Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Not much happening here. Managed to get into the garage but only to get some coolant to top up the Volvo - work on the Metro is suspended until A} it gets warmer and B} my back is better.
However, I have got my Autosport show ticket and my hotel booked so at least there is something to look forward to.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The winter blues

The winter is getting in the way of work on the race car. With all the snow we've had these last couple of weeks, I can't get into the garage and I've had to shell out money on things I didn't really want to buy.

At the moment, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight for the cold, snowy weather so the Metro is sitting tucked up in the garage waiting for some work to be done.....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

John Frew Memorial Sprint - Kames - 13 November

Kev Metro 2
Pic by Douglas Hunter

Saturday was a rare day - a sprint in November. This could have been a complete disaster knowing what the weather can be like at this time of year. However, someone was looking after us because it was wall-to-wall sunshine all day.

The event was East Ayrshire Car Club's Charity Sprint, this year dedicated to the memory of club chairman, John Frew, who sadly passed away earlier in the year. I met John just a few times but was always impressed by his upbeat approach and friendliness so I was keen to be able to support this event.

Considering the time of year and the fact that a lot of competitors had gone into hibernation, there was a really good entry - around 40 - including a whole class of rally cars.

It was my first competitive outing at Kames in the Metro, recently christened "Snotro" by fellow competitor David Wiggins, presumably because it is green. Anyway, it was also the first time taking the whole family in the racingFive bus (a Seat Alhambra) with the trailer in tow. My dad and brother also turned out so we had quite a clan in attendance!

Pic by Kevin Clark

Unfortunately, I was the only entrant in Class A1, so I was really just trying to beat my own times. I was quite pleased with my runs - I started with a 104.99sec and shaved about half a second off each run to end with a 103.58sec. A good base from which to build in 2011.

The day ended with a great prizegiving - the trophies were old ones out of the EACC cupboard and winners had to choose them out of a bag at random. My boy, James, picked up my trophy and managed to bag a 2010 EACC Class Winner gong - perfect! Some folk got things like 2005 Grass Test 2nd Place awards.

All the proceeds from the event went to two charities and I here that over £2500 has been raised which is fantastic.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A bit of work on the Metro

I got a chance to spend a couple of hours on the Metro today.

I started by filing down the centre bores of the refurbished wheels I bought as the powdercoating was stopping them fitting properly. The wheels have a set of Kuhmo V70 hard compound tyres fitted and I'll be putting them on the car for the upcoming John Frew Memorial Sprint at Kames on Saturday.

I also took the opportunity to pump up the rear drivers side suspension as it was a bit lower than the passenger side. This was the first time I'd used the Hydragas pump and I made a bit of a mess ! However, the pressure was a bit low so I pumped it up to 450psi and it seems to sit a bit more level now. I tried to check the pressure on the passenger side but I just couldn't get the Schrader valve to seal properly. I need to investigate further when I have some time.......

I've started on the roll-cage too. I unwrapped all the cling film that have been on it to keep it clean and treated the surface rust that had appeared. I then primed and started to re-paint. It needs another coat of gloss black and then it will be ready for fitting. I need to either make up some spreader plates or buy the Safety Devices fitting kit (£75). I might just buy the kit an save a lot of hassle! Photos to follow ehn its fully painted.....

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What next?

I'm having a bit of angst. I can't decide whether to go with the Metro for 2011 or go back to an MX5. I've found myself looking at cheap Roadsters on e-bay and gumtree in between shopping for a new pram.

The thing is, the Metro should be reasonably competitive in Class A1 of the Scottish Championships and it is cheap to run. But it is rough around the edges and needs a bit of work to get through the MOT.

Having said that, it is quite solid and if I can get motivated to work on it, could be a great wee car. Trouble is, I just haven't taken to it yet.....

So, I've booked another test day at Kames on 31 October and I'll be able to go there in style on my new trailer:

I spent a couple of hours going through some of the spares I got with the Metro. I've been able to identify most of the parts but there are some that I have no idea what they are. I'll need to take some photos and post on the Metro Power forum. Here's a small selection:

Monday, 4 October 2010

Season end

So, the speed season has ended and my year with the VX failed to pick up any championship trophies. The final positions for each of the championship classes was as follows:

Guyson Scottish Speed Championship - Class A8
1st Ian Duncan 57 pts
2nd Alistair Matheson 23 pts
3rd Kev Hamilton 22 pts

Guyson Scottish Hillclimb Championship - Class A8
1st Ian Duncan 38 pts
2nd Kev Hamilton 24 pts

Lowland Speed Championship - Class A8
1st Alistair Matheson - 757.13 pts
2nd Jamie McDonald - 739.84 pts
3rd - Kev Hamilton - 732.46 pts

I'm still waiting for the Brockbanks Solicitors Northern Speed Championship and the Guyson Scottish Sprint Championship results but it looks like my best performance is in the Scottish Hillclimb Championship.

Well done to all the class winners - it was good competition and I'll be sorry to be out of it in 2011.

Right, I'm off to change a nappy........

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Metro goes to Kames

I took the Metro to Kames for a wee end of season test today. The weather was great so I got a good idea of how the car performs. I ran with the Kuhmo V70 hard compound tyres all round to start and then changed the rears to the soft compound for the later runs. The tyres grip really well but the passenger front tyre takes a real pounding - even the hard compound was suffering after a few runs.

I was managing clockwise runs in the 104-105 sec range so its not far off the old MX-5 but a good 10 secs slower than the VX220. Still, with some developments that I am mulling over, it should be well competitive in the Scottish and Wigton championship classes. I'm starting to look forward to 2011.....

I grabbed some in car so you can hear the great sound of a straight racing exhaust.....

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The new car and Doune

Ok, the news is out. I will be competing in grandma's shopping car next season.

I've replaced the fine VX220 with a 1993 Rover Metro GTi. Yes, a Metro. But it is a GTi MPi so it has a whopping 103bhp! Woo Hoo!

It's a bit rough around the edges but seems solid enough and is quite well set up with lowered and stiffened suspension (it uses the good old Hydragas system), a straight through racing exhaust and a really natty shift light!

I've got a pile of spares with the car - I've got a full 6-point cage to fit and I plan to strip the carpets, fit a kirkey seat and see where I can save a wee bit of weight. I've already bought some new alloys and Kuhmo V70 tyres but I'll be getting it through an MOT before I spend any serious money ortime on it.

I took it to Doune at the weekend for its shakedown an was quite impressed by the handling although it will demand a completely different driving style from what I am used to. I need to get used to the understeer and I need to push it hard to see what happens when the back end does go.

On the Saturday, I managed to get into the 61 secs (not far off my VX time) and had it stayed dry, I would certainly have got under 60sec but the Sunday was very wet and whilst I got a semi-dry final run, the best I could do was a high 62 secs.

Peter Locke
caught some video off the startline:

I'm off to Kames on Sunday for a wee test - I'll try and get some video so I can see what sort of times I can expect.

The car takes me into a new class - class A1 in the Scottish championships and class R1 in the Wigton championship. It should be quite competitive and the previous owner had a few class wins and holds some class records so no pressure then.

I'll probably be a bit quiet for a few weeks since my wife is due to give birth again next week.........

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ready for Doune

Still not had time to take any pics of the new car but I've managed to get an entry for Doune this weekend. I've bought some re-furbed alloys and put some new Kuhmo V70s on - hopefully they'll be ok for Doune.

I'm not going to spend any more on this car though. Its a wee bit rough round the edges and I'm really set on getting another MX-5 at some point.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The season's NOT over yet!

Ok, I couldn't stay away. All that cash was burning a hole in my pocket. I just had to buy another car.

I had my eye on a nicely specced turbocharged MX-5 with a claimed 250bhp but I decided I wanted a complete change of tack and I've bought a wee FWD tin-top instead. I'm off to pick it up tonight so I'll have some pics later..........

Hopefully I've got a late entry for Doune in a couple of weeks so we'll see how I cope with FWD and a roof.......

Friday, 3 September 2010

End of the season

With the impending arrival of my third child in a few weeks, I decided to hang up my helmet a bit early this year and Forrestburn was my last event.

I also decided I was going to do something different next year so I put the VX up for sale. 1 day later, it was gone!

So, my bank balance is a bit healthier but I'm now carless..........

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Forrestburn 28/29 August - A class win and a tie!

I'll have to think what to say for this. It was a fantastic weekend and the weather held (unusual for Forrestburn). I won my class on Saturday, beating Dave Exton in his MR2 with a time of 53.93sec - a quarter of a second of my PB from June.
Today proved to be one of the most bizarre experiences I've had in speed events since I started in 2007.
I didn't go particularly well in practice as I was getting to grips with the stiffer suspension I'd put back on the car last night. I was well behind Jamie McDonald in the Elise and Alastair Matheson in the TVR.
But at lunch time, I hd a think about what I was doing wrong and for my first timed run I posted 54.47sec. This proved to be a second faster than Alastair and nearly 2 secs faster than Jamie who had a disastrous run.
Final run came and I was pleased to see the clock stop at 53.97sec - nearly as fast as Saturday. I got back to the paddock and Jamie excitedly asked what my time was. I said 53...... he said "53.97". I said - 53.97 - that's my time - he said " that's what I did". Alasitair had only managed a 55sec so, Jamie and I were tied for the class.
On enquiring with the clerk of the course, we were informed (wrongly as it turned out) that the winner was the person who posted the time first - so Jamie got the trophy. I was quite happy to let him have it since I had mine from Saturday and it wouldn't affect the championship points. In any case, I didn't actually beat him (but then he didn't beat me). - like I said, bizarre!
So, as the season nears its end, I'm sort of looking to next year. Don't know what my plans are yet - I'll have a new baby to deal with first - but I'm sure I'll be back in 2011.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

First time at Fintray

I spent my first weekend at Fintray speed hillclimb last weekend. Thanks to Phil Rowlands who lent me his trailer, my wife and kids were able to come too and we had a great family weekend away. The kids really enjoyed the open space at Fintray and the venue is excellent for families with lots of good spectating, good facilities and most importantly, an ice cream van! Fortunately, the weather was fantastic all weekend.

The entry in class A8 was really excellent - the best of the year so far in fact. Five of us on Saturday and a whopping eight of us on Sunday. Never having been to Fintray, nor even seen a video before, I had no expectations of fast times. That, and the fact that I was up against some seriously well developed machinery, made coming last a distinct possibility.

Anyway, after a late start on Saturday, I got into the swing and managed to get my times down to 35.17secs - very, very far from the class winning 33.09 of Mike Stout in his 6-week old Lotus 2-11. I was closer to Martin Smith in the VX220 Turbo but he was having misfire problems. Anyway, I set my sights on a sub-35 second time for Sunday. That would be almost respectable!

On Sunday, I focussed on trying to brake less for the first corner (called Ruin). This is a very tricky corner as the entry is blind and looks much tighter than it really is. It then has a double apex and I reckon that a lot of time can be lost if you get this wrong.

Throughout the day I managed to chip away at my times getting down to 34.66 secs. Again, this was well down the pecking order but I did manage to beat Graham Sinclair in his 150bhp S1 Elise and Andrew Kinmond in his Zetec engined TVR Vixen. All in all, I was happy.

A quick word about Ian Duncan in the RX-7. He's been competing in the same car at Fintray since 1993 and had a storming weekend - smashing his previous personal best and managing second place on Sunday with a 32.44sec - only one tenth slower than the 2-11 !

The analysis of the 64ft and split times shows I was getting good starts (down to 2.37sec - better than the 2-11 !) but by the first split, I was a second down. So, I need to work on that first corner!

John Stewart took some great photos (more at flatoutphotography.com)

Monday, 2 August 2010

Kames 1 August

Not much to say. The weather was much the same as Saturday with frequent light showers. I forgot which gears to be in until the final run and as a result, never really got into the swing of it. Best I could manage was 88.6 sec which only bagged third in class behind Alistair Matheson's TVR on 87.84 wth Ian Duncan taking another class win with a storming 86.15 sec. His RX-7 sounds like a bee in a biscuit tin but it can't half shift. I like it!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Kames Sprint 31 July

Just a quick note after a tiring day at Kames. The weather was unpredictable with frequent showers but I managed a new personal best of 96.21 secs - taking over 1 second off my previous best. It was good enough for second in class (I got a trophy!) behind Ian Duncan who did a blistering 95.89 secs. Ian is a wee bit inconsistent (that time was 3 sec wuicker than any of his other times today) but when he's flying, he is pretty quick!

Alistair Matheson was 3rd in the TVR with 97.37 - also a personal best and Jamie McDonald 4th with 99.41 - yet another personal best. The class was propped up by Duncan McAdam in the Lotus 2-11 who seemed to have a disastrous day only managing 99.51 sec.

So, I'm getting near my season target time of sub-96 secs but as that is probably my last clockwise event at Kames in 2010, it will have to wait until next year.

Tomorrow is anti-clockwise and hopefully the weather will be kinder. I'm looking to beat my PB of 87.60 secs set in June and get revenge of Ian Duncan and his pesky Mazda rotary thing. :-)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

2nd Place in Alford Debut


Alford is quite a long way away, I've decided. Two and a half hours away to be precise. But it is worth the trip - especially on a day like today where the sun shone bright.

There was a good entry in class A8 - Ian Duncan's RX-7, a TVR, an MR-2 Turbo and another VX220 - a turbo driven by local entrant, Martin Smith. So, five of us in total and with their experience, Martin and Ian were fighting for class honours.

I was giving away at least 100bhp to Martin's machine and he also seems to have spent a fair bit on gearbox, suspension and brakes!

The track itself is a simple oval with two 'cross-overs' which see cars doing a figure of eight on the runs. From the chat beforehand and watching the early competitors, I decided that 60 seconds was my target. The class record was in the 56s.

I started with a 62s run which I was quite pleased with. Ian managed a superb 58.73sec whilst Martin spun off. The other guys were a few seconds behind. I continued to improve and when it came to the timed runs, I put in a 60.07secs. Ian came in at 59.98secs and Martin on high 58secs so it was looking close.

Final run and I managed 59.82 which I was well chuffed with. I got back in time to see Ian's run and he somehow fluffed it and only managed 60.01secs so I 'stole' second place! Martin did 58.30sec - so I was only 1.5 sec behind!

I didn't hang about for the trophies since I had a long trip back but I had a nice roof-down run back down and was home in time to see the kids before they went to bed.

Two weeks now until the big weekend at Kames. I need to have a look at the championship standings to see where I am.

Some photos by John Stewart:

Saturday, 17 July 2010

New shed and off to Alford

Picked up a replacement for my shed-spec Merc 190 which I scrapped at easter. The new shed is a 1996 Volvo 940 Turbo Sports Edition. Needs a few bits tidying up but with a few months MOT and tax, it looks like a half decent buy (especially since I found out the rare wheels alone are worth a few hundred quid).

I'm off to Alford for a sprint tomorrow. I had planned on camping but the weather looks a bit dubious so my back-up travel inn will come into play. I've never been to Alford before so I'm both nervous and excited about the prospect although I can't say the 2 and a half hour journey is exciting me!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

VX220 Trackday at Kames

Had a great day at Kames on Sunday with around 10 other VX220 owners from VX220.org - although it rained most of the day, it was still great fun.

I also established that the play in the diff/gearbox is common - so I'm back to suspension as the clunk cause!

My attention is now swiching to Alford on 18 July. First time there and don't really know what to expect. Watch this space......

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Chartered Engineer

I found out at the end of the week that I passed my Chartered Professional Review and will soon be able to call myself a Chartered Engineer !

It's been a long road - over 18 years since I graduated with a non-accredited degree meaning that I've had to jump through some tricky hoops before even sitting my review. Anyway, I'm chuffed to bits (beats even a class win) and glad I don't have to do it again.

I'm off to Kames for a wee trackday with some other VX220 owners tomorrow. Weather is looking a bit dodgy but it means I'll get some much needed wet practice. I might take my video camera and post the results.....

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Forrestburn Hillclimb


I'm just back from a round of the Lowland Speed Championship at Forrestburn. I set out with the aim of beating my previous personal best of 57.66sec, set last August in the MX-5. Based on times at Kames, I was aiming for a target of 54.36secs. I had no expectation of getting a trophy with a strong entry in class A8 of Alistair Matheson in the TVR Griffith, Gus Carnegie in the Ginetta G4, Ian Duncan in a Mazda RX-7 and Jamie McDonald in his Lotus Elise. Gus, Ian and Jamie had competed on Saturday with Ian putting in a storming 54.05sec to win the class. I felt sure I would be bringing up the rear today.

Practice went ok and I was hoping for lots of rain after a wet second run which saw me go fastest by quite a margin with 60.84sec. However, it cleared up nicely for the first timed run and right enough, I was at the back with 55.14 - albeit having smashed my previous personal best.

My car was severely clunking on the start and coming out of the hairpin which led me to think that it was transmission related so we jacked the car up and discovered an alarming amount of free play in the transmission. So it looks like it might be a gearbox/diff problem. More investigation required.

Anyway, final timed run came and I pressed on a bit more - still nice and smooth with no real drama though. I was delighted to cross the line in 53.78sec - good enough for second in class behind Alistair on 53.20sec.

There were some other interesting cars there including 7 Aston Martins.



So, yet another trophy for the mantlepiece, a smash of my personal best and some valuable Lowland Speed Championship points. But the best aspect about today was how close the competition was - it was really refreshing to be in a class where four of us were within less than a second of each other and we were all within a couple of seconds of first. That's what this is all about for me.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

AutoSOLO !


In a departure from my usual tearing up hills and round race tracks, I thought I'd have a go at a relatively new branch of motorsport last weekend, AutoSOLO. This is a halfway between the discipline of Autotest and the speed of sprinting. Essentially, it involved driving around some cones set out around an auction mart in Penrith. It proved to be a test of skill and speed to a degree.

The event was organised by Wigton Motor Club and was the first such event that they had organised but it ran fairly slickly and we got 4 runs at the first course in the morning followed by 4 runs in a revised (and longer) course after lunch.

The course itself was made up of a series of 'tests' - chicanes to you and me - which had to be negotiated with considerable precision as quickly as possible. The driver with the fastest combined times was the winner. Penalties were added to each time for every cone hit or going around the wrong way or (as in my case), not stopping astride the finish line.

There was an array of different cars there from a wee mini to a classic old Porsche 911. It quickly became clear that my VX was incredibly quick and nimble with me setting the fastest 'vanilla' times on the first runs. Unfortunately, my driving precision didn't quite match the pace of the car and I kept hitting cones - with the resultant penalties.


Cone damage!

In the afternoon, the course was extended and included a couple of very tight corners that proved virtually impossible to negotoate in one go in the VX. However, after a bit of careful thought, I came up with a route which avoided the problem and stayed within the rules - much to the amusement of the clerk of the course!

In the end, I was delighted to win my class (for RWD cars over 1400cc) and finish 3rd overall.

In summary, a great day's motorsport all for £12 and a tank of fuel - plus I learned a lot about how my car handles in a relatively safe environment. Bring on the next one.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Kames success

I had a great day's sprinting at Kames on Sunday, competing in a round of the Lowland Speed Championship and the Guyson Scottish Sprint Championship.
I had my nice new Toyo R888s and despite a damp start, the weather cleared up and I was able to make the most of the extra grip they provide. My class competition was class A8 stalwart Alastair Matheson in his TVR Griffith 500 and newcomer Jamie MacDonald in is Lotus Elise. We were all on a fairly even playing field as the event took place on the anti-clockwise layout and Alastair and I don't have a lot of experience going that way round. In fact, it was only my third competitive event on that layout and my previous best time in the MX-5 of 93secs looked pretty slow....

The new tyres
Anyway, morning practice was a damp and miserable affair and there were no prizes for the slow times that ensued. I managed a best of 99.7 with Alistair on 95 and Jamie on 98secs.
It dried up during lunch and so for the third practice, we were able to go at it a bit more. I was chuffed with a time of 89.36 and I thought that might be the pace I'd be stuck at so I was quite disheartened when Alastair produced an 87.39 - 2 seconds faster. I consoled myself with the fact that he had been on hot tyres after getting a re-run when Jamie got red-flagged for an excursion onto the grass.

However, practice is just that - practice - and it only counts when it comes to the timed runs. First run went well for me - plenty of grip, smooth and no real drama - I was delighted to see the clock at 87.60sec. Alastair was a wee bit adrift on 88.49 but I knew he could go a bit faster. Jamie was closing in on us at 89.35sec.

Final run and it was all to play for. I made a wee mistake on the entry to the hairpin and lost a bit but apart from that it was ok. Time - 88.04 - a wee bit slower but still not bad. I got back to the paddock and watched the other guys - Jamie did 89.07sec - a respectable first outing. Alastair did 88.26sec - faster than his first timed run but not enough to beat my time.

So, another class win at Kames, a new personal best and a nice wee trophy to boot.

The car continues to clunk away on acceleration and it's definitely holding me back both in pure speed terms and mentally but I'm hopeful I'll have it sorted by Alford on 18 July.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

What's up in June

June is busy, busy for me - but not just in the motorsports sense. I have a professional review interview on the 9th, an open university exam on the 16th and I still have to get my VX sorted out!

The only speed event I've entered is Kames on the 13th but I've also put my name down for an AutoSolo event in Penrith on the 20th.

I've ordered a set of Toyo R888s which should be on the car for Kames and I've also got a pile of suspension components coming to add to my new driveshaft in an attempt to get rid of the dreaded clunk. WHen they will get fitted - I just don't know yet.

If I get it all sorted in the next 2 weeks, I'll pop in a late entry for Forrestburn. Otherwise, the next outing will be Alford on 18 July.

I'd better get back to the studying now...........

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Kames - 22 May - First in Class !

The VX is giving me highs and lows in equal measure.

I was delighted to take a class win and get near my personal best at Kames on Saturday in Round 2 of the Brockbank Solicitors Northern Speed Championship.

Practice was farily uneventful - a steady 100sec run to start and then into the 98s to warm up. However, the dreaded clunk started in my first timed run but I still managed to chip a bit off. Second timed run was similar - no drama - but the clunk was getting worse.

Third timed run was getting much smoother and I managed to carry more speed through the tricky right hander, 'Norries' and posted a near personal best of 97.57secs. This was easily enough to win the class as my competitors (an Audi Quattro and a Subaru Impreza) were still not under 100 secs. It was also enough to be fastest roadgoing car on the day - beating even David Wiggins in his super wee 205 Rallye who managed to set his personal best of 99.93secs.

Final timed run came and I decided (as usual) to give it everything. This proved to be very exciting as my clunk was now affecting the handling of the car and as it slid through the lefthander after 'Norries', it suddenly clunked and slid round bit further than I expected. After a small excursion onto the grass and an overcorrection back towards the tyre wall, I managed to slam on the brakes and rely on the ABS to get me round the hairpin. Undeterred, I overcooked my entry speed to the paddock bend and managed another slide but kept it under reasonable control. Final time was 98.06secs and I reckon I lost a second or so through my over exhuberance so sub-97 secs is definitely on.

Unfortunately, the clunking had become too distracting and I was worried that something major was about to snap so decided to take the car home to inspect before the Sunday event. As it turned out, I couldn't get the problem sorted so decided to play safe and withdraw from Sunday.

So, the high of a class win (and fastest roadgoing car) followed by the low of not competing on the Sunday.

I still have to solve the problem on the VX and since I am severely financially challenged at the moment, it might take some time.

Watch this space.........

Friday, 21 May 2010

Clunk, clunk

Picked up the car from Eric on my way back from hols today. Car still clunking a bit but I'm going to risk taking it to Kames this weekend.
General consensus is that a suspension refresh is needed. It means that mys season will be reduced as I can't afford to compete and redo the suspension. So, I think I'll be missing Doune, Barbon and maybe even Forrestburn in June. :-(

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Suspension clunk diagnosed

The suspension clunk has been diagnosed as a failed wishbone bush. Vauxhall quoted £30+VAT for the part but said "it would have to come from Germany and will take 10 days". I tried an independent VX partsspecialist whosaid the same. Fortunately, I knew it was the same part as a Lotus Elise so I phoned a Lotus dealer who quoted £22+VAT and could have it by Tuesday and sent to me by Thursday. Hmmm - a bit tight for Kames.

So, my final call was to EliseParts.com. After a discussion about Ertalon bushes (a nylon like material - better fr track use), The helpful chap said he could supply the individual Lotus OEM bush I needed for the Lotus price of £22 + VAT. He had them in the workshop and would get it to me by the weekend. Result.

So, my friendly mechanic, Eric will be fixing the bush whilst I'm away next week and hopefully the car will be back to normal for Kames on 22 May.

It has made me think that I really have to do a full suspension refresh this sooner rather than later so if funds allow, I'll order up some Ertalon bushes and start the job in July.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Teesside cancelled

Just got the news that the York MC event at Teesside on 31 May has been cancelled due to a lack of entries. Shame because I really like Teesside and I was hoping for some valuable Northern Speed Championship points from it.

Still, it eases some of the financial pressure at the end of the month.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Ingliston Day 2 - Clunkarama

Not much to say. The VX developed a very nasty clunk from the rear end under acceleration after my first practice run. Decided to take it easy and was soundly beaten by Alistair Matheson's TVR.

I need to get the car fixed by Kames on 22/23 May but my recent expenditure on wheels, an impending family holiday and some unexpected house maintenance mean that there is a very strong possibility that I won't be back out in the VX until June at the earliest.

I'm punting as much crap on eBay as I dare to try and raise some funds but there's only so many AC/DC records that I can sell!

A pic from Saturday at Ingliston:


Saturday, 1 May 2010

Ingliston Sprint - Class win!

Day one of the double header at the revived Ingliston sprint venue went very well. The track, which was last used for MSA sprinting in 1995, is a real challenge being fast and intimidating in equal measure. There is a very long straight which allows 4th gear - this is quite unusual in sprinting - and unique in Scotland, I think.

As this was a round of the British Sprint Championship, the usual classes were split based on the grade of licence of the driver. As I upgraded this year (still not sure why!), I was in the National A class A8 along with fellow Wigton Club member Stephen Hemmingway in his lovely Porsche 911. The National B class A8 consisted of Jamie MacDonald (on his first ever sprint) in a nice S1 Lotus Elise and Dave 'the Destroyer' Exton in a new (to him) MR2.

Practice was wet but was drying by the third run. I clocked just under 57 secs on my third practice and was within reach of Stephen's porsche. Jamie in the Elise was flying and was down to 54 secs but I was reasonably happy because I knew there was more to come.

First timed run was a bit of a nightmare for me - I overcooked the hairpin entry and understeered very wide before getting some rotation to bring me back on line. So, despite havin gone much quicker over the rest of the course, I still only managed a 56sec run. Jamie by this time was in the low 53secs.

Final run and I nearly had a complete disaster! I went to the toilet, came back and was just chatting to Dave Exton when I spotted the other drivers in my class with their helmets on. I rushed over to my car only to discover they were returning from their last run! A quick grovel to the Clerk and I was allowed to take my last run.

I still couldn't get to grips with the hairpin - again I went in way too fast and understeered wide. But I must have been going faster elsewhere because this time I posted 54.63sec - fast enough to beat the Porsche and claim the class win. Jamie in the Elise didn't quite better his earlier time of 53.15ses but it sets a good record to chase tomorrow.

Overall, it was a great day and if tomorrow is half as good, it will be fabulous....

Friday, 23 April 2010

New wheels have arrived

One of the joys of the VX220 is the bizarre wheel/tyre fitment at the front. Vauxhall, in their infinite wisdom, decided to fit 175/55 tyres on a 17" rim. This is a unique tyre size and therefore only Bridgestone RE040 tyres are available (at the princely sum of around £140 +fitting). To make matters worse, the hubs are a Vauxhall 5-bolt fitment meaning that Lotus wheels cannot be utilised.

Even other Vauxhall wheels are no use due to the clearance needed for the AP Racing caliper. So, in summary, there are no cheap ways to get decent tyres on a VX220.

The only viable option is to buy a set of bespoke wheels and fortunately, there are a few available - Compomotive did a short run, Speedline produced a small number for the VXR220 and Team Dynamics produce a set of their Pro Race 1.2 in a specially developed fitment.

I opted for the Team Dynamics from Thorney Motorsport at the reasonable price of £499 inc delivery. Thumbs up to Thorney, they were ordered on Sunday night and arrived on Tuesday morning in my first choice colour of gloss black.

They come in a 16" x 7" size for the front and 17" x 7.5" at the rear and are much lighter than the turbo alloys I've currently got fitted.

For tyres, I'm still undecided. I'm either going to splash out on Kuhmo V70a in 205/40 16 front and 235/40 17 rear or go with much cheaper Hankook RS2s in 205/40 16 front and 225/45 17 rear.

I won't have them in time for Ingliston next weekend but I should be good to go for Kames at the end of May.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Photos from Doune

Some photos from Saturday at Doune:


Ready for the scrutineer


In the start line queue


On the start


Approaching Oak Tree (pic: Kevin Clark)


At Junction on to the Meadow

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Wet Sunday at Doune

My first ever day a Doune hillclimb was followed by my first ever wet day at Doune hillclimb!

This obviously had a major effect on my ability to improve on Saturday's times and whilst I felt I was pushing a wee bit harder, I was still struggling to come to terms with the blind corners. This meant I was braking far too much (and instantly regretting it) and losing lots of speed and time. Best I could do was 62 secs although my most committed run was my last run but in heavier rain was a 63 secs. This meant I was easily last in class and Alistair Matheson will overtake me in the Lowland Speed Championship.

I can see that getting even a half decent time (under 60sec) here is going to take me a couple of visits.

It was a fantastic experience though. Challenging - yes, exciting - of course, scary - you bet!

I take my hat off to the madmen that can drive their full blown racing cars, at well over 100mph, up that tight, intimidating course in less than 40 seconds. They are truly mad. No joke. But they are also very skilful and very, very good at what they do. No wonder Scotland produces so many talented speed eventers.

Anyway, I've got a couple of weeks off to polish the car before the sprint at Ingliston near Edinburgh. It's nice and local to me and I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The mighty Doune tamed (not!)

British hillclimbing has some must dos. Shelsley Walsh has the history, Harewood has the fun factor and the mighty Doune has 1680 yards of sheer terror.

I never quite managed to pluck up the courage to drive there with the MX-5 but for some bizarre reason, I entered the VX220 for the opening two rounds of the Scottish HillClimb Championship this weekend Sat 17 and Sun 19 April.

Well, as I write this, I'm back home in the comfort of my living room after a day experiencing the madness that is Doune Hillclimb.

Words cannot really describe the nature of the course but I'll try. The first few hundred yards are completely enclosed by stout looking armco barrier - the fast guys like to scrape along these. The first real bend is called Oak Tree - I'll let you use your imagination as to why! Lets just say it focuses the mind somewhat!

Just up from Oak Tree is the next bend, a right hander called Garden Gate. I'm reliably informed that this can be taken in third but I'm still at the novice change down to second stage. This is partly because I REALLY don't want to go fast enough to need third gear!

Once throgh Garden Gate, you enter the ominously titled 'The Tunnel' - so called because the sun never shines through the tree canopy making it a dark, damp place. THe armco has run out here - replaced on the inside by nasty looking dry stone walls. The track can only be a few feet wider than the car here.

At the end of the tunnel is Junction - a tighter right hander leading directly into the open 'Meadow' section. The change from the enclosed tunnel environment to the wide open meadow tempts you to boot it but the bend through meadow is deceptive and was fairly slippery today.

At the end of meadow comes the scariest corner I've ever driven - the infamous 'East Brae. Unfeasibly steep, with a sharp right at the top, you have to have faith and turn in before you can see the bend. If you don't you're in the bales. I was VERY ginger through here today and it showed in my times.

East Brae is followed by a series of 'esses' before the final left hander taking you down to the finish. All in all, a real test of nerves and skill - I fail on both counts.

My times today proved to be fairly slow at 65s, 62s, 61s and 61s. My target for the weekend is to get under th 60secs and I thought I had done this as my wife erroniously reported to me that I had done a '58 something'. She had, of course, been doing her nails or some other fivolous activity at the time and had heard the time of fellow class competitor, Gus Carnegie. I was overjoyed at having beaten my target and set about telling everyone and anyone only to discover 10 minutes later that I had actually done a 61sec run !

Anyway, divorce papers have been issued and I'll just have to keep my mouth shut in future! :-)

I'm back for more punishment tomorrow. I just hope the weather is kind........

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

2010 Season has begun - Report from Kames 10/11 April

Kames April 2010

The sun was out this weekend for the opening of the 2010 Scottish Sprint Championship at Kames. Saturday was a warm-up club event and Sunday was the forst round of the aforementioned championship and also the Lowland Speed Championship.

I was entered both days in Class A8 - Marque Road Sports Cars. This would be my first competitive sprint in the VX220.

I set myself some goals for this season. Some were going to be tougher than others to beat but firstly, I wanted to beat the 100sec barrier for the clockwise layout at Kames. Its a magical number - some folk take years to get there. I had come tantalisingly close in the MX-5 on a number of occasions but never quite made it. So it was with some delight that my first practice on Saturday came in at 99.65 secs. Imagine my supreme delight when I posted 98.42secs on my second practice. I even managed a respectable 97.4secs on my third practice.

When it came to the timed runs I was a wee bit slower but still managed 98.0 secs. This was enough to beat Alistair Matheson in his TVR (by just 8/100ths!) to win the class. Oh - that was another goal for this season - a class win!

Sunday was another cracking day and this time there were more entrants in the class and important championship points up for grabs. This time, I got off to a really slow start - over 100secs and felt quite down about it when Alistair managed a 97sec run. Second practice was better for me - I posted 98.4 secs but Alistair was still in the 97s. By the first timed run, I had sort of got it together and managed a slightly untidy 97.66secs. My lunch time mind games must have worked (or maybe it was the dodgy burgers!) but Alistair went slower wuth a time in the 98s.

The final run came and I decided to really go for it. I got a great start, kept the foot in round the first corner and was cleanly through the technical part to the hairpin. I got a nice clean exit and fired down through the kink towards the paddock bend. I braked later than usual and carried much more speed into the corner. In fact, I carried much to much more speed and started a big slide which I was fortunate enough to catch and keep on the blackstuff. My time still managed to be 99 sec. Again, Alastair had a nightmare run and couldn't better my 97.66.

However, we were both roundly beaten by the Lotus 211 of Duncan McAdam who managed a run in the low 90s. I'm just glad he hasn't regsitered for the championships.

Anyway, a great start to the season - 2 goals reached and valuable championship points which should see me leading the class (albeit untl next weekend at Doune).

Thursday, 8 April 2010

All set for Kames

I'm all set for the start of the sprint season at Kames this weekend. Saturday is an East Ayrshire Car Club warm-up event - no championship points up for grabs but a good practice for the main event on Sunday.

Sunday is the opener for both the Guyson Scottish Sprint Championship and the Lowland Speed Championship. There' a healthy entry for class A8 this year and with the changes to the scoring system, it's not clear who is well placed to win the class.

Sunday's event has four entrants in class A8 - Nina Baker in a BMW Z3, Duncan McAdam in a Lotus 211, Alistair Mathieson in his TVR Griffith 500 and me. I reckon I've got a fighting chance of second in class but unless the 211 driver is blind, a class win is out of the question! One thing's for sure, I'm sure it will be a good, competitve weekend!

I've fixed my ABS problem - although it's just a bodge job for now. The nearside front sensor cable is broken at the connector and needs to be replaced. I've crimped a connector on temporarily until I can source the right part.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Test day - 28 March


Another test day at Kames on Sunday saw my first outing with the VX on the trailer. I arrived a bit late at the track since the clocks had changed and I had mistakenly stopped for coffee for half an hour thinking I was an hour early!

Anyway, the weather was pretty poor in the morning and I ended up in the gravel on my first run! The ABS on the VX has packed in - I think it's a loose cable on the front nearside sensor but I'll have to investigate.

There were a few more crashes than usual for a test day - three looked fairly serious and the result was that the tyre walls took a fair hammering. The weather picked up in the afternoon and I got some good practice in towards the end of the day.

The tyre wall damage combined with the atrocious weather during the week led to the postponement of the Good Friday Wigton Sprint, the opener of the 2010 Northern Speed Championship. That was a bit of a disappointment but on the plus side, it does give me an extra week to try and fix the ABS and it means I can enter the EACC sprint on Sat 10th April.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Test video

here is the video from the test day.

I've got a few things to work on at my next test this coming Sunday. I need to get a clean hairpin exit and build up to keeping the foot in through the kink before the padock bend.

I've finally got round to fitting the rear VXR shocks. I spent a rather grim evening with a single ended hacksaw balde cutting through the bottom bolt on one side which had seized in the bush. Took a while but I got there in the end. The VXR shocks are designed for heavier turbo cars so the ride height is a bit on the high side but I'm hoping the stiffer springs will tighten things up a bit. They were cheap after all.......

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Testing, Testing, Testing

I've just had 2 days testing in the VX at Kames. Had a brilliant time - it was great to blow away the winter cobwebs and get some tracktime in. The VX is a fair bit quicker in a straight line than the MX-5 was. It seems to have a bit more grip too and being lighter, it can carry more speed through the corners. Problem is, my brain is tuned to MX-5 pace so I need to really push myself and concentrate to actually go any faster.

I tooks some videos and looking back at them, my times for the clockwise layout are around 98secs. Similar testing in the MX-5 was around 102secs so I reckon I'm around 3-4 secs quicker.

I'm certainly not going to win any gongs at that pace but with a set of sticky track tyres, my times could come down to around 95 secs so that is what I'm setting as my season target!

If I can work out how to do it, I'll post a video from today's testing soon......

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Preparing the VX220

I've been busy doing some prep on the VX220 for the coming season. Nothing major - funds are likely to be tight this year. I've started with some stickering:

The obligatory ignition switch sticker:


Front and rear towing eyes with stickers:



Just in case someone thinks its a Lotus:

Then it was down to fitting the Scroth Profi II ASM harness I bought from MSAR. I've fitted the harness bar:


Trial fitting the shoulder straps showed that I really need to get the cut-outs in the seat so I've got the seat out to cut the holes and fit the grommets. That'll take me a couple of days no doubt.


I've still got the rear dampers to fit but other than that, the car will be ready to go for the test days at Kames in mid-March. If I can shift the trailer, I'll buy some wheels and List 1B tyres. Otherwise, I'm sticking to the standard Bridgestones........

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sad day :-(

Well, it finally came to pass. My trusty steed is on its way to Berkshire today, hopefully to be re-born as a trackday superstar.

I've had lots of good times with that car - several epic trips round Scotland with fellow MX-5ers, trips to Europe including an epic adventure to Italy, countless trackdays and of course a couple of speed championship trophies to boot.

Turns out I owned that MX-5 longer than any other car I've ever had - nearly 6 years!

I was sad to see it go and James was in tears - he said "But I don't want the MX-5 to go - I want to go on a run with the other MX-5s through the big puddles" :-(

I now need to resist the temptation to fill the empty void and keep the bank balance a bit healthier but I'm sure I will be back in a '5 before too long............

Monday, 18 January 2010

Long time no post

It's been a couple of months since my last post - Christmas, New Year and some snow got in the way of any meaningful news so I haven't bothered!

I attended the Wigton Motor Club annual dinner last weekend and collected my award for second in class R2. The dinner itself was great with guest speaker, Barry 'Whizzo' Williams giving an entertaining reprise of his career.

The East Ayrshire Club dinner is at the end of the month and I'm looking forward to that.

On the car front, the MX-5 is still on the driveway but I've taken a deposit and hope it will be away by the weekend.

I visited the Autosport show last week and ordered a Schroth racing harness for the VX220. That coupled with a second hand harness bar and some seat cut-outs will see me ready to compete, albeit I would rather have new wheels and tyres first. Unfortunately, I don't think my 2010 racing budget will stretch to new wheels and tyres at the start of the season so I'll be at a competitive disadvantage for a while.

I'm focussing on 2 championships this year - The Wigton Northern Speed Championship and the Scttish Lowland Speed Championship. I anticipate doing around 15 events between the 2 championships and it looks like I'll only need a couple of overnight stays away from home. The programmes and regulations are still to be published but it looks like the season kicks off on Good Friday, 2 April at Kames for a round of the Northern Speed Championship.