Friday, 25 March 2016

Final Shakedown Test

In seven days time well be taking part in the first BRSCC Porsche Championship meeting of the year, being held at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk.  

We haven't raced there for three years, so booked a standard MSV track day to shakedown the car, get my eye in on the circuit and let some family have a go at the same time. 

The MSV instructors read the riot act in the briefing, as recent events had been treated like test days (overtaking anywhere) and not track days, where novices and experienced drivers need to co-exist.  

It worked as track etiquette was good and the mix of classics, road cars, sports and race cars got on fine.  The weather was bright, dry and about 10 degrees.  Hopefully it will be the same come race day.  

In the morning we did a few runs focused on checking the reliability of the car.  The only issue we found was a loose engine cover, so all went well.  Handling was good with our guess at the setup.  No particular oversteer or understeer issues - but the front end was bouncing up and down a bit too much on corner exits.  

The trick with open pit lane format days is to be on track when everyone else isn't.  A couple of times we noticed the track was full, with cars queueing in the pit lane.  This meant that in about 15 mins it would be empty as they all come in to cool down - time for us to head out then!

In the afternoon we experimented with setup, corner techniques and gear choices.  The track was far less busy too. 

  • Snetterton is flat and fast, so the setup is likely to be fairly stiff on roll bar and damper setup. We went a bit too hard initially, finding the front end skidding under braking, especially into the hairpin corners. In the end we think we found a good compromise.  

  • The Boxster gearbox is highly geared to reach 160mph.  There are always corners     around the 50mph mark which can either be taken in 2nd (screaming near the rev limit) or 3rd (lower revs and not enough torque).  On the long straights we also have the option of short shifting to 5th gear or holding onto 4th to the rev limit as we approach 130mph.

  • Also for the tighter turns we have the option of following the theoretical racing line of a late turn in, apex 3/4 round the turn and a straighter exit.  Or experimenting with bringing the car in earlier, tighter and slower, but covering a shorter distance round the corner.  Each corner is unique and it often depends on the length of the following straight as to which yields a faster lap time.  
Overall it was a really successful day, without incident, and I went faster than ever.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Winter Overhaul

We've spent roughly a day per month over the off season sorting the car out.  Here's the run down on most of it.  

First up was to repair the damage from the last round of 2015 at Silverstone.  This required a new front wing and door to be sourced.  Luckily I got used panels in really good condition and in the right colour so we just had to unbolt and swap them over.

The remainder of the damage had to be done by a processional body shop.  I used Lemass_Automotive in Buckinghamshire who pulled the lower sill dent out, resprayed my spare front bumper and fixed and painted the door dents on the drivers side.   The rear quarters could not be straightened without a lot of painting, so were left as-is and are hardly noticeable. 
Secondly we drained the coolant and refilled with the correct mix of anti freeze.  It just got filled with water in a hurry at Silverstone so needed to be sorted to ensure the engine didn't freeze over the winter.

Next we had the oil flushed and replenished with Millers 10/50 nanotech and had to top up the power steering fluid again - as the top had come loose. (No leaks though!)

On the inside of the car we stripped all of the remaining wiring in the inner doors and replaced the big clunky door check straps with light weight fabric ones.  Its small beer, but a 2kg weight saving is still a saving.

We then partially stripped some of the excess wiring from the main loom. Starting with the relay board in the boot forwards to the front of the car.  There is a huge amount of wring still to come out, but this will have to wait until we have more time to remove the dashboard.  
We should have done this when the car was first converted - but we just didn't have the gumption and experience to go all out race car back then.

The third big job was to replace the exhaust again.  The cheap Chinese made one we ran last year had disintegrated internally.  It was rattling and overly noisy, risking us failing more noise tests. 

The replacement is fairly stock in terms of loudness and much better made from Top Gear exhausts

The penultimate job was to turn our attention to the braking system.  A flush through with new Castrol SRF racing fluid, bleeding any air out of the system.  We use a simple pressure bleeder which runs off the tyre pressure to saving pumping the pedal manually.  

A new set of rear brake pads were also fitted.  Once they get more than half worn (<5mm) they tend to overheat quickly and braking performance reduces.  The wear also gets progressiveness quicker, so the last 3-4mm can go in a race or two.

The last piece of weight saving has been removing the handbrake.  This entailed removing the rear discs, to release the handbrake cables and remove the now  superfluous brake shoes.  In the car the handbrake lever, mounting and cable adjuster goes too.  This is another 5kgs gone. 

The final job was to fit an additional MSA LED brake light in the centre of the rear bumper.  Whilst we have happily used the two std rear fog lights to meet the regulations, some racers have had issues with scrutineers. The series regulations now state we have to run this regardless.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

2015 Best Bits

As we get close to starting the 2016 race season, I compiled the best bits of action from our on-board camera.   Lots of very close racing, overtakes, spins (not me), and a few offs.