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.