4th overall, what more can I say? Blown away by the performance of the car at Aintree. I know where I was losing around 3s too, so if I get another chance in September, I'll be back again to see how much quicker I can go. This was a shakedown session, for the new PF11 brakes and the repaired diffuser, and I'm pleased to say everything worked perfectly. And look at these 64ft times!
#3 days to Aintree
The diffuser is now fitted back on the car, and I've added a pair of Ti skid blocks. I've also changed the way in which the diffuser is attached to the floor, and the support stays running down from the gearbox have been changed to provide better support to the central section. The Dash4Pro is also back, Race Technology have replaced the faulty cable, and the front panel, so it looks like new again. Many thanks for the prompt service.
#7 days to Aintree
The repair to the diffuser is now well underway. I'm replacing the jabroc panel with a sheet of 5.5mm plywood (yeah I know, its not the same thing, but B&Q dont sell Jabroc) and I'm adding a pair of 38mm square blocks of titanium underneath, to prevent the diffuser from grounding out. I'm also repairing the large split in the diffuser with woven carbon cloth, that is going to be bonded in place using Epoxy resin from Easy Composites. I had bought some polyester resin, which I thought was going to be alright, but speaking to Pete, its Epoxy resin that I needed. Soon see if it works. I'll treat the plywood with some linseed oil so it doesnt draw any moisture from any rain its going to be driven over. And the titanium blocks will protrude slightly below the height of the plywood, so there shouldnt be too many sparks when/if the car bottoms out again.
I've added another event to my calendar, the MAC MIRA sprint in September. I went last year and it chucked it down all day, hopefully we'll get some better weather this time. So its Aintree next, where I'm car 99 running against John Graham (98) in the V8 Gould, then its the Blyon Weekend, in July, followed 54 days later by two sprints at Knockhill in August, after which I'll be doing MIRA and thats probably going to be it for the year. Whether or not I get the wings from DJ in time for Blyton remains to be seen.
I've had a look at the launches from two of my runs at Pembrey, T2 and Run Off 2, as I was sure I had a gear change glitch whilst accelerating off the line. Sure enough on the T2 run, I couldnt pull 3rd gear when I wanted to. But, the car still accelerated as quickly as it did on the other run I've compared it against. It is actually geared to do 70mph in 2nd gear, so it didnt really make any difference that it didnt go in to 3rd gear when I wanted it to. On both runs I recorded a 0-100 sprint in 6.2s, pulling 1.3G off the line, which is pretty rapid.
Run Off 2 from Sunday afternoon, 0-100 in 6.2 seconds, showing how the launch works most of the time :D
T2 (Second Timed Run), 0-100 in 6.2 seconds. On this run, the automatic change to 2nd gear didnt go as expected, due to wheel spin, and the change to 3rd gear also failed the first time. Despite that, the car still accelerated as quickly to 100mph.
Another big improvement this year is the 0-60 time. Last year, without the paddle shift or the launch control, I could only do 0-60 in around 4.1seconds, and I've shaved that down to approx 3seconds this year using ECU to manage launch and 1-2 gear chage.
Here is the video from my quickest run on Saturday at Pembrey on the original track layout. It was only my third time around the circuit, following the two wet practice runs in the morning. On my T2 run later I was a second slower. In this clip I couldnt take the kink before Honda flat. That was only achieved on the T2 run the following day.
Looking at my performance from the weekend, I think my biggest improvement came when I finally grew a pair and took the kink before Honda, flat. This really taught me that, to be on the pace, sometimes you just have to do these things, do whatever it takes, to compete on the same level as the other guys in the BSC. I'm sure that whilst I kept lifting before the corner, this actually upset the car, leading me to think that the car wouldnt take the corner flat. When in fact, keeping my foot planted, this kept the car on the straight and level, and that's the only time it actually felt it would go round the corner. But these experiences are only coming with seat time. And I've spent 51 minutes 'racing' so far this year, whereas I only achieved 71 mins throughout the whole of 2016, so qualifying for the Top 12 run offs is certainly contributing to my seat time, and my confidence. Its a win-win situation really.
My only challenge at the moment, is maintaining that momentum. I've only got three events left on the calendar at the moment. Aintree in June, the Blyton weekend in July, and the Knockhill weekend in August. Nothing else is planned. These events will give me the minimum 9 rounds I need to do, to hopefully win the Britannia Cup in the BSC, and then I can look forward to 2018 to hopefully do all the rounds of the championship, as this year was really just another development year, and I think I've more than proved that the car is capable of winning, I'm just still not quite there yet with my skills/bravery.
But the car is working flawlessly, the engine and turbo combination are proving very reliable, with the tweaks to the Life ECU made in March paying dividends. The launch control is working really well, with consistent 64ft times, and the traction control certainly works in the wet, and the dry, though I'm tending to turn it off completely in the dry as the car is so much quicker without it. Its great fun to drive, I just wish I had more outings planned, as I'm certainly benefitting from spending time behind the wheel.
Other news, I've recently acquired a Dell T7910 tower pc from the Manor F1 team. It was in their auction in May, and I paid £850 for it, which is a bargain, as the box has a 12 core Xeon inside, 32G RAM, 256GB SSD, and an Nvidia Quadro K4200 card, which combined gives it a phenomenal performance. The idea behind buying it is to turn it in to a race simulator, so I can run rFactor and learn some of the tracks for next year. In April I went on a professional simulator at Base Performance in Banbury, to learn the Croft circuit, and practice the paddle changes that I'd fitted to the car. I'm going back again in August, before the Knockhill race weekend, as I've never been to that circuit before, and I need to learn the track prior to driving all that way with the trailer on the back. I'd love to qualify again for the Top 12, and with everyone else having so much more circuit experience than me, I'm going to have to do whatever I can to step up, even if it means sitting in a sim. But longer term, I'd like to have the sim at home, so I'm not spending yet more money on learning circuits, so the project for the autumn will be to get it all setup, and then I can practice to my hearts content. :)
Pembrey June 2017
My first visit to the Welsh circuit, walking the course on Friday evening, it seemed to be a fast yet technical track, with lots of opportunities for full throttle and therefore high speeds over the two lap course.
Saturday unfortunately was beset by scattered rain showers in the morning. After the first damp practice runs, for the second practice runs, many people elected not to go out, as the rain was getting so heavy. [You need to do at least one practice run before being allowed to compete in the official timed runs in the afternoon]. As I’d already completed my first practice run, I decided I’d sit the second one out.
However, towards the end of second practice, as the track started drying out, the call went out for anyone who hadn’t taken their second practice runs to go out, and many people, myself included, benefited. This however, introduced quite a delay in proceedings, with all cars doing two laps of the track, and with two cars on the circuit at the same time, it was quite a challenge to get people out.
I was typically sat in the car, in the assembly area, for around 20-25 minutes, gradually edging closer to the start line. With all the double driven cars being worked on, and going in front of those who were queueing it became obvious that a rapid turnaround wasn’t going to be happen. [The first practice runs took 2.5 hours to complete, and the second practice runs took 2 hours, and eventually finished at 1:22pm]
After lunch, later in the afternoon, we completed our first timed runs [which completed at 4:15pm], and I was sitting in 10th overall with a 104.89s, but after the second timed runs I had dropped down to 14th fastest. The issue facing the organisers was that the 6pm noise curfew was rapidly approaching, and after a car dropped its sump oil a few minutes before 6pm, and with the organisers facing a large clean up exercise, they decided to end the event, meaning around 20 queueing drivers weren’t allowed their second timed runs at all. This also meant that there would be no Top 12 run offs for those drivers who had qualified, and their finishing positions would instead be based on their fastest two previous timed runs. This decision was met by frustration, but we all had the Sunday to look forward to, and with several championships absent on the second day, there was a chance we would make better progress, and get the Top 12 run offs in as well.
My nemesis, on my first visit to Pembrey, was the one bend, before Honda, that people kept telling me was ‘flat’. I didn’t manage flat. Though I really did try, and on my final timed run, I was convinced I’d taken it flat, until I checked the data logger, and it showed I’d lifted 10%. Unfinished business. I was determined to take it flat, but with Saturday over, I had to set it as another objective for Sunday.
On Sunday, I woke up to the sound of rain, and sure enough, torrential rain in the morning caused chaos. For first practice on the new track layout, I went out on the wet tyres, and tried the new section of the track out, which included a tricky 90 degree left bend, followed by a long right hander in to the Esses. For the second practice, on a drying track and with the sun shining, I joined the queue on wets, and such were the delays in getting people on to the start line, that after sitting in the car for 25 minutes in the queue, the skies darkened, and the heavens opened, and I splashed around the track in a heavy downpour, with traction control helping make it a steady but not too slow a run. Practice is practice though, and it was more important to improve my pace through the new section than find the limits everywhere else. The first competitive timed runs then happened about 2 hours later, and once again, it was wet. I was again, quicker than before, but with little wet weather experience at Pembrey, it was a case of getting round and recording a time.
So, lunch break finally called at 2pm, and with the sun now shining, temperatures rising, and the track drying out rapidly, I fitted my worn front slicks on the car, and used the heat gun and scraper to try to scrape off all the dead rubber. By 2:45pm I was ready, and we set off on our second timed runs. This was it. I had to throw caution to the wind if I were to improve on my one dry run to qualify for the Top 12 run offs. And I only had this one run to finally take that corner flat, because if I didn’t qualify for the Top 12, this would be my last run of the day, and I wouldn’t be back for another year.
So with a fully dry track and the sun shining, I launched the car off the line, and I wrestled the car round, battling the understeer, and with buttocks firmly clenched, I took the corner flat, straight lining it at 125MPH, and reaching 140MPH on the end of the start finish straight. And doing so meant I’d managed to improve by 24seconds, meaning I’d finished 11th overall with a 115.56s. That’s it, I’d done it, I’d qualified again in 11th place.
But having qualified, it meant I now I had to do two more runs, to see where I’d finish in the Top 12. I’d qualified 11th before, on two other events, and I’d always finished 12th. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. So I added 3litres of fuel to the tank, got back in the car, and lined up for the run offs. Others were fitting their Run Off slicks, which I didn’t have. I shall have to investigate getting another set of tyres just for the run offs.
My first Top 12 run, I went even faster, and flat again through that corner, with confidence growing, but the front tyres were now badly overheating and were totally knackered. I’d done a 114.55s run, which placed me 10th overall. But during the run, the dashboard had frozen, and I had no idea what gear I was in. I’d had to start counting gears, to make sure I was in the right one for the corners. After a quick check, and it turned out to be the flexible cable that goes in to the back of the dash, it had a broken wire inside, so I rerouted the cable to relieve the strain on it, and it was sufficient to allow it to start working again, and I lined up and set off on my second run, with everything to prove. I again wrestled with the car as it understeered under hard acceleration on the corners, I took the corners faster than before, kept 100% throttle wherever I could, and I crossed the line with a 113.88s run, almost another second faster, despite a lock up at the new right hand bend, which I thought had ruined the run. And then after a short anxious wait for the others to do their runs, relief when I found I’d maintained my 10th overall, to score 3 more points in the championship.
What a great venue, and what good luck to get the sunshine when it counted.
Next event is the Aintree Sprint at the end of June, which isn’t a BSC round, but it’s a great place to go, with some very high speeds, and I’ll be using the day to play with the setup. I still don’t have the DJ front and rear wings I ordered in February, these are still being made, but when they do arrive, understeer should definitely be a thing of the past.
This is my fastest run from the Top 12 run offs on Sunday. Slippy slidey :D
I've pulled the data from the ECU logs at Snetterton, and compared with the speeds that I carried around the corners when there a year ago, and you can see the difference in my increased corner speeds, which has come from simply gaining confidence with the car.
This is a comparison of the two EcoBoost cars from Snetterton. I think you can see who has the most power :D
I've added a couple more wire ropes to support the diffuser, and a quick spanner check of the car reveals no problems from Snetterton. Once again, analysing my progress in 2017, I guess the greatest performance increase since the start of the season, has to be down to the conversion to the paddle shift system. I'm now so much more relaxed in the car, the stick shift worked OK, but taking your right hand off the steering wheel midway through a corner, really prevented me from pushing, and Pete had a really big performance advantage from using his paddle system from Rockingham. At Croft I was learning how to use the paddles as it was my first time out with them enabled, but all the practice paid off at Snetterton.
Speaking of conversions, I still need to get back to DJ with the measurements for the position of my rear wing, so we can get some support brackets cut out. I'll try and get the drawings made this week. In June I'm at Pembrey, and then Aintree the last weekend, then Blyton in July, followed by Knockhill in August, so there's a big break between Blyton and Knockhill, which I'd like to fill with some more events. But the calendar looks a bit sparse, and I cant make the trip to Kirkistown at the end of July due to other commitments. I'll have to see if I can get some go karting organised to keep me and the kids occupied during the long summer holidays.
Preparation for Pembrey in two weeks continues, with my first attempts at tyre cleaning. The Avon tyres pick up a lot of rubber from other cars, and the surfaces of the tyres regularly need either surforming, or heat gunning, which is the treatment I decided on. This may look a bit odd, but everyone does it, and it really restores the tyre's performance. And at £1100 a set, they're worth looking after.
I'm quite pleased with the results, considering it was the first time I'd seriously had a go at the heat gun technique. Basically, the paint scraper is dragged across the surface, but it must follow the heat gun, which blasts the surface with 450C hot air, and softens the rubber's top layer to allow the scraper to remove the dirt and old rubber. If the scraper is run across the surface for a second time, you'll find that it doesnt remove anything, which goes to show that the first pass is enough to clean the tyre adequately.
I've spent a long time comparing my PB 86.35s run log file with Pete's file from his 87.22s run. Its evident that my launch control is working perfectly, as the pace off the line is far far quicker than Pete's. I've created a quick video that shows both the cars side by side on the track map (which now works again on my car) and you can see I (Green dot) easily pull away, however Pete (Red dot) almost catches me on the hair pin, so even though I braked a lot harder than Pete, he appears to be able to brake later and arrest more speed. I am left foot braking, and generating huge brake pressures with no wheel lock, but I need to look at the pad material in the front brakes, and see if I can replace them with something that produces more friction.
Other news, I just bought a Dell Precision T7910 workstation off the Manor F1 auction site. It's a 12 core, 32GB, Xeon PC, with 256GB SSD and 24" monitor, and this will be used to build a racing sim, so I can practice some of the circuits from home, using rFactor. Collection should be next week.
Photographs from Snetterton can be found here
A very succesful weekend at Snetterton. On Saturday, with traction control issues, I recorded a new PB and qualified 11th for the Top 12 run offs, but finished 12th again.
On Sunday, Northampton Motorsport were in attendance, and they turned off the front left wheel speed sensor, and I turned traction control down to 5, and on my 2nd timed run I did a 0-60 in 2.2s and a new PB of 86.35s, which put me in 14th place for the Top 12 run offs, so sadly no points on Sunday. The car was incredible to drive, I learnt so much more about how far to push, and the changes I made to the aero at the rear really worked.
On Saturday, I finished within a second of Pete Goulding's EcoBoost (the sister car), and I was pleased with my Top 12 finish, scoring another point in the BSC championship. On Sunday hoever, I beat Pete, by almost a second, to which Pete said he 'couldnt match that'. I'm so pleased to have finally got to the point where I have absolute confidence in the car, and I have mastered the paddle gear changes, and stayed calm enough to drive the car hard, but put in what was almost a perfect lap for me. And to #beatpete with the same aero, is also a bonus, as when the DJ aero is fitted, my car should be unstoppable, with some far higher placings in the BSC championship. It is just the lack of downforce that is preventing me from keeping the power down on the corners, as can be seen from the video's.
This happened too, an accidental car release on my third timed run on Sunday. They red flagged both of us and I was allowed a re-run. Could have been nasty, but these things sometimes happen.
Next event is Pembrey on June 3rd/4th.
#7 days to Snetterton
I'm car #16 at Snetterton next weekend, and I've almost finished prepping the car. I've made a few more aero tweaks that I'll be trying out, and the news from DJ is that my rear wing might be ready next week, but mounts for the front wing need to be resolved, so I'll have to take a trip over to N.Derbyshire with my spare front FIA crash box, and a spare lower rear wing element so they can attach the mounts in the right places to match my cars requirements.
I've entered the Aintree sprint on 24th June, hopefully the weather will be better than last year when the meeting was cancelled after the first timed runs due to the rain. I'm of course at Pembrey the first weekend in June, on the 3rd and 4th, on two more rounds of the BSC championship. And in July I'm at Blyton for the weekend, on the 8th and 9th, which are again BSC rounds. But I fancy another go at Aintree, as I've unfinished business there.
#12 days to Snetterton
Checked the car over today, first time I'd had the covers off since Croft. No issues found. The oil in the gearbox is still clean. The dry sump tank for the engine only had 3.0l of oil in it, even after turning over the engine on the starter, so I added 1 litre of 10W60 to bring it up to 4.0l. I made a couple of support stays for the diffuser, to try to prevent if from moving, and these run from the gearbox downwards, at an angle of 45°. I also refilled the PB bottle to 3000psi, and I checked the water level in the header tank, and all it needed was a splash of water to bring the level back up. Finally I drained the fuel tank, and it still had 2l of fuel left, which is what was in the tank when I finished my final run off run at Croft. That means I used around 1.5l per lap.
#14 days to Snetterton
The shortened steering column is now fitted, and the steering wheel has been re-aligned using the steering wheel angle signal from the ECU. I've lots more room now to hold and turn the wheel. I've removed the gear cable bracket from the cockpit area, as that was digging in to my right leg at Croft and it is of course, no longer required since I've changed to paddle shift.
I'm just in the process of replacing the two microswitches in the paddles with IP67 water proof versions, and there's a few minor jobs to attend to prior to Snetterton on May 13th/14th.
Still no sign of the replacement front and rear wings from DJ Engineering. They're trying their best to get them manufactured for me, but its taking longer than I hoped. I'd really like them fitted for Snetterton, but it depends how difficult the front wing is to attach to the crash box on the car. You know how long these seemingly simple jobs take. The rear wing should bolt straight on, as they're attaching the mounting brackets based on the FTR gearbox dimensions. But the front wing might be tricky to sort, as the standard front wing mounts directly underneath the crash box, but DJ wings tend to incorporate side mounts.
The steering column has been shortened by 25mm and the new slug that came with the boss I bought from DT is now welded in to the end of the column tube, expertly done by www.altiss.com
My next event is the Snetterton 100, which is on the 13/14th May, and forms two rounds of the BSC. After that I'm at Pembrey for the weekend on June 3rd/4th, which will be my first time there.
I bought a device off the Internet, that was meant to help me push my trailer back in to its parking spot at the caravan storage centre, more easily, a bit of a labour saving device. Despite being beautifully made, it didnt ease the movement, and I've asked for a refund, which by law I am entitled to under the Distance Selling Regulations, but lets just say, the sellers arent cooperating. Right now, I'm not going to mention their brand, as I'm waiting for them to agree to provide the 100% refund. They're only offering 75% which is unacceptable. But I will name names if they dont cooperate, so lets hope for them that it doesnt come to that, as with 10,000 hits a day, I really dont think they want the exposure I can create. I'll get in touch with trading standards and draft a letter, and if they still dont want to give me a full refund, we'll start turning the screws.
A very good day at Croft. Everything worked perfectly, the launch brought my 64ft times down to consistent 2.1-2.2s, and the paddle shift was a revelation. The new wheels made the car so much more stable, I just need the new aero now, so I can get all the power down on the corners.
My best time, of 80.03s was set on the second of my two Top 12 Runoffs, that I qualified for in 11th place, and I was 14s faster than last year, which is a massive improvement.
I'm still not flat everywhere where I wanted to be, but I'm a damn site faster than 2016, and I reached 139MPH on the approach to Tower on my 1st and 2nd timed runs. Thats the quickest I've even been in a race car.
I've weighed the car and it comes in at 453Kg (dry) on the Rimstock rims and wet tyres. The Force rims and slicks reduces the weight by around 3Kg when fitted, so dry, the car is pretty much bang on 450Kg. I'm quite happy with that. Removal of the Diolin side impact boards took 16kg of weight out of the car, and with the removal of the extinguisher system, mirrors, gear shift cable and other alternator parts, the addition of the X10 expander, and the pneumatic paddle system, has put some weight back on, so 450Kg isnt that bad considering. I noticed that the corner weights are out, so I'll set the chassis up at Croft using their flat garage floors.
#4 days to go, and I’m really looking forward to Croft on Monday. It will be the first time I’ve driven the car with the paddle gear change system, and I’ll also have the audible warning buzzer connected inside my crash helmet, which will prompt me when to change gear. The prompts have been optimised according to the gear selected and the torque/bhp trace from the dyno plot, so for each gear, the change point is optimised to drop the engine revs at peak torque each time. So rather than relying on the change lights from the dash, I’ll be concentrating on the buzzer making a noise. I just hope I can hear it, and at the same time, that it’s not too loud. I’ll also have the Force Racing rims fitted all round, with fresh rubber on the front axle.
I've repaired the damaged diffuser, which touched the floor at Rockingham after two of the mounts pulled through. I've a lot of small jobs left to do to be ready for Monday, but I'm sure I'll cram them all in over the Easter weekend.
This is a diagram of the pneumatic paddle setup that I've installed. I've used Geartronics supplied FTR actuator, mounting bracket, a 2 way valve block and their 3500psi regulator. The air bottle I've used is an Empire UL carbon 0.8L paintball bottle, from Just Paintball, and it weighs just 790g. The steering wheel paddles are from Ascher-Racing, in Austria, and are actually race simulator paddles, though there is no reason why they wouldnt be suitable for real racing.
I have now removed the bowden gear change cable, and lever plus strain gauge, and I'll weigh these to see how much weight I've saved.
Well, the paddles worked first time, all my wiring was 100%, and we spent a good 7 hours working on the car, updating the firmware, and changing settings for launch and traction control. Very pleased with the outcome.
The engine now has a raised tickover and some other tweaks to see if we can cure the issue where the engine stalls when moving and then stopping in the paddock. We've enabled stack shift, which is a feature that allows me to shift down several gears whilst still accelerating, and when I reach the corner where the preselected gear is, and brake, the gears will automatically downshift to the gear I originally selected. This will take some practice to ensure its working first. The gear change from 1-2 is now automatic, so I dont need to worry anout reaction times to grab 2nd gear, as the ECU will change up automatically. Plus we spent a good hour or so adjusting the launch control settings, which we tested in the car park, and the system seems to be working properly now.
#12 days to go to the Croft Easter sprint. The entries have now closed, and there are 15 BSC contenders entered, and class 5E has me and five other V8's in the class. This is going to be a tall order.
Pete broke his gearbox in the sister car on Sunday. A layshaft bearing collapsed and the needle rollers from the bearing fell inside the gearbox casing and made their way in to most of the gears. Its looking like an expensive repair bill. Pete said the oil had turned black after the rolling road session but he ignored the warning sign and filled it back up with fresh oil. He managed to do four laps at Rockingham without any issues, but at Hethel on Sunday, after a 146mph run, it blew a hole in the end casing, and lunched itself. Expensive lesson. I've checked the oil in my gearbox and its the same colour it went in, ie clean, so I'll just have to keep an eye on it and see if the colour changes after each event.
I've replaced the steering wheel quick release boss, and the wheel now feels firmer, with no more side to side wobble. The wheel boss that came with the car was pretty worn, and I dont want the wheel coming off halfway round a lap. I've also removed the rear ARB as it wasnt connected, and thats saved another 929g of weight off the car.
I used 4l of fuel at Rockingham over the four 1.58mile laps. I make that 7.2mpg, which isnt bad I suppose.