Debden Targa Rally

After the usual frantic pre-event prep work, it was time to go rallying again. An early start was needed to get to Debden in time for scrutineering and unloading all the spares.

Once signed on we could look at the road book and it was pleasing to see the organisers had worked hard to get access to more of the venue and more of the gravelly sections.

The tests were a good mix of flowing and in places fast, with plenty of tight and twisty sections to keep us on our toes and ensure plenty of use of the handbrake.

The 2018 Debden Midsummer Targa 27

The day was hot as ever for the current weather, luckily although the ZR’s issues with hot running did occur once, this was in between driver changes so we were able to let the car cool down a bit and carry on. Yet more work to manage the heat will carry on to try and irradiate the issue, see ‘the list’ for more info.

The tests were running well, however my cone magnet was on during the day, with one test in particular were some brain fade lead to quite a lot of penalties…

We can all play the ‘what if’ game, however by the end of the event we finished up 7th overall and 5th in class, but playing the ‘what if’ game and without those penalties we would have finished up 2nd overall and only three seconds of the win…

The 2018 Debden Midsummer Targa 11

It is pleasing to know the car is on the pace to be an event winner, I just need to be a neater driver to match the cars potential…

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Abingdon Stages

After two busy weekends away with the ZR it was straight into Abingdon Stages, a local event for us it was good to be back out in the Micra.

The entry list for the event was impressive with over 100 cars, seemingly endless minis all of which meant our class had 40 entries in it. Any sort of class result on what is always a power venue was going to be hard going in our road rally spec car.

The day started off quite cool and overcast which was nice as old airfields rarely give any sort of shelter from the elements.

The stages all went off without any major dramas for us, the car ran well and showed its pace well against the rest of the field. The day did warm up come lunchtime which again lead to the gearbox getting very hot. I will have to look into getting some air ducting to cool the gearbox out on the stages, between stages I used an air blower to cool things down a bit.

By the end of the day we finished up 10th in class which given the size and quality of the class was a great result. Thanks to the Lawson’s who let us service next them, borrow their shelters and Neil their service guy who even washed the Micra!

All in all a good days rallying.

Targa

Its been a busy few weeks, hence the delay in writing up my report from the recent Chelmsford MC Targa Rally at Wethersfield. The last few weekends have been taken up giving passenger rides in the MGZR at both World RallyX at Silverstone and then MotoFest in Coventry. (Pictures and video of this you can see at the end of this).

Wethersfield; After six months away from the drivers seat in a rally, it was good to be heading to a rally to drive and navigate. The event had a very high quality entry, and seeded at Car 6 I thought I would do well to match my seeding by the end of the day.

The first set of tests all ran fine, with no major dramas or issues. Next up with was a seat swap and on to navving for Suze. After this the tests were changed and Suze was driving first this time. Again these all went fine, the second set of tests were good fun with some challenging section in the bomb dump. It was then my turn to drive, by now it was approaching midday and the weather was getting rather hot. Previously I had done a lot of work to prevent issues which had shown up before with fuel vapourisation, so I was hoping the car would behave. The first few tests went well, and I was pleased with my run through the bomb dump test which was nice and fast and flowing. However in the queue for the next test the engine cut out with the dreaded fuel vapourisation issues. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. In the end I missed two tests, giving me maximum times on these tests, meaning a good result was now out of the window.

After a tow back to the paddock, the car had cooled down and ran all ok for the rest of the day. Although at any chance we put more cooler fuel in the tank, and then also sprayed the tank with water at any chance to further cool the fuel. This worked to get round, although on some tests we struggled with a lack of fuel pressure / power.

The mean that the afternoon tests were a chance to have some fun, and this photo shows this up very well on one of the gravel tests. By the end of the day we finished up 15th overall, not a great result but we had fun in the afternoon and set a 2nd fastest test time proving that the pace was there when it was all working right.

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Car Issues

After the Targa rally, I really wanted to avoid the fuel vapourisation issues. So I carried out the following modifications to try and deal with the issues. New OEM fuel filter, unplugged the vacuum feed to the FPR, improved fuel pump wiring, cut x4 holes in the bonnet to vent out hot air. Luckily the weekends at Silverstone and Coventry were both hot, and Autosolo/test demo rides were an ideal chance to test my mods. Thankfully the issues didn’t show up once during these weekends, even during some very hot weather and long runs.

However that wasn’t the end of the work in the evenings…. during the last part of the runs on Sunday at Silverstone I noticed a few bangs. I thought this was a tired engine mount, but on closer inspection it was the gearbox mount had undone both mounting bolts. One of which is still somewhere on Stowe Corner where we were doing the demo rides! A few evenings were spent, sorting out the mount, finding new bolts and locating a missing support bracket. This was fitted back with lots of loctite and spring washers. During the runs at Coventry the bolts didn’t move at all from the witness paint marks.

Then it was on to Coventry…

During my final runs at Coventry I noticed a lot more understeer. At the time I put this down to the tyres (Umbongo’s finest) getting too hot. However back in the paddock looking at the angle on the NS front it was clear the front strut had snapped where it clamps to the hub. Luckily I carry a spare with me, so I was able to fix this in place and get home ok. Now both shocks are at Gaz for repair, service, rebuild and upgrading to prevent this happening again. At the same time the shock oil leaked out onto the CV joint causing the CV gaiter to split, which meant everything was coated in oil and CV grease (lovely to clean up…!) So before the next Targa Rally at Debden which is coming up very soon, there is a fair bit to do. See ‘the list’ to see the work that needs to be done.

It could be said these demo events are hard on the car (driving sideways to impress the billies) but overall it is better for these things to come out on now competitive events. Lets hope for a smooth event at Debden and of course at Abingdon this weekend where I am navving for Suze in the Micra.

Silverstone – World RallyX Demo Rides

Coventry MotoFest Demo Ride

Corinium Stages – Down Ampney

After the last two stage rallies were held in a very heavy rain, the next stage rally being held on a bank holiday weekend would normally mean more of the same. However the day of the event turned out to be very hot. So for the first time this year, it was heat and not rain that would be the issue.

We have competed at Down Ampney a few times before. It is a true clubman, old WWII airfield on concrete. The venue is only used for rallying three times a year, and the rest of the time for farming, so the roads are quite muddy and bumpy.

The layout of the stages meant there was a real mix of very fast and flowing sections, and some tighter and twister bits – ideal hunting ground for a Micra!

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(c) GasMark Media

After the first couple of stages all was going well, and in the change of stages it gave me a chance to check my pre-event repairs to the rear beam which had found some rust and cracks. The high speed bumps of the venue meant that the repairs would get a real testing. Luckily my repairs held up during the day, and the nearside rear wheel didn’t shift from where Nissan intended.

As the day went on the temperature went up, this then lead to a new problem which was difficulty in selecting third gear. We think it is related to gearbox oil temperature, as when it was allowed to cool down the symptoms went away. So for the rest of the day, we cooled the gearbox after each stage using some water.

The rest of the day was good fun, the afternoon stages used some very long 5th gear straights which gave some exciting moments. Plus a low speed moment altered the panels on the drivers side (wrong side I know!) when a pallet got a bit close.

By the end of the event we finished up 33rd overall & 5th in class, and we collected some good class points in the ACSMC championship.

 

 

 

ZR Works

The other thing keeping busy during the last few months is a number of jobs being done to (hopefully) make the MGZR safer, more competitive and reliable.

This took up quite a bit of time and energy, and was only completed due to the great work done by Jamie Turner and The Rover Centre of St. Albans.

The following jobs have now been completed :-

  • New clutch
  • Quaife ATB LSD fitted
  • Uprated gearbox mount
  • Seam welded sub-frames
  • Replaced driveshafts
  • Heat shielding and heat wrap added to exhaust where it runs near to the fuel tank
  • Front stut towers plated
  • Rover centre spec, rally springs fitted
  • Uprated wiper washer system
  • Washer bottle relocated to inside the car (smaller bottle & better centre of gravity)
  • Safety Devices Rear roll cage and OMP door bars fitted
  • Drivers seat replaced with a Corbeau racing seat, using OMP seat mounts
  • More weight removed; bonnet bracing removed, and other sound proofing materials
  • Rear beam swop, to one with drum rear brakes (for a working handbrake)
  • Rear strut tops welded & plated
  • Bonnet pins fitted
  • New front wishbones, and polybushes

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Solo’ing

With the MGZR back on the road (see other post), it was time to get back in the driving seat. After nearly four months away from the driving seat, it was time to get back into driving mode.

Time for a double header weekend. It started off with the Brakefast Autosolo at Bovingdon airfield. This was an ideal way to get back into things, as it is a local event and due to venue planning constraints a morning only event. The ZR now has a working handbrake (see other post), which makes this sort of event easier and of course more enjoyable. There was a capacity entry for the event, and it was pleasing to see a real mix of cars, and competitors with many newcomers to the sport. Cars such as a Merc 190E Cosworth, a AE86 and a Auris Hybrid (driven by three family members) all making for an interesting event. The venue allows for two tests to run at once, one which is quite open and flowing, the other one is smaller and tighter and almost like a continuous circle.

The morning soon went by, and although I was a little too sideways at times getting used to having a working handbrake the pace was there. By the end of the event I finished 2nd overall and 2nd in class. This is the second time in a row I have had this result at this venue, I really must try and go one better next time!

 

The next day it was an early start and off to Debden for more of the same, but a whole day event. Sadly videos and photo’s are not allowed as it is a live MOD venue (home of EOD). The tests at Debden are a bit tighter and require a bit more precision, which isn’t always my strong point. The other difference with these events compared to other Autosolos is that all runs count, so hitting cones or going the wrong way is costly as I was to prove….. The morning went well enough, though I was feeling rather tired by now. After lunch is when it went wrong, I managed to hit a cone on one test and get a wrong route on the test where I have done almost the same thing before last year. This cost me quite a lot of time. By the end of the day I finished 9th overall and 3rd in class, that wrong route costing me about 3 places overall and 2nd in class.

Staging

For 2018 we agreed that Suze would drive on stage rallies, and I would navigate. This would allow us to still chase the AEMC/ASEMC & ACSMC regional championships, but in different seats.

The first event was Brands Hatch, which was very typically wet and cold. The day went well for us, however as the day wore on it got wet enough to try the wets we had been carrying for years. These were a bit of an unknown as they were bought second hand from a racer who was worried he had locked up on them once…. They were made by Dunlop and worked well after it turned all very wet. The car ran well, and it was a good reintroduction for Suze driving on stage rallies after a couple years away from that seat. The event was reasonably uneventful, we did catch and pass a number of cars, many of which had more power. Though we did lose some time, stuck behind a number of R2 cars which couldn’t negotiate the hairpins without doing a three-point turn. In the end we finished up 53rd overall & 5th in class

The 2018 MGJ Winter Stages 28a

A few weeks later it was off to another race circuit, this time it was a return to competing at the Goodwood stages, after a few years helping officiate at the event. The day started off nice and dry, however this soon changed and the Dunlop wets were soon needed as the weather turned once again very wet and cold. The event ran smoothly and although we felt the day went well the pace was a down a little from Brands. Class A was particularly full on this event, with many of our competitors carrying a lot more power than our road rally spec spec car, and the flowing nature of Goodwood meaning power is a real advantage. After a long days rallying, which again included some night stages, which are always good fun, by the end of the stage we finished 43rd overall & 9th in class.

The next stage rally is now just a few days away, with a return to Down Ampney a venue we have both enjoyed in the past.

The 2018 South Downs Stages 30