies on folk to set up, organise and help out on the day. So today, I did my bit and marshalled on the Cumbria Classic Caper rally. This was my first time at a classic rally and I was thoroughly impressed by the preparation of the cars, the standard of driving and the overall fun factor that these guys have.

I spent the day watching a range of old motors drive round cones in a non-damaging test . The crews get given layout maps of the tests but they get no opportunity to 'walk the course' or practice like we do in speed events. Whilst the speeds are fairly slow (mainly second gear, there was some fantastic, controlled sideways action - particularly from the Mk2 Escorts. You could hear them coming a mile off - sounded just like the 1979 Lombard RAC.

I'll definitely be back next year and I might try and marshall on some other events because it truly is a great way to get close to the action - plus you get a free meal at the end of the day. Fantastic.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Forrestburn Hillclimb

My racing fund is all washed up for this month what with the cost of fuel and having to travel over 1200miles for Barbon and Llandow. So, I couldn't afford the entry fee for this weekend's hillclimbs at Forrestburn but I managed to get along for a few hours this morning to spectate with my two-year old son, James.

I caught up with the class A8 guys and pleaded poverty when they asked why I wasn't competing.

The conditions on the hill looked ok - fairly dry with the usual force 9 severe gale blowing in from the west to dry the track between the showers. There were some good times being posted too - I saw Jonathon Rarity do 40.8 secs in practice!

It was a bit depressing seeing all the guys get more hill time (I badly need more time having only been up Forrestburn 8 times). I really need to plan my finances better next year.

Anyway, I took a few snaps on my phone.

Graeme Bremner, Lotus Exige

Colin McLatchie, Morgan

Ian Wright, Honda Civic

Angus Buchan, Radical

Saturday, 28 June 2008

More photos from Llandow

There was a pro photographer at the Mazda on Track organised trackday at Llandow last weekend. Headline photography took some excellent shots and have an unusual pricing policy whereby you choose how much you are prepared to pay for the images.

Once purchased, you download hi-res pics and can then do what you like with the images - pretty cool idea, in my opinion - something that other pro photographers could learn from. So many times I've looked at pro photographer's packages and thought the images are ok but I don't want to pay £25 for prints that i will never use. So, good on Headline for this novel concept.

Here's a selection of the photos I bought:





Sunday, 22 June 2008

Llandow with Mazda On Track


I just had an epic weekend at Llandow with Mazda on Track, a start-up trackday company run by two top blokes, Nick and Al.

The plan was to travel down Friday, camp Friday and Saturday nights and back up Sunday. It didn't quite go to plan!

All was well on the way down - I left at 10,30am and, by chance, met up with me old mate, Lazza at Cardiff Gate services. We arrived at the track at 7.30pm and quickly got the tents set up. The evening was spent chewing the fat, eating kebabs, drinking beer and playing glo-in-the-dark frisbee!

Next morning after breakfast Lazza and I headed into Bridgend for fuel. We couldn't find an super unleaded at the first couple of petrol stations so I left Lazza to find some on his own (he needs it for his supercharged beast!).

Back at track, we had the briefing and we were all set to go. There was no sign of Lazza. I checked my phone and there was a text message - "Car is broken". A quick call later and it was established that his throttle body was stuffed and he was waiting for the RAC. Major bummer!


Still, I had travelled 400 miles so I got stuck in to testing out the car properly for the first time this year. Llandow is a great circuit - a combination of a very slow technical section (Bus stop/Devil's elbow) combined with a couple fast straights and a fast, 3rd gear corner (strangely called Glue Pot).

The Bus Stop section is very tricky to get right. The temptation is just to floor it but this just results in terrible understeer. The trick seems to be to stay off the gas until you're heading for the second apex then blip the throttle which brings the rear end round. Then you can nail the throttle and set up the car for Devils Elbow. This is another corner which is tricky and again you have to stay off the gas until the car is straightened up. By the end of the day, I had just about got it right but I still couldn't keep up with some of the other guys through that section!

The Glue Pot, on the other had, is one of my favourite types of corners. If you get the line right, you can go flat out all the way! It takes some balls though as the run-off is fairly meagre!

The car felt absolutely superb. I had the P5 dampers set to 8 front and 10 rear, tyres set to 26psi all round and it just stuck like glue. Through the Bus Stop it was easy to provoke oversteer, catch the slide and drift a bit - no nasty handling at all. I needed to get that confidence and I'm sure it will stand me in good stead for the rest of the season.


With Lazza heading home on a flat bed truck, I decide not to bother staying Saturday night so I packed up during the afternoon break and had one final session on track before leaving around 4.45pm.

After several stops to catch some sleep, I made it home at 3.30am! I did say epic!

All in all, I had a good weekend although I felt sorry for Lazza and I could have done without the journey (and the fuel costs!).

I've got a bit of a break now as I've decided not to do Forrestburn next weekend. Next outing (budget permitting) will probably be at Scammonden Dam on 13 July.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Barbon Speed Hillclimb - Fantastic

14/06/2008, originally uploaded by kevham.

The hillclimb course at Barbon is one of the shortest in Britain but it has a great atmosphere and is set in wonderful Cumbrian countryside.
It's quite a distance to travel but the atmosphere makes it worthwhile. So it was that Is set off at 5am this morning and trundled down the M6, stopping only for a comfort break at Southwaite.
I arrived at Barbon in plenty time to get unpacked and scrutineered. The weather looked promising and everyone was sure of a good day's sport.

I set out with three aims for today:
1. Beat my best time from last year of 34.35 secs
2. Beat my championship competition, Andy Suter in his Saxo
3. Get home in one piece without any damage!

There's only three corners at Barbon. A blind left hander just off the start line, a third gear 'flat left, maybe' with some eye watering old trees right on the trajectory of errant drivers and a very tricky right handed, uphill hairpin. Lots of folk focus on the fast left but I reckon the hairpin is where lots of seconds are lost (for me anyway!)


My first practice was fairly good. I got off the start without too much wheelspin and pulled good speed through the first bend. I lifted early for the fast left but it's a real confidence corner so I was quite happy. Coming up to the hairpin, I forgot I have to change down to first and had to snatch it. This caused the rear wheels to chirp but I kept it tidy and fired over the line in 34.82secs. Not bad - only half a second off last year's best.

Then the heavens opened and it looked like the day might be a washout. Second run was very wet and after a poor start (I am rubbish in the wet), I managed only 36.65secs.

Andy in the Saxo had managed 36.25 on the first run and 37.32 on the wet second run so I was hopeful that if I could keep it neat I would beat him.


Lunch next and I made the mistake of having a burger and chips. I put tomato sauce on the burger but it wasn't tomato sauce - it was chilli sauce!

First timed run and the track had dried up a bit. I got away ok but again, I lifted way early for the fast corner and I muffed the hairpin. My time was 35.07. By this time, Andy was on 35.67 secs - the competition was hotting up.

By the time of the final run, the sun was back out and the temperature was hotting up. I made some minor adjustments to the tyre pressures (26PSI all round) and was ready to go. I got a reasonable start and kept on the gas through the first corner. I lifted a little less for the fast left and headed up to the hairpin. Later on the brakes, down to first , a chirp from the rear wheels, turn in and floor it. The car gripped bettter than it ever has and i could see the clock at the line was on 32 secs! Up to second and over the finish line in 33.78 secs. Objective 1 complete!


I got up to the top paddock and headed down to watch the rest of the batch come up the hill. I got there just in time to see Andy and waited with, on tenterhooks, as he crossed the line. A short delay and the commentator announced his time - 35.5secs. A cheer from me and Objective 2 complete (sorry Andy!) . The result gets me 25 class championship points which takes me to the top of the class by 1 point.

So, a good day in all. The car felt great - the Toyo T1-Rs are bedding in and hopefully the trackday at Llandow next weekend will shave off enough tread to bring them to their peak.

On the journey back, I got to thinking of some new ideas for extra speed. Maybe I'll be able to implement some before my next competitive outing at Scammonden on 13 July.

I got home at 6.30pm - in one piece with no damage - objective 3 complete.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Bring on Barbon !

The postie brought the final regs for the Barbon Speed Hillclimb today. I'm car number 8 and up against some serious competition including the super quick Renault 5 turbo of Russell Thorpe, three Lotus Elises and a couple of Clio 172 entries.

However, there's only one other competitor in my championship class (Andy Suter's Saxo VTS) so as long as I can get a timed run in, I'm guaranteed at least 24 points. Of course, I'm aiming to beat Andy and claim the full 25 points which will see me rise to the top of the R2 class for the time being.

The other Northern Speed Championship class competitors are off doing other things this weekend. I notice that the MG Trophy race series is at Silverstone so i guess the Rigg/Hope combination is competing there and Chris Harris in his S2 Elise is missing too. All good news for the RacingFive push for the R2 class championship in 2008. It's shaping up to be quite close this year.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Alignment Fixed

I knew that my excursion over the grass at Forrestburn had knocked my carefully developed alignment settings out but until today, I hadn't realised by how much!

I took the car back to good old Claire and Paul at Dreadnought in Callander to have the alignment re-set. Turns out that I had 1.2mm of toe OUT at the rear right. This might explain some of the twitchiness under braking I've experienced of late.

Since I'm now mainly running standard road tyres (Toyo T1-R) as opposed to the stickier Toyo R888s and I'm back on looser anti-roll bars, I've toned down the camber settings a wee bit. Settings now are:
Front axle
Caster = 5 degrees
Camber = -1.2 degrees
Toe = 0.3mm IN per side
Rear Axle
Camber = -1.8 degrees
Toe = 0.6mm IN per side

On the drive back, the car felt very nicely planted with no adverse behaviour. The clunking appears to have subsided as well so I wonder if one of the alignment bolts was a wee bit loose before. I had thought it was the drop-links so I have ordered a new set from Steve Heath which should be here for fitting before Barbon next weekend.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Wigton Motor Club - Kames Sprint - MY FIRST WIN !

My aim today was to get close to my 100secs best but alas, that was not to be. However, I also had the task of picking up points in the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.
Last week saw me trash my trusty Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres so I had to get new tyres fitted during the week to stay legal. I plumped for Toyo T1-R in 195/50 15 as many other competitors use them and thay are cheap (£32 each). Time constraints meant I only managed to get them on the car on Friday.

I'd noticed clunks from both the front and the rear when I took the car for a spin after fitting the tyres so I spent much of Saturday trying to identify what it was. I narrowed down the front clunk to a loose ARB droplink but the rear seems to be the ARB moving about - more investigation needed. Anyway, I've had the tyres on and off about 4 times over the weekend.
I had a spririted run down to Kames this morning to try to get some heat in the tyres and to try to scrub off the greasy film that new tyres have. Weather was overcast but dry to start although the forecast was for rain.
I reckoned that my best chance was to get a couple of fast runs in early on and hope for rain before the competition had 'learned' the track.

My first run did not go especially well. The tyres felt very vague and 'squirmy' - no real feeling of grip or any idea of what was happening - especially at the front end. I managed 105.9secs which was well off my standard first run times of around 104secs. I checked the tyre pressures and noticed that I had the front tyres on back to front (they are directional!) . A quick change and all was sorted.
Next run wasn't much better though. The car felt a wee bit more responsive but still nowhere near as sharp as it felt in April. I managed 105.64secs. Someone suggested dropping the pressures so I backed them off to 26psi all round.
First proper run and the car was feeling a bit better. The tyres still felt a bit vague but there was definitely some grip there. I managed 104.00 seconds. My main competition, the Elise managed 104.14 and the faster of the two MGF drivers got was down to around 105secs. So I was in the lead for the moment but the Elise was getting into it now.

Second timed run and I tried a wee bit harder. It didn't really work though. I still couldn't get the confidence to really push on the fast paddock bend and as a result, I managed 104.12secs. I got back to the paddock in time to watch the Elise run. He was on a flyer and I was sure I was going to get beat but, luck was on my side as he outbraked himself at the hairpin and went off. The MGF driver had done 104.6secs so I was still in front.

Then my prayers were answered and the rain came on. The MGF tried to get out quick in the hope that he could get a fast run in before the track got wet but it was not to be. He managed 108secs before the rain really came on. Although I could have packed up there and then, I decided to go out and after a terrible start (I reckon I was at the startline, wheels spinning for 5 seconds - better to do a 'granny start'), I posted 114secs. It didn't matter, I'd already achieved my very first class win and a full 25 points!
So, a day of highs and lows. I need to find out why my car is so much slower than it was last year. Could it be the lack of the K&N Typhoon??? Could it be the suspension kit???? Could it be the fresh tyres (definitely a contributing factor)??? Could it be the knackered alignment???? Next event is at Barbon in Cumbria in 2 weeks. Hopefully I'll have sorted out the gremlins by then..............

(photo: D Hunter)

Saturday, 31 May 2008

All set for another sprint

23/05/2008, originally uploaded by kevham.

The car developed a nasty clunk from the suspension after Kames last week. so I decided to spend a few hours trying to track it down.

Turns out it was a loose ARB droplink which I must have failed to tighten properly. On inspection, it looks like the droplinks are all shot so I'll be ordering some replacements to be fitted before Barbon on 14 June.

I've got the new Toyo T1-Rs on now and I have to say they feel a wee bit vague on the road but they do seem quite sticky. I'm quite keen to try these tyres in a lower profile and am considering 195/45 14 size which would improve the gearing for tighter circuits like Kames.

Anyway, wether forecast for tomorrow is good so I'm looking to beat the magic 100 secs although I'm wondering if removing the K&N Typhoon kit has lost me a bit of horsepower?????

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Kames Sprint Round 2

25/05/2008, originally uploaded by kevham.

Sunday started with a trip back to Kames in the Skoda as we had left the Racing Five at the track overnight. The early start did not agree with the whole family though - wee James got a bit car-sick and chundered up his breakfast banana on the way to Muirkirk. After a quick clean up operation, we were soon there.

The sprint was organised by the Machars car club who are so laid back they are horizontal. The consequence of this was that we didn't start until after 10.30am (despite there being no need for major scrutineering).

The car felt ok on the first practice. I got a very poor start and took it nice and easy to settle back into having the stock roll bars - the last time I was clockwise at Kames I had Toyo 888s and stiff roll bars! My first run clocked 104secs.

Second run I got a better start but missed 3rd gear going down through "Gemmell's" and was well off the limit on the paddock bend. I managed 102.10secs - 2 secs off my personal best of 100.25secs set in April.

First time run and I decided to crank the shockers up to 10 clicks front and 11 clicks rear. The car was less settled this time and certainly seemed a bit twitchy - I managed 102.94secs.

Final run and I soften the dampers slightly. This time I got another poor start but went much quicker round paddock - on one lap, I managed to get a bit sideways! Unfortunately, this is not the quickest way round a track so i only managed 101.89secs - over 1.5secs slower than I've been.

The car feels more neutral with the standard anti-roll bars on - I was able to control the slides with plenty of warning and there was not a hint of understeer this weekend.

I think my tyres are past their best - there's a big flat spot on the front passenger tyre and they are starting to crack a bit so they need to be replaced before next weekend's Wigton Sprint back at Kames.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Kames sprint - 24 May 2008

24/05/2008, originally uploaded by kevham.

Well day 1 is over and it was a bit strange. The weather was fine (if a touch windy) but I was a bit out of sorts as I had done my back in fitting the stock ARBs on Friday.

It was also my first time going anti-clockwise at Kames and it is a completely different track in that direction.

The morning got off to lousy start as there was a shortage of marshals, meaning some drivers had to help out and only 1 car on track at a time - things dragged a bit!

I managed 99 secs on my first run which seemed very slow in comparison to others. The car felt very skittish and I had a big lock-up coming into the hairpin. I decided to lower the tyre pressures a bit.

Second run I managed 95.63 secs and I thought there was a bit more to come as I made another big mistake at the hairpin. However, third run I only managed 95.17secs.

Then there was a big delay as there was a whole sump load of oild dumped on the track and much effort was required to clean it up.

Final run came round and i managed 95.04secs. Last in class (by a long way) and one of the slowest overall. Nevermind. It sets a benchmark for my next outing going 'the wrong way round'..........

Friday, 23 May 2008

ARBs fitted

23/05/2008, originally uploaded by kevham.

This morning I spent a couple of hours fitting the standard ARBs back on the car. Word on the street is that this should fix the understeer problems I've experienced since fitting the P5 Puredrive coilovers.

I'm all ready for the weekend's sprinting at Kames. Weather forecast is good and I'm hoping to beat 100secs on the clockwise circuit on Sunday.

Watch this space........

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

2008 season beginnings

As I write this, I've already spent a winter preparing the car with new suspension from Performance5

The kit included new adjustable height shocks and stiffer springs.

Fitting the kit proved to be a traumatic experience, resulting in snapped bolts, much head scratching, excessive use of a blowtorch and expensive repairs.

Anyway, after a mad rush I had the car corner weighted and aligned at Dreadnought in Callander and I was ready for the first event at Kames. I was lucky enough to secure some support from the and they turned out in numbers to support me at my first event.

That has since been followed by a hillclimb at Forrestburn where I managed to nearly end up in a lake and subsequent sprints at East Fortune and Teesside.

I still haven't won any awards but at least I'm not always coming last now (unlike last year!).

I've made some adjustments to the suspension set-up as the anti-roll bars seemed too stiff with the new springs so I'll be running the standard ARBs again.

This weekend sees a double header at Kames so I'll post a full report and pictures after that.