Although we entered the race, after testing on Friday we found the engine was still showing the usual problems; misfiring and progressively slowing down after a few laps, unable to rev beyond 6000RPM. This led us to withdraw from the race for Saturday but thanks to Diz, Dave Hart and Cliff Dempsey we found a carburetor to try and decided to use the day as a test day. The carb fixed all of the misfiring issues but the progressively diminishing performance lingered.
I finally made a decent start in the pre-90 race and, after getting a good exit from Cascades on the first lap, I drew alongside the car in front to overtake in to Island Bend. However off line was very wet so I reluctantly backed out knowing I was really just testing anyway. As expected a few corners later the whole field zoomed passed and I pitted. We went from full soft (it was wet!) to full stiff on the front dampers and instantly improved the car’s handling beyond our original dry setup. Basically we had a soft rear end (soft damping and no rear bar) and a stiffly damped front. The improvement in front responsiveness was enough to keep a decent balance despite the rear being so soft. Something to look at when we get the engine sorted!
The first race for the team was at Oulton Park in Cheshire unusually using the Fosters layout. The usual circuit used by the FF1600 category is the International layout but by popular request this race was run on Fosters achieving a full grid for the pre-90 cars.
There is no rest for the driver around Fosters. It’s a particularly fast layout as it cuts out the Knickerbrook chicane which means the driver is on the throttle from Fosters all the way up to Druids! This makes this section quite a bit faster than on the International Layout. In addition Cascades is more open allowing the driver to carry more speed through here.
Unfortunately during testing on the Friday we never really found a good setup with the car having recently fitted new AVO dampers. After the event we discovered the valving of the dampers was much too soft and even though every session we upped the damper the front end was virtually un-damped. This caused two problems. Most notable for the driver was the inability to take the exit at Knickerbrook flat out without the front bouncing to the edge of the track. As an interesting aside have a listen to how this was named http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1TW5WKWLnA!
The other problem from running very soft dampers, particularly at the front, was the lack of responsiveness during turn-in. It became clear in the race (especially at the start on cold tyres) the car would not turn in to the corner sharply. This saw us drop from P7 on the grid outside the top ten. Ultimately we finished the race in 8/9 positions including a class 3rd.
For me the driver, I was happy to be roughly on the pace for my first race in 9 years. Achieving a class podium on my return to racing earned me the ‘pre-90 Driver of the Meeting’ which also came with a http://www.hewpro.com £50 voucher (put to good use to buy some more rod ends!). Many thank to Matt, Diz and the team!
For the next two races the FF1600 paddock was at Anglesey Circuit. At last a track we’d tested at before!
For this race we were using the coastal layout. This chops off the somewhat pointless straight and hairpin and takes the cars through the Corkscrew downhill chicane.
It’s a tight and twisty technical track with one fast corner (alright perhaps two as turn 1 is fairly quick). Church is taken in 3rd gear and is almost flat. It’s easy flat if your engine starts to die after a few laps which is what happened to us.
Friday was a productive day. We found a decent dry setup but the times just did not improve. The first session we were in the 1:14s without really trying. With a better setup and pushing hard surely we could get into the 1:12s which is certainly what the chassis is capable of. We just did not improve and in fact got slower and ended the day in the late 1:15s. Every session I would return to the pits expecting to see Stu’s face lit up when we see a leap in lap times but they were getting worse.
On Saturday morning we had a free practice session and the cause of the problem was revealed. The other cars were flying passed on the straight and by now the engine would not pull beyond 6000RPM.
The eternally friendly FF1600 paddock offered so much advice and I’m particularly grateful once again for the help Dave Hart and Brian Young offered. Unfortunately there was not one problem and the lack of power was here to stay.
One thing of note was that the first lap seemed OK with the power dropping more and more lap after lap.
Come the race, in many ways our luck was in; it rained. Short shifting we hung on to 8th place holding off Alan Williamson throughout the race. After the race we brought the car home to investigate what had gone wrong.