Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Thruxton British Trucks Event

Thruxton: The fastest circuit in the UK

We arrived at the classic World War II aerodrome circuit Friday night and setup on the grass area of the paddock we'd been allocated.  In person mandatory scrutineering is finally back so we headed straight there - car and kit all good.  

With a limited field of Porsches we lined all the cars up - show'n'shine style and headed to the hotel.  

Saturday morning first thing, temperatures were still rising as we were first series on track.  

As usual we pre-prepared the car so the only things to decide were suspension stiffness (stiff) and tyre pressures (low due to the heat).  Given the keep turning right nature of the circuit we ran the left side tyres lower than the right to try to protect them from overheating given the soaring weekend temperatures. 

Garry headed out to qualifying with a clear track in front for most of his half of the 25min qualifying.  

We had never driven the track, let alone raced it before so we're grateful for the couple of hours on a simulator the weekend before.  The lines and gears were pretty good but the SIM doesn't portray the bumps, nor the off-camber sections where if you run wide it just keeps dragging you wider!

It took a couple of laps to get tyres up to temp and then Garry was able to push for what he thought was a decent 1m32s lap time before pitting (3rd fastest).  Tyres were already overheating after just 10 mins so we reduced pressures at the same time.  

After a quick driver change Michael went out for his qualifying.  Initially hampered by other cars, but once he let them past and created a gap he was virtually as quick setting a time just over a second off,  with both drivers faster in different sectors of their laps.

However the single drivers just got faster and faster through the session as they gained more confidence over the full 25mins and we were shunted down to p7 on the grid.  

Before the race, we were potentially in trouble with the clerk of the course over failing to attend a new driver briefing.  This was scheduled at the time we were due to be heading for the assembly area, so we attended the later meeting.  All was resolved amicably with common sense prevailing in the end. 

Luckily we had family and friends in support who serviced the brakes and refuelled the car for us, so we were still ready to race in time. 


Our race was scheduled for 40 minutes, with a mandatory pit-stop of 90 seconds to switch drivers anytime from 15-25 mins.  The slower class 4 924 cars would have a shorter stop of 60 secs to bring the field back together.

Garry got an absolute flyer of a start jumping straight up to 3rd off the grid. The front 3 Boxster's pulling away from the rest of the field impressively, with just over a second covering the trio. 

Within 2 laps he was looking likely to pass for 2nd but lost the rear momentarily in the fastest 100mph corner (Church), the fraction of a second of opposite lock causing him to run out of exit curbs and onto the grass.  Thankfully he held a straight line and re-joined losing around 3 seconds. 

The external temperature was 38 degrees in the sun and tyres were immediately struggling.  It took 10 minutes to re-catch that gap and at the second attempt pass for 2nd place round the outside into the final chicane.  With the lead Boxster having now escaped a handful of seconds up the road,  he pitted the next lap round exactly 20 mins into the race.  

Michael took over but we noticed we had somehow lost a big chunk of time and dropped back to 4th on the road.  

He lapped consistently and with good lines but was unable to push the car harder feeling it understeer and a distinct lack of grip from qualifying.  He improved to a 1m34 best lap (many drivers were a second or two slower in the afternoon heat) holding on for 5th place overall.  

In hindsight we lost around 10 seconds in the pit stop, hampered by some slightly-too-intrusive scrutineering judges and our own lack of practice.  But also probably took too much air out of tyres at the stop causing Michael to not have the grip and hence the confidence to push harder early in his stint.

The event overall was great experience.  Loads of spectators with the Truck Racing series and various attractions, side-shows and stalls going on.  And the track is very fast - you are on the knife edge of grip all the way round the back section - feathering the gas in the turns - just keep turning right!  

We reached a vmax of 135mph in 5th gear averaging 95mph round the lap.   

The fastest circuit in the UK


Full Race Onboard -->

Live Stream Replay -->

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Brands Hatch GP with V8s

Eventually our 2022 season started at the Brands Hatch GP circuit joining the Bernie's V8s series in order to maximise the grid no's on the longer layout.  

We setup early on Friday night given an early qualifying slot.  At the last minute Michael couldn't make the weekend so our 2-driver approach change to a single driver for both races of the weekend.

I was randomly selected for scrutineering this weekend which we passed fine as usual.  I had to hurry them along a little so I could head to the assembly area as early as possible.  With 46 cars (the maximum grid) it would be hard to get a clear lap despite the longer GP layout so I wanted to be in the first few cars out 8on track.  

After a couple of warmup laps I posted a decent time, but thereafter kept catching cars in front losing any time delta I had.   I noticed the clock had just under two minutes of the session remaining so was able to take a slower lap, cool tyres and create a 5s gap to the cars in front for a final go.  I improved by 1s (1m48)which helped me qualify p10 overall.  I felt there was loads more time to be gained and suggested afterwards a 1m46 would be possible.  

There was a long gap between qualifying and the race so we took the opportunity to get the car up on jack stands and re-check all the bolts from the recent gearbox change.  We also  replaced the front engine mount with a poly-bushed version to reduce movement of the engine under hard cornering which can affect the balance of the car.

Race 1 - Saturday:
Rolling starts are tricky but with clear instructions to hold speed until the lights go out I was tight to the car in front, holding 2nd gear and got away well and defended my position round the first few corners - a first for a while!  
As anticipated someone went off immediately so the safety car was out before we'd even done half a lap. 

They cleared it very quickly and I was racing again holding position behind faster V8 TVRs and with a Porsche 944 following me attentively.  I got faster each lap (3s better than qualifying beating my 1m46 prediction by half a second) and managed to put a V8 mustang in between us mid race. In the final few laps another TVR passed me on the long straight. I was on the limit trying to hold on, so with tyres starting to struggle, I decided not to push it and follow safely to finish first of the CALM All Porsche cars. 

A great drive and result with really consistent lap times, which also earned the 'drive of the day award' at the evening presentations. 

Race 2 - Sunday:
The temperature was much hotter on Sunday so we took a little air out of tyres but otherwise left the car setup alone.   Pre-race there was a track parade, Le-Mans style before we formed up behind the safety car for our green flag lap.  

I started p4 after hearing overnight that the first 12 cars would be reversed a-la BTCC.  I got away well although had to correct a big slide round druids (cold tyres) but a V8 squeezed me wide going into the back straight. I lost loads of momentum and 3 more screamed by which was frustrating.  

I was doing ok but my lap times were poor and a wheel on the dirt turning into Graham Hill bend, missing the apex,  allowed 2 more V8s to use their bhp to buzz past followed a Porsche Boxster. 

After another mistake out-braking myself into the penultimate corner I was able to re-group as the saftey car came out again.  After the restart, I settled into a rythym and had a great battle with a pair of Porsche Boxsters dicing for position over the last few laps.  All three cars posted our fasted laps of the race as we pushed each other to the limit and more like my Saturday pace. 

I finished 14th overall and P4 in class although the Boxster in front had a penalty for 3x track limit violations promoting me on the official results sheet. 

After a long while struggling with handling of the car this weekend it felt great (on Saturday at least).  This was also the first time we had run with some passenger seat ballast.  Since removing the rear wing and splitter we found ourselves a few kg underweight to meet the 200bhp/ton class limit.  So we have  added 8kg of aluminium 6mm plates bolted to the seat mounts.  This probably helps balance left-to-right weight distribution a little which we usually offset by setting ride height with driver in place.   

Sunday, the heat affected me and the car and I didn't get into the groove of the day before until late on in the race.  However we got round without any damage which is a feature of the CALM series to be proud of. As usual a great bunch of people to race with.    

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Pre-Season Servicing, Repairs and Upgrades

Over 6 months ago, we started the winter overhaul of the car before the turn of the year and the coldest weather. 

Our first issue to solve was that our fuel gauge had stopped reading accurately.  This was a problem when we felt we were low on fuel at the Birkett Relay race, so went to add more and the tank was full (reading just over half on the gauge).

After looking and ultimately not finding any better aftermarket solutions we remove the sender and pump from the tank and repaired the Porsche/Bosch unit ourselves and it now reads accurately.  

Next we did the usual maintenance of brake discs, pads and changing the fluid.  We also added slightly larger spacers at the rear.


We also replaced the earth and positive cables in the engine bay which run from a central junction point to the alternator and starter motor.  These are known weak point causing hot start issues. A problem if you stall mid race.  

Our other major work was to identify and resolve the poor handling I had in the Birkett Relay race at Silverstone.  The rear of the car was breaking traction into high speed corners since we removed the rear wing and front splitter. 

After a couple of months of looking, I picked up a genuine used bumper -  these are becoming both rare and ever more expensive. Our emergency spare that has seen better days can be retired back to the loft. 

In our first pre-season track day in February we picked up an oil leak on the top of the engine.  It was easily rectified by reconnecting the oil filler tube properly which I had taken off when doing the re-wiring work.  

We reduced the ride height all round - there is no real limit on this under the Calm Porsche regulations.  We lowered it more at the back to reduce the amount of rake.   All changes are designed to increase rear grip.  Whilst doing this I found the main chassis x-member had come loose (1 bolt completely missing!) so the engine was moving left to right though corners which wouldn't have helped!

We also experimented with using the rear spoiler of the Boxster deciding to keep it slightly raised on balance. Our data traces show some big differences between running the aero kit vs not.  Without - the car accelerates faster on the longer straights to slightly higher max speed.  However with aero any corner over 50mph can be taken much faster resulting in higher mid corner and corner exit speeds which is where lap time was gained.   

This year the Motorsport UK regulations are aligning with the FIA international standards for fire extinguishers. Ours was nearly end-of-life anyway, but the new design required replacement of the plastic piping with larger diameter aluminium piping and increased the no. and size of spray nozzles.  All the wiring and trigger buttons were also replaced with the kit.  

During the track day we also noticed a crunching into 3rd gear had developed which is probably a worn synchromesh.  At some point this will break completely so we needed to address it.  The Boxster S 6-speed gearbox is incredibly expensive to repair - mostly due to the cost of special tools needed and any gear rings and bearings.  There are few parts shared with other makes so no cost saving measures.

I took a gamble and picked up a used 60K miles gearbox and we spent the Easter weekend replacing it, skipping the first race event of the season.   The process is pretty straightforward unbolting the drive shafts, chassis supports and exhaust, before removing the gearbox itself.  Putting the replacement in was easier than when we replaced the engine knowing we'd have to line the splines up and pull the gearbox the last inch by sample doing up the 8 differently sized bolts!

Before we race we did another track day at Snetterton with Michael driving most of the day and getting plenty of dry and wet laps in to boost confidence.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Silverstone Birkett 6hr Relay

This year I've done something different and entered a team based endurance race.  

The history of the Holley Birkett relay dating back 70 years at Silverstone is as impressive as the event itself. On a par of when we supported the Formula Ford Festival in 2018.  But this time we were taking part directly. 

The Calm All Porsche series entered an impressive 6 teams into the 70 team field for the event. Each team with a minimum of 3 cars and between 3 to 6 drivers with sharing. 

Partnered with AMS Porsche and the Archer family (Angus, Stephen and Felix) we had 4 drivers sharing 3 Boxster's with the aim to complete as many lap as possible in the 6hrs with any one car in your team on track at any time.  

We had an army of pit crew to help us through the day. Car refuelling and servicing has to be turned around double quick and Karl (team manager), Rick (pit wall timing) and Linda (pit lane) made sure we had a car always running, one ready and never had two on track (very bad) or got any penalties throughout the race. 

We arrived the evening before and queued for scrutineering which was the first to be done in person for over a year.  It was rightly a very thorough check, we passed fine but our other two cars needed a replacement fire extinguisher fitting (low pressure) and seat base changing (runners loose) the next morning in order to get into the race. 

Qualifying was pretty tricky as the track was cold and I was learning the joins between the national and international tracks.  Despite having clear track I wasn't particularly fast and had a massive sideways oversteer moment downshifting to 3rd through copse corner reacting to straighten the car and keep it out of the inside wall. Since we dropped the aero package we've been losing rear grip on high speed corner entry - and Silverstone has lots of fast corners!

Our Blue Archer car had a spin in the final qualifying session, coming back to the garage from a trip though the gravel traps. Rick and Karl hastily redrew the driver /car stints to allow time for the car to be cleaned up, promoting me to 2nd stint. 

With the Angus piloting his white Porsche Club GB spec Boxster from the grid, my job was to be in the car ready for the next hour in case an emergency change-over was needed.  Progress was tracked every lap by the pit wall crew until it was time to show the 38 pit board signalling him in.  

As he came past our pit I was cleared to exit the garage and onto track for my hour stint.   The first few laps were slow as the tyres were cold but after this I steadily improved running 2m37 laps +/- a second depending on traffic I was either catching or being overtaken by.  

After 55 mins I had a run of slow laps due to traffic and my tyres were really struggling so the pit wall called me in, releasing Felix out for the third hour.  We headed straight to he fuel station to re-fill with ~45 litres of fuel and then grabbed a quick burger for lunch whilst the car cooled down.  With just an hour before I had to be in the 'ready position' we needed Leigh and Georgia (a local Engineering student) helping hands to clean our wheels and brakes before I was back in the car again.  

My second stint was marginally faster but the car handling was really tricky.  Despite cleaning all the tyre pickup off the insides of the wheels it felt like all four were way out of balance. I had serious vibration at top speed (130mph) and under braking.  The suspension tweek after qualifying hadn't fix our rear grip so I had to still be measured throigh the Becketts / Magotts complex. 

Angus's slick tyres got us up to 15th overall and fastest of the Porsche teams but the Boxster aero boys team with wings and splitters were a good 5s a lap quicker than Felix, Stephen and myself and clawed us back, despite having to make several short change overs to manage reliability of their cars. 

The race ended just as dusk was falling at 5:45pm with us 19th overall and just pipped to 3rd Porsche team with only seconds separating us at the end.    An amazing team effort all round and a great experience. 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Festival of Porsche Brands Indy with CALM

This is the second race I've been sharing the car with Mike and we're were racing at the huge Festival of Porsche co- hosted by Porsche UK, Porsche Club and Brands Hatch. 

During the last race at Snetterton the front bumper broke so we decided to remove the splitter and rear wing and pull our old standard fit bumper out of the loft.   It did need a bit of paint touch up to make it presentable.  As a result we are now running in the SP2 max 200bhp/ton class which our power and weight has always been designed to come in under.

For the first time ever the paddock was empty as PCGB were all in the garages and a limited no. of championships racing, so space was plentiful.  

Before qualifying we checked the drive shaft and exhaust manifold bolts just to be sure and repaired a front GT3 cooling duct which had been damaged on kerbs.  We referred to our 2016 setup notes for roll bars and suspension (the last time pre aero I raced this circuit).  And similarly for tyre pressures as it was a hot day reaching 26 degrees in the shade. 

With a short lap and 25mins qualifying there was plenty of time for each driver to complete the mandatory 3 laps. I went early to the holding area so was first on track and got some clean-Ish laps in just over 10mins. It felt so slow but my time was 4th quickest at that point so I was pretty happy  We pitted for driver change (more on that later) and Mike went out. 

Immediately there was a red flag for a car in the gravel so he had to come back in. After 5 mins cars went out again only for Mike to find the coolant dropped by a Boxster and spun through the Surtees corner.  Mike got going again and ran until the end of the session getting faster and building confidence each lap.  

Our driver change was awful in qualifying and way over the 60s ideal minimum.  So during the break we had needed to develop a better strategy and practice it.  Many hands make light work - and they did. The incoming driver can only see 4 of the 6 belts due to the helmet and hans device restricting movement so one person is needed each side of the car to adjust, re-attach and pull tight the side and upper belts.   One further adjusts tyre pressures and finally a time- keeper. 

The car handling was on a knife edge with oversteer through paddock hill bend so we stiffened the front a click up on the dampers to counter this.  

Lined up on the grid in P7 I felt confident with the clutch and getting away well.  I did - but two cars in front were slow.  I choose to go right but I got squeezed onto the grass loosing several places round paddock hill bend instead of gaining them. 

It took 3 laps to get my rhythm back, confident with tyres and handling and to start reeling in the Porsches in front.  I passed two quickly and it took 5 laps to catch the next two.  All my passes were lined up through a higher line though paddock hill giving me over-speed into the druids hairpin. 

Up to P6 I was flying and catching the car in front slowly but surely. Happy with the handling and our tyres were holding up in the heat, when I made a novice mistake - glancing at the clock just before turning through Surtees.  Missing the turn point, I had to turn tighter to compensate and the rear said no!  I slewed sideways into the grass, luckily not hitting anything.  I got back on and headed for the pitlane - time for drive change. 

Our pit stop was excellent - completed with a few seconds to spare with Mike taking over.

Exiting the pits my only thought was to make sure I didn’t make an early trip to the gravel trap in front of the crowd at the exit of Paddock Hill.  

Low on confidence after my spin in qualifying I was quickly swallowed up by train of 8 or 9 faster cars that I did my best to find places to let by, keen to ensure I didn’t ruin other people’s races.  Every time a car passed I tried to use them as a new reference point for corner speeds and braking points which helped to build my pace up, after few laps I could feel I was getting quicker.  I could also see how much more confidence others had to push their cars to the grip limits compared to me.

I closed in on one car to make my first pass, biding my time until entering the main straight (and avoiding being distracted by a re-joining car who had been to the gravel trap).  The chance to get several clear laps in then came and I pushed harder to find the grip limits, with the car beginning to twitch here and there to let me know I was starting to push my luck!

As the tyres began to struggle I was running wide round Clearways but avoided following others to the gravel and over the final few laps I was closing back in on a group of 3 cars that had passed me a few laps before, only for the chequered flag to drop.

Pleased I had got the car safely round I was left ruing the spin I had in qualifying that left me short on confidence …am sure I can go quicker next time and close the 4 second gap to Garry’s faster race pace. 

Overall a great day of racing.  It felt fantastic to have the car handling nicely, be fast on track and get some good over-takes done.  Mike improved by a further 2 seconds a lap during the race and isn't far off the pace of the Boxster 2nd drivers.  

Full onboard video:

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

CALM Porsche - Brands Hatch Grand Prix

Our first outing of the season was on the famous but rarely used Brands Hatch GP circuit.  We were again sharing the largest possible grid with the Bernies V8's which made for a challenging time last year.  

As a single day event the paddock was rammed so we had to make our own space on the end of a row to setup in.  At least the weather was nice!  

We had pre-prepped the car as usual so it was just a case of setting tyre pressures and heading early to the holding area given 44 cars needed to be noise tested on route.  

I was near the front of the queue so had good track space.  It took 2 laps for tyres to come up to temperature before I could really push and I matched my race time from last time out. 3 secs faster than previous qualifying on this layout. 

I had several laps where I was up to 1sec up on my best time, but fading tyres and traffic prevented me carrying that to the line.  I finished 4th Porsche and 12th overall which was a really good effort. 

After a wait long enough to watch the full F1 race we got ready for the 40min race in late afternoon.  I made a small suspension tweak to try and overcome some front  understeer.   

As we rolled round the green flag lap, I kept really close to the V8's around me during the rolling start so a not to get jumped by too many.  I managed to hold the middle of the track as much as possible to block potential over-takers.  Despite that a couple V8s just pushed past with their power and slowed me down into the corners.  

This pushed me back into the clutches of the class 2 Boxster's.  I was struggling with grip and handling and so was defenceless against them coming past me. I just tried to lap consistently after that hoping to regain some time or get clear track after the mandatory 90sec pit stop. 

A car in the gravel triggered a safety car just as the pit window opened so I went into a crowded pit lane with half the field.  In hindsight I should have stayed out and pitted the next lap as we lost a good 10-20secs queuing into the pit lane. 

I got a couple of places back on the restart but within 2 laps the lead TVR's took each other off causing another safety car period.  For some reason a V8 car in front refused to catch the safety car so I finished behind several slower cars that benefited from our pit stop delay but still 3rd in class. 

The car needs some TLC before we go racing again with more grease leaking underneath and some gear shift issues to resolve and a broken wheel stud to replace.