Author Archives: projectmicra

300 not out….

The build up to my 300th event was not conventional. Leaving my hotel in Jeddah, KSA at 4.45am (2.45am UK time) was hard work, luckily the flight home was faster than expected. Though the same could not be said about getting my luggage back…. A quick dash from Heathrow T5 to home and an hour of catching up on life and work and then it was out on the road to the Essex / Suffolk boarder for a Chelmsford MC 12 Car Rally. The M25 and A12 behaved just as you would expect on a Friday evening and we made it to the start just time for scrutineering. Overall it was certainly the furthest I have travelled to do a 12 car.

The rally was a great challenge in terms of the types of navigation used and the roads used. That part of the world is blessed with many great tight, gravel covered lanes which are ideal for such an event. The ZR behaved itself all night and provided a more than suitable platform when OTL was getting tight and time needed to be ‘made up’.

We along with most other crews missed the very first code board, I must have missed it as two other crews did find it. When it came to the results we weren’t expecting to be placed that high due to dropping a couple of boards and some time. However as they worked their way through them, it was very pleasing to finish up 7th overall (out of 11 crews) and first in class. I must thank Suze who was navving for me for doing so well after a reasonable period away from the maps.

Then it was on to a very long journey home as many parts of the A12 were shut, leading to many diversions. It was gone 1am by the time we got home, just shy of 24hrs after I had awoken many thousands of miles away the day before.

After 300 events in the sport, I still find myself wanting to do more and to still try and improve. I have been fortunate to take away many great results, many highs from various events but ultimately it the people who make the sport that I want to do at least another 300 more events in.


Wethersfield Autosolo – Part II

Within a week it was time to head back to Wethersfield. This time in the ZR for an autosolo. A slightly slower paced event compared to the stage rally the previous weekend, but still a great way to spend a Sunday.

The event was run by Cambridge Car Club, as part of AMSC. Although we had done an AMSC autosolo at Wethersfield just a month before, this time the tests were really quite different even though they mostly used the same areas of the airfield. The tests this time were a real mix of tight, twisty and fast and flowing. The fast and flowing section better suit my driving and also probably better suit the ZR which is a relatively wide car.

The morning consisted of four tests which were run three times, these went well with the car performing well. I enjoyed the tests especially the faster tests which involved the use of 2nd gear for quite a while.

By lunchtime I was tied to the 0.1 second for the class lead, but in reality I knew this would change as Mark Peterson who we regularly compete with had a large penalty he was working his way back from. I had also managed to hit a guiding cone in the morning, I didn’t even see or notice hitting this cone. Though I am told the marshal had to run out to put the cone back, so there was no hiding it!

The afternoon was two sets of the four test but run in reverse. Some tests in the afternoon felt quite different, but still as much fun.

In the end that one cone penalty came back to haunt me, as I was less than five seconds (the penalty for one cone) from taking the class win. Still it was a good days sport.

Wethersfield Stages

Just a week later it was on to Wetherfield airfield for the annual stage rally. Given last year at this event things all got very expensive with a retirement due to clutch issues. This turned out to be a worn out engine and gearbox, which resulted in a lot of work and new parts. So I was hoping to be able to get home all ok without having to limp the car home with a badly slipping clutch like I did last time…

After scrutineering and noise on the Saturday night, it was good to have dinner and a catch up with the main organising team.

The day started off with a bit of rain, which wasn’t forecast nor part of the plan. But a breakfast of a bacon roll and coffee got things off well.

The event used a new service park area, which meant there was a proper link road drive out to the stages. The first couple of stages went well, and the car was running well which was a relief after having a number of running issues in the days leading up to the event. On the Thursday night we ended up changing both the throttle body and the dizzy to solve a cutting out issue.

The 2018 Wethersfield Stages 36a

After two stages and a refuel of coffee and hot doughnuts, we headed out onto stages 3 & 4. The stages were very fast throughout, and in the reverse direction they felt faster still. The car was continuing to work well and Suze’s confidence in the car and the event was continuing to improve.

By the end of the event we finished 24th overall and a very pleasing 2nd in class, so a real turn around from last years event.

Debden Targa Rally – Autumn 2018

It was back out again in the ZR, this time for a Targa rally at Debden airfield for the Bomb along rally.

The event ran similar tests to the event run here earlier in the year, but they varied the layouts. Mostly making the course a lot tighter in place. The ZR is quite a big car (quite wide) and as standard they come with lock limiters on the steering rack mean they have a large turning circle. This meant that the day was spent being very busy with the handbrake just to try and get around the tests.

The 2018 Bomb Along Targa 40

Although the tests were tight, they were also mostly good fun. The ZR mostly behaved itself, although the idle speed continued to vary around and made the drive home quite noisy due to the idle speed varying anywhere between 1500 and 4000 rpm! (Investigations after the event show this to be an issue with the throttle position sensor wiring or something related to the speedo sensor).

After a bit of a slow start we picked up speed throughout the day, and apart from one bot of reversing on one test an almost clear run. After lunch the test times were mostly top 3/5 times.

By the end of the day we finished up 10th overall and 7th in class on a dusty and busy day.

The 2018 Bomb Along Targa 41

Wethersfield Autosolo

Well after nine years of marriage how else are you meant to celebrate your wedding anniversary? A day out at a windy and cold old airfield of course!

After a healthy start of a bacon and egg butty, it was on to walking the four tests. With Wethersfield being such a vast venue it allows for four tests to be running at the same time. Another advantage of this format is that you are always competing moving around between the tests all day.

As normal for the AMSC events, all runs on the test count which means consistency as well as speed is key.

The morning run of tests all went quite well, with both car and driver doing all ok. It was after lunch that things changed… On one of the longer tests, I managed to loose a whole load of time by a) hitting a cone and then wasting yet more time by reversing back and then carrying on. In hindsight (motorsport is full of what ifs!) I should have not even lifted off when I knew I was about to hit the cone. I would still have got the cone penalty but I would have dropped a lot less time overall….. Then it was time for the car to play up as well, the idle control valve started causing issues with the idle speed varying between 1k and 4k RPM! After a bit of fiddling and a complete battery disconnect this solved the issue. It was then on to swapping tyres, before dashing out to do the final set of tests.

By the end of the event I finished up 2nd in class and 13th overall. Sadly photography and videos are not allowed at Wethersfield so no photos or videos this time.

A week of speed

We have been saying for a while that it would be good to do a Hillclimb, and with the spec of the ZR better suiting such an event. We choose to try out Loton Park Hillclimb, but before this we thought it best to try out the car on a more forgiving speed based event.

So after months of hot weather we headed to North Weald for a sprint  in heavy wind and rain. The track at North Weald airfield would give us a chance to try out the car at speed with a greater margin of run off compared to Loton Park which is a thin strip of tarmac.

The classes at North Weald were a little odd and put us up against cars up to 2.3Ltrs, on the day this consisted of a Honda S2000 (standard this has 240bhp) and a modified Fiesta ST 1.6 Turbo with even more power. The ZR had when new at best 160bhp on a good day, with a following wind….

In the wet it was clear power was not key and by the end of the first practice runs, I was about 6th overall. However as the day progresses the weather dried out, and combined with the wind the course soon started to dry out. This then handed back the advantage to the cars with power. By the time for the final and third timed run of the day the course was almost fully dry, it was good to try out the car in dry conditions. The Fiesta which up to this stage I had been beating changed over to stickier List 1B tyres (all we had were some old List 1A tyres (road tyres) which we use for nearly everything). Going into this run I knew I had to push on hard to try and stay ahead, in the end I took the class win by about half a second from the Turbo charged Fiesta, and 14th overall out of ~45 entries.

A different style of video for this, Suze who was also competing at the event made these comparision videos to compare our driving styles. I think you can see my rallying background in places….!

Less than a week later it was time to head NW towards Loton Park and our first ever hillclimb. We got there just in time to sign on before signing on closed on the Friday evening, after this was done we then walked the course. It was interesting to find that there was a lot more elevation changes than the YouTube onboards I had been watching. The course went downhill as well as up. It was clear that it was a real technical course, and experience would be key here.

It was an early start as I was set to be one of the first drivers up the hill, the first few runs went all ok with each run getting faster as I learn the hill and how to extract time from the course. There were just two timed runs, and with the timing of the event the first of these was at the end of the morning just before lunch. This run felt good and felt like a continuing of the morning progress. However due to a wedding in the church opposite the venue, there was a long lunch break and then all the cars that ran after us. This meant nearly a three hour gap…. Although I tried to think hard about where to extract more time out of the course, it just felt all a bit cold when it came to my final run which ended up slightly slower than my previous time.

All in all it was good to experience a new branch of the sport, and I can see how it can take a lot of practice to get the top results in Hillclimbs. Below you can see my fastest run of the day and below that you can see a comparison video like the one from North Weald.

Oxford MC – Grass Autotest

Towards the end of a busy weekend which included Goodwood FoS and a visit to Devon to see family, I managed to get back to Oxfordshire just in time for the the annual OMC Grass Autotest and BBQ. This is a fun and relaxed event, as well as a competitive  autotest.

The event runs under two permits, which allows for a PCA (with passengers / someone to nav) and a more normal autotest permit. The tests were simple, flowing and in places you were able to get some good speed up. The surface was unsurprisingly dry, this meant a layer of loose earth and dried grass formed which made the going very slippery and very dusty. Though to be fair nowhere near as slippery as last year which was held in monsoon conditions.

Being just an afternoon event meant there were only four tests, and only the best time from each to count meaning a clean run was important. During the running, I only clipped one number board, not quite hitting a cone but the same penalty (+10 seconds).

Towards the end of the event it was clear it was close at the top and a good result was on the cards. I went into the last run of the last test determined to do well. I threw everything at that run and made up another 0.8 seconds on my previous run. The car was working very well, and it was very enjoyable to be able to throw the car around and be competitive.

In the end I was nearly a second ahead of second place in the Autotest event.