Wednesday, 9 May 2012

160 - DONE!

I think this will be the last 160 for the 360 post - because we only ruddy well did it! Yes, we took a £160 car to Snetterton and raced it for six hours, bringing it home 12th out of 20 entrants. Woo hoo!

The weekend wasn't without its trauma...during the week before I'd been struggling to get a new wishbone, but Karl from the 924 Forum ( said he had one of the parts that provided the answer, so I set off full of confidence. We were towing with the ZS because the van that was arranged fell through, and the idea was to toddle up there slowly. It still towed at a steady 70mph!

Arrived late Friday and unloaded, and the thing bit me again. Literally, as I got the straps off I cut myself and managed to fracture a brake pipe, so dripping blood and in the dark I had to flare the end all over again and give it a quick bleed.

Karl arrived Saturday morning, and immediately diagnosed my wishbone woes. Apparently it isn't a 1980 like I thought, it's much earlier and has Turbo ARB and wishbones. And no one had a spare. So as I went to drivers briefing I left him and Terry removing the drop link.

After this, things get a little hazy...i just cannot remember everything we (I say we, but mostly Karl) had to do, so apologies to him if I miss something that he worked hard on, or get them out of order. However, there seemed to be a huge workload. Practice on Saturday was due to be one 75 minute session, but due to a red flag ended up split into two which was brilliant for us as it gave us time to work on some solutions. First practice proved we were the slowest car out there, with the car running roughly and during the 75 minutes of running plus the lunch break we:

  • Manufactured and fitted a replacement roll bar mount on the new wishbone
  • Set the tracking thanks to Absolute Alignment's fantastic electronic alignment equipment (one of the co drivers runs it, please visit his web site 
  • Reset the camber
  • Adjusted the rear brakes
  • Constantly fiddled with things to cure the kangaroo juice that the car appeared to have swallowed. It started after about 20 minutes driving and got worse, but when the car cooled down again it was perfect. Changed as many leads as we could, to no avail
After practice we pulled the plugs and they were weak colour and oily. We put the air filter back in. We switched them to 8s from 6s and it ran much more smoothly. Reset the timing to give more advance, huge improvement. Changed the front pads to new Carbon Lorraines ready for the race, and went back to the hotel confident we were ready.

Race morning practice. I don't think we had many problems, but just a few. Still, I put in a time EIGHT SECONDS quicker than the day before and it felt like it was flying. Still more time to come from me, I don't know the 360 circuit that well yet. I'm sure we fiddled with something meaning one driver didn't get out to try and set a quicker time, but I was guardedly optimistic that if we could lap at this pace we'd not disgrace ourselves. Some way off Smithy, and miles behind the Tango 924, but I wasn't driving particularly hard and the time was coming to me.

After the pre-race preliminaries, we were last on the grid for the rolling start but Chris soon dispensed with one car and was hunting Smithy down when he put it sideways, the revs went sky high and it lapsed onto 3 cylinders. Straight in the pits for the first of many stops. We found a problem, going over the kerbs he rattled the earth lead in the battery box loose. But there may have been another problem, of whoch more later. Shove Steve in the car, off he went again. A couple more stops to properly sort that, including using the shirt off my back to jam the battery in place (!) and it's back to Chris. But there's a problem...oil pouring out of the air filter, and the scrutineer won't allow it on track until sorted. I'm using the standard re-circulating breather system, and it's pressurising and dumping oil into the filter box which is then landing on the track. Scrutineer advises us to give up as the engine is clearly knackered but I'm too stubborn for that and send him away with a flea in his ear. Karl rigs up a breather catch tank to collect the spilt oil to the satisfaction of the scrutineer, and we send Chris on his way.

Chris sticks strictly to 4000rpm at first, gradually increasing as he gets into a dice with a BMW but not exceeding 4500. Riches in 5th gear isn't much slower than in third, and huge fun! He comes in when it kangaroos again, seems short of fuel. Top up, put Billy on board and check how much oil has been dumped out, intending to pour it back in the engine (at thirty quid a gallon I'm not wasting it!). None used! Give Billy strict rev instructions and he's on his way.

Uneventful stint for Billy, he comes in when it kangaroos, we top up and I get a go at last. Four hours in, we may even make it! Our strategy is until it cries enough, come in, let it have a rest and send it on it's way again. And at these revs it's not using oil.

I spent some time behind the safety car, at the head of the queue. I had to drive round in third to keep the revs high enough for the oil pressure to register on the gauge, and when the SC pulled off I tried the full Vettel stuff - drop back, floor it in the final corner, get the jump on the rest....I barely led over the start line, let alone into turn 1! had a bit of a dice with MGD, kept him at bay for a lap and shut the door on him coming over the start line which was a bit of fun, but we've no acceleration keeping the revs down.

Three uneventful stints to the finish, I insisted on taking the chequer. As I got in I heard the commentator, the great John Hindhaugh of Radio Le Mans fame saying that if we pass the Mustang five times we are up into twelfth. Fat chance I thought, but the first time through Hamilton I saw that the Mustang was actually parked up at the side of the road so it was do-able. A bit of a dice with Mike in the MGD car - I made him work hard to catch me, let him past, then made him work hard to pull away - and I use the dizzy heights of 5000rpm to the finish. When Alex hangs out the P12 I roll the speed down and tick off the time. I'm going so slowly I've got time to peel down my glove and look at my watch, wave to the photographers etc etc. I can't see a lot for the last couple of laps, my glasses were steaming up and I'm too proud to say what was causing the moisture...

And then it's all over. Everyone going mad on the pit wall, and I'm pulling back into the garage and switching the engine off. Unbelievable. We brought a £160 car fit for the scrap yard to Snetterton and raced it for six hours, got it to the finish, and it was going as well as at the start. Which to be fair wasn't that well!

What caused the car to dump its oil out of the breather? I don't know. Did Chris buzz the engine when he half spun? Was it just concentrated use of too high revs? Or could it be something causing the air box to suck oil out of the breather? It's a thought, the car was running very lean, and the kangaroo juice did feel like a car does when it's cold and I've got no choke. Could they be linked?

Got the car home today and it won't start! Ah well, that's for the future, today I've closed the book on Project 160 for the 360, JOB DONE!

Now, although this blog is coming to an end, there's the little matter of my enthusiasm for racing having been fired up again! Can't play the £160 card next time, although the commentators loved it on the day, even trying to undercut me, bidding for one on eBay live on air! There's talk of a 2 hour race on the Brands GP in September...can't wait!