Four of four

Well the four event in a short period of time was a Targa Rally. These are singe venue events, with a selection of short one or two mile long driving tests.

This even was running a Woodbridge airfield, a venue we know well but a long way from home. Thankfully we choose to use the MGZR, which means a) we only need to take one car and b) it is sooo much quieter and nicer to drive on the road compared to the Micra.

Looking at the maps after signing on it became clear the navigator would have a tough job. Airfields by their nature are often lacking in features, which can mean finding a route which isn’t arrowed or clear is not straight forward.

On the first runs this proved to be the case, however we found our way round and I avoided any cones.

The second run of the tests, felt to be a lot better and I was able to push the car on much harder. These proved to be the most enjoyed set of tests of the day.

The 2017 Tostig Targa Rally 19

After lunch the tests were reversed, however although we mostly knew where we were going. The issues were that the venue was getting broken up in places, this would be fine in a fully prepared rally car. However in the MGZR which is mostly a standard road car with no sumpguard it did mean we had to take compromised routes around the rougher parts of the airfield, which cost us time sadly.

After a bit of a slow start, our times improved as the day went on and we finished 8th overall and 5th in class.

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Three of four – Down Ampney Stage Rally

Once again it was another event which started with a long and dull drive down the M4 in the rally car on a Friday evening. Not the most fun way to get around, however the trip wasn’t too bad and I went straight into scrutineering which was easy and straight-forward.

On to the event, it was as usual an early start but the weather looked to be staying dry. So I fitted the rally slicks., which was a bit of a shame as some wet weather may have helped with the lack of power. The first stage was a bit of a reminder of the venue, and driving around broken and bumpy old airfields after a number of smooth race track events.

The one thing I did have to keep in mind were the brakes. After our experience at Snetterton we had done a lot of work with various companies to try and get a set of AP 4-pot calipers fitted to the Micra. This would be easy if we changed to 14″ wheels, but this would mean a big investment in new wheels and tyres – so not an option. We thought we had a solution which would work with our wheels, but in the end this didn’t work out. So we were running the same brakes as per the sprint, just with increase brake cooling ducting. This meant during the rally I had to always be thinking of the brakes, and not do any really heavy braking during the event. This meant I had to adjust my driving style, which probably made my driving smoother than it normally is.

The stages were a good mix of tight and twisty parts, as well as some fast flowing parts which required some good commitment. As the day went on it became clear that we were on course to finish up 2nd in class. We had a good lead over 3rd in class, but a little way off the class win. Who knows if being easy on the brakes could have made the difference…

However rallying is never a given thing, and during the event plenty of other crews proved that the nature of the venue meant that you can’t take anything for granted. So we pushed on, but not giving that last percent to ensure a finish (and to be able to drive home!). We finished up 39th overall and 2nd in class. Next weekend we are off to Woodbridge for a targa rally where we are seeded at Car 4.

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Two of four – Grass Autotest

Driving around the M25 heading towards Kent on a Thursday evening is never much fun, but with rain starting to come down it made for a more interesting evening…

The tests at Brands Hatch are short and sharp, but with this being the first event of the year and the rain it was very ‘green’ and very slippery. The upside of this is that the handbrake worked on the MGZR. Due to a 8pm curfew on the venue, we got straight on with doing the tests.

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Grip was at an obvious premium, but with some careful use of the throttle and handbrake good progress could be made. The tests were flowing and not too tough as it was the first event of the year. However you could easily be caught out, by a bump in the grass or even a section of long grass which retained the rain water, which then send you off into a big slide – fun but not fast…

Although I tried to keep the car neat and tidy, the changing nature of the grip meant that this wasn’t easy. With the car being double driven, this meant I had no real idea how well others around me were doing. So after packing up the car, I went over to look at the results and was very surprised to find that I had finished 10th overall and 1st in class.

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Think I may need to wash the car before the Targa Rally….

One of four

It seems like a good while since I last updated the blog. Since the sprint, the MGZR has been busy with a 20/20 and a Scatter rally. The 20/20 was all ok, until I got very lost on the maps…. The scatter rally was a better outcome with 4th overall, and it was a good shakedown for the new suspension.

Whilst I have been away from the blog, I have stripped a Rover 200 for its Gaz competition suspension. This is now fitted to the MGZR along with some polybushes and new drop links.

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Now onto the first of four events in two weeks (a autosolo, autotest, stage rally and targa rally) this was a local autosolo run by Oxford motorclub, at a local old airfield.

The tests run by Oxford MC are nice and flowing and don’t require the use of the handbrake, which is useful since ours is useless. The MGZR is well suited to events like this, although on one of the first tests I did find it is a bit bigger than the Micra and clipped a cone. The first results were ok, but not anything special. However the next set of tests worked better for me, and I got more used to the car. Gradually as the day went on, I got more in tune with the car and was able to really push on.

By the end of the day I was 19th overall, (11th clubman) and 2nd in class, which given the amount of time I gave away on the first set of tests was ok.

Here you can see some on-board of the final test.

The next event, is just a few days away at the first 7Oaks Grass autotest at Brands Hatch. Watch this space for two of four!

Castle Combe Sprint

The event started off with a very long and dull drive along the M4 on a Friday night, not the most fun you can have in a noisy rally car…

However once we got to Castle Combe on the Saturday morning the sun was already shining and the day was shaping up well. Scrutineering and noise all went straight forward. However the absence of my normal timing strut meant I had to resort to my back up ‘composite’ one which I made last year out of cardboard and tank tape…

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The work of getting the car prepped ready to be first car on the track meant I missed the chance to walk the course, I would have to rely on my wits and a vague memory of when I was last here in 2001!

The first timed run, was a little scrappy as I found my way round the track. The very open and flowing nature of the track meant it was a good fun run. By the time I got back from checking my first run times, I came back to the car to find others in my class looking over the Micra as they were surprised by my speed. At this point I had a 7 second lead in the class. However I wasn’t fooled by this, sprinters by their nature tend to sand bag in practice, where as rally people tend to drive everywhere flat out…!

The other cars in my class were all Fiesta’s of varying ages from an almost brand new 999cc turbo, to some very modified older ones running sticky List 1B tyres. A real mix of approaches in our class then. We were running List 1A tyres (my usual favourite the Yoko A539), as this was all we had available.

On to the second runs, this was the first timed run which actually count. I wanted to get a good banker time in on this run, to allow a bit of a push on the final timed run. This worked and I found another 3 seconds, however the competition also found time, and got to within 4 seconds.

The second timed run, went very well. I had the confidence in the car, to play with left foot braking though Quarry and Tower bends. This found me yet another 2 seconds. By the end of the day I took the class win by 3 seconds, which over a 3.3 mile course is pleasing to be nearly a second a mile quicker than the rest.

The course was great fun, and proved to be quite a different challenge to stage rallying. The speed element was much higher with quite a bit of use of 5th gear and I was never lower than 3rd gear apart from the start, and on my final run I averaged 72mph. This gives quite a different feel to the car, and makes the challenge all about carrying the speed, but at a much higher starting point i.e. needing real commitment and trust in the car.

Here you can see my final run :-

 

 

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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