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.