A tough Snetterton Stages

When you come in from the first stage, and people are telling you there are flames coming from your brakes you get that feeling that it could be a tough and long day…

We knew that with another very strong entry that a repeat of our success at Brands Hatch was unlikely. The stages at Snetterton were longer and faster than at Brands Hatch with a lot of heavy braking from a high speed, making power and braking a premium.

Stages 1 & 2 didn’t seem to flow that well for me, I think it took a bit of time to adapt to high speed circuit rallying. The excitement at the end of stage one was due to a rubber boot getting a bit too hot, luckily no real damage was done though and a quick rebuild of the slider bolts and we were off again.

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Stages 3 & 4 were much more like it, we ended up mixing in with more cars, which lead to more overtaking and we got a better feel for the stage layouts and I got a better feeling in the car. At lunch we were 6th in class and 57th overall, it was still all quite tight in the class battle. But the cars with more power were clearly taking the lead. Those Vauxhall 1400 engines can be made to go very well…

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Stage 5 added a new dimension to the event, with a new stage layout using some of the in-field roads, and some of these were pure gravel roads. This came as a bit of a surprise on a circuit tarmac stage rally! It did though mean I got to use the handbrake and engage in a bit of drifting 😉

Stage 6 is where it all got interesting, midway through the stage we ended up losing the brakes. The brake pads broke down on the OSF, and this lead to the caliper piston coming out and dumping brake fluid onto the hot disc which created lots of smoke! Luckily we were able to get to the end of the stage dropping about 40-50’s and avoiding anything solid with just the handbrake to slow us down.

Thankfully the service time was longer after stage 6 to allow for stage change arounds. This gave us time to get the offending item off the car, after a lot of work by many people in the service area, we were able to re-build the caliper and get back out on the stages. Many many thanks to all that helped out.

The last two stages were completed at a slightly slower pace to allow the new pads to bed in and as we had nothing to chase results wise. Luckily for us the time lost on stage 6 didn’t alter where we finished in class, though it did loose us a few positions overall. In the end we finished 5th in class and 51st overall.

Here is the on-board from SS5

 

 

MGJ Brands Hatch Winter Stages

Well after many years of trying, we have finally won our class on a stage rally in the Micra. The 1400cc class is always well populated and often has many high powered machines, so getting a chance at the top spot is often slim. However Brands Hatch stages this year proved to give us that chance…

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The day started off very cold (-5’c), but the little Micra started on the button early on Saturday morning. The first stage went smoothly enough, although parts of the rally school were a complete ice rink!

The second stage though proved to throw up some drama with an errant SOS board being left out on a competing car, we had no choice but to stop at the next marshal point and report the issue. This caused some ‘slight’ increase in tensions in the car, but in the end we were awarded a notional time by the organisers, which allowed us to maintain our position. The following stage also saw us having to return to the organisers for a time allowance, due to a blocked stage which had affected about eight cars.

During all the above fun and games, the top contenders in our class were having their own issues. This left us at lunchtime with a healthy class lead. Our nearest rivals where the Newtons in their very powerful, and super light weight Nova. They were on a mission to make up for their lost time after a ‘moment’ eariler in the day.

By the end of stage 6, it was clear we had a real battle on our hands. We had about a 1m 30sec lead over the Newtons, but they were making up just under 30 seconds on us a stage. So the maths would mean that by the end of stage 8 it would all be VERY tight.

This meant it was game on! The last three stages, were a real battle, no quarter was given by either crew, and on the final stage we set a stage time quicker than many much ‘faster’ cars like C2R2 Max’s, Evo’s etc… all in our little road rally spec Micra. In the end we took the class win by 6 seconds. The Micra does now sport some tyre rubbing ‘battle wounds’ but we both really enjoyed being pushed to the maximum limit to find out what we really could do in the car.

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A foggy night out

A last minute entry into Oxford MC’s 12 Car last night (16th Dec) saw us out in the MGZR for a thrash around the lanes of Brackley.

Suze agreed to nav for me, I had prepped the MGZR ready for the event with a newly acquired front strut brace and some additional internal LED lighting to  help with the plotting earlier in the week.

At the start as the drivers briefing was going on it became clear that the fog had descended heavily and the thrash would be more of a challenge….

Chris the event CoC had found some excellent roads for us to use including a great fun white. However we were all against a much bigger challenge, seeing where to go! At times visibility was down to less than 10ft, which made making back time so much more challenging.

The event for us worked out well, Suze did a top job on the maps, working out timings and all the other work that nav’s have to do, as well as keeping me on the right road.Even on a night like this I still had the easier job!

During much of the night we seemed to be running on our own, which makes it hard to judge how you are doing against the others. However by the end of a tough 60 miles, we returned back to the start/finish venue to swap tales of struggling to see where we were going, how we coped with the navigation, plus all the usual rally talk.

Then came to the results, and we found we had won the event by 25mins from the next crew. This came as a real shock, as our prep work was rushing to WHSmiths to buy a map, highlighting grid no’s in the pub over dinner and off we went.

The MGZR proved its worth once again, being great fun to drive and the only obvious issue being a OSR puncture which very luckily didn’t strike till we got home – or that lead could have been a lot smaller…

This being my last event of year, is a great way of signing of my motorsport year, which has been very successful.

Three outright wins in differing clubmans events is very satisfying, as well as securing the AEMC/ASEMC 1400 Stage Rally Championship. Hopefully all these various events, will mean I can secure the Chelmsford MC clubmans championship which has been a real tough battle this year.

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Here you can see the MGZR in action on a previous event.

Bombing along

Last weekend I set off to MOD Debden for the WAC/WSMC Bomb-along Targa rally. For this I used the MGZR 160 VVC.

Leaving home in the small wee hours, it was very cold and icy in places. I picked up my newbe nav Haydn Marks and we headed round the M25 & M11 to Debden. As a venue Debeden is very varied and has a real mix of good and bad tarmac, old concrete, gravel and mossy mud. All in all a good mix for a good days sport.

Arriving at Debden we adjusted the handbrake, so that it was  working just about. Sadly rear discs are ideal for high speed work, but it means the handbrake is at best ‘not great’. However it was better than before after using the special adjustment technique from Jamie Turner of the Rover Centre. The only other job was to fit the Umbongo tyres.                       The MGZR we got was a good deal, as it included a number of useable tyres to scrub out on days like this. For this event we had four of Umbongo’s finest tyres on the car and I think four different makes. But they were black, round and held air (just) so ideal for scrubbing out, if not ideal for grip….

The first set of tests, was a learning experience a) for Haydn in what was his first ever Targa rally and b) for me re-learning the venue. The tests were mostly quite tight, and slippy in places, but there were a few places where you could use the engine’s grunt.

The rest of the runs on the day were all quite uneventful, with no real drama’s mechanical or driving wise. The venue did dry out a bit (though it didn’t warm up at all..) which did assist with the grip levels.

By the end of the day we finished 14th overall and 9th in class, which given the crews we were out against, and the fact that some of these crews spent more on tyres than the complete value of the car we were using was a success.

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Wethersfield Targa Rally

It was back to Wethersfield airfield once again, this time for a targa rally. It had been over two years since we had last done a targa rally.

The day started off cold and windy but thankfully dry. The first run of tests took some getting back into the mind-set of a targa rally. These are quite navigational, with the navigator having to do a lot of work to ensure the correct route is taken. The tests were well designed and had a good mix of tight technical stuff, and some nice fast and flowing parts. Essentially something for everyone in the tests.

The great thing with targa rallies is that you can swap seats, so I got to navigate Suze as well as drive.

As the day progressed we got back on track, and the second and third sets of tests were much more back on the pace. I managed to set many top ten times, including a 3rd fastest and 2nd fastest test time. The car was running really well, responding to everything we needed, though I suspect in some faster parts our standard tyres were losing out to those running sticky List 1C tyres.

After my usual motorsport lunch (bacon cheese burger!) the weather changed with heavy rain coming making it harsh for the marshals (many thanks to all marshals, who allowed us to have our fun). This also changed the nature of the tests, with grip much more at a premium.

By the end of the day I finished up 9th overall and 2nd in class driving and 17th overall and 3rd in class navving for Suze.

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(c) M&H Photography

Gravel Autotest

Bedford Car Club run a small little gravel autotest in a farmers yard, just outside of Northampton. This seemed like an ideal event for the MGZR, and a good way to test to see if the sealants have done their job on the headgasket.

The only downsides to using the MGZR are a) it has a useless handbrake and b) the steering lock is like that of an oil tanker. Luckily the surface in most places had a good covering of gravel, which provided at least a chance for the handbrake to work.

The first few tests we good fun and flowing, the MGZR was holding up well and it was good fun throwing the car around on the gravel. We had entered the PCA event, which meant Suze could nav for me and I for her. This gave a benefit of helping where needed to give a sense of direction.

The fourth test of the day involved some reverse driving, which had a new rule (to us) which was that when reversing you had to stop the car between the line of cones. Usually you can go past as this just means you take longer. This caught me out on my first run, and made me cautious on my second run. Luckily it was the best score to count.

After this it was, some more longer tests which challenged the mind but were all good fun.

By the end of the day I finished up 4th overall and 3rd in class, which was pleasing since it was our first time at the venue, and our first autotest in the car.

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Here is a video, which was streamed live during the test via Facebook

 

Car Trial

So with the purchase of a cheap ‘play’ car, we had to find an event to use it on. So the day after buying a MGZR 160VVC, we were heading to Essex to compete on a Car Trial.

The event started off very wet, and on the long grass the cars wide 17″ wheels were rather useless. However the morning dried out and we were soon onto the hills and making good progress.

The MGZR isn’t the best car for trials, as it has limited steering lock and the disc rear brakes mean the handbrake isn’t much use. However this meant we have to be careful in how we drove the hills, and the cars torque which is available at very low revs is very useful.

During the day we started to pull away from the Yaris in our class, which was pleasing and onto the last set of hills Suze and I were just one point apart. By luck and good fortune I managed to do well on one hill, which off set my poor attempt at another hill, which in the end left me winning the class by one point.

So two Sunday’s and two class wins, in real grass roots motorsport 🙂