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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.

 

 

 

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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

A busy start to 2018

Well 2018 has been a busy start, so much so I haven’t had time to keep my blog up to date.

This is mostly been connected to a busy work schedule, including some travel overseas. Plus a fair bit of time has been taken up recently as I was chief marshal for the first ever closed road rally in England.

This year I will be navving on stage rallies for Suze as it is her chance now to drive.

We are also planning to do the AMSC Targa Rallies.

There will be a number of catch up posts, from events already done this year. I have already updated the sub-pages attached to the blog.

Rockingham Stages

The build up to the event was really quite busy, as the Micra has undergone a lot of work in the last few months. The last event in the Micra saw us retire with clutch issues. This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg….

In the end a lot more work was done during the months between Wethersfield and Rockingham. See the car spec page for more details.

In the last couple of days in the lead up to the event it was clear that snow would feature at some point during the event. This lead to some last minute panicked buying of some winter tyres, but we found some on the Friday evening and got to scrutineering just in time. This all went fine, so we then set up our service area and headed to our hotel.

It was nice for once on a rally to have a later start, as the event didn’t start till 12pm. So after a leisurely start to the morning, we headed to the event to complete the noise test and then final setup items like fitting the rally slicks, checking tyre pressures and a final check over the car.

The first stage was a case of getting back in to driving the car again, and getting used to the new gearbox which has a lower final drive fitted. This made the car nicer to drive as the ratios are closer together and you get better acceleration. Although it was very cold the tyres were working well with a good level of grip once off the line. By the end of the stage we we were first in class and doing well overall.

After this the stages went by quickly, however coming out of stage 4 the car felt like the car was running out of fuel. We made it out of the stage ok, but dropped some time. After checking a number of things and a phone call to Matt Humphris it was narrowed down to a AFM issue. This was annoying after fixing it after Wethersfield stages, but we had a good known throttle body ready to be fitted. After some frantic work this was fitted and tested ready for the first night stage.

The two night stages were good fun, although it is surprising how what seems like very good lights in the lanes goes nowhere on the vast expanse of a race circuit… We knew the car was going well at as on the final stage we took nearly a minute out of an Evo who started in front of us. By the end of the day we had a 47s lead in class and were 23rd overall out of nearly 60 starters. All the talk at the end of the day was will it snow and how bad will it be? Normally such a lead would feel comfortable, but with heavy snow on its way this lead could disappear very quickly.

The next morning came round, and a more normal rally time to get up. It was snowing heavily and a far bit was on the ground. We slowly made our way to the circuit. The organisers worked very hard to make the event happen, but sadly the snow won the battle and we never got to see what it would be like rallying on snow. So the results stand as per the end of day one. It was pleasing to have shown real pace in the newly rebuilt car.

Bonfire Targa Rally

For the final targa rally of the year, it was another return to Wethersfield airfield. After previous visits this year both of which gave car issues just being able to drive the car home in one working piece would be a good starting point.

We were seeded at Car 6, which is an ideal road position to be running in as the marshals are awake and ready for you and there are a few tyre tracks to follow. Wethersfield is always damp and slippery at this time of year, and this event was no different. I used my so far tried and tested tyre setup of the Pilot Sport 3 tyres (cheap List 1A, ex Ginetta race tyres) on the front and some of Umbongos finest on the rear. However this proved to be rather too much of a loose rear end. This lead to some rather lurid slides, a spin and sadly a fair bit of time lost. Being a first driver is always a disadvantage, as you end up finding your way through the tests. Luckily in these tests, they were well designed, and in the main this made little overall difference in the results by the end of the day.

After the first set of tests, we changed to run the Pilot Sport 3 tyres all round, instantly this gave a lot more grip and more importantly confidence in the car. With this improved confidence and grip, I was able push the car harder and during the rest of the day my times were a lot more competitive. With targa tests being all quite short, and the competition across the capacity (75) entry being very tight I need to improve my confidence and competitiveness straight away from test 1. Once again, I ended up spending the rest of the day trying to make up for lost ground.

Thankfully the ZR behaved itself all day, and proved to be very competitive once again as I set one fastest and 6 top 5 test times. Though this was finished up with a late spin on the final test when I was pushing just that bit too hard and ran wide slightly on to some grass with the rear of the car which resulted in us doing a rather high speed pirouette.

By the end of the event I finished up 7th overall as a driver and 12th overall navigating for Suze (who navved for me).