Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Hot Weekend at Rockingham

Having left home at 5:30am we arrived at Rockingham looking for somewhere to setup in the inner paddock.  A plea on WhatsApp I'd made paid off and we had an area reserved for us. Most drivers arrived on Thursday evening in plenty of time for a day of Testing Friday so we’re still asleep on their motor homes. We can’t afford either luxury

Our car was pre-setup based on the settings from previous outings here however conversations at signing on with other drivers suggested there was little grip in circuit.  We softened the suspension a little and went straight out to qualify.   I got a banker lap in early but then made mistakes on each of my subsequent faster laps.  The session was red flagged early on another better lap, but to my surprise I qualified P4. I quite like this no testing approach!

Race 1: I started on the outside of the grid and took my favourite super wide line into the first hairpin gaining back a place I’d lost. It always concertinas on the inside and you can easily get blocked in.  The handling was difficult but I was able to run flat out around the banking an keep up on the brakes into the first hairpin. 

I kept up with the cars in front just as they were slowing each other down, but never managed to get close enough to seriously threaten a pass finishing in P6. 

Race 2: On Sunday morning was blisteringly hot.  Our tyres were struggling all weekend and the low grip disrupting our expected suspension and rollbar setup.  Whilst we had a new set of tyres available I needed to keep those for Castle Coombe. Starting with lower pressures means they take longer to come in on the first lap but you struggle less later on. It’s always a difficult balance.  I tweaked the suspension a little but the car was no more drive-able and I ran P6 for the whole race.  

Race 3: Rockingham was an opportunity for the championship to experiment with a pit-stop race for the first ever time.  I got a decent start and wasn’t too far off the front group when the pit stop window opened.  Nobody went in so I took my chance early keeping my speed down to 60kph pit-lane limit and looking for my crew (family) in yellow jackets.  A simple stop / go as they removed some velcro markers from the front and bank windows - and I was back out onto track.  I got held up massively on my out lap and when I came around the front runners had pitted and come back out still ahead - nothing gained.  With no pressure from behind and I managed the race to the end for yet another P6 finish. 

The pit stop was a resounding success all round.  Drivers and their teams and families loved being involved and it added some extra entertainment on top of our traditionally close racing for those watching and participating.  Hopefully it becomes a permanent fixture,. 

In just 3 weeks we head to Castle Coombe for the first time ever supporting the https://tcruk.co.uk/ touring car series.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Off Season Overhaul

Our car needed a considerable amount of repairs after the last outing at brands hatch in October.  The front en and front left corner were badly damaged.  All the stock parts were replaced with 2nd hand items - front wing, centre radiator, headlight, radiator frame and cowling.   The front bumper and splitter is more complex and expensive being a fibreglass one so has to be made to order and then painted. 

The usual winter service of oil and filter change, brake  fluid flush and new front brake discs and pads was completed.  

We took some extra readings this year by doing a compression test on the engine as well as having the oil analysed.   The compression test was results were as expected for an engine with this mileage, whilst the oil analysis did outline some fuel in the oil.  This is likely a consequence of how we run the car - full throttle all the time and is another reason to change the oil frequently as it does get diluted.

This week we did a shakedown track day at snetterton where the car ran faultless all day long.   The weather was dry and the sun shine in the afternoon.  Using the setup from brands did result in one spin.  So we stiffened the suspension a couple of clicks all round to ensure less oversteer and the car was more suited to the faster corners after that. 

There is a few small jobs to do to be in perfect shape for racing in a few months time.  

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival

Friday practice didn't go as planned, with me going straight on at druids, through the gravel and into the tyre wall towards the end of my first session on track.  From that point onward it was touch and go if we'd be racing or not.  

I owe a lot of thanks to other drivers, their friends and machanics who helped to get our car fit to race again over Friday and Saturday.  

We borrowed the last front bumper anyone had spare from another competitor  (in bright yellow), bent the wing and radiator mounts back into shape and removed 30kg of gravel from the under-trays. 

Diagnostics showed a failed ABS wheel speed sensor, so the hub was removed overnight, a new sensor installed and the car frantically readied for qualifying with just minutes to spare on Saturday morning.   ABS was still not working though - so I tiptoed round using only 30% braking in the wet conditions happy to just get onto the back of the grid.

More help was offered, wiring diagrams were found and multi-meters set to work identifying a broken wire to the ABS sensor.  With a new wire spliced into the loom, ABS warning lights were cleared and we were ready to go racing in the afternoon. 

When the ABS fails on the Porsche it's not like driving a non-ABS car, the pedal is extremely sensitive to pressure. If you apply more than 30-40% braking pressure all four wheels lock instantly giving you no time to recovery your braking.  In the wet when you want gentle braking I was able to drive around it albeit several seconds a lap off the pace.  

Race 1 - Saturday PM
A torrential downpour just before our race made a wet track a river of water, and we had essentially a dry suspension setup.  

Starting last in class I couldn't see a thing for spray, spinning up the wheels in 2nd gear and lost a load of places.  I was stuck behind a new driver and didn't want to risk any front bumper damage. This put me back in 20th place behind slower class cars as it thinned out round the first lap. 

One by one I had to picked off the cars on a wet track, finally getting up 9th and onto the back of the Boxsters at the flag.  A decent effort given the first lap. 

Race 2 - Sunday AM
Brands Hatch is the only track where a hand-brake is useful on the grid. I was rolling so couldn't pin the revs at the start - needing my right foot on the brake until the lights went out. I lost a couple of places round the first lap after getting boxed in behind a slow starting car in front.  

By half distance I'd pulled back 3 places with some well setup overtakes and was lapping consistently and quickly, managing the gap behind me as the pack in front were a bridge to far ahead.  

Race 3 - Sunday PM
Starting on the flat part of the grid this time - so was able to get the start I wanted.  Until I got pushed out wide around graham hill bend, lost mementurn and 3 cars came past!

Setup changes I made weren't working as I expected so it was harder to drive with more understeer out of the corners than I wanted.  It took a few laps until I got up to speed and closed on the pack in front. Diving up the inside of paddock hill as they lapped slower cars, the slightest of touches upset the balance of the car and sent me into a 180 spin. The car stalled and I went backwards, stranded in a dangerous place causing the safety car and the end of my race. 

Not the best set of finishes, but yet again we've overcome some really difficult challenges and are extremely grateful for the collective knowledge to support of the other drivers and mechanics.  

During the weekend we ran some different cameras on the front and rear which gives a better view of how close the racing is.  

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Rockingham Motor Speedway

We turned up at the Rockingham Motor Speedway early Saturday.  The wind was blowing in the outer paddock and there was a threat of rain later in the day. Our car was prepped so there was plenty of time to chat with other drivers before the mandatory drivers briefing. Track limits and giving each other room into the first hairpin were the main topics and warnings  to all drivers.  

A last minute drama with our car battery not holding charge properly meant I kept the engine running as I waited to out for qualifying.   The cars were released in the wrong order so I sat in the pit lane airing for a clear track before heading out. The 20 min session went well, but with intermittent rain on one side of the circuit you didn't quite know how hard to push on some laps.  

I got piped for 4th place right at the end of the session so would start on the 3rd row of the grid.

Race 1

The afternoon was spent weather watching as showers rolled in - tipped it down - then dissipated and the track dried out in an almost hourly cycle.  We got lucky with a dry spell in the end.   I lost out off the grid with a car coming across in front of me sharply causing me to brake when I should have been accelerating.   This put me into a quartet of cars racing for 6th place.  I tried inside and outside of almost every corner to pass, finally going round the outside of the Tarzan hairpin, only to fail to find 3rd gear onto the main straight gifting the place back.  It bucketed down with rain on the last lap and I struggled o make it back to park ferme without crashing.  8th place finish wasn't the best result.
Photo: Dave Hogan

Photo: Dave Hogan

he evening social kicked off with a BBQ selection of food and beers in the hospitality tent with guitar entertainment from friend of the series and commentator Jake Sanson. 

Race 2 
Sunday - and the sun came out later in the morning making for a nice day watching some of the other races as we waited for out time slot.  Starting further back I got a good start around the outside of turn 2 picking up several places.  Something came loose under my feet and was sliding around, jamming under the pedals every time I braked though! I soldiered on just about maintaining my position but dropping back, when the safety car came out.   I fished around under my seat and threw the offending plastic footrest cover out the window.  As the safety pulled off I was back up to full speed getting 5th place on the penultimate lap when the car in front overshot with brake issues.  

Race 3
Starting high on the outside I got my best start ever at Rockingham slotting into 4th around the hairpin.  It was short-lived as red flags came out immediately and we returned to the grid for a restart.  Four cars got tangled on the banked first turn - two had hit the wall and needed recovering.  The drivers were all OK and we restarted after a 10 minute delay.   
My start wasn't quite as good but I managed 5th place.  As the race progressed I was comfortable with no pressure from car behind, but just not quick enough to bridge the gap to the front pack.  

Overall a fantastic weekend of racing with no incidents, dramas or damage for me and some good finished given we didn't test and had been out of the car since June.  

Next month we race on the prestigious end-of-season Formula Ford festival under-card at Brands Hatch.