August 2003

Friday 29th August 2003
My last competitive outing in the Fiesta this year, is at Loton Park hill climb on Sunday. Its my 2nd visit to Loton this year, the first one was ruined by poor weather, so I'm really hoping for some sunshine and a dry track.

Results through from the BARC for Harewood last weekend, shows that Les Proctor won the class, I was second, and Don Burt in the 2.0 Zetec engined kit car was third. Hey, I'm starting to beat kit cars. Cool.

Pictures below are from Donington the other weekend, when I had a play in a Focus WRC. It is a 2002 car, with 2003 electronics, and had competed just the other weekend in the Rally of Finland. So not an '03 car, but as close as you can get.
HarewoodHarewood hillclimb event report, August 24th 2003
Other event reports are on the Events page

Ralph Firman and the Focus RS Focus WRC Focus WRC Focus WRC Focus WRC Fiesta WRC Fiesta WRC Fiesta WRC
Monday 25th August 2003
Had a mixed day at Harewood yesterday. 1st practice run the rear tyres were catching on the inner wings, so I'd lowered it too much the weekend before. Back in the pits I refitted the rubber cups back to the rear springs, and that raised the back far enough to cure the problem.

Then during the 2nd practice run I somehow changed from 3rd to 2nd up the hill, when I actually wanted 4th gear. It buzzed the engine past 8000 rpm again, and I coasted across the finish line. Again, no harm done, the engine survived, but it must be stressing it.

First timed run I went up the hill in 73 seconds, with no fluffed gear changes, still 2 seconds slower than my personal best (71.45s) which puzzled me, but it was my first decent run up the hill, and was the time I should have set on my 1st practice run. I had some thinking to do to try to unlock some extra speed.

Second timed run I had a perfect run, and went up in 71.15s, 3/10ths quicker than my PB.

Third timed run, I was held on the start line for 5 minutes due to a broken down competitor ahead of me on the hill, and my tyres had cooled off, so I didn't get off the line very well, and I went up the hill in 72s.

I'm getting to the stage where I'm really at the limit of the car now. The quickest run I just went for it, pushing very hard, and I really don't think I could knock much more time off with the existing power/chassis/weight/tyres. The gear change problem has returned, and if I'm not careful I'm going to blow the engine up, so I really need to research a better gear change mechanism. I'll contact Quaife on Tuesday to ask if they can help. The front suspension is definitely better now, and I can attribute my new PB to the changes we made. The softer front springs (275lb) also help, as the car follows the bumps a lot better, instead of skipping over them. Turn in is better, and I can get on the power a lot sooner round the corners. Overall, I'm happy with my performance today, but the car needs some serious R&D over the winter months to unlock some more speed from it. The areas I'll be looking at are lightweight wheels, gearbox, engine rebuild, stripping weight from the shell, slick tyres and front suspension. Quite a lot of work for the 8 months.

The 10th and final event for me this year is the hillclimb next weekend at Loton Park. I do hope its a dry day, as I'm looking for another maximum score in the Midland Speed Championship to give me 8 maximums, and 160 points overall.
Friday 22nd August 2003
Very chaotic week at work. Working in Edinburgh for three days at the start of the week, at a remote site, fixing a few problems, when all of a sudden we were struck by the Nachi worm. What a nuisance. Only attacked Windows 2000 PC's and servers, but within a very short space of time the WAN was brought down by the Denial Of Service (DOS) attacks from the worm, and without WWW access, how are you supposed to download the MS03-026 patch from Micro$oft? Anyway, its all sorted now, but it's not been a very productive or pleasant week. And now the bun fights started as to who was to blame for introducing the virus. It looked as though an infected laptop was plugged in to the network, before Sophos had the chance to update the AV software on the machine. We were too busy fighting the virus to get involved, fortunately everyone got stuck in, and we broke its back after a day or so. Just a few stragglers left to patch now, travelling laptops belonging to users who are out on the road etc.

The Adobe Acrobat format report on 3 Sisters is below. I'm quite disappointed with my times, now that the final results are published. I'm a lot slower than other more highly developed cars, but the speed will come next year, when I'm revisiting tracks, and the suspension is properly adjusted etc. At least I beat the other race prepared Mk2 XR2.

It's off to Harewood again on Sunday (A61 North of Leeds). I'll get to see if the softer front springs and lowered and stiffened rear end contribute to a quicker time up the hill. The weather will play an important role as ever, and the forecast isn't very good at the moment. Then the last event for me this year is Loton Park on August 31st, which again I hoping for dry weather. The last visit there was spoilt by rain showers, and running an event in August in the UK is no guarantee of a dry track.

The Audi A6 Quattro (MAX) has been serviced (81500 miles) which set me back £380, but I need to maintain the full service history, and it needed an oil change, new plugs etc, and they valeted it, so I'm not too upset. The next visit to the dealer should be in 10000 miles time for the 90K service.
3 Sisters3 Sisters long course event report, August 10th 2003
Other event reports are on the Events page

Monday 18th August 2003
I was at the RSOC show at Donington yesterday, with the XR2, on the Performance Ford Magazine stand.

Over lunch, I had the opportunity to have a ride with Mark Higgins around the Donington track in a M-Sport prepared Ford Focus World Rally Car. However Mark had to go home unexpectedly, and I was asked if I'd mind sitting instead with Belgian Francois Duval in his Focus WRC. Of course, I said I'd be delighted to, and so we did 3 flying laps of the Donington Park circuit, at full speed, mostly sideways, in a real, pukka, genuine Ford Focus World Rally Car.

What impressed me the most was his precision as a driver. He slid the car from corner to corner, with total commitment, and where you could see the kerb coming towards you on the apex of a corner, and you expected a bump as the wheels touched, he missed them by millimetres, time after time. I'd love to be able to fling the Fiesta around like that. Duval was not impressed that I just sat there though, looking around, enjoying the ride, even waving to the crowds. It really didn't phase me at all, I could have sat there all day, lap after lap. On the 3rd lap he left the braking so late at the end of the Dunlop straight, to try to unnerve me, that all he managed to do was outbrake himself, and the car got distinctly sideways, which made me smile. "Oi Frenchie, its the tall pedal on the right" was one piece of advice it was suggested that I should give him, but I don't quite think he'd have appreciated me spurring him on even more.

The M-Sport prepared WRC car was quite fast, we reached 183 Km/H several times, and it was noisy like the Fiesta, lots of whining from the transmission, clonks, bangs etc, and the brakes were pretty good, but overall the modern WRC's are now so refined that its just like being in any other competition car, albeit a very expensive one (£1 million plus). The ultra quick gear changes were also very impressive, so there was no perceptible gap between the gears, just a steady thump-thump as we went up through the box, accelerating so smoothly. Overall the Focus WRC is a very well engineered car, but it is just crying out for more power. The 300 HP limit really is the limiting factor with the performance of modern WRC's. If they removed that, there'd be no stopping them, literally.

Before the WRC experience, I went out with Ralph Firman, the current works driver for the Jordan Formula 1 team, and he'd never driven a Focus RS before. So we set off for '2' laps that turned out to be '4', and Ralph was purposely lifting off mid corner right from the off, to try to get the car sideways, and most of the time he got it right. He admitted that it was his favourite circuit, and that he hadn't driven here for a while. So I was pointing out the turn-in points down the Craner Curves, encouraging him to take it 'flat'. He didn't manage it on the 2nd lap, so we had another go, and this time it really was flat out, however, he made a bit of a dogs dinner of the kerbs at the bottom of the Curves, and on the right hander he cut the corner, so the off side wheels were on the grass, smashing the wheels in to the kerbs on the exit. It sounded bad, but the solid Focus RS seemed to take the abuse. I sat there, thinking here we have Ralph Firman, Formula 1 driver, in a Ford Focus RS, and me sitting alongside, telling him how to get round Donington. I told him that I sprint/hillclimb regularly, and that I usually go out most Sundays for some adrenaline, so he knew he wasn't going to get the usual reaction from the passenger seat. ie hysterical screaming!
I just sat back and chatted whilst he did his thing, and we finished two laps later by him applying the handbrake as we exited the final corner, on to the start straight, which caused us to perform a 180° spin, much to the delight of the crowd.

Thanks Ralph, I've another story to tell the Grand Children.

Now, if I'd had the opportunity to drive the WRC, I think it'd have been a much more exciting trip. One day...
Saturday 16th August 2003
Stripped the car down to give it a good clean. Changed the front springs from 300lb to 275lb's, on the advice of Dave Walker. I've also lowered the rear of the car by chopping a 1/4 of a turn from the rear springs. It's now about 3/4" lower, which will in turn increase the caster angle of the front suspension, giving me better cornering abilities. I've changed the bolts on both TCA's from 8.8 to 12.9 grade socket cap screws. I've used loctite ThreadLock on them too so they shouldn't come loose.
Monday 11th August 2003
I've towed the Fiesta a total of 767 miles in the last four days [thats 32 gallons of petrol at 24.2mpg]. The trip to Dave Walkers workshop in Watton on Saturday was definitely worthwhile. We rolling roaded the car a few times, to make sure it was running properly, and then set about the chassis. Dave found that there was a total of 3° of toe-in, and -0.5° caster on both front wheels. That was definitely bad news. You should have +3° caster ideally. Caster is what makes the steering wheel straighten when you let go of it. It introduces camber when the wheels are turned away from straight ahead, and I had -ve caster, which meant I had to pull the steering straight, and as the steering wheel was turned, my camber went +ve instead of -ve, which is why the car has been so difficult to get around corners.

The cause of the -ve caster angle was down to the length of the Fiesta Centre tie bars. I'd fitted two of their custom made tie bars, one came with the 5 Speed fitting kit, and I'd copied the design for the offside to clear my alternator. The tie bars connect to the track control arms (TCA) and dictate the position of the TCA's relative to the front cross member. Usually the tie bars tension the TCA's pulling them forwards, introducing +ve caster in the front struts. Because the tie bars are too long, they weren't pulling the TCA's far enough forwards.

We removed the near side tie bar, and placed it in Dave's Bridgeport milling machine. Dave then machined the bracket where the bottom balljoint/TCA arm bolts together, to slot the two mounting holes, allowing us some adjustment when they were reassembled. After a bit of trial and error, we managed to coax around a degree of caster on both sides, which certainly improved the situation. However, I still need to shorten the tie bars by 10-20 mm to give me the ideal caster angle of 3°. I will have to shorten the tie bars, and introduce an adjustment mechanism, which will allow the length of the tie bars to be altered in situ. Slotted tie bar The rear axle was also out of alignment, and we adjusted the length of the trailing arms to bring it back in to line. So that was it, Dave had something to write for his clinic article, and I finally had a car that would no longer pull left and right when given some throttle, and a car that would go round coners with a lot less understeer. We packed up at 7:40pm, and I set off for the 120 mile journey home, knowing that the following morning I had to be up at 5:30am to travel to the 3 Sisters circuit near Wigan. It had been a long day, but it was worth it, as Dave had worked wonders on the suspension. The CCC clinic article should make for a good read when the magazine comes out next month.

A few hours sleep and it was Sunday morning already, and another trip up the motorway to the 3 Sisters circuit. We were greeted upon our arrival by 2 hours of torrential rain, followed by brief showers, and even more rain. My first two practice runs were spent slipping and sliding round the track, but after lunch, when the track had dried out, I posted an 88 second run, which was quicker than a race prepared Mk2 XR2, by a second, so things were certainly looking up. I then went quicker on the next timed run, almost breaking in to the 87 second target. The car is so much easier to drive now. It doesn't try to throw me in to the weeds, and it finally goes around corners. Much more fun, and rewarding, as you could concentrate on taking the racing line around bends, and on a few corners actually exit on the right line, with full throttle too. So it is a great big Thank You to Dave Walker, and CCC magazine for giving me their assistance, and sharing their expertise. I've two more events left to go this season, Harewood on the 24th and Loton Park on the 31st, and I'm looking forwards to them even more, now I know I can compare and improve on my times from previous visits. My final instructions for Harewood have come through, and I'm just waiting for them to arrive for Loton Park, as that is by far my favourite venue on this years Midland Speed Championship.

On the Emerald rollers All the wheel alignment equipment on the car The final readings after our adjustments
Friday 8th August 2003
Had fun at Bruntingthorpe today. Went up against a 205 GTI with a 16V head and 220 BHP. A couple of times we had a race down the runway, and the 205 just drove off, a very very quick and fully sorted car. The owner competes with the 205 in the CCC championship. There was also a really nicely turned out Mk1 Golf GTI, which again was very fast. I could stay with him though. And finally there was a Mini 1275GT, with a 1340cc engine, which revved to 7000 rpm. The owner took me out for a couple of laps, and it brought back all the memories of my Mini 1100 Special which I owned many years ago. Brought a big smile to my face.

Here are a few of the photo's. I dont want to steal the thunder from Retro Cars article, it should be a really good write up, and they reckon as its the cover feature, the Fiesta should be on the front cover of the mag. Fingers crossed.

Triumph were also at the track testing a new motorbike, and there were various 'super cars' whizzing round, including a Lamborghini Diablo, Ferrari F355, and some Noble twin turbo V6 cars. We were doing one shoot along the runway, travelling at about 30 mph, when one of the Ferrari's came past. He must have been clocking 150+ MPH! It was amazing! Wooosh.

So make sure you get your copy of the October issue of Retro Cars magazine ordered. And dont forget to get the September Performance Ford mag (Out today), as the XR2 thrash from June should be in it (with me again of course). Its so good getting invited to appear in all these mags. They're all different formats and appeal to different demographics, so there shouldn't be too much overlap between them. Still, people like to see my Fiesta, so I'm sure that even if they've seen the car before, it wont stop them buying more magazines just because the car is in it.

In the morning I've the drive to Norfolk to look forward too. I'm keen to see if Dave can alter the suspension to get rid of the understeer. Even if it means removing the tie bars and maching more thread on them, I don't mind. Lets just hope that he can make the adjustments that it needs.

Oil pressure was fine using the new guage. It appears to be very high when I start the engine, I saw 90+ psi at one point, but this drops to 60 when the engine has warmed up. Maybe the pressure is high at startup to help pump up the hydraulic tappets. Who knows?
The usual crowd around my XR2 Golf GTI and 205 GTI Very quick and tidy 1275GT Mini
Thursday 7th August 2003
Drove down to DERA at Chobham today for the CCC Clinic feature. Dave Walker drove the car, and found that the suspension geometry is all way out of alignment. (I'd been driving around the problem) Lack of caster in the front struts is the apparent cause, and it looks as though I need to shorten both front tie bars (from the Fiesta centre) to pull the track control arms forward, which in turn will give me more caster angle.

Dave is really keen to get the car over to his Norfolk workshop so he can use his laser alignment tools to get everything adjusted correctly. He's also offered to modify the engine map using his rolling road, as the car is pinking under part throttle, and probably has too much advance at startup, which makes starting a bit tricky occasionally.

So I'm off to Norfolk on Saturday. I'm at 3 Sisters in Wigan on Sunday, so if he does make any changes I'll see immediately if there's any improvement in my laptimes.

So we covered 250+ miles (3hours each way, averaging 24.2mpg in the Quattro) today, and we're off to Bruntingthorpe in the morning for the Retro Cars shoot, Norfolk on Saturday, and definitely Wigan on Sunday, the Audi is certainly clocking a few miles during August.

The new gauges seemed to work OK, though they were difficult to read in the bright daylight. Of course (heatwaves aside) sunshine is not very typical in the UK, so they'll be fine for the rest of the year.
Dave (left) and Richard (photographer) take some shots for the magazine Graham getting all artistic with the camera Another shot of the Fiesta Dave jumps out to cool off, after some high speed runs
Saturday 2nd August 2003
I was going to see John Beardmore's Morris Minor project today, but there was a big accident on the M1 near Kegworth, which totally blocked the carriageway, so I turned around and came home. I'll arrange another visit in the next month. Phil Short's Mini blew it's race engine up a few weekends ago, one of the ARP conrod bolts broke according to the engine builder. Phil is now having a new engine built for the Mini, and this weekend he's running his Audi RS4 at Harewood (Sunday) and is missing next weekends action as he's in Finland with the Ford WRC Rally team. Hopefully we'll catch up with him and John again later in the month.

The instrument gauges are now installed and working [left to right, Voltage, Water Temp °F, Oil Pressure PSI]. The oil pressure gauge reads 00 when starting the engine, and as soon as the starter button is released it shows the oil pressure, which is a bit odd, but at least I now finally have an accurate reading of the engine's oil pressure. It reads 75 PSI when the engine is cold. I had to change the sender unit on the block to match the gauge, but that didn't take long to swap over. The water temperature gauge needs matching to it's sender unit too, but that means disturbing the existing sender, which means draining water from the rad etc, and so I'll have to do that when I don't mind making a mess in the garage. They look really cool though. I've wired in a switch which allows the brightness to be varied. I'm not sure they'll be readable in bright daylight, but with the car in the garage, I wont find out until Thursday. I had to buy some different 4 pin connectors from Maplins, as the IP67 ones I bought from RS turned out to be too small, as the contact ratings were misleading (or I just misread them!)

I still have the Oxygen gauge to install. I'm going to mount that on the roll cage, so it's in line with the dash.

It's Fordfair at Silverstone today, probably the biggest show on the calender. I won't be there, too much to do at home. Besides it's nice to have some weekends off from sprinting/travelling.
Digital instruments now installed Oil pressure gauge sender unit Good Lord, thats huge!