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)