Saturday, 14 December 2013

Start of the Winter Overhaul

Constantly alternating between full throttle, hard braking and high g-force cornering will take its toll on any car. The Porsche Boxster handles this better than most, so our winter overhaul is more akin to a full service and some preventative maintenance. No full strip down and rebuild needed!

First job was to remove the starter motor.  This has been getting more and more sluggish recently, struggling to start the car when the engine is hot.  
It sits on top of the engine so removal of the throttle body and air intake make it easier to get to.  These are cleaned up as we go, as is the BMC performance air filter which is has to be washed and re-oiled.   A two- foot-long 2 foot socket extension is needed to get to the last bolt, which is accessed through the engine cover behind the seat.
Top of the engine minus throttle body and starter motor
While we are in this area of the engine, the oil air separator is notorious for failing, allowing oil to be sucked into the engine.  Our intake showed some signs of oil residue. There is a motorsport version - but this isn't available for our earlier model car.  Special hose clips and small arms from above and below are needed to replace this. 

Lastly we turned our attention to underneath the car where we've been seeping fluid.  A length of hose had to be cut out. Initially we thought this was power steering fluid, however it turned out to be coolant. Porsche factory fill with a yellow liquid which isn't available any more. Given the potential problems with mixing different coolant types we'll flush the system completely and refill after replacing the hose.  

Phase two in the new year will be to change the oil and filter, then replace the front bumper.   Finally we'll be removing more unnecessary wiring and getting a lighter weight exhaust fitted. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

BRSCC Finals at Donnington Park

We arrived at Donington Park late Friday evening and unloaded into a Pit Garage.  We'd hired a different trailer this weekend and found out too late that you cannot open the car doors due to the high wheel arches.  This meant climbing in though the roof to get the car off the trailer which was entertaining.

Qualifying (Saturday 11am)
The track was wet from overnight rain and the single seaters before us were out on full wet tyres kicking up spray down the main straight.  I expected it to dry out, and my lap times increased throughout the session as a dry line appeared in places. Everyone went fastest on the last lap, but I was hampered a little by traffic so could have gone quicker. I qualified 12th.
Photo Courtesy of @Sportscarfan917
Race 1 (Saturday 4pm)
I got a decent start off the line but several cars jumped the start, rolling before the lights went out. As I rounded the first corner (Redgate) the cars in front suddenly all swerved left (to avoid a spinning car). I had to take avoiding action, ending up with two wheels in the gravel and two in the mud verge going nowhere fast.  By the time I rejoined the circuit I was almost dead last.

The 20 min race saw me pass all of the 924 runners, the two production boxsters and catch the race spec boxsters. There were no blue flags to help as we were racing for position. I crossed the line side by side with 13th place (0.2 secs behind). Both of us gained an extra place when the jump start penalties (10 secs) were applied. 

After the race we noticed the exhaust was sounding pretty rough. On stripping the bumper off we found the lambda probe had corroded and blown out of the catalytic converter leaving a 50p piece size hole.  With the help of Tony from Southshore Tyres we managed to weld it back on, racing with a blowing exhaust.

Race 2 (Sunday 12pm)
Having rained in the morning the track was still wet for our 12pm race.  I knew it would dry quickly so set dampers fairly stiff, mindful it would be slippy off-line.

The race was red flagged at 2/3 distance and restarted for an accident. I finished my best ever in 6th having great battles with other cars for that position in both parts.  The car handled really well and my driving was quite smooth - although my lap times were 1 second slower than 2012.
With confidence high we stiffened roll bars and dampers for the last race which was a reverse grid (starting 8th in boxsters).  Just before we went out a torrential downpour soaked the track so we hastily changed to a wet setup.

On lap 1 visibility was almost zero from spray and I got stuck behind a train of cars whilst faster cars overtook all of us. On lap two I used the wet race line with good effect to take 3 places back and open a big gap. I was now in 6th place.  A car spun on the oil immediately in front of me resulting in a very close call.

I eventually got caught on the last lap - finishing a very happy 6th place again!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Donnington Park Wet Practice

With no Friday test being offered by Donnington Park we chose a Bookatrack trackday the week before our race weekend to get some practice laps in.

At a first glance Bookatrack look a little more expensive that some other track day operators.  However their approach is to limit the no. of cars taking part (up to half of other track days) which ensures you get maximum track time from the day.

The day was well really run, with a mix of race,track and supercars all behaving on track in pretty tricky wet conditions.  Persistent rain for most of the day threatened to close the track at times as rivers of water flowed across the tarmac in several places. 

We used the day to asses wet weather handling at different tyre pressures and damper settings.  We also experimented with different race lines.  Overall we improved our times by 4-5 seconds by the end of the day in worsening conditions.

We also tested out a new hardwired Blackvue camera to meet a newly introduced championship regulation (mandatory in car camera recording). This records whenever the ignition is on saving us the aggravation of usb charging, memory card management and forgetting to press the record button!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Steering Arm Replacement

We noticed quite a while ago (last year in fact) that one of our steering arms was badly bent at the join with the track rod end.  Since we are skipping a couple of race events, after a busy summer, this job has now reached the top of the priority list.

Having put the car on axle stands, removed the wheel and front under-tray, you can get access to the inner joint of the steering arm.

There is a design fault though!  The steering column wont extend far enough to clear the front sub-frame and enable you to get a spanner onto the inner joint.  As it happens we had the perfect offset 32mm wrench already in our toolbox.  It's a special offset wrench for tightening a Ford / BMW engine fan from the 1990's. 

With the inner joint undone it took another half an hour to reassemble, ensuring the same no. of threads were showing at the adjustment end so the tracking would not be wildly out.

Once finished we reset the tracking using our basic strings approach, setting 2mm of tow out in place of our previous straight alignment.  In theory this will help the car turn in on the corners.  This is quite aggressive and we'll see if it makes a difference when we practice for the Donnington Park round in October.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Brands Hatch Race Event

As usual it was an early start on the Saturday. We arrived at the paddock entrance just behind our race car which was being towed separately and found space in the paddock.
There was only just time to unpack the car before we need to head over to scrutineering, remembering I had to sign-on at the office on the way.

The cars queue through scrutineering where the saftey features of all cars are checked. Seats and belts must be firmly mounted and in date. Lights and safety cut-off switches must work etc. They also check my race suit, boots, gloves and helmet for condition and the right safety markings.  All my gear is FIA standard and equal or above that needed for UK club motorsport.


Qualifying - Saturday AM
A long queue formed early.  With 30 cars on the short 1.2 mile Indy Circuit everyone wanted to be out first.  I got some clear laps by being last out of the Boxsters with only a couple of 924's to clear on my out lap. Almost every other lap you came across traffic though. I qualified 13th, not quick enough, but happy to be around 1.5 seconds a lap faster that the year before when I was battling 924's and without any incidents.

Race 1 - Saturday PM
We softened the rear roll-bar from the Snetterton setup as I was struggling in the tight corners with understeer and squealing tyres in qualifying.  We also reduced tyre pressures as the outside temp got up to 25 degrees. We know tyres heat up during a race and are looking for 26-28 psi when hot. Any higher and the tyres start to loose grip with car sliding about more under braking and in corner exits.

On the grid I had to balance the hand-brake, accelerator and clutch as the middle rows slope downwards temping a false start. (Or stalling as the car next to me did!

I got away OK, but was too wide round Paddock Hill and too cautious on lap one. There was a lot of pre-race warnings about damage, the need for good driving standards and my caution lost me a couple of places around the Druids hairpin.

After 3 or 4 laps I was dropped by the mid pack of racers and was racing alone. I had to keep pushing though as a couple of spinners in front got me one place back, finishing a reasonable 12th and improved my fastest lap of the weekend so far by half a second.

Race 2 - Sunday AM
I again started well holding position. I gave a place up round paddock hill on lap 3, but the driver went into the gravel on the next lap pushing too hard. Then another spinner bought out the safety car, allowing everyone to bunch up again.

After the restart I was able to stay with the cars in front, who were all navigating back markers within a couple of laps.  I saw a gap to nip past 10th place at along the short Cooper Straight when a wheel was put on the grass, however being a more powerful 987 model it blasted past on the pit straight and I couldn't get back underneath at paddock hill bend to hold the place on the brakes.  I finished 11th after a great race and and once again went faster and put in more consistent fast laps.

Race 3 - Sunday Late Afternoon 
I was tempted to change the car setup prior to this race.  I had been interviewed by the AJK TV crew and stated I needed to find another half a second per lap to get amongst the mid pack of cars.  In the end we decided to brake more gently for Paddock Hill and attempt to carry more speed around the corner, more smoothly, and be on the power earlier.  

I held position after the start, but had a faster car/driver harrying me around the first 3 laps.  When he moved to the inside I had to yield at Druids Hairpin to avoid any contact.  Once behind however the tables were turned.  Whilst I was always loosing out on the pit straight I was faster by trail-braking around Druids and being hard on the gas through Surtees & McLaren.   
I posted 6 laps back-to-back all around the 56.5 seconds lap-time mark and slowly reeled in the car in front. There was a moments hesitation overtaking a back marker and I went passed with two wheels on the grass on the outside of Graham Hill Bend.
I immediately opened up gap and then managed it to the end of the race to finish a very satisfying 10th.

This event saw not my fastest driving in terms of finishing positions, but definitely my most consistent and smoothest driving in the two races on Sunday.  It took that long to get used to the track again after a year away, which is the benefit of testing or having a recent track day under your belt.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Snetterton Race Event

Practice (Friday AM)
I stopped in the pit lane after 2 laps to check tyre pressures and was alerted to water leaking from the back of the car.  It looked like we had not screwed the water cap on correctly and the car boiled over. I tried to get back out on track, but the engine was overheating, so we retired to our paddock base.  It took over an hour to cool the engine, refill and bleed the system and get back on track.
Over the lunch break we finally fitted new tyres. (The original set lasted 6 race weekends, 2 test days and 2 track days which is good value for money).  In the afternoon we got some good track time, but only ever put 3/4 of a good lap together, getting into the 2m 17s.  For the last session we stiffened the rear anti-rollbar to maximum, and this helped with more predictable handling (light understeer) through the fast corners.

Qualifying (Saturday AM)
I got myself clear track for most of the session and went over 1.5 seconds faster than in testing the day before.  The car handled well and I hit most of the apex and exit curbs for a really good lap.  I qualified an excellent 9th (2m 16.1) out of 14 Class-A Boxsters and 31 cars in qualifying.

Race 1 (Saturday PM)
In the afternoon the temperature soared to 30 degrees in the paddock.  We made no changes to the car bar reducing tyre pressures. I missed 2nd gear off the start line and went backwards a couple of places, then I lost a couple more navigating cars which had spun at the first hairpin, so not a great start.

On lap 3, I overtook a car which was slow out the fist corner, but couldn't stop on the dusty inside line into the hairpin.  Unfortunately I clipped and spun another car ahead in the hairpin. Both cars recovered and I decided to just bring the car home (now without working ABS).  However on the penultimate lap I spun when I misjudged my braking losing another two places.  

In park ferme my car was found to be leaking all the water out of the back again!  This time with a definite split in the coolant tank due to the extreme heat.
Luckily TF Motorsport had a spare at their workshop, so we hatched a plan to collected this at 7am Sunday and with the help of an extra pair of hands from another driver the car was ready by lunchtime. This was a major feat for us, as this is a very time consuming and difficult repair job.

Race 2 (Sunday PM)
I got a reasonable start but there was no room to pass a car two rows ahead who didn't.  I was faster in a number of corners, but never quite got close enough to pass.

After 3 or 4 laps I was finding it harder to maintain corner apexes as my tyres started to overheat.  With two laps left I was a sitting duck up the main straight and I was passed on the outside.  Unfortunately the driver spun a lap later - just pushing too hard.  I got another place back to another spinner and finished much happier in 10th.

The Championship moves to the short Indy circuit at Brands Hatch in just 3 weeks time, so there is no opportunity to do any work to the car before then.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Repairs and Snetterton Preparation

While many of the drivers headed off the the European round of the championship (BRSCC EuroFest at Zandvoort Holland), we have chosen to stick to the tracks closest to us.  This limits our travel time and therefore our costs and means we can take part in more events.

July will see us head to Snetterton in Norfolk on the undercard of the British & European SuperKart grand prix's.  We know this track well from our early shakedown testing and a couple of track days, so are confident of a good performance.

Prior to that, we had some more work on the car to undertake.  Firstly to repair some of the damage from Silverstone.  A paintless dent repair man has taken the worst of the dents out of the side of the car.  We then set about the rear bumper which had a 10cm hole in the corner. This was patched from behind and will now be filled, sanded and the patch painted to make it look presentable.
We also fitted the Short Shift gear lever mechanism which was purchased last year, but never quite made it onto the priority list.  This is the blue alloy in the photo and significantly reduces the gear lever throw, making shifting faster.
While the bumpers and wheel arches were off we also removed the huge plastic washer bottle and remaining air-conditioning pipework, plus excess wiring at the rear.  A small washer bottle has been fitted in the front boot.  This will reduce our weight by a few more Kilograms.  We are now within 20 of the 1300 minimum for our early 3.2 model.

Rockingham & Silverstone Races on YouTube

The 1st two rounds of the season are now available on YouTube in HD (double click for full-screen and select the cog icon) courtesy of Toyo Tires.
We get some good coverage in Race 1 at Rockingham as I go round the outside of the first corner and up into the top 6, and then later in the race against other cars.

The 2nd Meeting at Silverstone we also got some good coverage in the wet conditions of Race 1.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A Wet Race at Silverstone

Going to Silverstone was always a bit of a gamble. With no time to test, and having never even visited the place, let alone done any laps I would have to learn the track during qualifying.

We arrived early Saturday morning, taking up residence in the large Garage.  We took advice from South Shore Tyres to stick with our 3/4 worn Toyo 888's despite the threat of rain.  Qualifying was dry and I had clear track to start, however lacked confidence (which comes from track time) to push harder through the fast corners.   

Unfortunately I then picked up damage to the side of the car passing a 924 and was later accidentally bumped from behind by a faster Boxster.  I qualified 12th - disappointed not to be faster (2 seconds off my target time) and about the damage we had sustained, albeit cosmetic.  On checking the car after Qualifying we found one of the front brake pads we in back-to-front e.g. metal backing plate on the brake disk, which obviously did not help, but was easy to fix.
Race 1
By mid afternoon it was raining heavily and despite interludes the track was very wet. We softened the dampers a few clicks all round and added a couple of psi to the tyre pressures for our race at the end of the day.

I found grip from the tyres was a straight line and got a really great start, passing three cars by the first corner.  Three more cars spun in front during the first 2 laps and I was able to keep pace with the battle ahead. I overtook once and got alongside a couple of times but could not hold the place.

Car control in the corners was difficult with too high entry speeds washing you wide and anything other than a delicate right foot kicking the back of the car out. I finished a very competitive 8th - A great result.

Race 2
On Sunday afternoon rain was forecast and visibly getting closer, but we stuck with stiffening our suspension from qualifying to reduce over-steer tendency.  

It started to rain as we took to the grid.  My start was good but after a couple of laps I couldn't keep pace with the mid pack of Boxsters and lapped incident free, mostly on my own to the chequered flag.
Chasing the pack (Photo by Dennis Goodwin)
The car felt better and looking at my speed at reference points on track combined with my lap timer I was able to increase performance through Copse corner particularly. I beat my dry qualifying lap time by 0.6 seconds despite the light rain conditions. An improvement of 1.5 seconds in real terms.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Rockingham Race 3 On-board Video

My on-board video from Race 3 at Rockingham has been downloaded.

Note: Ignore the date-stamp as this resets when the camera battery runs out each time.

This is my view from the start.  Some cars come underneath me on the inside of the banked turn, and I take the longer/faster outside route around the first hairpin.

Mid way through the race car #69 comes alongside me into the braking area for the hairpin.  We travel round the next two corners side-by-side allowing each other room before I have to give up the place.   I was very close to getting the place back, but ran out of laps.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Rockingham Race Event

We arrived at Rockingham near Corby an hour before scrutineering on Saturday am. The paddock was full with many cars having tested on Friday and we grabbed the last garage space.

Heading out for qualifying, I had knocking noises coming from underneath the car, so  stopped at the end of the pit lane. After a minute thinking what to do, I decided it had to be stones hitting the underside of the car, which is amplified without sound deadening and so went out onto the track.

Handily, this delay gave me clear track to bed in my new brakes and set about increasing my speed lap by lap. My free lap timer (RaceChrono for Android) showed I was flying;  4+ secs up on last year, and getting faster each sector.  I qualified an impressive 7th (1m42s.)

On the cool down lap however, the noises were back and in the garage we found the handbrake mechanism had failed inside the hub. An easy fix with new springs from Jasmine-Porschalink (A new series sponsor who are providing a parts van at each event).

Race 1

I got a good start and picked up places round outside of the first hairpin. The car felt good and I was looking for an opportunity on the car in front (5th place). That changed dramatically as a small mistake turning in too late let two cars through and then an over zealous right foot had me fighting over-steer and a tank-slapper on the exit to the main straight.  Whilst I avoided hitting the wall, I lost momentum and was now well down the field.  I got one place back a few laps later, but a trip over the grass under pressure gave that place and another away. I finished a little disappointed in 9th.

Race 2

I started 9th, but found my confidence had disappeared following the events of race 1.  I felt the car had no grip, my times were well down and I was struggling to stay ahead of the Class-B Boxster's.  In hindsight my tyres pressures could have been too low or I hadn't got them up to temp on the warm-up lap. I finally got my act together increasing speed and confidence and with the help of a brief safety car lap joined the battle for 7th-10th places pushing them hard on the final couple of laps.  On the last lap however, the gear lever mechanism failed as I braked from 125mph into the first hairpin, leaving me stuck in 4th. Not knowing what had happened, I took the safe option of the exit road and was towed back for my first ever DNF.

Another trip to the Jasmine-Porschalink parts van to replace the plastic gear lever linkage which had worn out and we were quickly ready for the final race. I put tyre pressures up in an effort to abbate the drop in ambient temperature (evening was approaching) and also to make sure I had good grip immediately.  I worked really hard on the green flag lap to get temperature into the tyres.

Race 3
I started 6th on the grid based on my 2nd fastest qualify time. Whilst I lost out a couple of places initially I was lapping in 1m43s immediately, keeping up with the cars in front despite increasing pressure from another car behind.  I eventually had to yield 9th place after some very close but also very fair racing.  I returned that pressure in the last two laps, but ran out of time, coming home 1/2 a sec behind in 10th.

A great start to the season! We have definitely made a significant leap forwards, matching professionally prepared cars and more experienced drivers over one lap. I need more experience to become more consistent in the race and to not make mistakes under pressure from drivers behind.  We also proved we can diagnose and successfully repair problems on the car ourselves.   Full timing and results at

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A new look for the 2013 Season

The car returned from the paint shop with the damaged panels repaired and resprayed.  We also opted to paint the bonnet, roof and boot white.  Inverse blue stripes were added too, giving the car a overall more professional look for this year.  
 The final pre-race checks have been done, refitting the fire extinguisher, checking the operation of cut-of switches, lights and adjusting safety belts.

The ride height was re-checked and adjusted (using the adjustable spring perches on the dampers) giving us a couple of mm over the regulation minimum at the front, with around 10mm higher at the rear.  Some height had been lost due to wear on the tyres and one spring perch coming loose and dropping slightly.  We also rechecked the wheel alignment and are going stick with dead straight at the rear and 1mm of tow-out at the front.

Finally some of the mandatory championship decals have been fitted and the car given a good clean and polish

The 2013 BRSCC Porsche Championship starts at Rockingham near Corby in the midlands.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

More Winter Work

Brake Service
After the last track day, we noticed the front brake discs starting to develop tiny cracks between the drilled holes.  This is a common occurrence when the standard discs are put under the extreme heat generated by the race brake pads under race conditions. 

If we don't change the discs there is a chance they could disintegrate on hard braking.  OEM discs only cost £50 each so it is better to be safe and change them frequently along with the brake pads and a change of Castrol SRF brake fluid. 

Drop Links
The uprated anti-roll bars will cause extra stress on the standard drop links.  As our suspension is considerably lowered these are also really too short now.

We have decided to replace them with uprated and adjustable drop-links which RND Motorsport have developed for us.  

The adjustment will allow the weight distribution to be evenly set ensuring a better handling car. 

Light Weight Heater

Since we use the car for both racing and track days during the winter months we wanted to keep some decent heating.  There is nothing worse than a steamed up windscreen or a freezing cold car.  
We have fitted a mini water based heater from T7 Design which connects to the original water pipes via an electronic valve to control the production of heat.

The result is a fan not far short of the original power and the ability to control hot or cold air to both the windscreen and the centre dashboard vents.  The heater and pipework weighs less than 1.5KG vs the 7KG's plus of the old unit.


Paint Shop
With the dashboard refitted, minus the lower console and a lot of eexcess wiring which we didn't remove last time; the car will be off to the paint shop for the danaged panels to be resprayed  and a slight twist on our color scheme!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Winter Work Progress

Progress has been a little slow with the bad weather recently, but with the 2013 season looming  fast the main service work has been completed.

The coil packs were removed and replaced along with new spark plug tubes, spark plugs and o-rings. The old coil packs were very badly cracked and corroded with bits of their casings missing and oil was leaking from the o-ring seals around the plastic tubes.  

Next the oil was drained and a new genuine filter fitted.  Finally a the engine was given a good clean around the valve covers and the underside of the engine, where oil is weeping (not dripping yet!) from the rear main seal area.

The engine runs noticeably smoother now.  

In the mean time our H&R anti-roll bars arrived. 

Whilst these are heavier than the originals (being solid rather than hollow) they will reduce the amount of body roll when cornering.

These were fitted with new rubber bushes and stainless bolts.  Adjustable drop-links are being made up for us and these will enable the car to be correctly corner weighted.
The next piece of work was to remove the seats and dashboard (again!) in order to pull out the main air-con and heater matrix unit.  

This is the work we should have done the first time around when getting the roll-cage installed having now realised we still need to reduce the weight of the car by around 20kg's. 

A basic lightweight heater will be installed to ensure we can still clear the windscreen in the rain and have some cool air flow in the hot summer.

A significant amount of wiring can also be removed which fed the roof mechanism, interior lighting, heater control, air-bag control and PCM sat-nav units. Every little helps.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

2013 Race Calendar

The BRSCC and PDA have released the 2013 BRSCC Porsche Championship Race Calendar.

The coming season will feature races at all of the top UK circuits.  The inclusion of a European round at Zandvoort Circuit in the Netherlands is also major coupe.

We will be looking to enter four (possibly five) of the rounds, although I suspect the extra travel cost and time needed for Zandvoort will mean we have to miss that one.