All I can say is that this has been another character-building weekend.
It started badly on Friday night when Karen’s train was a couple of hours late so what was going to be an early night was well past midnight and I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia got the better of me and at 2am I set off to the track.
I arrived at about half past five in the morning after having endured the A1 being closed forcing me to take the A17 route, then the A17 being closed and forcing me on to a more scenic route after which I easily nodded off into a couple of hours sleep.
The start of qualifying was taken very steadily, not venturing above 5000 revs and constantly checking the gauges and looking behind for tell tale signs that something may not be quite right. A loose hose perchance or an electrical connection forgotten about during the engine refit. All seemed OK and after three laps I decided to put the hammer down. The engine felt crisp and pulled very nicely up the start finish straight, a bit of a kerb hop around Sear’s and on to the Revvit Straight for some flat stick action. The engine didn’t want to rev much above 6000rpm and if anything it was getting slower. Another check in the mirror and at all the gauges showed no signs of problems but a second look behind and there was a puff of smoke. I immediately stuck the foot on the clutch and killed the ignition and started coasting back to the pits. A small fire up to get me out of the racing line round Coram and a trickle on tick-over up the pit lane and back to the paddock.
I was soon joined by numerous glamourous assistants and before I had finished kicking the car we were cranking it over with a compression tester inserted into a tiny orifice. Number 4 had let go and on closer inspection with the borascope it looks like a melted piston.
I received much assistance during my deliberations as to what to do next. Fergie had been retired due to poor handling, lack of power and a slipping clutch but sat 200 miles away in a garage; just about ready to go. Did I want to travel for 7 hours to arrive with a car which would run mid to rear of the field if she could actually make it off the start line? If I did fetch her, could I do anything to improve the performance and make a better race of it? Did I really want to spend a full day dragging cars up and down the A17 when there was a perfectly good crate of lager sat chilling in the ice bucket. Hell yes!
To cut a 7 hour long story short, I arrived back at the circuit at 7pm just in time to join Nathan and Nige on a track walk with a rucksack full of wine and cold beer.
Since Donington, I discovered that the engine earth strap on Fergie was not grounding out properly so had cured this. I wasn’t sure if the lack of an earth strap would interfere with the engine’s performance. Surely the injectors would not be working on full power and the spark would be weak?
On sunday morning I decided to check the ignition timing as I suspect this may be the cause of the expiry of Eugene the day before. I borrowed a timing light off Alec and some nous from Nathan who duly took over the job and wound some advance on. She was definately sounding crisper. I had managed to remember to take the belts and the transponder out of Eugene and these were fitted in to Fergie and we were ready for the off. The scrutineer commented that the car didn’t look as battered as it had done the previous day and was surprised to learn it was a different one.
Qualifying and I wasn’t sure what to expect. For the first five or so laps, I could see Jon Winter in my mirrors and Nathan Harrison in front of me so the performance wasn’t too shabby, but after a while, Jon caught and passed me and drove away from me on the straight and Nathan soon became just a prick in the distance, so to speak. I was disappointed that I hadn’t been amongst more cars whereas usually I would have been glad of a clear track. I seemed to be lapping similarly to Dan Farmer but was taking chunks out of him on the high speed Riches and on one lap I stuck it up his inside into Sear (Montreal now) only to discover a yellow flag. I parked it on the apex and let Dan back through. Anyway, I was pleased to have dragged the old girl up to 12th on the grid.
After qualifying, I was congratulated on my primarily three wheel driving by Jon Winter who couldn’t pass me as he was laughing too much. He said that he could pick out his own apexes by looking under my car and described the handling as wobberley.
Did I mention the brakes? There was very little in the way of brakes in quali so I decided to check them out. Each front pad had less than 1mm of material and the backs were down to about 3mm. Time for a swap and with Neil Stratton retiring the Charger on the test day, I had the volunteered services of Ian Woolam to give me a hand which was gratefully accepted. A full service and grease up was required as just about everything had seized and we soon had a full set of functioning brakes. With still a couple of hours before race 1, we thought it would be a good idea to try and perk up the wobbly handling a bit so myself and Mr Woollam had decided to drop the suspension. Nathan had provided us with some air tools including a disk cutter so we set about whipping out the springs. Apart from a couple of minutes absence for the driver’s bollocking, we were hard at it for the whole two hours and I had just set off to wash my hands as they shouted us for race 1 having dropped the car a good three inches on the ride height.
It rained quite heavily before the start and we set out on a trecherous track. I was being held up badly on the corners by cars that easily had the legs on the straight so it’s official, she is a tad slow still but still ultimately better than at Donington.
Started 12th and finished 10th. Somehow didn’t manage to capitalise on the drying track.
It dried out beautifully for race 2 and I was able to drive away from Adam Shale who had shown me a clean pair of heels in race 1. At one point I was actually up to 5th place but was overhauled by a recovering Nathan Harrison and Neal Hurren and well caught and passed by Rory Bagnall who I proceded to torpedo off the track on the final lap. I’ve done copious amounts of apologetic grovelling for this one and the best I can remember is that I’d had a good run round Riches, decided to have a look up the inside but thought best of it, but I locked up as I braked and from that point she was not going to stop.
Finished 8th but it should have been 9th (sorry Rory) but with the disqualification of Arron and Sam from the sharp end for driving with their elbows too far out, this was converted to a sixth.
Absolutely over the moon that I endured the marathon car swapping session for a great day’s racing. Back to the garage to work out what went wrong with Eugene and ‘appen have her ready for Silverstone.
Thanks in chronological order are to
Matt Coggins for removing and stripping the expired engine and delivery of parts to and from the engineering shop.
Jamey Firth for rebuilding and refitting the engine into Eugene in time for the race.
Everyone who helped me to kick Eugene when she expired, and for diagnosing and putting her on the trailer.
Alec for the loan of the timing light
Nathan for using the timing light
Ian Woollam for brakes and suspension mods and very little use of hammers
Rory Bagnal for being understanding and not tw4tting me.