Saturday, 29 August 2009

Forrestburn - Saturday 28 August

Just back from a day at my least favourite venue, Forrestburn for a round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.

Weather started pretty miserable with heavy driving rain but it cleared up by the time practice started at 10am.

I have struggled to get a good time at Forrestburn ever since I went off on the first corner in April 2008. I know the corners reasonably well now its just that I don't have the bottle to push it hard. I've been trying since then to break my personal best of 58.64secs.

Anyway, today I was running in the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship against the MGF of Paul Rigg/Dennis Hope, the S2 Elise of Chris Harris, the Honda Civic of Steve Palmer and the MR2 of 'Diamond' Dave Exton.

Practie didn't go great with me getting a fastest run of 60.55 - well behind Paul and only just in front of Dave Exton. I knew I had to go quicker when the timed runs came.

With the changeable weather, I was surprised to see the sun come out for the first timed run and thought this might be the only dry run so I would have to go for it. I managed 58.29secs - beating my old PB and all the other championship class contenders except Chris Harris who posted 57.93secs.

I was sure that was the only dry run we were going to get as the rain came on soon after but it was only a brief shower and it soon brightened up. So the final run came along and it was dry!

I got a good start and kept the power on through more corners than I have before. I managed 57.88secs - I was well chuffed, having taken nearly a second of my previous best.

Again, it was enough to beat all the other championship contenders but Chris did 57.83secs - pipping me to the 10 points by just 5/100ths of a second. That could cost me dear at the end of the season. If only I'd kept the boot in a weeeeeee bit more..........

By my reckoning, the championship class looks like this with 2 rounds to go and dropped scores now counting:

Paul Rigg 60 Pts
Kev Hamilton 58 Pts
Chris Harris 46 Pts
Dave Exton 44 Pts
Steve Palmer 43 Pts
Dennis Hope 31 Pts
Andy Suter 13 pts
David Child 2 Pts

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Suspension grief

Old and new(ish)

One of the front dampers on the VX was leaking so had to be replaced. I decided to tackle it myself and bought a set of second hand dampers from a late model VXR. The pic above shows the two coilover units side by side - the one from my car is on the bottom of the pic.

It should be an easy job - jack car up, take wheel off, unbolt two bolts, remove damper, insert new damper and bolt up. Unfortunately, the monkey who built my car had put the lower damper bolt in backwards making it impossible to remove without either removing the ARB droplink or cutting it out. I chose the latter method on the basis that if I started farting around with the droplink, something else would break.

Suspension with no damper unit in place

Upper shock bolt in place

So, a 1 hour job ended up taking 3 hours but it is done and I've learned a bit more about the car.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

VX Back

I finally got the VX back tonight. My mechanic had some real issues to deal with after he picked it up on Sunday night.

First off, his wife crashed her car on Monday so he had to spend all day sorting that out. When he started work, he discovered that the bleed nipple on the front right caliper was seized so that had to be machined out. Then he had to source a bleed nipple. Then he bust the master cylinder seal and had to source a new master cyclinder - Vauxhall quoted a 10 week delivery - he got one off the shelf the same day by cross-checking against other cars - it's the same item as an Audi TT.

Anyway, it's now running sweet - no rattles. The engine oil has been changed to the right viscosity (10w40), the fuel filter done, coolant checked, brake fluid changed, new plugs (that was the rattle!) and a pre-MOT check done. The front left shock is leaking and you can feel it under braking - the car skips to the right, then left as the shocker fails to work properly but the brakes are working great now.

Other than that, he reckons it's now sound as a pound. I've actually bought some secondhand shocks already (I had a feeling one was kaputt) and I should e able to get them changed over fairly easily myself. I just need to source some new nyloc nuts.

So, the car is entered for Forrestburn on 30 August and I just need to make up a timing strut and mark the battery negative cable and I'm good to go.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The racingVX ?

Took some more photies of the new VX after me and the wee man cleaned it this afternoon.



The car's off to get a good service. When Eric (my friendly VX tech) came round to pick it up, he reckoned it was no more noisy than most Z22SE engines so I guess I'm just paranoid. Car is getting a full monty service - oil, filter, plugs, brake fluid, coolant, fuel filter - and a pre-MOT check.

I'm already planning my mods for sprinting it. First on the list is a set of decent sized wheels! The VX comes with really odd front wheels - they are 17" diameter but only 5.5" wide! Only Bridgestone make tyres to fit and they are like hens teeth so a set of Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 are on the wishlist.

That will open up the sticky tyre options to include Toyo R888 and Kumho V70 - looks like they will be permitted in roadgoing production classes next year.

However, fitting sticky tyres puts greater stresses on suspension and the Elise/VX has a weak point in the rear toe links. These have recently been done on my car but a set of uprated motorsport items is on my list.

Last but not least, a harness bar and Schroth harness will be purchased and I'm swithering about an Exige style seat with harness cut-outs. Then I'll be ready for action!

If my plans come to fruition, a Courtenay supercharger kit is not out of the question. For £3,700 you get 210bhp and 195lb/ft torque - another £2k and you're up to 250bhp without modifying internals.

Might need to budget for a new number plate as folk at work have been slagging me for being an aRSE! ;-)

A year of coming second?

Three Sisters Aug 2009
The Elise of Chris Harris in front of the Wigton MC paddock

Three Sisters race track, near Wigan, was the venue of the latest round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship on Saturday.

My class, R2 (Roadgoing Production cars 1400-2000cc) had 5 entries - The Rigg/Hope double entered MGF, Chris Harris in his Elise S2, Dave Exton in hs Mk2 MR2 and me in the racingFive.

The weather was fantastic and I had my new racing boots (Sparco Top Driver mid) so I was sure to do well!

It all got off to an eventful start with Dave Exton going off in first practice and me having to sit on the startline whilst they cleared it up. Dave had put 'the man most likely to crash' on his commentator's sheet - all the startline crew thought that was really funny.

I took it nice and easy for the first run and came home safely in around 94seconds - 3 seconds off my previous best.

Second practice and I pushed a bit harder to get down to around 91 secs. Still slower than I knew I could go but heading the right way.

Three Sisters Aug 2009

Afer lunch, the real runs started and again I was lined up behind Dave Exton's white MR2. He set off and I was called to the startline. The light went green and away I went with a smooth, quick start. I got through my first lap very smoothly, taking some kerbs and sliding slightly round the bottom bend. I cam round for my second lap and was shown the red flag so I slowed right down and proceeded to clear the track (as instructed). I got to about 50yds from he finish line and there was Dave Exton's car in the tyres with an ambulance in attendance! Not the sort of thing you want to see, really.

Three Sisters Aug 2009

Anyway, Dave was ok but he had taken out the timing gear so there was a delay whilst it was all set up again. I got a re-run but I was a bit preoccupied and only managed a 91sec run again. Paul Rigg was in the lead with 89.80secs - I was a bit despondent.

Second timed run came round and I got a flyer in. Got back and checked the time - 89.84sec. So close but not enough to beat Paul who had gone slower that run. We waited whilst he organisers decided whether we could get a third timed run and eventually the news came through - we were on! So, final chance - I had to make it a great run because I knew Paul would find time somewhere.

Three Sisters Aug 2009

Unfortunately, I got a poor start and made a mess of the first two corners. That lost me a fair bit but I kept on trying and came in with a time of 90.49secs. Paul did find extra time and managed to get into the 88secs so I was well beaten.

Chris Harris struggled in his S2 Elise and only managed a time around 90-91 secs and Dave Exton did manage to get a run without spinning but was also in the 90-91 secs.

Paul's win opens up the championship and makes the run in to Kames in October interesting as we will start dropping scores now. I reckon I'll need to get two wins - I'm hoping that Forrestburn will intimidate the opposition and I can pull off a 100sec run at Kames to do the business. Even then, I'll still need a second place at Harewood - if it rains, I have a chance but if it's dry, I'm not so sure.

Next outing - Forrestburn 28/29 August.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It's a long way to Wigan

It's been a week of variety and chasing rattles! I took the Skoda to work on Monday, the VX on Tuesday and Wednesday and the racingFive today.

I'm a wee bit worried because the VX has developed a tappety clicking noise from the head. I got the big screwdriver out and had a listen to where it is coming from - definitely not the cam chain - it sounds nice and smooth. No, the knocking is coming from the other end of the head - when I put the screwdriver on the coil pack it is worst. I don't know much about these engines but it doesn't sound clever.

Anyway, the car is getting picked up on Sunday night to be checked over by a VX tech I know. He reassured me on the phone that they are quite noisy engines but I'm not so sure.........

At work we have a serious seagull problem and I got well splattered on the way out of the car park tonight. I was quite lucky in that the poo landed on my roll-bar - just missing my head. I did get splashed though! Anyway, I've spent tonight cleaning the car of bird poo and it's all tickety-boo for the trip to Three Sisters tomorrow.

The main competition in the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship are entered - Chris Harris in the Elise and Paul Rigg in the MGF. Three sisters is quite like Teesside so I hope I can push the limits of MX-5 performance and give them a fright.

Last time I was there was in 2007 and I managed a time of 90.67secs on this 2-lap layout. That was good enough for 16th place in a class of 27. This time there's just 5 in the class and as the weather looks promising, I'm looking to get nearer the 88sec mark.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Harewood Rain, Kames Sunshine and a new motor

What a busy weekend. I'm done in. Started on Friday with a trip on the train to Arbroath to pick up the new motor. It's a 2001 Vauxhall VX220 NA in silver. Needs a good service and a few bits and bobs but seems fairly straight otherwise. Much quicker than the five and a PITA to get out of. I've already got stuck in it once and I've only driven it twice!


After a nice Italian lunch with my work colleagues (I made a special excursion to pop in to work on my day off), it was straight down the M6/A66 to Harewood for a round of the HSA/RIA Speed Championship. The weather turned out to be awful - all my gear got soaked and so did I. I did however come very close to beating the current HSA championship leader in his Mk1 Roadster - I was ahead on every split until the last!


It was also nice to see an old friend, ex-MX5 owner, David Horne out campaigning his Caterham Seven. I hadn't seen David since an epic road trip round the West Highlands in 2005. I almost beat him too - I was within a second of his time.

I made a real mess of my last run - outbraked myself on the second corner, locked up and ran out of room. I decided to just keep going straight on, into the field and went about 30 yards before stopping. Fortunately, no harm done and I even managed to drive out without the indignity of being towed. I didn't check the final times (I was too wet!) but I think I ended up second of the four MX-5s that were there.


On Sunday, I was at Kames for a round of the British Sprint Championship. I wasn't competing this time but I had offered my services as a marshal. Turned out to be a fantastic day. I spent the morning on post 2 (Norries corner) where I got to see the different lines everyone was taking up really close. I spent a bit of time on the startline too which was also an eye-opener. The event was really well run by East Ayrshire Car Club - they managed to get through 100 entries and two top-12 runoffs - a real achievement for the organisers. It made me really proud to be a member of such a well run club and I'm sure they'll get the big event again.

The usual Class A8 crowd were there - Alastair in his TVR, Graeme and Jennifer in the Exige and David Child making a return in the Mk3 MX5 but the class was won by Scott Cruikshanks in a stunning Lotus 211. It was a pleasure to watch - such a smooth drive - no drama at all and what looked like a touch of left foot braking into Norries. He came very close to beating Graeme Bremner's class record. I'm not sure the Lotus 211 is really in the spirit of a road going production car class (it's a pretty extreme machine) but it was a remarkable sight nonetheless.



Next outing for me is this weekend when I'm off to Three Sisters near Wigan for a round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship.