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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.


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…

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.


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.


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!


(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.