Winter Update February 2010. Well, the car has been apart and thoroughly checked over, with only one surprise in the clutch which was easily sorted. The alternator has been tested and proven to charge fine, so we need to look elsewhere for the fuel pressure problems. We've checked everything and even at 80psi, the pumps still flow 600l/min, which is more than enough for the engine. We just can't work out why the pressure drops during a run. The fuel system has been heat proofed, so this may help. We've also solved some leaks in the pre-heater couplings. We haven't managed any go-faster modifications due to the limited budget, but reliability will be vastly improved - I hope!! The dash is now properly rubber-mounted with high-spec switches so it can't turn the engine off at the critical moment! All is looking good for an early start to the season, perhaps with some testing on March 28th.
Season Review October 2009. We were asked by Pilbeam to write a season review for their website. So here is a copy:
We’ve had quite a stunning first season with the new MP97. Having been out of an unlimited capacity hillclimb V8 for 10 months, both of us were a bit rusty. However, the improvements offered by the chassis, aero and gearbox package were very quickly apparent and all we needed to do was drive as fast as the car could go! That sounds very easy, but the speed of this thing was simply breath-taking. Some of our data logs show acceleration as a constant i.e at 130mph it is still accelerating at the same rate as 70mph.! This is something we hadn’t experienced before. I haven’t mentioned the Judd engine as this was a very similar spec to our previous car. The 4-litre Judd is a wonderful thing and gives awesome torque from 5,500 all the way to 10,500. Indeed one of my troubles was that with a 6-speed gearbox and a closed-loop paddle shift, changing gears was TOO easy!! We found speed by shifting less and letting the Judd work its magic. The handling of the MP97 was exactly what we expected from a Pilbeam - user friendly, with no weak-spots or surprises. This was further proven by my brother-in-law Morgan Jenkins, who got into the MP97 for one-day and took 2nd FTD! The next day he was sent back to his Vauxhall engined MP87 (half the power) and was able to take 1st FTD!! Mick will no doubt confirm the number of uncontrollable grins from our season. One of the biggest highlights was that Sandra (my mother) qualified for two runoffs. This was made all the more special as I had made her into a Grandmother for the first time at Shelsley and we believe that she is the first Granny to score British Championship points! Not that she wishes to be regularly reminded of the Granny bit! We also made our debut as a double drive in a Top 12 runoff at Gurston Down. Sandra was very pleased, as although finishing 12th, she was in the same 31 second bracket as the 5 people in front of her, some of them at their home hill. My most memorable moment of the season was the second Championship round at Shelsley. 129mph into Bottom Ess was equal fastest for the weekend. It was also incredibly frightening, but the car was absolutely planted with no hint of uncertainty. I also did my first ever 24 second run up Shelsley which is quite a performance marker. We’re both really looking forward to next year. Sandra is after some PBs of her own as I have set 3 new ones this year. It’s all looking really good!
26th September 2009. Doune. Well, we'd never been to Doune before so we thought it was time we tried it. Apart from driving for what seemed like a whole day to get there and arriving at midnight on the friday.... it was fine. We'll set out earlier next year! What a place!! It's just an incredible thrill! No wonder they call it "The King of Hills" !! I watched countless DVDs before hand, walked the track, was driven up the track and was convinced I'd memorised it. Well I had, but no matter how hard I tried, my memory couldn't replay it fast enough! You have to KNOW the track. Almost every corner at the bottom is blind! From the armco and the wall, to the camber shifts and bumps. It can't be described, it has to be driven to be believed. It's about 8 hours of driving to get there and almost £250 in diesel to tow the racing car. But I'm going back!!! Practice was so exciting, with both of us very relaxed and enjoying comparing notes. Although there was a bit of a party on saturday night, we were too tired to participate! Sunday was again too exciting! Qualified for both runoffs and scored points in both, finishing 9th and then 7th. I'm told that a sub-40 second run is quite a marker and I achieved this in the final Top 12. The car was hardly troubled by my driving, completely planted in every corner. I can't wait to go back!!!!
6th September 2009. Prescott. Well, I've been a bit distracted by decorating the house, so I'm actually writing this about 4 months after the event.... and I can't remember it. The results show that I finished 7th and 6th which is another solid performance.... but I can't remember what it was like! The results also show that I set a new PB at 38.29, but I remember being slightly disappointed as I'd really thought that a 37 was on the cards. Never mind!
30th August 2009. Gurston. With the car now working at its peak, we were pretty excited about Gurston. Practice was good with the car producing 3rd quickest down the hill at 128mph. Clearly the engine was still pulling well! Sunday was difficult with patchy conditions. The second runoff was a bit of a disaster... the car was feeling great in the wet until the engine turned off leaving karousel. We've been struggling with switch problems and renewed a number of master switches already. Sadly they appear to be lasting only 3 meetings and this one cut the engine for about a second. Nothing that I could do unfortunately, but wait for it to turn on. However, moment of the year came when both my mother and I qualified for the first runoff! We're pretty sure this it the first time that a mother and son combination have appeared in a Top 12 runoff. Although sadly my mother couldn't translate it into points. With two 7th place finishes for me, this was another solid performance from the car, but could have been so much more.....
16th August 2009. Shelsley. Back to the British Championship and an attempt to run at Shelsley. This is a fast and incredibly exciting hill to drive. Practice was OK, but our speeds weren’t quite where we needed them to be. We have been chasing a fuel pressure problem and fitting two new pumps and a relief valve hadn’t helped. We checked all the pipes on Saturday lunchtime - but nothing was wrong. So, just to test it we uploaded a map from a different engine. Suddenly..... POWER!!! The engine completely changed with huge power above 9500rpm. I couldn’t shift gear fast enough. It looks like it might have been excess fuel in the map causing the lack of power and the apparent fuel pressure issues. Practice ended with me 4/100ths away from my PB on a 25.08. Sunday was looking good on our better tyres until my mother spun entering Bottom Ess. The radiator hose had come off and anti-freeze is slippery stuff when on the tyres! A very quick repair by Mick and everyone else, some kind fellow competitors allowing and even arranging for me to run out of order (Thanks!!). And A NEW PB!! My first ever 24 second run up Shelsey at 24.92 seconds and 6th fastest qualifier! Somehow a new set of rears had been found (!!!) and these were fitted for the runoff. We had never tried new rears only and it was a very interesting experiment - 24.50!!! Quicker still and doing 126 into Bottom Ess - exciting! I ended up 6th, my equal highest finish in a runoff. Afternoon runs and back to the 2nd best tyres - 24.81 was pretty awesome for me and I qualified 5th. Back onto the best tyres and 129mph into Bottom Ess!!! It was incredible with the car feeling completely planted! Over the line and I’m quicker again with a 24.46 having lowered my PB by over half a second. And I finished 5th in the Top 12, my highest ever finish and my biggest points haul from a weekend. The car j ust felt amazing with more to come from it...
9th August 2009. Loton. We had entered the Midland Loton to have another go at Loggerheads! With the revised suspension and diff we were hopeful that the car would be easier to drive. And it was!! In fact so nice to drive that I set my first PB in this car, lowering it by a quarter of a second to 47.01. So close to a 46! We had a few challenges trying to solve a fuel pressure problem and a trip back home on Saturday night, with a departure back to Loton at 5am Sunday morning, were part of our attempts to solve it. We didn’t.....
25th July 2009. Wiscombe. With a few last minute adjustments to the repaired car we headed to Wiscombe feeling a bit more hopeful. Practice was good - the car was giving us a lot of feedback though the times weren’t that good. Eventually we put this down to the tyres and got on with learning the course again. Visiting Wiscombe only once a year means that course knowledge is key. It took me about 3 years to learn it properly. A slight modification on Saturday evening to raise the front wing up to prevent it grinding in the corners and things looked good for Sunday. The better tyres worked a treat and I qualified in 6th position. Sadly though, everyone else had even better tyres for the runoff and I slipped to 9th position. The afternoon qualifying was completely turned on its head by the rain. My run was pretty quick, but not enough to qualify. However, my mother had qualified!!! Her first runoff for about 3yrs. She daintily threaded the car through the trees and came away with one championship point!! Possibly the first ever Granny to score a point?!
5th July 2009. Harewood. My favourite event of the whole season. I love the atmosphere, the paddock, the view of the hill and the friendly marshals. We changed the diff settings in the week and fitted it all back together on Friday morning. First two practice runs were good with the times improving, although the traction we were after wasn’t quite there. A quick lunchtime strip of the gearbox and modification to the diff gave us exactly what we were after. Lots of traction and confidence in the throttle. Now we could concentrate on lines and gears. By the end of the 4th practice run (!) we were pretty shattered but rather pleased with our times. Still some way to go to catch the old car, but all our work was starting to show. The handling was improving and we had made some big steps. Unfortunately come the first timed run and our fortunes changed… under braking for the second corner the suspension was damaged and we had to withdraw from the meeting. 24hrs later and it is all stripped and we need a couple of new bits before Wiscombe.
28th June 2009. Prescott. We entered this meeting late, really as a testing session to develop the handling. Not entered for the Midland championship, so we could just concentrate on the car. 1st practice run, round Orchard, turns in beautifully, little understeer mid-corner and then wild oversteer. What is going on. Mess with the rear end set up and off the line for the 2nd practice run – snatch second, apply power and I’m facing the bank on the left. Lift, it straightens so re-apply and I’m facing the Armco!! Lift, it straightens so re-apply and I’m facing the bank again!!!! This is not good. Feels OK for the rest of the hill, but the throttle confidence has gone. This has to be the diff. A few quick phone-calls and we decide to withdraw from the meeting, head home to the garage and pull it apart. Stripping it turns out to be easy and there’s nothing wrong inside the diff, though the pre-load has gone. A bit of head scratching and it’s clear that we have the room to make some changes. So now we’re going to develop the diff’s characteristics! Not too hard, but I don’t think possible between runs. We’ll see where we get to at Harewood next weekend!
14th June 2009. Loton. So the car handles, it goes well, stops well and does it reliably. Except Loton and I aren’t good friends! Loggerheads doesn’t like me, the straight just isn’t and Museum is a sod. Practice was all about Loggerheads. No rear end grip, lairy oversteer and then understeer. Is it the dampers? The tyres? The diff? Well we tried everything with the dampers and didn’t get too far. I even had a super scary fish-tailing moment leaving Loggerheads. We couldn’t decide what the cause was and although I qualified for the first runoff and got close to my PB, it wasn’t what we had hoped for from the weekend. Lots of conversations with various people and we think we need to work on the rear end settings.
31st May 2009. Shelsley. 5am Saturday morning the phone goes – “I’ve been having contractions since 2am, you’d better come home” !!... Quick trip home, but nothing’s coming after 4hrs so back to Shelsley for a couple of practice runs (home to Shelsley about 1hr 15 mins). Tiredness certainly takes the edge off one’s ability to approach Bottom Ess at 130mph! Back home and Eva Rose Tomlin arrives at 2am Sunday morning. No sleep at all from 5am Saturday to 9am Sunday (too excited!) so hillclimbing is not an option. That was the end of Shelsley and the arrival of my daughter!
24th May 2009. Gurston. A quick check over of the car post-Harewood shows a couple of small water leaks, a small petrol leak but very little else! So, we head to Gurston full of hope. I love the Gurston start. Straight line down the hill. Fast as you can, as much throttle as the tyres will take and then the wonderful Hollow corners – sit it in and power out as hard and as fast as you dare. That said, the brakes were awful into Karousel! They were still the circuit ones that the car came with – unknown compound and age! So we ignored them. The car was a bit unsettled over the finish, which we calmed down and it turned into a dream. Almost my fastest finish speed at 142mph. Couldn’t quite lay the power down as we wanted off the line. Car was zipping one wheel and then the other and snaking slightly. I qualified for both runoffs finishing 8th and 9th! Almost my biggest points from a single weekend! And at only our second meeting. We were chuffed to bits.
11th May 2009. Harewood. A bit of a gap on the news front – why? I’ve been in the garage building the car! Collected from Pilbeam on 7th March, we set about it immediately. Trumpets on and injector bosses fitted we took the engine out to be rebuilt and installed the dummy. Furious fitting of the exhaust and then news on different cams than we expected changed everything. Different trumpets and exhaust then chased, found and fitted. Hoses purchased, brackets made, plumbing fitted, wiring made and joined up, bodywork fettled, modified, fitted and sprayed. Final wiring joins made and we emerged on the 7th May exactly two months later with a complete car!! A quick start-up and it sounds well, but then goes sick. No time to sort it and we are off to Pilbeam for a final check and set-up. Friday dawns and we are due to test in the afternoon before Harewood at the weekend. New plugs sourced and everything checked. Start it up and it sounds great – then goes sick again. Much head-scratching and phone-calls to Tim Mason who diagnoses it over the phone as a fuel temperature compensation issue. That sorted we start looking at the gearbox set up. Neil from Geartronics arrives, admires the bracketry and finds I missed an earth in my loom. Sorted and set up we find no gear cut in the Motec M8 software. It says gear cut in there, but it isn’t the right type (it cuts until next gear stable, we need cut while active). Ooops. Entirely my fault! The M8 is a bit old and although it runs an engine incredibly well it doesn’t have the more modern options we need. More scratching of heads and calls between Tim and Neil – they settle on using a dual rpm limit to shift gear. It works!! Pack up and head to Harewood. The weekend is two one-day meetings. Will it run? Will it handle? Why is it raining? So our first tentative steps in our brand new car, which hasn’t turned a wheel before are in the wet. That said, it was only a little damp really and it gave the new gearbox, driveshafts etc. an easier time. Crikey what a car! 6 degrees of castor now feels light (the last car it was far too heavy). It turns in beautifully, picks up like a rocket! God it’s quick – but we have been out of a V8 for 10 months. The throttle blip on the down-shift is a bit sharp, but we know what to do with that. Saturday over we stand and realize that we did it! We put together a new Pilbeam and it ran faultlessly for its first meeting. Sunday and the National competitors arrive for the championship meeting. What are we to expect from our speed? First timed runs – qualify 9th for the runoff!!! We weren’t expecting that. End up 12th with no points, but what a start to the new car! Second timed runs – qualify 12th, finish 11th. So no points from the weekend but for our first time in the new car it’s far better a result that I expected!
17th February 2009. Well I had hoped we'd have a car by now..... sadly not. Theoretically the gearbox is due for collection from Norfolk this friday and delivery to Pilbeam. The car is almost complete with a few final bits to fit. Then it's back to my garage for some serious hard work! I have lots of new stuff to fit and wiring to do, engine check over and plumbing to keep me out of mischief! Exhaust system to modify, filters and bodywork to sort. Will we be ready for the beginning of the season........ bring on the piece of string!
15 December 2008. An update on progress. Engine joined to tub by Pilbeam. Most suspension parts made and ready to fit. Ricardo parts purchased and box being built up. Paddle shift system ordered and due for delivery. Perhaps ready early in the new year for me to start plumbing and wiring it! Might make the start of the season. Fingers crossed!!
5 September 2008. Our MP88, Judd engine and various bits and pieces were delivered to Pilbeam yesterday for them to start construction. Hoping for delivery of our nice new Pilbeam MP97 before Christmas…
3 August 2008. A sad day as we said goodbye to the MP72. It now resides in Kenilworth with Bill Hutchins and Tony Luxton. It shares a garage with our old MP58, which they also purchased from us!
26 July 2008. Not a race weekend but a complete change of plan… Having dithered a little about selling the car and maybe buying something else, we have finally taken the plunge. We chose not to sell the MP72 until the new bits were in the garage. Flights were booked to Ireland for Elle and I, ferries booked for the trailer and motorhome and we headed to Belfast for an interesting trip. Day 1 involved removing a Judd EV from a Ralt just outside Belfast. As did Day 2! The engine was another ex-Moran unit (one of his spares), converted to 4-litre spec. It is exactly the same spec as the engine in the MP72. Later in the week we purchased a Pilbeam MP88 without its Opel V6 engine. Unused for a while due to engine problems the chassis, brakes and aero had been updated to the latest Pilbeam specification. Now sitting in my garage and waiting to head to Pilbeam for the major construction work to turn it into an MP97…. I just need to find a gearbox now.
6 July 2008. Harewood: As I write this, some time has elapsed between the event and finding the time to put pen to paper. However there are a couple of things which stand out in my mind. Both of them being spins!!! The weather forecast looked pretty awful and it was! The track was wet for most of the weekend. Practice was a matter of going carefully. My times looked pretty good and I was in the middle of the Top 12 which was promising. An extra practice run was offered and some drivers withdrew. Thinking that the practice in the wet would do me some good I headed out for an experimentation run… For the previous runs I had been very smooth around Chippy’s, dabbing the brakes to cancel the inevitable understeer which occurs in long corners in the wet, and gently re-applying the throttle. So for the extra practice run I thought I would try something different. A big throttle input. Well it didn’t work and I exited the corner backwards and parked it gently in the grass. Oops! Acutely embarrassed I was towed back to the top of the hill. Sunday arrived with the same weather as Saturday – wet. The first timed run was going to be fun. Our car is usually quite quick in the wet, if I can keep it on the track. But I didn’t. I spun again!! This time at the corner after Chippy’s, Country. The car was flying up until this point (which may explain my spin!) and as I braked the rear end l ocked up. I still curse myself for continuing with my gear change, for when I let the clutch back up it was like applying the hand-brake and I headed b ackwards into the undergrowth. I was pretty livid with myself for wasting the run and missing out on the Top12 runoff. The afternoon was a bit drier and I just qualified, gaining a single point for 10th position. Not the weekend I had planned, especially considering the car was potentially sold!
29 June 2008: A gap in our 2008 calendar appeared after we withdrew from Gurston believing that we were on the brink of purchasing a new car and selling ours. Sadly after Gurston the purchase fell through and we called off the sale of our car. Having opted not to do Shelsley in 2008 due to the difficulty in unloading in the paddock, we sat quietly waiting for Prescott. Actually, it wasn’t quiet at all! The gap in the calendar allowed me enough time to replace the flywheel – sounds simple but it involves removing the undertray, the antifreeze and splitting the whole rear end. And then I went on holiday in Spain for a week and had two evenings to put the car back together before Prescott!! But we did it and the car as ever was totally reliable the whole weekend. The Prescott meeting was a Midland Championship round and we hadn’t registered for the championship so we were out to have some fun. Which is precisely what we did. The times were not bad considering the age of our tyres and we really enjoyed the weekend. I had managed to purchase a HANS Device and modify the seat-belts before Prescott, so I was hoping I would get used to it. The first run was awful, it pinched my neck, prevented me from moving forwards and forced me to use different muscles in my shoulders. I was not convinced by it. The second run was a bit better and steadily throughout the weekend I got used to it. By the end, I found the HANS Device almost comfortable to wear and the way it held me in the car was reassuring. I didn’t like the way it prevented me from looking over my shoulder, but that was only a problem when driving out of the paddock parking place. Looking forward to our favourite weekend of the year at Harewood now.
10 May 2008: Harewood. A fairly relaxed weekend at Harewood, interspersed with a little OMS maintenance after it had a small fire! All sorted and going like a rocket afterwards. The MP72 was going rather well too. My mother was competing on the saturday (the Harewood weekend is two one-day events and we do a day each) and getting back up to speed with the car. We tried going back to the old rear wing for her on the saturday, but using exactly the same settings as last year, she complained of a lack of rear end grip - seems I may have achieved something with the rear wing. On the sunday I tried changing gears in different places and found I needed fourth down the hill or I hit the limiter. The car was going like a rocket and handling brilliantly. We stayed on our old tyres for the qualifying (they're from July 2007) and I just slipped into the first runoff in 12th place. So, seeing as I might get some points we put on our brand new tyres for the runoff itself. This was worth 1 point and a 52.4 for me - there was more to come from the car but I was a bit rusty and being cautious. For the afternoon it was back to the old tyres to try and qualify (we won't be having many sets this year so we have to preserve them) and I failed to get into the runoff. Oh well, we know what we need to do to gain championship points and it is satisfying to know that it isn't me who is the factor.
27 April 2008: Prescott. First event and rather nervous. Pre-heat the engine and then start it up - it runs and then dies. So start again and it dies - won't respond to the throttle. So I check the plugs which are a little wet and turn the engine over to remove the fuel. About to start it again when it dawns on me what an idiot I am and I lift the air-filter and remove the 8 red plugs, one in each trumpet!!! That's the last time I fit those!! First practice seems OK, but not too sure about the grip levels - is it me, the tyres, the track or the new rear wing I've fitted? Second practice and the timing fails - so no idea how fast I went, but car felt a bit better with some more rear wing. Third practice and the timing works again (It was all over the shop for most of the weekend) and not a very good time. Seems I have a long way to go to remember how to drive. On to Sunday morning and I fit the secondary element to the lower plane of the rear wing. With our depleted budget we stick to our 2nd best tyres and Mother reports monumental understeer through the first corner - have I added too much wing? I decide to leave it the same for my run and I find the car is sure footed and feels great (tyres were obviously sleepy after their winter break!). Although not a quick run, I sneak into the runoff in 12th place. I think there's more to come from me as a driver so opt for the same tyres and an improved technique. Hard into the Esses, go for third gear and............. the gear knob breaks off in my hand!! That wasn't on the winter maintenance list!!!! I chuck it into the footwell and find there is a stump to change gear with (glad I had gloves on), I negotiate the final corner, stuff it into 3rd and storm off for the finish - 12th position and no points, damn!! For the afternoon I manage 39.8 (better, but my PB is a 38.5) and qualify 9th. Am coming to the line for my run and it starts to rain!! I try to hussle the lights to change to green and get going as quickly as possible. I slipped and slid my way up (it was quite enjoyable) and manage a 47. The following two cars do 48s and I'm hoping the rain stays and I can get a good score. But then, it stops raining and suddenly the runoff is delayed. No idea why noone is coming to the line and the track dries. Amazingly, enough for people to get back into the 43 and 42 second brackets. Why is it that just when I think the weather is going to help me, a bit of gamesmanship comes along and destroys my chances. Anyway, I end up 9th with 2 points, which isn't such a bad start, although not as good as last year. Harewood is next, so we'll try some more testing of the rear wing and see what the speed trap times look like.
23rd April 2008. Test day. Last bit of the jigsaw puzzle (the starter shafts) arrived back on Monday evening, so I was able to prime the engine with oil, pre-heat it and start it before testing on the Wednesday. A lot of relief that all went smoothly and I was able to annoy my poor neighbours with a V8 Judd engine!! Things also went rather smoothly at Curborough today. The car ran very well and proved that we have again forgotten just how fast it is! Really not a lot to write about as it all went well. The OMS looked brilliant with its new chassis bits and the new engine sounded awesome - so much more powerful than the last one. I was allowed a run in it and it was an absolute hoot!! So predictable and easy to drive (completely different to the last time I drove it). I had to make myself stop as it really was a lot of fun. On to Prescott at the weekend.
30th March 2008. Engine back and now fitted. Undertray back on. All parts away for spraying. Managed to make some new swirl pot mounts as the new ones I made last year had fractured - so a pile of aluminium bits now ready to go away for welding. I was then checking over the rear end of the car when I noticed a very loose bolt. On closer inspection I found it wasn't loose, but cracked in two. This bolt secures the lower wishbone at the rear to the side of the gearbox. I've found this bolt loose before and last winter I found that it had caused a stud on the gearbox to break. However, this time it was in two pieces and badly bent. Due to the previous trouble with this bolt I check it regularly - probably about every other meeting - and I'm pretty sure it was OK for the penultimate meeting at Prescott last year. So, I'm now wondering whether this might have contributed to my spin at Shelsley????... (Members of my family accuse me of looking for any excuse!!!!) At the time it all felt like driver error, but this bolt had definitely gone on the hill somewhere as it had been heavily loaded after it broke. And as far as I can remember we haven't nudged anything with the left rear, so no real explanation for it. Anyway, I'm going to fit one with a longer shank now and keep a very close eye on it. We've got our test day booked for 23rd April at Curborough and it looks like I'll have most of the jobs finished by then.
12th March 2008. Managed to pull my finger out and get going! The Judd engine is due back from its rebuild next week. The new rear wing post has been completed with the use of my new lathe and a brilliant local welder. The carbon undertray has been repaired where we scuffed it last year - all I need to do now is bond some bobbins in. Most things have been checked and overhauled where necessary. The new trailer has been sorted out and is ready for the car. Just need to finish the new rear wing end-plates, get some paint spraying done here and there and put it all back together!!!
29th January 2008. Update on progress. Well, there’s been a complete lack of progress!! Last season was hard work physically, financially and emotionally. So we took a step back, had a breather and wondered about 2008. We’ve decided to do the championship rounds with a number of rules for ourselves: No consecutive weekends and no visits to Shelsley! Without a break between meetings it becomes a real chore and this is meant to be a hobby! And the shear effort at Shelsley of unloading cars and kit, pushing cars around and the total nightmare at the end of the meeting has convinced us to give it a miss. Sad as it’s an awesome track, but the side-effects aren’t worth it. The Judd engine is about to be delivered to J&F for its rebuild. We’ve got a couple of go-faster mods to try and some small repairs to do. So a relaxed season approaches without too much pressure, unless……………… it all goes incredibly well during the first few meetings and then maybe, just maybe we’ll go after that number 10 again!!
7th October 2007. Shelsley: Final championship meeting of the year. I had started the season with the plan to chase for 10th position. Sadly I hadn’t achieved this and found myself in a shaky 12th position entering Shelsley. Rob Turnbull and I were level on points and his power was going to make it very difficult for me. Practice didn’t show any major problems, though I was about a second off my best and hoping that the better tyres on Sunday would pick that up. We had increased speed in 3rd gear to 123 mph however I was still on the limiter in this gear into Bottom Ess. We had a 141 in 4th, but snatching this after crossing was too dangerous as one hand on the wheel upset the line, which was vital for the bumpy bits where the track had been resurfaced. I tried it for practice and it frightened me!! Come Sunday and we fitted the better tyres. The track really was in good condition, though for me not quite as good as the first meeting. My PB from that meeting was 25.06 and I only managed a 25.34 – it was enough to qualify for the runoff. I really needed points from this runoff if I was going to maintain 12th position. The run itself was pretty smooth, although I was a long time on the limiter into Bottom Ess in 3rd again. The time was pleasing with a 25.08, although with so many quick cars it was only good enough for 10th position and 1 point. Rob Turnbull was suffering from engine problems and was just outside the points. For the afternoon I knew I had to pick it up and there was still a possibility of 11th position in the championship if I could finish in 7th in the runoff! I knew what I needed to do for the qualifying run – get the line right for Crossing and stop being a chicken under braking for Bottom Ess. Somehow everything was right off the start. The grip phenomenal and my lines were good. I managed to carry a lot of speed through Kennel, got back on the throttle hard and brought the car far enough to the right before Crossing to get the line spot on. I was so much faster through Crossing than ever before, on a really good line, with the power back on early. The data shows me about 4mph faster and as I left Crossing I knew I would hit the limiter about 15ft earlier than before. With that much space I snatched 4th and got two hands back on the wheel for the bumps. The car felt great and absolutely planted and I left my braking late for Bottom Ess. And as I turned in the back end started to get away from me. Slowly but surely the opposite lock was applied and I hit the lock-stops. Nothing left for it as the back end was still coming round and I hit the brakes to slide to a halt. Damn! I had gently skimmed the bank and dented the wing end-plates and bent the mounts. But even more of a problem was that Rob’s car seemed to be going well and he had qualified for the runoff. This wasn’t the season end I had hoped for!! Back in the paddock and rather annoyed with myself I saw a lot of activity around Rob’s car and for the first time ever, I’m afraid I was pleased to see that he couldn’t take his run. That’s pretty awful of me really! But it meant I was safe in 12th position.
11th September 2007. Epilogue to Prescott: We still have one event to go at Shelsley on 7th October but I seriously doubt if I can move up from 12th place in the championship. I need 5 points to overtake Jos for 11th position (his car is now out of action) and an impossible 16 points for 10th position. On the plus side I think I’m in an unassailable 2nd position in the Y-Gelli championship. I have to remind myself that this is my best performance ever in the British Championship (previous best being 15th in 2002). My trouble is that I have pushed us to compete at the National level and I was after the No. 10 spot. It turns out to be very tough indeed, though I still see it is a true measure of one's skill. We've done fairly well, but now we understand just what it takes to compete at this level. It is such an incredible commitment and quite a lot of money. We have the right amount of the former, but never enough off the latter - always the way!! If I was to blow my own trumpet I’d have to say that our car is the highest placed Aluminium tub and the highest placed H-pattern gearshift. We've proven to ourselves this season that we’re one hell of a team and that together we can do some quite exceptional things. The car is now quicker than it has ever been in its life and shows amazing reliability that it lacked last year. Sadly, my Mother now knows how to drive to guarantee me a shot at the Top12 - its been really tough for her to do that and she really has taken a step back to be my tyre-warmer. There's no way I'd have got the scores that I have without her. Not to forget those family members who magically appear to scrub tyres, push the car or make the battery trolley materialise in the right place! They even conjure up umbrellas, coffee, sandwiches and most incredible of all will press a pint of beer into a weary driver’s hand at the end of the day! Its been a season of major highs and serious lows. But god its been fun and I wouldn’t have been happy doing anything else. Onwards to the finale at Shelsley!
2nd September 2007. Prescott: I really have to stop building myself up before events! Somehow I had prepared myself for a stunningly quick weekend only to be totally thrown off by starter motor problems. After a hectic friday with the car split in half and the flywheel off to fix the pivot in the block, the starter shaft decided to bend on Saturday’s first start up. A bit of pushing and we got it started, but this prevented us concentrating properly for the first run. A call to my father and he managed to collect the spare one and drive it up to Prescott so we had a starter for the afternoon (what a star!). Then a trip for him to Ark Racing in Staffordshire for a new shaft, a rush back to our lathe in South Wales for a new bush and we fitted the new shaft on Sunday morning. By this point, I think I had forgotten which track I was at!! Sadly, the track was really affecting our car – there’s been a dusty patch at the entry to Ettores for a couple of years now and I spun on it in practice with a poorly placed gearchange – not good for me! Somehow I managed to squeak into the runoff but was far out of it in 11th position. I was badly motivated for this weekend after the starter difficulties which were still not sorted, so my driving was also poor and I was blaming the tyres. Truthfully, they were only just past their best, but I wasn’t helping and I wasn’t concentrating properly. Jos came to give me a damn good talking to just before the 2nd runoff! Amazingly it helped and I got the lines and style right and got to within 3/100ths of my PB. Interestingly, I was being encouraged to up my speeds through the first corner (Orchard) by various different people during the weekend. The Goulds are doing about 100mph with me about 8 to 10mph slower. If ever there was vindication for my style at Prescott it comes from the following figure – my fastest run all weekend (38.59) was completed with my slowest speed through Orchard…. I’ve found this to be true so many times before and here I was doing the experiment again. I just wasn’t concentrating properly!
26th August 2007. Gurston: Well I entered this event with high hopes that I could score well. I’ve been chasing the number 10 spot all season and theoretically I could haul myself out of 12th if I scored an 8th position at every remaining round!!.... Practice was OK, though we were suffering some starter motor problems. Into the class runs and all was a bit depressing. Sue Young really rather demolished Mother’s record. This was a bit inevitable, Sue has been getting quicker at Gurston and it was just a matter of time for her to get to grips with it. It didn’t make it any easier for us. My mother has been driving cautiously all season to guarantee me runoff shots. She’s done a splendid job and to be honest our car is totally out-classed by the nice new carbon Goulds – there’s also about 100kg weight difference and one should really add the advantages of sequential gear changes to that. But hey, its good fun trying to stay with them!!!! Its also incredibly satisfying when they slip-up or it rains as our car can usually jump ahead. Reality has somewhat set in at this point in the season for us both and we’re worn out! Putting that to one side though, I managed to set a new PB at Gurston in the 1st runoff with a 27.37. 13/100ths quicker than the previous one, the car was going like a rocket. I think this is also the quickest for our car too so that was pretty satisfying for me as No.1 mechanic, race engineer and driver! I love the start at Gurston – 0-130mph in about 5 seconds, dab the brakes, vault the Hollow entry and sit it in hard for the exit – while giving it a welly-full and feeling it really bite at about 110mph through the next left hander. Get the line right to straighten the braking area and prevent the right foot chickening out and pressing the brake as late as one dares! Karousel 1 – wooosh, gear, Karousel 2 and gentle throttle to avoid the slide. Power, grunt and launch over the leap, back on the power after it lands and then dive for the brake. Take the fast line through Ashes, feed in the power and then keep it flat in 1, 2 then 3 as it squirms over the bumps through the long left hander and keep it flat over the finish. Yup – I enjoy Gurston and a 4 litre Judd engine is just the best up this hill! And after all that effort I got a 10th position and only 1 point. Damn! Everyone else had gone super quick too. Went a bit slower in the afternoon like everyone else and Jos bumped me into 11th place. Oh well, there we go. Definitely no No. 10 in the championship for me.
30th July 2007. Wiscombe: I set off to Wiscombe rather reluctantly; last year had not gone well, I had struggled to hussle the MP72 up the tight track and hadn't enjoyed the slippy conditions. Practice was predictable - a greasy track which punished any over-use of the loud pedal. I actually enjoyed it! The car handled brilliantly and was so easy to drive on the limit. I did struggle to get a smooth transition of power at small throttle openings and spent lunchtime shifting the throttle bell-crank behind the seat. This transformed the car and made it so much easier to balance through fast corners. Sunday started out damp and the practice run was useful for finding out just how bad the track was - it was very slippy but I really enjoyed it! For the first timed run I tried to be smooth and although I locked the brakes into the Gate, Sawbench and Martini (!!) I qualified really well in 7th. Sadly for the runoff I used too much throttle on the approach to Sawbench and found I had far too much speed to lose on a still slippy track. I locked up and watched the apex zoom past - my eyes being drawn to the fast-approaching tyre wall! When I eventually started cadence braking it was way too late and I stopped about 2 ft from the tyre wall (it felt that close, it was probably about 6ft!) Unfortunately the straight was now behind me and I had to spin it right round with a burst of throttle in a very small space. Off up the straight like a loon and very hard into Martini - over the line and a rather poor time put me in 10th position. Not what I was after! Following a rather gloomy lunch and a change in brake balance I managed to qualify in about 7th again. For my second attempt at scoring some decent points I managed to focus my mind! I didn't get in the car too early, meaning there was some adrenalin left when I got to the line! A smooth take-off, as fast as I dare over the leap, hard into the Gate and bring the car back across the track for the correct positioning. The subsequent corners are challenging, but treating each of the following left handers as two corners encourages me to turn in later. This gains the track positioning for the right handers where for each one a fair amount of power can be used. Turning in very late and deep for Sawbench and Martini stops the inside wheel from lifting and spinning up. And I finished 7th with a new PB!! Just what I was after.
8th July 2007. Harewood: The programme showed a really good entry list for Harewood and it looked like it would be hard to score points. Harewood is a really nicely balanced hill with technical bits and fast bits where sheer grunt can excel. For the first practice run I was five cars back from the line on slicks when it started raining hard! That was the end of that run. On the second practice run I was sat on the line when the flags came out for Jos and during the wait it rained! So that was a waste of time. For the third run it was finally dry and I was able to lean on it harder - we also added a second main element to the rear wing which pretty much the front wheels off the ground! We were trying a very different split gearbox for the weekend as we had been on the limiter for so long at the last Harewood. The gears went: 1 2 4 1 2 3. I found the 1st to 4th change quite hard and lost a chunk of time in the esses when I did it. It wasn't until I moved the gear change point to the last corner that I found a bit more speed. The 4th practice run wasn't very good for me - I turned into the fast left hander before the 90 right (Orchard) and spun it. Its the first time I have ever spun a car and I didn't know how it happened. The back end just suddenly stepped out. I do not spin and don't take it lighlty, but to do it and have no reason for it was rather frightening. Fortunately as I was rotating I saw the red flags were out for someone else and asked for me re-run! On my second attempt at the same corner I turned in much slower and again the back end stepped out, but this time I caught it. I checked the track in the evening, but there wasn't any dirt and I have no idea what was causing it. For sunday we had one more practice run and a very nice new set of tyres for the timed runs. I think I qualified for the runoff in about 8th position, but didn't manage a very good time. Fortunately for me (a weekend full of luck!) two people were caught out by the finish line rule and had their times disqualified, moving me up to 7th and gaining four valuable points. I made a complete hash of the 2nd qualifying run and was convinced that I had failed to qualify, but again my luck was in and I squeaked into 12th position. I knew that this would be a hard runoff to score points on. I gave this run everything, though I believed that the car would never go quicker than a 52.4 (my PB). It felt quick and I was pretty neat (keeping off the grass up the finish straight this time!) and to my utter shock and joy I posted a 51.87!!!!! A new PB, my first 51 and the fastest that our car has ever been up Harewood. Having run early in the runoff, I was then able to watch the rest come up and I again ended up in 7th position!!! I was so pleased as I had gained 8 points from the weekend and moved up to 10th in the championship. Watch me slide now as everyone else is off to the Channel Islands. I shall have to drive better than ever at Wiscombe if I am to have any hope of being 10th at the season end.
10th June 2007. Loton: After a wedding on the friday, I was somewhat shattered for practice and didn't drive too well. I really have to muscle the car up the hill at Loton, holding myself in the seat properly and pushing against the g forces. Our car isn't well suited to the confines of this hill and I couldn't find much pace in practice. Our new rear tyres were totally destroyed after Shelsley. The high grip track had shredded the rears and they were looking totally useless. I spent 2 hours on saturday evening surforming them to cut back to a better rubber, but they still didn't look too good. For my first timed run there was no grip. I was losing the rear end through Loggerheads and struggling to keep it straight. By Triangle I was pretty much furious and chucked it in hard. Hard on the throttle and it must have looked like a rally car as I was wildly sideways. I was cautious up Cedar straight, but hard out of Fallow and sideways all the way round Museum. I was frustrated beyond belief as these tyres were hardly a month old, yet they had no grip at all. Somehow I qualified for the runoff and swapped back to an older set. They just weren't at all competitive and I ended up with no points. Pretty despondent for the afternoon I tried hard, but failed to qualify.
3rd June 2007. Shelsley: I have never driven Shelsley in a single-seater before this weekend. I've done about 4 events in Mercury 3, which gave me a fair idea of where it went, but not at the correct speed!!! I got up bright and early to get a 3rd practice run and managed to book into an early batch, as per the Shelsley system. The new track proved to have an phenomenal amount of grip. The car was absolutely planted and 130mph over the finish line was great fun. By the end of the weekend I had pushed that to 141mph and 3rd highest speed. I managed to finish practice with a low 26, which I was pleased with. For Sunday we fitted the new tyres that we had bought ar Prescott and hardly used due to the rain in previous events! The grip was amazing and for my first run I had hoped for a 25. The time turned out to be a 25.06, so incredibly close to a 24 even!! I qualified for the runoff and just managed a single point. Each run after the first was a little slower as I seemed to lose confidence under braking for bottom Ess. Shifting gear up the finish straight also proved that we need to fit a shift light soon as my changes were a various different rpm. I repeated the morning's effort in the afternoon and managed another point. Not bad for my first visit to Shelsley.
27th May 2007. Gurston: Our car is usually pretty quick at Gurston, really just due to the shear grunt it has! I find the place very exciting and there's nothing quite like launching down the hill to hit 130mph before Hollow bend. I wasn't really concentrating on times during practice, but William Davison was very keen to point out that I was 8th quickest. Sunday was very damp to begin with, but I also happen to enjoy driving in the wet. I like the delicacy that is required and the final practice run was good. Then it really started to rain! The early classes got away with it, but by the time we went up for the first timed run, a huge amount of rain had fallen. It was a long time before I got to the line as there were a lot of incidents. Reports from the truly superb mashals suggested that there was a lot of standing water before Hollow. Sitting on the line I could just pick out where it was and headed off down the hill gently. Just before the puddle I gripped the wheel hard, held a light throttle and hoped for the best. The car lifted and floated slightly and landed on the otherside with a gentle clunk. Back on the power as hard as I dare and brake gently for Karousel. Heel and toe for a gentle down change, catch a small slide and out of Ashes. I was reaching for the gear lever up the finish straight when I hit a puddle and the wheel started to get tugged out of my hand - so I quickly abort the gear change and snatch it when the track looks clear. And, I qualify in 6th position - but not only that I was 3rd quickest out of the class who went up the same time as me (double drives in the earlier batch were a bit quicker on a less soaked track). I was chuffed to bits. Until................. after an hour's delay for the rain to clear they cancelled the meeting and no points were awarded. Gutted doesn't describe my feelings. All that effort, all that risk, all that potential and nothing to show for it. There was no way they could have run us as it had got incredibly dangerous, but I really think that points should have been awarded on qualifying positions. For me on my limited budget, with an older car and doing fewer rounds, every single opportunity to score well is critical and Gurston is one of them for me.
13th May 2007. Harewood: I can't really believe that we made it to Harewood after the state of the car after Prescott. We borrowed wishbones from Mark Goodyear, an upright from Karl Davison, Pilbeam repaired the rack and re-fitted the old wing while my father put it all back together. Absolutely incredible that we did it and thanks to everyone for their help. Things went really well for me - I equalled my PB and was driving much more smoothly. I think I qualified for the run off in about 7th position, sadly though I wasn't concentrating properly for the run off and slipped to 10th - still, 1 point was far more than I had expected to have. During the afternoon, the weather turned. We watched it drizzle and bit and also watched most of the paddock change to wets. I took a bit of a gamble and stuck to slicks and during my run it was going very well. I really enjoy the wet and had a lot of grip to play with, BUT.......... I got red flagged halfway up and was sent back to the start for a re-run. And it started to chuck it down. Suddenly I was on slick tyres with a soaking wet track. I was somewhat resigned to my fate and drove gently up the hill - amazingly I was only 1 second off qualifying. It was only later on that I realised I could have changed to wets had I notified the organisers - as some fellow competitors did on their re-runs. It was too late when this dawned on me and I was stuck with non-qualifying. I'll know for next time!
7th May 2007. Prescott: The exhaust system was fitted and the bodywork modified in the previous week. It was a late night on the thursday beforehand to collect and fit the wing from Pilbeam (it fitted perfectly, first time!). Practice went fairly well. My mother was feeling her way back into driving the car and I was trying to remember how to go fast! We changed the ratios after the 2nd practice runs to a taller third, mainly to reduce the wheelspin out of Pardon. It had a good effect for the first practice runs as I qualified for the runoff - I managed to secure 9th and another two points. We had a lunchtime review of the data and discovered that my mother wasn't really using much of the throttle - she was only really tickling it! So I tried to give her some encouragement and gee her up a bit! To some extent it did work, as she did as told leaving the first corner - unfortunately, under braking for Ettores, she locked up and hit the barriers. The car deformed exactly as it should, the wishbones buckling and preventing high loads reaching the tub. On first inspection it looks like we won't get the parts for Harewood next weekend. Its going to be incredibly difficult to get the bits in time and to set it up. See picture in the Gallery.
11th April 2007. Loton: This was the first event for me in 13 years of hillclimbing where my mother was not present throughout the whole weekend. I'm 31 years old for god's sake, yet without her at a hillclimb I felt a little lost. She still had sheep to lamb and couldn't make the event, so I was supported by my lovely wife of 5 months, Ellie. A whole load of firsts in one weekend!!.... Actually it went very well and smoothly from the mechanicing point of view - sadly the driver (moi!) had forgotten just how fast the car was and how to drive it! My track placement was awful, my throttle action rusty and my eagerness was not in check. To drive this car fast (hard is easy, fast is difficult) one has to reign in the enthusiasm and be very gentle. I had returned to my old ways of driving like a brute and this loses big amounts of time. In my defence, the tyres had suffered during the winter and we needed a new set - and the brakes were good but still bedding in (balance changed throughout the weekend). It was quite exciting when I touched the brakes in the middle of Loggerheads and locked up the rear-end!!! That woke me up.... In the end a few of the faster drivers didn't make it to Loton or had to withdraw and I scored two 9th place finishes. This is the highest position I have ever had (and will ever have!!) in the hillclimb championship - 9th place!! Have a look at www.top12runoff.com for yourself. It won't last and I am under no illusions - but its nice to be there anyway! The car has now gone away for its new exhaust system and the new front wing should be done by Prescott on the 5th May. Until then.............
6th April 2007. We did it !!!! We all did it!!! Everything worked, everything ran well and after 3 months of shear effort, sweat and pain it all paid off at Curborough. The OMS ran like a dream and the Pilbeam was stunning too. (Seems I got the coil wiring correct after all!) Nothing fell off, nothing broke and we all came away smiling. Just the small matter of a rebuild to the tow-car propshaft and a change of ratios and we're off to Loton.
4th April 2007. Things went well in the last month and things went badly! Going well was a trip to sunny Spain, going badly was the exhaust system mods on the Pilbeam! Sadly my chosen supplier took one look and cried off - so with the Pilbeam in the trailer I went on a merry trip around Oxfordshire and found the excellent RS Fabrications. They are booked in for 10th April, the day after Loton so we'll have to start the season with the old system. Fortunately while writing this the car is in one piece, everything fitted back together and all loaded up ready for testing tomorrow. The OMS is completely sorted too and it looks like we've done it. Fingers crossed that everything runs fine and stays reliable.
5th March 2007. Just over two months of complete quiet on the web-site news front! Because the racing cars have been occupying my time! The Pilbeam job-list has just reached its fourth side of A4, though many of these are crossed out. The gearbox has been rebuilt, the radiators moved, new joints fitted at the rear, new water hoses fitted, clutch cleaned, ignitions coils moved and re-wired, new parts machined for suspension pivots, new discs fitted etc. etc.... We're into the final stages now of sorting the new exhaust system and checking the last bits. Testing is booked for April 5th and Loton hopefully on April 8/9th. Just cross your fingers that there are no problems to sort in between those two dates! The OMS is now also looking good. The gearbox has been welded beautifully by SDW, the engine frame too. Nice new bobbins have been bonded into the tub and the final re-fit is underway. Again, their focus is testing on April 5th. I took a moody picture of the garage when the Pilbeam was apart - see the Gallery.
30th December 2006. Well, for the past few months life has been rather hectic (it never really seems to be anything else!). A small matter of our wedding and honeymoon and a mammoth amount of work on Mercury 3! Having booked it for a rolling road session, (October 8th) a chat with the very helpful chap at Race-Shack and it was deemed necessary to stop the clutch slip before we did the rolling road. Mercury 3 has had a problem with clutch slip and judder for a while. This is partly due to the full-race solid-centred clutch it runs - which was fitted as it ate three sprung-centred clutches in quick succession. Its hunger for sprung clutches was diagnosed as being due to a misaligned engine and gearbox and the solid centre was a stop-gap. So, the time had finally come to strip it all apart and re-align the engine and gearbox, allowing me to return to a sprung clutch. On removing the gearbox I found the nose of the input shaft had fractured off - a clean fatigue induced break - another symptom of the misalignment. On measuring I found the misalignment was 40 thou but the concentricity was out by 50 thou. I cut the bellhousing (an item fabricated by grandfather to join the Chevy to a Jag box) around the gearbox mounting flange and built a huge rig to hold it (see Gallery). A couple of false starts and some swearing and I had the misalignment down to 5 thou and concentricity down to 5 thou also. Tacked it together and stripped it apart for careful and slow welding to prevent distortion. I stripped the gearbox and had the shaft repaired. All back together and my worst fears were realised - the gearbox no longer aligns with its chassis mount. Mercury 3 is unusual in that the engine and gearbox are mounted solidly - the engine uses the standard two plates at the front and the gearbox mount at the back - but four bolt positions were added around the bellhousing by grandfather. They massively stiffen the chassis, but aligning the engine/box had shifted the rear of the box enough that it wouldn't align with the chassis any more. Ho hum! Off we go with a bit more hacking and welding. However, this has been put on hold pending rebuild and preparation of the MP72 for the 2007 season. We need to have the gearbox rebuilt, clean the clutch and apply a few go faster/reliability modifications. Details to appear here as I go along! Meanwhile……. The OMS is in my garage undergoing its winter rebuild too!
16/17 September 2006. Harewood: This was meant to be a relaxing end of season finale for the Tomlins, Talbots and Jenkins' (driving Pilbeam, Sunbeam and OMS). Both were one day events with me in the Sunbeam on saturday and Elle driving it for her only event of the season on the sunday. Amy and Morgan were planning two full days giving the OMS a beating. The Sunbeam and I had a great saturday. It seems that the new tyres haven't calmed its lunatic oversteer tendencies and I had a great time pretending to be a rally driver! Slightly improved to 72.56 and found I was 9th out of 16; which was a good effort for a 1600 in the up to 2 litre class. Poor thing, it took an absolute beating, but it was so much fun and it lasted for Elle on the sunday. Mother in the Pilbeam was going well, though she wasn't enjoying my gear choices, but she did end up with 3rd FTD. Amy and Morgan weren't having so much luck. Sadly the new chain stretched almost immediately, then it chipped teeth off the front sprocket and finally a crack appeared in the gearbox casing. General thoughts are that the clutch is way way too savage and is putting a massive instantaneous load into the drive system. Sadly a whole raft of winter mods had appeared and they were out for the sunday. Or so they thought until Dave Grey offered Morgan a drive in his lovely OMS and Amy decided to accept the glamorous offer of a shared drive with Elle in the Sunbeam!!! For sunday I offered to take on the role of mechanic, trolley dolly and sounding post! Amy and Elle had a cracking laugh in the Sunbeam; Elle knocking an incredible 4 seconds off her PB and Amy persuading us not to sell it as it was indeed a hoot! Morgan found out what a nice stiff chassis can do for a car's handling while Mother went fault finding in the Pilbeam and ended up with a mis-fire. We changed the amps, but still couldn't trace it until we swapped the coils and the cold cylinders followed the duff coil. Having hunted everywhere for a spare one, our last resort was to put an announcement out over the tannoy and sure enough, our prayers were answered. We removed the coil from a fellow competitor's Westfield which had rolled earlier in the day and the Pilbeam was off again - for 3rd FTD!! We were all pretty chuffed by the end of the day, although all bar the Sunbeam have a large number of winter mods to carry out.
3rd September 2006. Prescott: Prescott is by far my favourite track. I really enjoy its highly technical nature. You know when you've got it right - it feels like you've put everything together in the right order. Practice was damp. It was raining hard on saturday morning and the track was soaked. We both did some gentle practice runs, trying to feel the grip which wasn't too bad. For second practice I leant on it a bit harder to see what it would be like if it was wet on Sunday - still felt good. Nice and predictable and good fun. For the third practice run the bottom half of the hill was dry, with it being nice and damp under the trees. I checked the times at the end of practice - crikey, I was 6th quickest! No idea how that had happened - but hopeful for Sunday. It rained early on Sunday morning, but come the first runs it was mostly dry. I had wanted to try using one gear for most of the hill, except Pardon. Hard into Ettores on the first run and the back end started to shift - it felt dusty at one particular point in the corner. And using one gear turned out to be a bad move as it didn't want to pull out of the corner cleanly. Clipped the throttle pedal under braking mid-Esses, a bit too scary. Somehow I qualified 8th. In the runoff I knew what I needed to do; stick with the usual gearing, double brake for Ettores, shifting down mid-corner. On the run it was quick through Orchard, shifting mid-corner at Ettores unsettled the back and lined me up perfectly for the exit! Pardon was good, but into the Esses it slid a little, but quick out and a 38.56 - finally an new Personal Best at Prescott. Its taken me two years to beat the time I did in the MP58 (38.89). And to cap it all I ended up 6th in the runoff - I think its an all time best for me. In the afternoon I qualified 10th - but the grip seemed to have gone out of the tyres. I was pretty chuffed to qualify in a 38 again and managed to do a 38.7 - but sadly everyone else had woken up and put me back into 10th position where I belonged! Mother did well to get near her ladies record, but couldn't quite beat it (3/10ths off it). My last event in the MP72 and I've managed to complete my major objective - get to the end of the season with the car in one piece!! Only one spin at Prescott earlier in the year and a car thats much much quicker than it was and far more driveable. So am chuffed with the work we have done. Lots of mods planned for the winter - watch this space!!
27th August 2006. Gurston. Another challenging and exciting weekend of hillclimbing! Last year I got an 8th and then withdrew with oil problems. This year I was hoping for more of the same; point scoring but reliably with the new oil system. Gurston poses particular challenges to the breathing system on the engine as its one of the few tracks where we experience high rpm, light throttle for an extended period. Practice threw up a mis-fire which was eventually traced to dirty plugs. We also suffered major front lock-ups into Karousel, much like Triangle at Loton, so wound some brake bias to the rear. We were both close to our PBs on our oldest tyres (about a year old I think!). It all looked good for Sunday. Sunday practice on the middle set (only 4 months old) and we were both closer to our PBs. For the first timed run I persuaded mother to stay on this set to give her the best chance of going quicker. Although we had a set which were only 3 weeks old, they usually want a run to wake them up for the weekend. She stormed off down the hill and came up with a new ladies record, a quarter of a second quicker than she had been before! Then it was my go and I squeaked into the 27s (27.7 I think), about a quarter of a second off my PB (a 27.50). That only got me into the runoff in 11th position. We fitted the best set of tyres, thinking that they would be OK and we would go better with them in the afternoon. I managed a 27.57 in the runoff which I was pretty chuffed with. Then I watched everyone else come up the hill. 27.54 for Deryk, 27.49 for Jos, 27.48 for Basil, 27.52 for Chris!!!!!! Five of us covered by 9/100ths of a second!!!!! If I could have gone 1/10th quicker I would have been in 7th! As it was I ended up 11th and no points for me!!! We had a look at the data over lunch and I was stunned to discover that I was a full 10mph faster after Hollow than I had been last year - the stability and confidence on the car was almost entirely down to the new undertray and suspension. I lost most of my time from Karousel to Ashes and leaving Ashes. Mother needed to be back on the throttle harder after Hollow. She was pretty fired up for a 28 second run as she headed off for her second timed run. Her fastest speed into Hollow at 128mph, lovely and stable through it and disappeared from my view looking good. Then red flags! It seems that she ran wide through the small left kink before the braking area, pushing her onto the grass and losing the track to slow the car down. She continued down the escape road, bending the front wing and damaging the undertray - AGAIN! When she returned to the paddock, although it all looked OK, the adhesive on the mounts had failed and the wing was bent underneath. It might have been alright for my run, but I didn't want to find out at 140mph that the rivets weren't strong enough. I had to withdraw from the second timed run. Unusually for me I took my frustration out on the front tyre! 12 months after withdrawing from the afternoon runs at Gurston, I was doing the same thing. I'm going to spend some of the winter modifying the nose box to make the mounting points stronger and the wing adaptor plates weaker (in shear). That should mean I'm more likely to be able to take a run if this situation arises again.
13th August 2006: Loton. We both arrived late at Loton, meaning that the ratio change would have to happen on saturday morning. Up at 6.30 to find that some were already cleaning and polishing their cars!! Last time at Loton, my mother had forgotten to bring the correct ratios!! Meaning that we didn't have what were meant to be the right gears. Somehow, the ones she had brought turned out to be spot on!! So we put them in and got ready for practice. First run I pushed it rather hard and it was messing us around. Oversteer through loggerheads and out of Fallow. My notebook is full of changes which I can't remember in order right now! Something like tyre pressures, bump stops, dampers, gurney flaps, wings - but not necessarily in that order. We had a go at them all during the day. Saturday night I changed the springs, just to be sure I had had a go at everything! Big big thanks have to go to Jos and Barry Goodyear, firstly for providing my mother with ice in her moment of need (vodka)! And secondly for their help and advice. Their car is rather similar to ours and they have solved many of the same niggles. Jos and I had a mumble about doing a 47, but for me with a load of mid-48s (and hard charging ones at that) it didn't feel possible. We bought a set of new tyres on Saturday, ready for Sunday - with thanks to the credit card for that one! We did the first timed runs on the tyres we had practiced on. Mother locked up into Triangle and lost the engine so failed to record a time. The braking technique with the new undertray is much different to before, plus we hadn't quite got the aero-balance right. I did another mid-48 and got into the Top12. Changed something (again can't remember what!) and did another mid-48 and finished about 7th. We put the new tryes on for the afternoon. Which rather upset mother's run as they could have done with a run to bed in. I got up in a mid-48 again. Another of my many phone-calls to Pilbeam Mick and we change the roll-bar - it wouldn't solve the loose rear, but it might calm the front down. I qualified 4th for the Top12, so watched a few go up. Mother is watching and Jos does a 47.3 - crikey!! Thats storming, he must be over the moon with that. I'm dead pleased for him and am really not sure I can match it. It gave me a boost, because I knew the track was good and I could perhaps squeak a 47? Off the line and control the wheel-spin well and am hard on it into the first corner - manage not to hit the bank on the inside this time. And for the first time in the whole weekend I ease the throttle on and avoid wheel-spin in first. Change to second is smooth and I string together Loggerheads in a lovely flow, hadn't done that before! Hard hard hard into Triangle, get the braking right, bit of understeer on the exit (that'll be the rollbar). And again, I ease the throttle on and avoid wheel-spin. Keepers is again completed in such a smooth manner and I get a great slingshot onto Cedar straight. With more and more confidence in the new undertray and suspension I nail the throttle in second, into the kink and I loose about a foot of track position as it understeers, have to lift and the data shows about 10mph is lost. Back on it as late as I dare into Fallow, get great track position to the right and chuck it in. Fly into Musem hard and it turns in well, catch the inevitable slide and drift it out. Snatch top gear and nail the throttle - too hard and the tyres are alight as I'm about to turn left, lift the foot, turn and re-apply. Over the line and the dash says 47.4. No way. I may well have just done a 47. Am whooping to myself inside my helmet as I get to the holding area. And there's Jos, huge grin, bounding towards me as I get out. I think I got to slap him on the back first for doing a 47, then he tells me I've done a 47.2!!!!!!! Moment of the season for me. Not just for doing that time, but for sharing the same buzz with someone else. Totally awesome. God I love hillclimbing (though I was ready to give up on saturday night!!!) Ended up 4th in the runoff - though it was only a Midland round. Looking back at the results of the National I would have been 6th or 7th - though that day was horribly hot. Thats a new PB, 9/10ths quicker than the last one!
30th July 2006: Wiscombe. Rather a tough weekend and a mammoth effort for two points. The car had been back to Pilbeam after Harewood for some new shiny carbon bits. It looked great but its first outing was Wiscombe. After a late start from work on friday and a late arrival, I left the checking until Saturday morning. Not quite up early enough and everyone is already getting ready in the "paddock". Change tyres, bodywork off, check things, rectify a couple of things and we're just about ready in time. First run is tentative - neither of us are sure how its going to behave. Seemed to suffer high-speed and low-speed understeer. Then it rained. In classic Wiscombe style! It was coming sideways and we were rather glad of the new E-Z-Up. So we did a wet-ish run. Then it dried-ish so we had a dry-ish third practice run. Dry before the gate and a greasy green goo after the gate. We had removed the front droop stops which cured the low-speed understeer. Then it started lashing it down again and in our attempts to participate in the Woolbridge MC's BBQ, our chips got wet! Sunday dawned brighter, drier before the gate, but lovely and greasy after it. Changed the ratios (first time with new diffuser on) and tyres. First practice was OK. Hadn't done anything about the high-speed understeer so we were running a little wide after the leap. But still so slippy under the trees. Yours truly was totally phased by the new parts on the car. I was driving far too cautiously through the esses and losing a lot of time - but I just wasn't sure how it would behave if I got it sideways at high speed. Added more front wing which reduced the high-speed understeer. First timed run I miss the cut for the Top12 and am 14th. Second timed run is better - I was having a strop!! I used more power through the Esses, pushing it hard and finding that it still behaved itself well when on the limit. Got into the Top12 in 10th place and went a little quicker. Fortunately for me, Deano had a moment at Sawbench and I ended up 9th with two points.
2nd Jul 2006: Harewood. I had a plan for Harewood: 1. Qualify twice. 2. Capitalise on this by finishing in about 7th, 8th or 9th position. It all seemed entirely possible in the week before-hand. But this is motor-racing and I had failed to tell the car the script! To be entirely honest, I can't quite remember how this weekend went. It was almost all a blur. From the heat, to the mis-firing car, to the tyre changes, to the overheated tyres. How can I complain about four practice runs? But for me it was just a little too hectic. It was made worse by the car failing to run properly on saturday's first startup. Seat out and head into wiring - I came up with a loose earth. Replaced and off we went. Startup for practice 2 - misfiring badly. Sprint to camper and collect spare amplifier. Definitely front and rear cylinders on RH bank. Amplifiers are numbered, but how are cylinders numbered? Replace first one on RH - still misfires. Swap for second one - thats better. Off we go. Sunday was hot. Mother is off and sets a new ladies record. Thats four (Prescott, Loton, Gurston and now Harewood)!!! I get in and go down to the line - start it up and misfires. Nooooooo. Quick panic and the super helpful marshals appear with some allen keys. Seat back off. Redo the earth. Off up the hill and I'm halfway up before it starts misfiring again. And then it dawns on me in a moment of clarity!!!...... The misfire at Prescott and the misfire at Harewood have all been down to the same thing. The amplifier for cylinders 5 and 8 has been breaking down due to the heat, but every time I remove the seat for a look and poke the wiring, it cools down and works for a bit. Then it gets hot and stops again. Plus to cap it all, when I was swapping the amps around I wasn't allowing the engine to clear on re-starting, so I have replaced the wrong one!!! Seat back off again. Two heroes arrive in the form of JV and Andy Cooke with his Motec manual. We decipher the cylinder numbering and rejig the amplifiers (my beer IOU is growing!). Off we go again and its going well. Well almost. Mother has a spin in her eagerness to beat me and I decide the tyres are too old! But neither of us has the funds for a new set just yet (do I ever!!!??). Qualify for the runoff and finish 10th. I had set a new PB in practice, driving like a demon and feeling it was all well within my capabilities. Yet pushing hard on the Sunday I can't do the same thing - its strange this hillclimbing lark! Plus, we must change the ratios for next time - I was hard on the limiter down the hill into the Esses, up the hill into Orchard and Quarry.
25th June 2006: Prescott. A round of the Midland championship. Practice was looking good. I seemed to be about 4th quickest up the hill. Not bad! The car was now awesome through the first corner - predictable and so so chuckable. The track was a little patchy and the grip dropped off quickly in places. There were quite a few big accidents, which makes me apprehensive and slows me down a bit. But qualified well and ended up 5th in the first runoff. Sadly for the final run the engine started coughing about halfway up so I lifted off and coasted to the top. Diagnosis was a flat battery and we found that a wire on the alternator had broken, preventing it charging the battery. 3rd in the class at the end of the day was pretty pleasing.
11th June 2006: Loton. First time for me back in the car after the setup and rebuilt dampers. First practice feels promising and car feels stable. Second practice - Oh god, here we go again. Back end all over the shop, catching it and taking lines that allow for the oversteer. This is frustrating after 12 months of tweaks. Have a good look and a think. I now know a myriad of things that it isn't. There's only one thing left and I wind a couple of turns up on the damper seats. Next run - totally transformed. This is the car I knew it could be. Its predictable and smooth. I can feel the grip dropping away due to the track and due to the tyres. No longer is the feedback random - its a dream to drive. First timed run for mother is excellent and she sets a new ladies record. First run for me is good and puts me in the runoff. Hey presto I set a new PB and end up 8th. Thats more like it! For the afternoon I had a plan. The heat of the day was killing the tyres so I decided to qualify and leave the all-out banzai run for the runoff. Thats the last time I do that as I failed to qualify by 7/100ths! Beaten by the storming Tim Wilson!
4th June 2006: Shelsley Walsh. Dampers were rebuilt the week before and it was noted that they weren't right and would "sit down and sit down and suddenly shift causing the car to let go". Mmmm. Thats only too familiar. So, all fitted back together late friday night and off to Shelsley for practice. Again, it was Mother only driving the car - her car, her favourite track so she has it to herself. I concentrate on being the good mechanic - I can spend more time on her data and help her to go faster. Frankly I hate Shelsley, I get fed up of the garages, the distance from trailer to car, the pushing, the fumes, the small space. No doubting the history of the place but lets look to the future a bit more and also maybe recognise that there are other tracks and that there is far more strength in numbers. Anyway, I feel better now so back to the "News"! Practice showed the car to be behaving better, but then it never really showed its problems at Shelsley. We had a look at the data on Saturday night and picked a few places where time could be found. Newer tyres on for Sunday, a taller (143mph) top gear and a bit of driver coaching from me! Off she goes, tyres on fire and a 1.93 start. I can't see any more after that from the start but the data showed her leaning harder on the car. 26.86 seconds!!! Mother's first 26 second run and under the ladies record (26.93) .......... as it stood at the beginning of the day. However, Sue Young had already been up and done 26.27. CRIKEY! That'll be hard to match. We know that Chris Merrick did a 26.10 in our car, which means we need some serious driver coaching for next time!! However, the 26.86 qualified her 11th for the Top12 runoff!!! That was the best bit of the day for me. The first time she has qualified and rather a turn around as it was now me saying "just do the same again and hope two people fall off!". A bit faster into Kennel prompted understeer and a slower exit - at Shelsley that kills the whole run and it can't be recovered so a little slower. Final run saw a respectable 27 and 1/10th outside the runoff. What a weekend!!!
28th May 2006: Gurston Down. Again I was other-wise engaged at a friend's 30th, go-karting in the pouring rain and drinking too much (not at the same time!). Mother was on her own and the team (Father this time) were struggling with the O-ring that had blown at Prescott. More leaks coming from it and trouble sealing them late into Saturday night. Dire diagnoses of the Pre-Heater which turned out to be air-locks in the car and an over eager expansion cap. Mods planned soon with new header tank without expansion cap and proper piping to remove air.
25th May 2006: Had the car setup by an ex-hillclimb champion!! (who doesn't do car setups, but I nagged him!). He managed to remove a lot of the rear bump steer. Sorted the front bump steer. Got the corner weights right and spied a few things to renew and check more regularly. However, he did notice that the dampers were behaving strangely - being sticky and moving differently to each other. Advice was to rebuild them asap. There are a few more things to check, but first its the dampers.
13/14th May 2006: Mother was at Harewood competing on her own as I attended a wedding in monsoon struck Gloucestershire! By all accounts the weather wasn't much better at Harewood. However, we already knew that wet conditions suited the car and sure enough, she managed to set FTD on the saturday!!! Stunning performance especially when up against the local specialists in their OMSs and Jon Waggitt in his Reynard. Nice glass award for her efforts. Sunday the National lot turned and sadly they're rather fast so FTD wasn't on the cards again! Team TJ were out in their OMS for the first time. It won't take them long to get used to slicks and wings and no doubt crave more power!
8th May 2006: An interesting weekend at Prescott. It started with an oil leak from the gearbox - which though simple to sort took a while to get to. After its winter rest, the track was rather low-grip for practice. A bit of slipping and sliding and some over-use of the loud pedal from me! The dry practice runs were enjoyable, but not terribly fast and for the third practice it rained and I was on slicks. That was fun! Spanner check on Sunday morning found a stripped thread on the rear suspension - fairly easy to sort but not what I needed to do first thing in the morning. First run was somewhat hairy!! Oversteer through Orchard, out of Ettores and out of Pardon. I'm blaming the low grip at the rear that we have suffered with for a while! To be honest, I was over-driving it to compensate for the lack of rear end grip. Somehow squeaked into the runoff as 12th qualifier. Off the line like a lunatic for the runoff, oversteer through Orchard, oversteer out of Pardon, but didn't control it well enough and still had the tyres alight through the kink at Jackie's Gate. Flung it into the Esses - started losing the back end through the first left hander, back into line a bit for the right hander but didn't scrub off enough speed and turned into the final left hander and spun. I think I got the braking right and slid it down the track sideways, thereby avoiding the barrier - or it was entirely luck!! I was six inches off the Armco when I came to rest. Killed the engine as it was too hot. BUT - then the antifreeze started coming out. Back in the paddock we found an O-ring blown out of the radiator-to-pump joint on the right hand side and fluid all over the back of the car. It had obviously gone somewhere on the hill before I spun. I think this contributed to the spin - I don't think it was the cause as I was driving it very hard - but it just tipped the grip level over the edge. I don't spin - my budget doesn't allow for repairing it! We spent lunchtime sorting the O-ring (which was great fun for Jon and I as the water was still at about 70 degrees!) and got it back together for the afternoon. And then everyone else started spinning! They were off everywhere so I backed off a lot for the final run as I wanted a car in one piece. With all the spins, my slow run put me only 4/100ths outside the runoff! So close. Thanks to JV for the effort - I owe you a lot of beer!
23rd April 2006: News Hot off the Press................ Team TJ (Tomlin-Jenkins) buys OMS CF96 with 1200 Blackbird engine. A perfect step from Raymond, the Formula Ford. Look for pictures here soon.
20th April 2006: Curborough test day. Pre-heater did its stuff, engine burst into life and off we went. Sadly, it was raining but not enough to warrant wet tyres, so we slid around on slicks. It handled wonderfully, but then it does in the wet, we just can't sort it in the dry. Foot hard down in third and I had forgotten just how fast this thing is!! Can't wait for Prescott now, just want to flat it in the dry and sling it round the corners.
14th April 2006: Crikey that took a long time! But happy daze last night when I succeeded in heating up a sink full of water. Simple but satisfying. It belched a bit of smoke and made a jet engine type of noise, but was rather effective. Have now ordered a silencer as it really was noisy. Off to fit it all up this weekend and hopefully start the car. Mercury 3 now sorted and ready for a trip up the road.
15th March 2006: Breather on both cars now sorted. Dry-breaks for pre-heater have been welded in to place. Heater itself has arrived so am packaging a fuel tank, header tank, battery and pumps into a nice small box using my own 'unique' skills of construction!
28th February 2006: MP72 all fitted up with new tank and most pipes. Breather system to finalise and have threads welded. Mercury 3's breather system coming together. Got our test day sorted and a few friends joining in. Need to start on the engine pre-heater next, when they finally send my Eberspacher unit through!! Far too many orders for parts being placed around the UK at the moment. Credit card is groaning under the weight of pre- season preparations!!
7th February 2006: MP72 oil tank design now finalised, with all new de-aerating section from AH Fabrications and very useful information from Judd. Hopefully ready in 10 days. Mercury 3's oil breather system now finalised too! (Is that all I do, oil systems??!) Nice new breather pipes and fittings from Think Automotive. And a new crash hat sorted out from Demon Tweeks. Comfy and not too modern looking Bell RS3 Sport so I can drive Mercury 3 without looking too odd. So poor now!
2nd January 2006: Spent the christmas period refitting the Judd and sorting the modified scavenge and breather systems. Tried to weld aluminium with a MIG kit and failed! Taking the parts to my local friendly welder instead. Got a glorious pair of period Cal Custom rocker covers for Mercury 3 - what a find by my sister! See the gallery.
11th December 2005: New website launched. Mercury 3 all in one piece pending rolling road. Sunbeam in one piece pending its next beating! MP72 in lots of little bits for its winter rebuild. Carbon tubbed F3 car wanted with Vauxhall engine for ~£10k!