----------------------------------------- Thought i'd share this with you guys -----------------------------------------
Well, it was very tempting to just forget about my Powernights experience but, as I have some interesting and hopefully entertaining video from it, and it will be televised at some stage I figured I'd better post about it.
From Hero in last years race (winning it) to zero in this years (finished dead last, at least 5 secs off the pace) it was not a great day. It started badly, wet first test session, got 2 laps in my usual rent-a-drive car before a red flag, didn't go out again. Next session was dry(ish) and got 3-4 laps this time before the red flag, that was it. Car all sorted and adjusted I went out for the totally dry 3rd test session, did 3-4 laps and heard a rattle from the engine at Becketts, seemed to go on the straight but back and worse by Luffield but just too far round to drive straight to the pits so had to do another, very slow lap back, noise now really bad. Basically the engine had let go, probably bottom end, a very rare problem with the MX5 engine. The upshot was that the car would go no further and that looked like the end of my day.
There "was" another MX5 in the garage. Keystone (who I rent from) had been given a car to strip and prep for racing. All the suspension components has been attached but nothing setup and no work to the engine as the car belonged to a Mazda dealership who had guys in-house to do all that. A director of the dealership was due to race in the evening and they were going to pick the car up from Silverstone and take it back with them. I had already been told all this, and that the engine, being totally standard, would be down on power, that no geo setup had been done and couldn't be done that day and the clutch was slipping slightly. Ever up for a challenge and not really wanting to sit out for the rest of the day they spoke to the dealer who agreed I could race the car.
We had very little time, about 20 mins or so. We had to swap a few things over, steering wheel and a few other bits. wheels and tyres etc. but it was ready to go for quali. It had started to rain before quali so the track was pretty slippy but through the first few corners I could tell something was not quite right. Car was very unstable and inconsistent, particular under power. The clucth was indeed slipping so had to be pretty careful when adding power after an upchange. I was also getting problems under braking and could actually hear a knocking which I thought was the front left. As the session was only 12 minutes I just carried on but by the time I came back in the pits it was very loud (apparently I was just about to be black flagged as marshals could hear it on track). It turned out to be a sheared rear left brake caliper which was just flailing around. I was quite pleased as it was an easy fix and was probably the main cause of my handling problems. They also checked ride heights and such which were way off, we didn't have scales to corner weight or equipment to setup the geo, plus we had very little time anyway.
I'd qualified 11th .. ok, so there were only 13 cars in the race but at least I wasn't dead last. Race 1 was dry and the car felt a bit better, still very twitchy and unpredictable in the corners but seemingly getting good traction out and, although my slipping clutch dropped me well back at the start I did catch a few guys and had a decent battle, finishing 9th. Not something to shout about but it was only 2 places behind Paul o'Neil, ex BTCC driver and race winner, British GT & Carrera Cup racer who was also struggling a little to adapt to the MX5s.
Race 2 was a reverse grid so I'm starting 4th. I fully expected to lose a few places off the start and had even told Paul o'Neil, who was starting directly behind me, to be careful as I wouldn't get away well. I decided to short shift off the grid and as it turned out I got a great start, actually leading into Turn 1 and for the first half lap. Car was awful though, felt even worse than in quali and I was going backwards as just couldn't read what the car would do next. Had a huge full-lock oversteer moment going into Brooklands that I didn't think I would hold but managed it (at 3:00 in the video, worth watching). Woodcote was very scary,even on half throttle I was having to catch slides (at around 80mph) whilst others just breezed past. I probably would have been a bit quicker had I taken some of the extreme wet lines that others were taking but i'm normally very good in the wet and can usually balance the car well enough to drive quickly, and mostly quicker, on just a slightly modified dry line.
I think having had testing and racing all day and evening, with so much variety of lines and rubber, that even the usual wet lines had lots of rubber down, only by going right to the edge of the track could you find some reasonable grip. I would never have been able to run at the speed of the other cars though and a slide out there may have put me off the track. As it turned out I was a good 5 seconds off the midfield pace and almost 7 secs from the leaders, and finished dead last (apart from the DNFs).
Anyway, it will probably be good entertainment and I was doing SO badly and was so sideways at time, I might even get more TV coverage. The onboard was certainly interesting and I've posted it on YouTube (see below). I've posted the whole race, just cutting out the back straight on the later laps (about the only place the car was sliding around). Camera was a bit blurry at first but clears up a bit later.
Your mirror got a real workout those first few laps! Tough day, but way to keep pushing! I race that configuration in TOCA RD3 all the time and would love to take my Spec Miata out there some day, it looks like great fun!
Car #: 08
Year : 95 Posts: 644
quote:Originally posted by Alan Olson: Plan a trip and rent one. May take a while to get used to the RHD though....
Actually the whole driving on the "wrong" side is not hard at all in a race car. On the street i've found to be another adventure altogether. Many many years ago I spent some time in New Zealand racing in a saloon series and I adapted quite well to shifting with the wrong arm, but driving on the roads was soooooo difficult. When I go to the UK now I just get a taxi. Its too difficult to try and remember which side of the road to drive on when it comes to an intersection...