July 2017

25Jul

The rear wing supports have been cut to size, using some spare composite advertising board to help make the adjustment process quicker, and I've ordered some 4mm 6082T2 aluminium sheet to transfer the dimensions on to. The wing will be at the maximum 900mm height. Or rather, the tallest point of the end plates will be no higher than 900mm. Simon Mcbeath has given me some more advice on fitting both wings, and a few other pointers regarding the extended floor and the fitment of skirts to seal the floor.

Here is the video I compiled from the Gurston Down visit at the weekend.

24Jul

Gurston (Nr Salisbury) was a long drive from Leicester, and it rained a lot travelling down, (and even more on the way home,) but I managed to bump in to a few friends, and met ITV4's Paul O'Neil (Ex-BTCC racer and current BTCC presenter), who was sharing Mark Alley's Formula Ford 1600. I also spoke to Simon McBeath about the wings, and where to hang the DJ SM183 rear wing on my car. Jo White was also there from Vulcan Designs, and Paul Morcom, David West, Simon Boulter, in fact, it wasn't dissimilar to some of the events I've been to already this year with all the familiar faces. The conclusion seemed to be to place the wing at the drivers shoulder height, and the same distance behind the rear wheels that the front wing is ahead of the front wheels. So I'll cut some brackets out of advertising board, and we'll see how it looks.

Gurston is a very short hillclimb, a good run will see you across the finish line in around 30seconds, but the rain hampered most people's attempts. The first wet timed runs on Sunday were over before lunch, and at 1:30pm competition resumed, and with the sun out and a drying track, a lot of red flags were waived after car after car span or slid off the slippery but drying tarmac, as bravery replaced modesty. We finally got to see Jason Mourant in his 4000cc Gould GR55, rocket off the line, then have a small slide, but he resumed to post an impressive time. Graham Wynn was also present, again, another Gould GR55, albeit a 3500T this time. Still, its the Goulds that seem to be the ones to catch, in the Midland HillClimb championship, with the Calders and John Graham having the quickest cars in the British Sprint Championship. Certainly something to aim for once my wings are setup.

I took plenty of pictures and videos, and these are available to see on my Instagram feed, and at the following Google album

21Jul

36 days to Knockhill

I've collected my wings from DJ, and they're absolutely beautiful, and well worth the wait. The wings are far lighter than what's already on the car, (4kg front and 4kg rear) and I'll start fitting them next week. The rear Mygale wing is 6.2kg so replacing it with the DJ has already saved me 2.2kg off the weight of the car. This weekend we're off to watch the Midland HillClimb round at Gurston Down, where I can catch up with a few friends and make a few new ones too I hope. DJ front and rear wings

16Jul

41 days to Knockhill

Lots of time for analysis of the performance of myself and the sister car at Blyton. Pete beat me on both days, and I'm trying to work out how. Having his data is making the comparison easier. Pete is in Green and my trace is in Red. The top trace is our GPS speed, the middle trace is the throttle pedal position, and the bottom trace is the brake pressure on the front brakes. Notice how I took Trubshaws flat, but Pete couldnt, but I then enter Curva Grande at 110mph and have to hit the brakes to scrub some speed off, but Pete enters the curve slower, with no brakes. He then falls off at the end of the curve, recording 3G Lateral, whereas I continued around the full circuit. Unfortunately I dont have any more data for Pete for his timed runs to compare with. He was dual driving with Nick Algar, and that meant that the memory card inside the ECU was overwriting data, so he didnt manage to capture his runs before they were overwritten.

Eastern circuit, Pete GREEN vs Graham RED

If I check our sector times on both days, and string all my best sector times together, I wasnt that far off him. I'm treating the National B events as four practice runs for the British Sprint run offs, so over the four runs the ambition is to qualify for the top 12, but not peak too early, leaving my pair of T12 runs for my fastest runs. From Saturday, on the Blyton Outer circuit, my RO2 run was my quickest all day, with the best sector times all occuring on the RO2 run. Perfect.

But on Sunday, my fastest sector 2 time was on my 2nd timed run, and my quickest start was on one of my three second practice runs, with a 2.06, and had I strung everything together, my best lap would have been a 65.69s, which was 0.04 slower than Pete's 65.65s.
So the reason I was slower, was predominantly down to my use of the brake pedal. I'm left foot braking, pressing the pedal with less pressure than Pete, but not releasing the pedal quickly enough, so my braking zone is longer. Our corner speeds are similar, but I need to roll off the pedal more quickly, and carry more speed around the corners as I'm typically 20mph up on Pete through the extra horsepower I'm producing.
Speaking of which, here are my two runs from last weekend. Both are from the Top 12 run offs, both are my 2nd runs, which ultimately were my fastest runs of the day.


11Jul

Blyton Speed Weekend, July 8th / 9th 2017

Rounds 8 & 9 of the British Sprint Championship

Arriving on Friday evening, parking up in a suitable space was the first problem, and arriving at 6:00pm, I nabbed the last space, parallel parked with the EcoBoost sister car of Pete Goulding. After unloading the car, and setting up my bed for the night, it was a case of socialising with a beer or two, and trying to gauge who the threats were for the coming two days of competition.

Saturday morning dawned, with hardly a cloud in the sky, quite a contrast to the year before with the bouts of torrential rain, and strong winds. So with the prospect of some fast times, and with the Avon A15 compound slick tyres fitted, I recorded my first practice run of 65.41, which was just 8 hundredths of a second off the class record set by Pete Goulding in 2016. And I was already 2.25s quicker than my 2016 PB time. One thing I noticed though was that the traction control was kicking in, robbing me of power, so I turned the switch from position 4 to 5, which I'd never tried before, and wasnt sure quite what the effect would be.

On to second practice, and I knocked another 2.5s off, to record a 62.87, which was 2.5s under the class record! The difference without traction control was astonishing. The rear end wanted to step out under hard acceleration, but I spoke to John Graham and he said that was how it should be, drive the car on the throttle, not let the ECU take control. So the traction remained off all weekend and I rapidly improved my times.

The organisation was very slick, and after adding 3l of petrol, and checking the car over, in no time we were out again for our first timed runs before lunch, and I managed to record an even quicker time of 62.38s, which was enough to put me in to the Top 12 run offs.

After a lunch break, we lined up again for our second timed runs, and I flew round, to find the time was 4s slower than the previous run. Unhappy with the time, I quickly checked the data from the ECU, and watched the video back, and I was sure I’d done another 62s run. So I went over to see the timing team, and questioned the 4s difference, and the print out showed that I’d taken 4s longer the previous, to get the car off the line. The explanation was that I must have engaged first gear whilst the car was lined up, and this broke the timing beam. But no, I arrive in 1st gear, and keep the clutch depressed, whilst I wait for the green light to come on. So that couldn’t have caused it. What was more mysterious was the green light came on, and less than a second later I launched the car off the line, so the timing beam must have been broken 3s before the light even came on. So I warned the BSC coordinator that there could be problems on our top 12 run off runs, if the timing gear wasn’t reliable, and they said they’d make sure that the startline crew held the car firmly to prevent it from rocking, and breaking the line, and sure enough, there were no other issues during the day. I could have insisted on a re-run, but as I was already qualified for the Top 12, I just refuelled the car, and waited to be called down for the two Top 12 runs.

As I’d qualified in 9th position, I was soon lined up and ready to try and improve on my earlier PB of 62.38s, but after a very ragged lap, I’d only knocked 4/100s off. I was sure I could go even quicker. 15 minutes later, and after all the other faster runners had had their turn, I tried again, and even more determined than before, I recorded a new PB of 61.49s, which was only enough for 10th overall, but that was another 3 points to me in the championship. I was very pleased.

Thurso based Heather Calder totally obliterated the course record on her run offs on Saturday, with a 54.00s, just .11s faster than John Graham, on what was Heather and Colin’s first visit. Asked if she could have gone quicker, without hesitation, Heather said “Yes, with a few more laps”.

Saturday evening was spent with some of the WSCC regulars, at the splendid Black Horse Inn, and both Colin and Heather joined us for a meal and a drink, and shared a few stories from their adventures.

On to Sunday, and a different circuit layout, the Eastern Circuit, which had never been used before on a sprint, so no pressure then. We all had to walk the course, and learn the circuit, and seat time was going to be a premium. Another beautiful sunny day greeted us, with more cloud, and more humidity, making working on the cars hot and thirsty work. First practice, and I almost forgot that the first corner turned left, as I locked up, and fought the car to try and make it round. I managed a very scrappy lap time of 69.96s, and was soon cheered up when everyone else complained of falling off, or missing apex’s, on in several cases, just missing sections of the track out completely. Onto the second practice, and my first practice lap was aborted after the car in front caused the red flags to come out. I lined up and set off again, and this time the engine had no power. It wouldn’t rev, there was no boost, it was just awful. About half way round, racking my brains to try and think what had gone wrong, the red flags came out again, as the car ahead driven by Heather Calder, had fallen off, so I stopped the car, turned the ignition off and on, restarted the engine, and found the fault had cleared. So I returned to the paddock and lined up for my third attempt at my 2nd practice run, and this time, with full power restored, I improved by 3seconds with a 66.99s, clearly the two additional practice laps had been beneficial.

It was time to put another 3l of fuel in the tank, and for Northampton Motorsport to check the ECU to see what the fault was, and it was a low oil pressure feed to the inlet camshaft that had flagged an error, and the ECU had gone in to Limp mode. So they changed the thresholds by 10%, and told me this had been done previously on the sister car that had suffered the same fault earlier in the year, and that should put paid to the problem. The reason it flagged the low oil pressure was probably due to the high ambient temperatures, and high oil temperature, which with the thin oils we are running, caused low oil pressure when the engine was ticking over, which triggered the fault state. The fix, if it happened again, was to turn the ignition off and on again, which I can do on the start line, should the launch fail. As long as I remembered :D

So after a free cheeseburger for lunch, and lots of fluids to stay hydrated, I set off for my first timed run, and I improved to record a 66.12s, which was quicker than John Graham in the 3500cc Gould (66.51s). So I’d done enough again to qualify for the second Top 12 run off of the weekend, but I knew I had to improve to score more points. I’d kept my new 2017 tyres wrapped up all weekend, and with just three more runs left, I thought I’d put them on the car, and after cleaning the rear tyres with the heat gun, and with the fresher tyres on the front, I set off on my second timed run, on a mission. I really pushed the car hard, took the centre chicane section flat for the first time, pulled 6th gear on the approach to the finish line, hit the brakes, and, the fronts locked up. Brakes off, back on again, same again. Brakes off, rapidly down changing, brakes on, still locked up. Sh!t, The front tyres weren’t as good as I’d thought. Luckily, there was a decent sized run off area to drive in to, and with still too much speed to make the right turn at the end of the braking zone, I slid off on to the rock strewn run off area, turned 270 degrees left, and returned to the circuit, to cross the finish line. The set of 11’s I’d left were most impressive, but my time was disqualified as I’d left the circuit. Oh dear.

But, as everyone else had been falling off left right and centre, I’d qualified 7th fastest for the Top 12 run offs, and I was even quicker than the winner of the previous days event, Heather Calder, in the Gould GR55. That wasn’t to last though.

So more fuel in the car, the original tyres refitted to the front, and another cold drink for the driver, I drove to the end of the paddock to perform my two Top 12 run off runs. Setting off, I did a reasonable job, but recorded a time slower than my only timed run, with a 67.51s, which wasn’t going to score me many points. Heather improved, significantly, as did everyone else, so the pressure was on. So now was the time for my second run off run, and ultimately my last run of the weekend, so it was now or never. Focused, and sitting on the line, I was telling myself I could do it, just focus, keep getting on the throttle, drive it more aggressively, and when the green light came on, I floored the throttle, released the clutch, and the car left the line like it had been shot out of a cannon. Arriving at the first corner at 110mph, braking later, carrying more speed, pushing the car, in to the centre section, and flat through the chicane leading to Curver Grande, carefully back on to the outer circuit, up to Bishops, braking later, and keeping as much throttle as I could, sling shotting out of Bunga Bunga, and then flying on to the very fast right-left Port Vite section, keeping the throttle fully open, I reached 140mph on the approach to the final right corner, hitting the brakes hard, and rapidly changing down from six to third, I threw the car in, and recorded a new PB of 65.92s, which was enough for 9th overall, and only 1/10th of a second behind the 3500cc Lola of Graham Porrett.

On Sunday, Colin Calder again smashed the Eastern course record, with a 59.17s run, with Heather finishing in 2nd on 59.90s and Terry Holmes trailing in the high 61’s. The Calders were in a class of their own all weekend.

So overall, on Saturday, I was 6th in class (out of seven cars), and 11th overall, qualifying 9th and finishing 10th in the run offs. And on Sunday, I was again 6th in class (from seven), and 9th overall, qualifying 7th, and finishing 9th in the run offs, scoring a total of 7 points over both days.

The next event is a visit to Knockhill in August, which gives me plenty of time to recover, and make a few more tweaks to the car in preparation. The floor worked well, the titanium bolts under the front of the car grounded out several times on Saturday on the approach to wiggle, resulting in a spectacular shower of sparks (video to follow), and the brakes were again, too good, which I need to adjust my driving style to suit.

Here is the video from Sunday of my little off on T2



This is another video that I need to learn from. Pete's Mygale vs my Mygale, I'm way quicker in a straight line, but Pete's far quicker round the corners. He beat me by 0.28s on Sunday, and yet I was 5 car lengths ahead on the straights. I need to resist hitting the brake pedal with as much pressure I reckon.



6Jul

The floor is now complete, and I've secured the front stays to the chassis rail inside the bodywork, to provide additional support. I've used 9mm ply, as this is just a test, to see if it helps with the aero. I'm expecting it should make a difference, as the Van Diemen of Stephen Miles has a similar sized floor, albeit his is made from lighter carbon. I'm #172 this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to racing again in the BSC. There's a low turnout, only 15 registered competitors, so the chances of scoring some more points is looking good.

My Floor is now complete #mygale #ecoboost #formulaford

A post shared by Graham Blackwell (@zetecinsidedotcom) on


1Jul

I'm lying 10th in the BSC Britannia Trophy at the moment, with the best 9 results to count. Had I gone to Castle Combe I'd have been leading. As it is, I've got 4 more rounds to go, two at Blyton and two at Knockhill, which should give me sufficient points from nine rounds, to clinch the title. Fingers crossed.