2010 Track days
As usual with Curborough days the previous day would be bright sunny and warm, and the day we go - a bit overcast and dull. Well at least it wasn't raining...
We had a more varied selection of cars and several first timers to the track. Unfortunately we also had more than a usual number of incidents.
Amongst the regulars were myself (Burgundy Cat), Steve Tuck (Burgundy Cat), Peter and Jeff Cotton (Burgundy Cat), Chris Davison and John Gibson (Rover 200 rally car) and Ben Payne (Duratec Elise). The new people included Paul and Mark Browning (Blue R6) Eddie Cheung (Silver R6), Mark Fassenfelt (Yellow Cat), Justin Rancims (Black Super 6), Bill Lali (Ford 105e Anglia) and Neil Catliff (Blue Avon).
So we had a full event which makes things work well. Once everyone had signed on then the fun could begin after a couple of sighting laps (and the replacement of some knocked over marker cones) we started on free runs.
The free runs all went relatively smoothly although at one point the Rover 200 came in billowing clouds of smoke from under the bonnet. The first reaction from a few people (myself and Ben included) was the dreaded K- Series head gasket failure. As Chris has spent the last 8 months rebuilding the car this would not have been good. However a bit of investigation and I saw that the driveshaft boot on the gearbox end had come loose, this allowed grease to escape and land on the hot exhaust causing the smoke. It was an easy repair although it did it again later in the day at which point they put it back on the trailer and headed home - some work with a better clip is needed...
The Anglia 105 was found to be running without a cooling fan after the old one broke off! This was not a problem when moving but when stationary it overheated. Fortunately leaving it to cool down for a few minutes got everything working again. I think the owner will be getting a fan fitted.
The next major incident occurred with the Black Super 6, this went and left a lovely oil slick around the track. The cause of this was the sealing gasket on the oil filter coming loose! Unfortunately I went out straight after him and hit the oil, suddenly finding I had no steering control or brakes as the tyres got a soaking in 5W30. At the time I thought something had broken on the steering such was the lack of control.
The oil slick caused us to close the track whilst the Wilkins went off to get something to soak the oil up, eventually coming back with a bag of cement and a handbrush. This was used to soak up the oil but it took the entire bag to do that.
After that little drama it was decided not to do any timed runs as the track conditions weren't suitable. It took another hour of runs before the surface was stable and you didn't end up looking like an extra in the Paris-Dakar with the dust plumes!
During the afternoon a few more cars suffered problems, Steve Tuck's developed a strange intermittent misfire, and Eddie Cheung's stopped charging the battery - this was subsequently found to be a loose wire in the back of the alternator.
Finally most of the cars made it home in one piece and will probably be heading back to Curborough for another blat on the 28th July.
Would you drive 215 miles each way to do a trackday - or is that a bit too far to go.
Well I decided to go and try to do this. Originally I had wanted to do the one that Complete Kit Car ran back in September last year but numerous problems with my Tiger foiled the plans.
This year the car was in perfect working order and I could do it. Now obviously I wasn't going to go and do the drive down, then a trackday and then the drive back in one day - so I booked a campsite for myself. I then found that several more of the regulars were coming down, The Wilkins, Niall Turner, Eric Johnston, Niall's mate Paul and Ed Fuller. The campsite booking got a bit bigger...
We all turned up on the friday night and eventually after getting campsites set up went and found a local Indian restaurant for a curry or two... It was at this point that Niall, Eric and Paul found out how bad Richard Wilkins run of jokes can be. Ed didn't make it down in time to go for the meal so he was spared the jokes.
After a noisy nights sleep (maybe something to do with the quantity of curry) we broke camp and set off in the morning for the long trip to the circuit entrance (300 yds). For some reason we were some of the first there, more people turned up over the next hour until we had a total of 40 cars. The cars varied from out and out race machines, to road cars and some which weren't really either. We had 5 Tigers, about 7 Westfields, 10 or so Jeremy Philips designed cars, a couple of Lotus cars and some genuine oddballs. One of which was a Morris Minor running a supercharged Ford Zetec Blacktop engine. It looked almost stock.
We then went for a drivers briefing - which was actually enjoyable and made sense,before heading out on track. Due to the track size the owners are only allowed to have 10 cars on track at any one time, so with that in mind we were initially split into 4 groups: Experts, two intermediate groups and a beginners. Having never been to the place before I stuck myself into the beginner group.
The groups were sent out for 15 minute sessions in reverse order of ability i.e. experts first. This also allowed the novices to see how the track worked. So finally I got out on track, having never driven or even seen the circuit prior to this I was a bit nervous about doing this. However after about 5 laps I seemed to get an idea of how the circuit ran and became a bit more confident. Although there was a lot of stuff out there which was a huge amount faster than me I had to keep my wits about me. One particular incident was slowing up for the 'bus stop' which is a tight left hander - I was on the right of the track with what I thought was a clear track behind me everyone knew the lines you had to take when a white car (can't place which one) shot past as I was about to make my turn and headed into the runoff area. If I had turned a couple of seconds earlier that would have been the front of the car taken off.
After the first session we went back to the pits and then they started to let all the other groups out again for a second run. During the session Richard Wilkins had come in early due to the gear linkage in his car failing. So we stripped the interior of the Super 6 out and discovered that the rearmost part of the linkage had been lost somewhere on track resulting in the gearbox not being connected to the lever. Some world class bodging later and I had produced a temporary repair which allowed him out again. Unfortunately on the second session the repair only lasted about 7 laps which curtailed his track action. (As I write this I have the parts to repair his linkage sitting on my desk as I picked them up from Tiger after getting some spares for my car).
The second session was more fun than the first as I started to get used to the car handling on the track and learning where I could push it harder to get more performance out of the machine.
Once the sessions had finished the track converted to open pit lane and all you had to do was queue up and wait for someone to come off the track (so as to stay within the 10 car limit) before being allowed out to play some more.
The rest of the day passed quickly and everything ran very well. By the end of the day my confidence had increased and my lap times were (hopefully) coming down. The car held together with no issues and ran perfectly all day. Not for all of us did this happen though - there is however room to mention the most interesting racing excuse I have ever come across.
'Sorry I crashed as my fuel tank fell off the car'
This is not a joke, whilst standing chatting to people in between sessions on the track a cry from the crowd of "his tank has fallen off" was heard. A Sylva Striker had been going round the track when one of the retaining straps holding the tank in had snapped, this allowed the tank to slide and fall from the back of the car with all the hoses and power connections to the pump pulling free. Fortunately the tank was made of aluminium not steel and so we were lucky there wasn't a fire. However it did close the track for about 30 minutes whilst it was cleaned up.
It turned out the straps were made from 1" wide aluminium strips bent to shape, if you bend aluminium then it hardens and becomes brittle, add in vibration from track action and it was an accident waiting to happen.
Finally at the end of the day we had to turn around, pack everything up and head home. The journey back took just over 4 and a half hours including a stop for a meal.
A big thanks to Complete Kit Car for organising the day and to the track staff at Llandow for providing a great venue for the day - just wish it was a bit closer to home.
After a mad panic caused by the problems with my car I did actually make it to the Sprint Day - unfortunately not many others did.
The journey there was uneventful apart from getting stuck behind a bus for 10 miles - although for obvious reasons I wasn't going to push the freshly assembled engine until it was suitably run-in. So I actually arrived slightly later than planned to find most of the participants had already arrived.
Adam Wilkins had his Riot, Neil Clarke in an Avon and Alan Armstrong in his Mazda 6 MPS. Over the next half hour or so the rest of the participants arrived, Chris Davison and John Gibson with the Rover 200 rally car, James Castro with an Avon and myself.
Before Chris and James arrived the rest of us went for a familiarisation lap in the Mazda even at slow speed it seemed to roll a bit more that I am used to with the Tiger, maybe the suspension is a bit softer - we shall see. After everyone had signed on we started off on some runs Alan had done a few runs on his own and then I went out with him. Well it certainly did roll I think it was over 20 degrees at one point, although it might have felt more as I had to recline the seat a good deal to get in the car with my helmet on!
We spent the rest of the morning doing more runs whilst avoiding the showers that kept blowing across the circuit although I did hit a problem about 12:30. I was about to take the Tiger out and found it was almost out of fuel - as the track has to close at 1PM I decided to wait until lunch to nip out and get fuel.
We also found that there is a local sandwich shop about a 1/4 mile from the circuit entrance. This means we no longer have to rely on the indifferent food in the petrol station.
Back in the afternoon and again we had heavy showers although it didn't upset the Rover or Mazda - although when the rain stopped everyone got a chance to go out and play. We were also using the long circuit which is a lot harder than the short. With the long circuit you have to work out where to turn in on a descending area of track into a blind corner with no marker posts - not easy and something I still haven't mastered to be honest.
Finally at end of the day with everyone having throughly enjoyed themselves we all made it home. The best thing was that for once nobody broke down - although the Mazda managed to shred its tyres as well as recording 7mpg!
This will not go down as one of the best sprint days I have attended. Not because of the weather or the organisation but due to my car not exactly running as planned.
The day started off dry bright and clear and so I drove off in anticipation of a really good day. Things started going wrong when I reached Magna Park, the passenger side mudguard started flapping around - so I looked for somewhere to stop and hoped it would be a loose bolt causing the problem. No the bracket had sheared so it wasn't possible to bolt that back instead I took the other bracket off and put the mudguard in the passenger footwell to avoid the risk of losing it on the roadside. Fortunately it wasn't raining or everytime I turned left I would have been soaked!
The rest of the journey was made without incident and I arrived to find a couple of people had beaten me, over the next hour or so more and more arrived. We ended up with 6 Cats, 3 Avons, 2 R6s, Elise, Mazda MPS, Vauxhall VX220, and a Wolsley 1500. A fairly varied mix I think you will find.
The morning then eased itself into the regular pattern of free runs - although Niall was strangely absent from the mornings activities. He was to be found standing on his Fourtraks roof taking photos with his new camera (bought the previous day). The action shots accompanying this article are all his work.
I also took Brian Chambers round the circuit although he wasn't competing in the event with the ERA30 he had come along to watch. All this time the car was running fine.
There was one other problem during the morning the VX220 was involved in an incident which curtailed its use that day and caused a halt to track activities for a while.
After the incident I decided to go out again but the car was reluctant to idle and on one run was very down on power. Bringing it back I had a look and Niall spotted that one of the bolts holding the carbs on was missing. This was replaced but the engine still wouldn't idle properly. As it was almost lunch I gave up on taking it out to do any more runs and went to fill up with fuel. On the way back the car was very down on power and would just about cruise.
Because of this I decided not to run the car anymore and risk making whatever fault even worse, instead I helped out with running the event. We had a couple more spins and slides during the afternoon but fortunately nothing serious.
At the end of the day I drove home somewhat slower than normal as although the car would cruise I had no acceleration to speak of and couldn't overtake any slower moving vehicles.