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...........