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. 

2021 Season Preview

In 2021 we will again be racing with the CALM All Porsche trophy.

We'll miss the opening round of the season but have entered the remainder including Brands Hatch GP, Snetterton 300, Silverstone International and Brands Hatch Indy.  

With limited access to the Boxster we have had to wait for lockdown rules to be relaxed to begin the season prep work.  Given we only did a single event last year due to Covid restrictions the list isn't too long. 

We started with bleeding the brakes to make sure no air is in the system.  This was followed by bleeding the clutch slave cylinder because since the engine rebuild the clutch pedal wasn't returning fully and went to the floor after the event at brands hatch.   Sat on the top the gearbox access is impossible with a traditional 11mm bleed spanner so the nipple had to be loosened with a socket extension and opened / closed by hand.  The recommended technique is also to have the pedal pushed all the way down during bleeding.  As expected a load of air came out and the pedal now returns nicely. 

Whilst under the car we spotting what looked like an oil leak on the back of engine by the oil cooler.  

However on closer inspection it was grease which has sprayed out of a tiny nick in the inner CV joint rubber boot.   Luckily the inner joints are serviceable (the outer isn't) as are both boots - so we can change this ourselves.  It required removal of the hub nut which with loctite needs the longest 3/4" breaker bar to undo. 

Whilst sorting this it we also removed the rubber boots on the rose joints of the roll bar drop links which had perished. 

The car is ready for a shakedown track day at Snetterton which went well but we had to change the exhaust after the internals failed, and this cut short our afternoon running.