Thursday, 30 July 2009

Kames, Harewood and Kames Again

Kames turned into a bit of a damp squib with wet conditions for most of the day, a small entry and a shortage of marshalls. I ended up marshalling at the paddock bend both morning and afternoon and it definitely affected my concentration (that's my excuse anyway).

My class was quite big with 7 entries including the amalgamated R1 Peugeot 205 Rallye of Dave Wiggins. The wet conditions didn't suit me - especially with the Marangonis on - and the best I could manage was 108.68 seconds. This was only good enough to get 4th in class after Wiggins in first, Chris Harris's Elise S2 in second and Paul Rigg's MGF in third.

Most entertaining drive of the day came from Dave Exton who seemed to be intent of rally crossing his MR2. Either that or he is entering the Tokyo Drift Championship next year. It was a bit off-putting to see him launch over the gravel trap, tip up and nearly overturn at paddock bend. I've never seen anyone do that before! Fortunately, no-one was hurt and he managed to pick all the stones out and get a final run where he very nearly beat me.

Tomorrow, I'm off to pick up my new car and then rushing down to Harewood for a round of the HSA/REI Speed Championship. Weather forecast is wet so it could be interesting.

Then its back up on Saturday in time to get to Kames on Sunday to help out at the British Sprint Championship meeting. Hopefully they'll give me an interesting job.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Clunk Clunk

Ok, I'v been out and changed the wheels. While I was at it, I looked at the front nearside lower wishbone again. The front alignment bolt had loosened off again and that was the source of the clunk. I took the bolt out and it looked a wee bit bent so I replaced it with a new one.


New bolt in place

This bolt must take the bulk of the punishment on the events that I do - most of the circuits are clockwise and the front nearside wheel does most of the work.

Getting ready for Kames

Back from hols. It was nice to have a week with the wife and kids.

Managed to buy a new car too! More on that in a later blog.

Got to get the car ready for Kames on Sunday. I need to put my Marangonis on as the weather looks very wet and the Toyos have not much tread left. I also need to sort the clunk AGAIN!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Holiday time

It's just past the half way point in my season with 13 events completed and 10 more to go. My family rarely come to speed events because of logistics and with so many events this year requiring an overnight stop, it's time for some family time. So, we're all off to Argyll for a week.

In true racingFIVE style though, I'm taking a slight detour on the way back to look at a potential new car for the 2010 season.........more on that towards the end of the year methinks.

When I get back, I have to get ready for the Wigton MC sprint at Kames on 26 July. It's a crucial event for me because it could make or break whether I can defend the R2 class title. The opposition are tough to beat and although I have lots of experience at Kames, it's not really enough to beat the throttle bodied, nitron suspended Elise of Chris Harris unless it rains like last year. Paul Rigg is also quick in the MGF VVC and that car is well suited to the track.

The others are all capable of humbling me too - especially if I have one of my 'despondent days' but I'm hoping that the break will see me refreshed and raring to go.

On the techincal side, I found out what the 'clunk' was a couple of weeks ago. Turned out to be a loose lower wishbone bolt. I duly tightened it up and aligned the wheel by eye (how accurate is that!) and clunk gone. Alignment is all to pot now but the car feels stable and worked fine at Scammonden so I'm not too worried.

I've changed the oil and cleaned the very dirty air filter so hopefully it should all be running tickety-boo at Kames.

Looking forward, August is going to be busy with Harewood, Kames, 3 Sisters, MIRA and Forrestburn all on the itinery. I'm going to need this holiday...........

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Second at Scammonden


Scammonden Dam is an interesting place for a hillclimb. The M62 motorway goes right over the top of the dam and the hillclimb takes place on the service road. The start is at the base of the dam and the route, although short, is very steep.

This was round 4 of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship and I was looking for 10 points to put me squarely in the lead. I was also looking to beat my best time from last year of 31.06 seconds.

The other championship class R2 contenders were Steve Palmer (Honda Civic), Dave Exton (MR2) and Chris Harris (Elise). The MGF of Paul Rigg/Dennis Hope was not there due to racing commitments. It was nice to see Chris back in the saddle after a long lay-off (although he is going to be tough to beat!).

My two practice runs were not great - 32.96 and 32.34 - well down on last year and the other guys were pushing hard.

Timed runs got progressively better - I just couldn't manage the start very well - but I went from 32.21secs down to a respectable 30.71secs on my last (seventh!) run. That was enough to secure second in my class on the day - beaten by a Clio 172. It was also good enough to get 8 championship points with Chris bagging the full 10 points with an impressive 28.98 secs.

The best times of my championship competition were:

Chris Harris (Elise) - 28.98
Me (MX-5) - 30.71
Steve Palmer (Civic) - 31.12
Dave Exton (MR2) - 31.59

I was partcularly pleased with two things:
1. that I beat last year's time (by nearly half a second)
2. that my fastest run was my last run

I'll also be at the top of the championship class now, with 32 points, Paul Rigg on 26 points. But if Chris Harris turns up for the remaining events, he will have the class in the bag, I reckon.....

Next up - Kames on 26 July.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Gearing up for Scammonden

Scammonden Hillclimb - July 2008

The final instructions arrived today for the hillclimb at Scammonden Dam, near Huddersfield this coming Sunday. There's a fairly small entry which means we should get loads of runs if it stays dry.

For me, it's my second visit to the Yorkshire venue and I'm keen to beat my PB of 31.06secs from last year. It's round 4 of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship where I'm currently sitting second in class on 24 points behind Paul Rigg (MGF) on 26 points.

There's 10 class points for a win and Paul isn't there due to racing commitments so I have to make it work for me! Unfortunately, I have the competition of Dave Exton in his MR2, Stephen Palmer in his powerful Honda Civic and the return of Chris Harris in is well sorted S2 Elise. I've beaten them all at some stage but at the same time, they've all beaten me - and I'm not particularly good on the hills!

The car was starting to feel a bit tired at Harewood - the dreaded suspension clunk is back and it really needs a full service. I might get some time on Friday to change the oil and look at the clunk but time is tight........

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Harewood Hillclimb Weekend

I'm just back from a fabulous weekend at the Harewood Speed Hillclimb for a round of the Richard Egger Insurance/HSA Speed Championship. This was my first visit to the Yorkshire hill and it exceeded expectations.


All set up and ready to race.

Arriving on Friday night, I set up my tent and proceeded to walk the hill. I was stunned to find that the first 300m is downhill! In fact it is more like a mini-sprint than a hillclimb. However, the second part of the course is pure speed hillclimbing a its best with blind over-crest corners, fast sweepers and a storming section through a farmyard. Mooo.....


The competition

My competion was in the form of John Gallagher - current HSA championship leader in his Mk1 1.8 Roadster, Tony Thomas - placed second in the championship with is Mk1 1.6 and Barbara Fogden - 2008 MX-5 Class champion in her Mk1 1.6.

As this meeting was also a round of the MSA British Hillclimb Championship, Saturday was purely practice with a further practice run on Sunday followed by two vital timed runs.

Practice went well with me getting quicker with each run: 77.62, 77.39, 75.05, 74.06. John managed a cracking 73.10 on his third practice but couldn't repeat it. Tony and Barbara were struggling to keep up with us - the 1.6 probably not having the grunt for the second part of the course. Their best practice runs were 76.19 and 76.79 respectively.

I spent hours on Saturday night analysing split times and walking the course again. I was sure I had it cracked and could take another 2 seconds off my time. Alas, it was not to be!

My Sunday practice run was a bit of a disaster - I had a couple of big lockups and got well out of shape coming into 'Orchard' which cost me a lot of speed on the exit. I only managed a time of 75.12. John did a 73.40 so was close to his best time from Saturday.

First timed runs came along and it looked like it might rain so I went all guns blazing in the hope that my competitors would get caught out later. I got a good start and held on through the first corner. I locked up coming into the twisty 'esses' which cost me time but I managed to get on the power early for the start of the uphill section. I had another lockup at 'Orchard' (guess what I need to practice!) and lost lots of time again but I managed to get a reasonable run through the final part the course to post 74.12secs.

John came in with a 73.51 so I was within striking distance. If only I could string together a smooth, error free run (the holy grail!). Tony did his best time of the weekend (76.01) and Barbara had a spin so was well down.

The final run came and I tried a wee bit too hard (for a change!). It was more aggressive and messy and I forgot all that I had learned from the split times and walking the course. Unsurprisingly my time was around 74.5 sec. No one else bettered their earlier times so John was winner again with me a close second.


Martin Groves (left) and Scott Moran (right) set off for the final runoff

Whilst all this was going on, there was of course the small matter of the MSA British Hillclimb Championship. It was the usual Groves v Moran tussle with Scott Moran just having the upper hand before I had to leave for my five hour drive home.

There were a few other scots there too - Drew Dawson in his bike engined DJ Firehawk and Nicola and Wallace Menzies - the latter with a brand spanking new DJ Firestorm with Cosworth V8 powerplant. That looks like it could be some machine............

Overall, the best weekend of the year so far (even though I didn't win!).

I'm off to Scammonden Dam near Huddersfield next weekend for round 5 of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Foggy Forrestburn

Forrestburn 28 Jun 09 by Stephen Hynds

Photo: Stephen Hynds

Sunday was an interesting day at Forrestburn. Whilst the rest of the country basked in a heatwave, the microclimate of central Scotland cast a dense fog patch on the hillclimb venue at Forrestburn.

The event was a round of the Lowland Speed Championship but I was treating it as a practice for the August event which is a round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.

I had been misplaced into the A6 class along with the Westfields and Caterhams so coming last was always on the cards. So, I set my sights on trying to get near my previous personal best of 58.64 secs, set last year after my rather spectacular off in first practice.

This time, I took it very easy in practice as the damp conditions proved treacherous. After lunch, the track started drying up an I managed a best run in the low 59secs - about a half a second off my best. I was quite pleased with that. The whole event wrapped up by 2.30pm and I was back home by 3.00pm!

Off to Harewood this coming weekend for my fourth round of the HSA/Richard Egger Insurance Speed Championship. Its also a round of the SBD British Championship so the spectating should be good - I'll take my camera!