Saturday, 24 September 2011

Fixing the fire damage

The front end off

I got the front end off the Saxo so I could clean up the mess from the fire last weekend. After I cleaned up all the dry powder, I removed all the heat wrap off the exhaust. It was well soaked in oil and that was almost certainly what had caught fire on Sunday.

The oil soaked heat wrap

Next job was to remove the alternator. It hasn't worked since I bought the car so it was just dead weight - quite a lot of dead weight at that! Off came the tensioner and bracket too.

The alternator, tensioner and brackets

On further investigation, the exhaust manifold has been damaged at some point, probably in an off at somewhere like Forrestburn. There is a big bash in the down pipe and the impact has almost certainly bent the pipe which is why it is fouling on the oil filter. So, a new manifold will be needed over the winter period. I think I might splash out on a Supersprint 4-2-1 and get it ceramic coated to avoid the dreaded heat wrap.

Bash in the exhaust downpipe

Tight to the oil filter (that's a tiny Subaru filter!)

I fixed a few other wee bits and bobs with parts I picked up from the local scrappy - tailgate strut (so I wont get bashed on the head again!), fuse boxes, and steering column bolts. I've also got the offside headlight to fix.

Next outing is at Kames for the season finale next weekend. Hopefully it will survive that!

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Hot Weekend at Harewood


I took the Saxo down to Harewood for the double header hillclimb at the weekend. It's the first time I've been to the Yorkshire hill since 2009 and I was really looking forward to driving the Saxo in anger for the first time.

The journey down was a precurser to the weekend with the A1 being closed for most of Friday and some tropical thunderstorms making conditions harrowing. I finally arrived around 6.30pm, unloaded the car and pitched my tent before heading into Wetherby for a takeaway.

On saturday morning, I spent a fair bit of time chatting to fellow Wigton MC competitors Dave Exton, Colin Sutherland, Ronnie MacGregor and Peter Sewell. Peter's wife kept us well fed and watered with bacon butties and tea/coffee. All this meant I never got round to walking the hill.

The weather was 'changeable'. In other words, it could be sunny when you left the paddock and tipping with rain by the time you got to the start. The times reflected this with a wide variation between runs.

There was much chat over the Saxo - it seemed to attract quite a lot of attention both amongst fellow competitors and spectators. It proved to be relatively quick on the track too.

As the day progressed, I got quicker and quicker, soon beating my previous best time in the MX-5 by around a second with a low 73 sec run.

On the last run, I was into the swing of things and got a pretty good start. I was still a bit wary in the first corner but attacked the 'esses' section more aggressively and kept in clean for the rest of the lower part of the hill. Coming out of 'farmhouse', I got on the power early and was feeling confident of a quick run when I caught glimpse of a huge plume of smoke in my mirrors. Had the engine let go? No - it was still running fine so I carried on round the last corner over the line.

The marshall at the top signalled to me and I wound the window down. Cool as a cucumber he says "Your car is on fire".
Attempting to mirror his coolness I reply "Ok, I'll just park up over there and you can put it out".

So, I park up in front of the main building, jump out and watch as the marhsalls proceed to cover my car in a powder resembling bicarbonate of soda.

I hear one of them say "Get the foam" and out comes another big scoosher and coats the bicarb turning it into a stinking goo.

"I'd advise you clean that off asap - it's corrosive". Says the man in orange. I was very grateful that they had put it out but couldn't help thinking that they could have used a bit less goo. After all, I hadn't actually seen any flames.

Anyway, with the help of some fellow competitors, I spent the next couple of hours cleaning up and got it reasonably clean.

The cause of the fire? Ah, we suspect that would be the oil filter what I had put on in the dark and apparently not tightened up properly. Sprayed a load of oil onto the heat wrap on the exhaust which then caught fire.

After a reasonable curry and some chat with Dave Exton, I retired to my cosy tent to contemplate buying a fire extinguisher. On the plus side, I had smashed my previous personal best and posted a time of 72.74 sec - and that was in a burning car!

On Sunday, I was a bit paranoid about the thing catching fire again and it proved to be justified. On returning from the second practice run, I got back to the paddock and was just taking my helmet off when I saw folk running towards the car pointing. I immediately knew why as the smoke billowed out from under the bonnet.

This time, I fetched the extinguisher myself and carefully aimed the nozzle at the base of the flames. A very brief puff of powder later and the thing was out. No mess, no fuss. Nice and simple. However, I couldn't face fiddling with the car to get the oil soaked heat wrap off so I decided to call it quits and retired. Just as I was about to leave, the heavens opened and the thunderstorm returned........

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A post about a steering wheel

Fixed the loose steering wheel tonight - just needed a wee tighten up.

However, having moved the seat forward, and being a deep dished type, it is now too close to me. So, I need to source a flat type wheel. Anyone want to swap their flat wheel for a dished wheel, let me know.

Next job - timing strut. Only 2 days 'til Harewood.......

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

AutoSOLO - Penrith

I took the Saxo down to Penrith for a wee club AutoSOLO, courtesy of Wigton Motor CLub, on Sunday. An AutoSOLO is like an Autotest without any reversing - lots of cones and lots of scope for going the wrong way. The key to success is smooth, accurate driving - not really my forte!

It is brilliant fun and great for practising car control albeit at relatively low speed.

The weather was pretty wet and windy but that in no way dampened spirits and the 15 or so competitors all entered into the fun spririt of the day. Everyone takes a turn at marshalling which is a great way to see other drivers up close.

My natural tendency is to just go hell for leather as fast as I can but this style is not really suited to AutoSOLO as it is very easy to go the wrong way round a series of cones or indeed hit the cones and incur a time penalty. My first few runs were littered with the dreaded phrase 'wrong test' meaning I had failed to complete the course correctly.

I did evenually get the hang of it and post some respectable times but the damage was already done and I was never really in contention for a win.

The Saxo performed well. I learned about how the diff can catch you out and pull the car sharply in one direction. I learned about how to steer it on the throttle round a 360 degree turn - grip is really impressive

The Saxo's steering is far too heavy for tight AutoSOLO courses and by the end the day my arms and hands were aching. I also found that the steering wheel boss has a small amount of play so I need to get that off and have a look before Harewood.

Other wee issues are that the car sometimes won't idle but it seems better once warmed up. The battery managed to last the day with a wee boost for 10mins at lunchtime so I'm fairly confident that I can just remove the alternator completely rather than fork out for a new one.

I've managed to move the seat forward a wee bit but I could do with moving it another inch or so - a minor winter project.

I'm thinking of running the car in the modified class next year so I might have a few other things to do over the winter......