Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Engine Out Day

The engine runs, but is knocking badly.  Regardless of whether we rebuild it, replace with new or used it has to come out.  Then we’ll take it apart and inspect the internals before deciding on which route to take. 

We have done everything on the car ourselves bar welding the rollcage and more recently pressing new rear wheel bearings.  At lot of the prep work is jobs we have previously done. Because of this we really want to do this ourselves and are absolutely positive we can. 

I compliled two checklists of what to remove, disconnect, separate etc and then cross checked them so nothing is missed.  Neither are comprehensive and it now totals over 50 steps.  The two sources I used were the Jet 1 YouTube video series and Pelican Parts engine removal guide.  The latter is more of a guide of guides as most of the details is in smaller jobs they have covered separately. 

The principle of labelling everything, taking notes and photos cannot be under estimated. It is likely to be months between removal and refitting so there is no way of remembering what went where or connected to what when we come to refit it. 

We don’t have a lift or an engine crane so the general approach is to have the front of the car raised on std car ramps ramps and the back jacked up at an angle using jack stands. The gearbox will come off first and then the engine lowered on a jack onto a trolley and pulled out under the rear of the car.  Simple?  

With the car on the ground we started disconnecting everything at the top of the engine which connects to the body, this included the air intake, ecu wiring loom, oil filler and air pump pipes.  For road cars a major headache is the air conditioning lines and compressor so we avoided that luckily. 

Getting the car up on ramps and jack stands allowed more space underneath. Rear bumper and exhaust were previously removed so we cracked on with chassis braces, anti roll bar, cats and drive shafts - all of which we have removed before so no stuck bolts to contend with. 

Under the middle of the car we drained the engine oil, coolant and power steering fluid removing all the coolant flexible pipes at the same time.  Tiny metallic particles were in the oil which isn’t a good sign.  

As we don’t have and engine lift or cradle to drop the engine onto we decided to remove the gearbox first to reduce the weight and sheer size of the engine.  Several of the bolts were seized so it took hours to remove and some of the engine block threads will need to be repaired as a result. 

After stopping that evening we came back to the car the next morning and removed further weight in the flywheel.  The only tool we didn’t have was a large torx socket for the flywheel bolts - so a quick trip to Halfords was in order. Now with the engine supported on the large jack the final front engine mount was removed and it lowered slowly to the floor.  The car ideally would have been higher still to pull the engine out, but we manged by rotating it on the jack by 90 degrees and pulling it out front under the back of car sideways.  

Job done in ~13 hours. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Trouble at Donington

After around 30 race weekends, plus track days and testing in between the internal bearings called time on the constant high rpm and back acceleration that is involved for a competitive race engine.

A hour earlier we were mulling over a good but slightly perplexing qualifying. I had gone 2 seconds a lap faster than ever before around the Donington Park national circuit, but somehow ended up 10th on the grid.  With the benefit of testing (2 days for some) everyone else just went 2.5 seconds faster!

The temperature was rising as the afternoon kicked in so we needed to reduce tyre pressures and the rear end was a little unstable under braking in qualifying so a tweak of the suspension was needed. Nothing else to report other than looking forwards to a great race, which was setup with 5 cars capable of winning and another similar group behind.

I leave the engine running in the holding area to ensure it’s fully up to temperature and we head out on the green flag lap. It’s a little slower than usual and I’m weary I have new tyres which will come up to temp quickly.  

I reacted quickly as the red lights went out, but the car in front didn’t.  Jinking to the right I realised there was only half a car width of race track and didn’t fancy getting on the damp grass under full acceleration so backed off. 

The car behind jinked left  making several places and went on finished o the podium.   Two cars tangled and went off first lap and the top 10 was pretty close through the first 3 laps with me watching at the back of the pack.  It started to stretch out over the next few laps but I was nicely in touch with the two cars in front coming right onto them every time they made any mistke or held each other up.  Coming down the fast final straight I felt a slight rumble fro the engine under braking and then there an almighty vibration, shaking the car as I tried to accelerate out of  the last corner. I'd never had an engine go on me before, but it was obvious our race was over.   I switched it off immediately wanting to avoid as much internal damage as possible and pulling off to a safe place at the side.  

As the race went on no less than four additional cars broke down or pulled off with mechanical issues.  

In seven race seasons, this is only the second time that we have had to pack up early, with no hope of running in the later races. But as frustrating as it feels, our engine has never let us down and been far more reliable and performant than many others since we started. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Castle Combe Podium

We decided to race at a new track this year, in Caslte Combe in Wiltshire.

Having never been there, let alone driven the track before we opted for the Friday track day to get some practice in.  

It felt as through the entire weekend race community had taken the same approach so the track day was well over subscribed and track time was severely limited.

That said we managed a passenger ride in an instructor car, followed by 4 good 15minute sessions.  
I try to take a methodical approach when time is short like this, first focusing in learning the track corners, then gear changes, then braking and corner turn in points.   Helped by the track day marker cones we improved from ~10 seconds per lap off the pace to just a couple of seconds down on the fastest Porsche’s in our final session.  This was a fantastic achievement.  

The track is flat, bumpy and fast, but rewards bravery on the brakes and getting your foot on the gas early out of the corners.    With speeds averaging over 80mph it is the fastest track we visit.   The outside walls and barriers are intimidating though, and a wheel on the grass can easily send you straight into them with no gravel traps to slow you on route.  

Race day and we decided to qualify on new tyres which we had been saving.  The temperature was already high at 10am and all the track day cones which I’d learned yesrtday had been take away!

I qualified P6 unable to improve on a early time, just a little slower than the previous afternoon.  In hindsight the (relatively) deep tread heated up too quickly and hampered our performance rather than adding grip. 

We promptly switched back to our completely worn out set of tyres for the remainder of the weekend.

Race 1
I got away reasonably and was comfortable folllowng the front cars, staying a little back to avoid any incidents.  Over a frew laps cars tagged each other and went off, leaving me in a clear fight for third place. I followed a great pass out of the last corner with my fastest laps of the weekend - resolute not to let go of the podium place.  However with just a couple of laps to go I was too eager on the gas out of the chicane tand got sideways into a huge tank-slapper.  I eventually gathered it together, but the car behind needed to brake to avoid me and ended up spinning. 

The podium was well earned despite a tinge of regret for the damaged co-racers car. It happens, is nobody’s fault, has happened to us previously and will again no doubt.  

Race 2
Sunday morning we made no changes to the car and again I was lapping reasonably when there was an almighty crash, with a car going straight into the  tyre wall and ending up on its roof.  The race was promptly red flagged just 6 minutes in.

Race 3 
The high temperatures in the afternoon caught up with our tyres and I struggled to lap consistently after dropping back from the lead trio.  Having had one trip across the grass, I brought the car home safely in 4th place for a second damage free weekend in a row. 

Overall is was a good weekend in nice surroundings as the paddock has some shady grass areas where we were based.  Learning a new track and getting on the podium is a fantastic achievement.  The TCR series brings a step up to the paddock with more professional race teams and the extra media coverage was great.  Live streams of our Sunday races were particularly well received.  

However several cars were practically written off over the weekend across the various classes racing and whilst the viewing for spectators is excellent and there is a huge local turn out.  it feels like a very risky place to race in future unless they make some safely improvements.  

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 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.