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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.

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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).

One and half duty

Another weekend, which was almost full of motorsport.

The first event was an Autosolo at Bovingdon, due to planning restrictions this was a half day event in the morning.

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The tighter test

The event still managed to run six tests, which were a mix of fast and flowing to a tighter and more technical one. Strangely for me I was more competitive on the tighter test, setting a few overall fastest times. By the end of the event I finished 2nd overall and 2nd in class (experience based class).

 

The following day it was an early start to head off once again to Debden, this time for a Autotest. This event followed the usual format for these AMSC events, with a number of tests running alongside the Autosolo.

The tests were a real mixture of tight and technical, to the very fast and flowing. The fast and flowing tests were a great challenge, and a real test of nerve and traction.

The event was going well until I managed to wrong route on one of the tests, this cost me 20 seconds in my overall times. Luckily I have a healthy lead by this time, but it did compromise my overall position.

By the end of the event, I took the overall win in the Autotest by 32 seconds, and finished 8th overall in the combined event.

In Micra news the engine and gearbox are currently away at Matt Humphris being worked on. The engine is pretty worn out, and needs a lot of new parts. It will have a new block, which will be honed. The pistons will have new rings, and the block will have a slight skim to improve the compression ratio. The gearbox was the cause the clutch issues at Wethersfield, the input shaft bearing had completely died allowing 1/2″ of movement. The LUK clutch though was in good condition apart from being contaminated with oil! The a new gearbox will have the diff fitted to it, along with new bearings and a lower final drive (4.92) which should improve acceleration. Whilst the engine and gearbox are out, I have seam welded up the engine bay, and made my own polybush gearbox mount.Hopefully the engine and gearbox will be back soon from Matt, and I can get working on getting the car ready for Rockingham.

Oxford MC Autotest

Once again Oxford MC were running one of their Autosolo / Autotests at one of our closest venues, Finmere airfield.

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The forecast for last Sunday made it look like boats would be quicker than cars, but luckily although there was a lot of overnight rain the day stayed mostly dry.

For this event I was doing the PCA to allow my brother-in-law to passenger for me, this was to allow him some extra runs as this was to be his first ever competitive motorsport event.

To start with the tests were very wet and slippery, we soon found that the course got more slippery at the cars pulled out mud from between the old concrete slabs. This placed car control at a premium, and would also show up the lack of a LSD in the MGZR we were using.

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As the morning progressed the route dried out, and the times dropped and the tests became more enjoyable.

Over lunch the wind got up, and this allowed the course to fully dry out. So after lunch I really pushed on and set come competitive times, with the car feeling very good and responsive. Though it did wear out the front tyres…

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A quick wheel/tyre change, and it was off to the final set of tests. The group I was in were running last and the rain just started for my runs. Luckily this didn’t cause too many issues, and by the end of the event I finished up 1st overall in the Autotest and 12th overall in the full combined event.

Here is the final run of test 2 just before lunch.

 

Double duty (again)

After the disappointment of last weekend in the Micra, this weekend was all about the MGZR.

The first event was a targa rally at Debden airfield. The tests are Debden are all quite short, but the mixture of surfaces makes for a good fun day. The lead up to the event had been a bit wet, so in places there was a lot of standing water, and a few muddy sections. The ZR is now fully guarded under the car, so this would allow me to attack a little harder on the rougher sections of the venue.

The 2017 Bomb Along Targa 29

For once I was the second driver, which allowed me to see the tests as I was navving for Antons in his 206. The tests were the same as last year, which made my navving a bit easier. By the end of the first set of tests I was leading overall., the positions were still the same at lunch after a second attempt at the tests, but with a reduced lead.

After lunch the tests were changed, and the running order changed meaning I was first out this time. The tests were similar but a few sneaky changes made the running order advantage in the morning a bit more even. By the end of the 3rd run of tests we had dropped to second overall, by just 8 seconds. Going into the final run of tests, I probably got too worked up and tried a bit too hard. Moving a cone on the first test wasn’t a good start, and I over drove the car a few points. In the end I finished up 13 seconds off the win. This was still a pleasing result in what is essentially still a pretty standard car on an event where having an LSD would be a real advantage..

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Then it was off to Brands Hatch in a rather muddy car for an autosolo. I had seen before that they run one of their tests in the rally school part of the venue which looked good fun.

However the day didn’t start well with me getting a wrong route on the first paddock test. This meant the next two runs had to be a bit conservative to ensure I went the right way, but this did mean I dropped some time.

After this I was back into the sort of times I would hope to be achieving in the car. The tests were fun (especially) the rally school test, which you can see below. By the end of the day I finished up 12th overall and 5th in class.

 

Wethersfield Stages

It had been quite a while since the last stage rally in Micra, during this time. A fair bit of work had been done on improving the front brakes.  All parts of the front braking system were replaced, and new custom made new Mintex (F4R) pads were fitted in the hope that it would solve the issues from previous events.

As a bit of fun and a pre-event shakedown we did a track day at Castle Combe the weekend before. This was good fun, running on some List 1A tyres it was good to experience some proper high speed running and a good test of the brakes which worked fine. It was also good fun to ‘beat’ many other faster cars including Clio’s, Elise’s and even an Evo 7 which I kept behind me for a whole session 🙂

One issue did occur during the track day which was the lamda sensor failing, so in between events I fitted a new sensor.

Driving the rally car to scrutineering it became clear that there was still a sensor issue as the car was drinking fuel and running very rich. Scurtineering was fine, but the rich running proved to be an issue at the noise check. Luckily we setup service next to Ian Mepham and the Newton’s who swung into action and with a SuperTrapp fitted we got through noise. Oddly the car was no louder when flat out, but at 4k revs and part throttle it wasn’t so good.

On to the event, it was a very hot day so it would be a good test of the brakes. Luckily all the new parts and improved ducting worked and the brakes worked fine all during our running. The Supertrapp on the back of the exhaust clearly was sapping some power and make the engine harder to rev. So we were running around mid table overall and 4th in class.

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During the middle of stage 4 is where it all went wrong during the first lap of the stage the clutch started slipping. Luckily we were able to limp the car back to service, but it was clear when back in service there was a lot of oil coming out of somewhere and it was likely that this oil leak was the cause of the clutch slipping. This now means a fair bit of work….

There is no video allowed on the venue so on-boards from this event, but here is some from the track day.