Wednesday 30th June 2004
Broke my top speed record at Aintree. The new front tyres with their extra rubber appear to have raised the gearing high enough for me to reach 110 MPH on the back straight. Below is the output from the data collected by the DTA ECU. It shows how long I was on full throttle, and you can see the rpm's climb while in fifth, and the rev limiter coming in to action.
Checked the car out, everything appears to be fine. Had to empty the oil catch tank for the 1st time this year, and I've now fitted a spring to the gear linkage under neath the car, which at neutral is relaxed, but when I push the lever to 1st/2nd gear the spring is under tension, and it gives a more positive 'feeling' to the gear selection.
Weather forecast isn't looking very good for Shelsley Walsh, nor for Santa Pod this Sat/Sun. Never mind, I'll be there come rain or shine, with onboard video too with a bit of luck. I've ordered a Mustek PVR-A1 to record the footage from the bullet camera. Just need to plug it in and press record (thats the theory anyway) and it captures 320x240 resolution Mpeg4 video.
Sponsors race report for Aintree is now available (Adobe Acrobat format).
Monday 28th June 2004
Spent a wonderful day at Donington Park yesterday, with the BMW European Touring Car championship team. We had full access to the paddock, garages and even the grid when the cars were lining up for the two races. We spotted Alex Zanardi, James Thomson, and Andy Priaulx, not to mention all the other drivers who lined up on the grid. Tommo won the first race in his Alpha Romeo. The Andy Priaulx won the second race in his BMW. Before the ETCC races we watched the FIA-GT cars haring around the track. Why do these cars need to be so noisey? I know that they have a lot of power, but if I can manage 94db with 180BHP, then surely they can get their noise levels down with some better silencers?
Sunday 27th June 2004
A very very wet and windy day was spent at Aintree yesterday. We travelled up without seeing a drop of the wet stuff, and it was only after we arrived at 8am that it started raining. The organisers even stopped 2nd practice mid way through at 11:45am for an early 1 hour lunch break, to see if the storm would blow itself out. But it didn't really stop until about 1:45pm, and once the second timed runs commenced later in the afternoon, there were dry patches on the track, and times started coming down. A couple of offs from competitors having 'moments' caused a few delays (I was queueing in the assembly area for 25 mins at one point) but this worked to everyones advantage, as the strong winds were quickly drying the 2km track out. I'm really pleased with all the work that I'd done to the Fiesta during the previous two weeks. The new Vibra-Technics engine mounts have made a world of difference to the driveability of the car. Sure theres more vibration inside (the windows rattle at tickover!), but you can hear and feel the engine more, you certainly get a lot more feedback. Its hard to describe, but its definitely a modification I should have made when I first built the car. Stock engine mounts on a competition car just don't work.
The new Yokohamas have made a huge difference to the grip. I fitted the new A032's on the front, leaving the originals on the rear, and I must say I've probably never driven such a well mannered, better handling car in the wet. The grip levels now my that confidence is growing, far far exceed anything I've ever pushed round a wet track before. And the Ferodo DS2500 pads, once I'd bedded them in on the first practice lap (hence the 90 second time!), are also feeling very positive. You don't use the brakes much at Aintree, but when you do, it really feels like it wants to stop now. The disks back in the paddock were only 60° C after the 1st wet timed run, but even at low temperatures, the pads work really well. Bedding in took around 30 x 50% applications of the brake pedal, so I drove round in 3rd gear whilst left foot braking, off the gas, on the brakes, on the gas, off the brakes. Must have looked daft from the outside though, but the pads soon bedded in without glazing.
The gear linkage is still a cause for concern. I managed to change down instead of up again on my 2nd practice run, but I was half expecting it (the change didn't feel right), and so concentrated on the remaining runs and didn't have any more problems. Whats missing now is the spring underneath the car, that pulls the linkage in to the neutral position. The detent springs in the shifter just dont seem to produce enough resistance. I'm also going to move my seat a fraction, to see if a different seating position would help. The ball raced linkage makes for really effortless changes though, and the rubber mountings I've fitted to the housing also contribute to a quiter drive. I had no other problems, or reason to work on the car during the day. I did 'tweak' the ECU settings in the morning. I lowered the gear shift warning from 6750 to 6600 rpm, which meant when I changed in to 5th the car was just coming on-cam, but it happily pulled round to 7250rpm in fifth along the back straight, and I hit the rev limiter twice in fifth before the finishing line. You'd expect the engine to just sit bouncing along on the limit, but she climbs to 7250rpm (107mph), drops to around 7100, then climbs back up to 7250 again, and so on. Its a very long back straight! The wiper was useless over 80mph. It moved across the windscreen, but wasn't clearing any water off it. Good job I knew where I was going! 107mph with no visibility certainly makes for an exciting drive.
So another 1st in class and an engraved glass tankard for the cabinet, and a new Personal Best of 54.79s, finishing 37th overall from 126 starters completed a superb days motorsport. Liverpool Motor Club did a wonderful job in the conditions, one of the best run events I've attended in the past two years.
Friday 25th June 2004
Fitted all the new tyres to the rims today. I'm running the Yokohama road tyres tomorrow at Aintree, as the weather forecast isnt very good.
Thursday 24th June 2004
Bit of a disaster last night. Whilst trying to undo one the of the bleed nipples on the HiSpec calipers, I managed to shear the top off the nipple. Oops. Fortunately, it didn't undo, so I still have full hydraulic pressure. But it needs drilling out, so I'll take both calipers across to Chris at RPV next week for him to take a look at. I suspect the zinc plated steel nipple has welded itself to the aluminium caliper. I also suspect that there should have been a lubricant on the threads when assembled, to prevent this type of thing from happening, but as ever, I wasn't told about the risk when the parts were supplied. (Why do suppliers _never_ provide instructions?)
Another disaster was that the company who were supplying my Pirelli slick tyres let me down. After I made several calls, they eventually admitted they had none in stock, and weren't likely to find any for 12 months! So I made a few more calls, and phoned EARS Motorsport in Macclesfield, and spoke to a very knowledgable bloke who recommended I go for Michelin tyres. So I now have a set of N00 190/570R15 tyres, which are moulded slicks. This means that they have 17% tread, with 8mm tread depth, and they are very very soft. I'll get them fitted tomorrow to the OZ Superleggera rims.
I've also bought a pair of Yokohama A032R tyres, in 205/50R15, to replace the pair of worn tyres on the Fiesta. Many thanks to the guys at Yokohama UK for supplying them so quickly. Again, I'll have them fitted to the Compomotive rims tomorrow.
I've saved some more weight with the Michelins. They're 1.5Kg lighter than the Yokohama's, due to their different construction. Total weight saving with the four Michelins and four OZ wheels is 18Kg when compared to the Yokos and the sturdy Compomotive rims. Excellent.
Ran the engine last night. It doesn't move at all with the new engine mounts. This evening I tightened the cambelt tension, as I noticed it was still a bit slack since I replaced the cams in February. And I made a final adjustment to the gear linkage, so I'm now totally satisfied with the alignment.
Tuesday 22nd June 2004
No sign of the slicks yet, which is a bit worrying. Called the supplier and they said they had no one available to give me any information on the order I placed of Friday. Hmm, wot a way to run a business?
Modified the gear selector linkage this evening. About 3 hours work in all (including fitting). What I've done is I've replaced the plastic top hat bushes in the universal joint, with bearings bought from rswww.com. I've used 8mm steel bar, cut to the appropriate lengths, and tapped with M8x1.25 threads on the ends to hold the bits together. The photo's below show what's involved. Start by drilling out the old pins, push out the plastic bushes, insert the 12mm OD bearings, cut the 8mm rod to length and tap with M8x1.25" threads, assemble and fasten with M8 nyloc nuts, and protect from water/dirt ingress with silicon grease. Finally I refitted the linkage to the car, and there is now no play whatsoever in the gear linkage. Not even any side to side play when you rest your hand on the gear lever. A very worthwhile modification, and it only cost me < £20 including the cost of the 1" M8 die and the four bearings. The gear change is now much smoother too, due to reduction in friction from using bearings on the joints instead of plastic bushes.
Sponsors Yokohama (UK) are supplying a pair of A032R tyres, which I'm fitting to the front of the car. The existing tyres are 3 years old, and completely worn out, not to mention hardened due to all the heat cycles over the past two seasons. I'll use the Yokohama road tyres at tracks where it rains, and the Pirelli race slicks for dry events.
I'll be on my own at the Aintree Sprint again this weekend. Car #86, there's only me in Class 4B, so that should be an easy 20.5 points scored towards the Midland Speed championships.
Saturday 19th June 2004
Installed the new Vibra-technics engine mounts. Took me around four hours to do, and my hands are quite sore following all the work. I supported the weight of the engine/gearbox with wooden blocks, then lowered the cradle, and swapped all the bits over. It's never quite as easy as that though. My front suspension connects to a cross member which sits in the way of the cradle, so that also had to be removed. And I had to clean the parts I was putting back on etc etc. And none of the bolts for the cradle are that easy to remove. Anyway, its now done, so I can concentrate on setting the tracking tomorrow and running the engine to make sure all is well following the 8700 rpm burst at Curborough two weeks ago. Gear linkage mod is well under way, and I'll show my results later in the week before I re-assemble it all. There'll be no play in it whatsoever following my latest tweak.
Sponsors race report for Curborough is now available (Adobe Acrobat format). I've still to download the data from the DL90, which I'll try to do this week.
Friday 18th June 2004
I've got an entry for Shelsley Walsh on July 3rd. My first visit, I'm quite looking forward to a trip up the famous hill. There's a MG Metro 6R4 entered in Sports Libre, and Bernard will be there with his Mk2 Escort, so I'll be able to get some great photos if the weather's nice. There's a small wager involved too. Apparently Bernard thinks I cant get up the hill in under 38 seconds. I'm sure I can..... (read on)
I've thought long and hard about what tyres to get for the Fiesta. I can buy 2nd hand tyres, which are a harder compound than I really need. Or I can splash out megabucks on a set of tyres that are probably going to be overkill for the level that I am competing it. We're not running at a national level yet, but the competition is proving a lot fiercer than last year, and I'm still annoyed at not beating the Fiat 500 at Curborough in April. That should have been an easy win, but I was struggling at the limit with road tyres when he was sailing round on slicks (I lost by a 1/10th of a second). I spend a fair amount of money on entry fees, and petrol towing the car to and from events, and without equipping the car with whats really needed to set fast times, what really is the point in going? I've proved how quickly I can drive the car on road tyres. I beat all the 1400-2000 Mod Prod cars at Curborough the other weekend, when they were running slicks. I know the car handles really well, but I'm getting closer and closer to the limit, and there really is only one solution. So I've made a few phone calls, and I've finally found a set of tyres that I consider affordable. I've bought a set of very soft Pirelli slick tyres. The price was 25% less than the Avon equivalents, and they're 190/580 R15 which is closer than Avon can get to the 205/50 R15 Yokohama's that are already on the Fiesta. Delivery is next week, I'll go over next Friday to Jocks Tyres in town to get them fitted on the new OZ rims. Race tyres are lighter than road tyres due to their special construction, so I'll be shaving even more weight from the car when they're installed. I'd like to get the Fiesta below 700Kg, and this is definitely a big step in the right direction.
I've fitted the Ferodo brake pads today to the front brakes. They need bedding in with 25-30 applications at speed, and heaven knows where I can take the Fiesta to do that (maybe I can gatecrash Bruntingthorpe next week). I've also tackled the gear linkage again. I've shimmed the detent springs in the B&M shifter, which increases the spring pressure making the lever more positive. I've also taken the universal joint assembly apart on the end of the linkage. There are two plastic top hat washers which are moving in their housing. I'll fix the linkage back together tomorrow once I've eliminated the end float etc.
Tuesday 15th June 2004
Most of the bits I ordered last week have arrived. Just waiting for the DS2500 front brake pads. The engine mounts are totally solid, which in conjunction with my modification to the gear lever housing should cure the misalignment problems.
Woodford Trailers came up with the goods, and supplied me with a new spare wheel bracket for the trailer, which I've fitted tonight. It has been re-engineered, so shouldn't break again.
Finally located a supplier of my slick race tyres. The Renault Clio Cup cars (as seen at BTCC meetings) do indeed use the same size tyres as the ones I need, and following a phone call tonight, I may have a set of 2nd hand Michelin tyres within a few days. They may not be the right compound for hill climbing, but beggars can't be choosers. My Fiesta is 200Kg lighter than the Clio, so the compound may be OK for my chassis.
Results are through from the last meeting at Curborough. I came 35th overall, from 80 starters, which I'm very pleased with. It would have been great to have beaten my PB, I'm sure I'll get closer to the elusive 37s barrier at my next visit, especially with the new wheels and slicks installed. Next event is Aintree on the 26th, followed (hopefully) by visits to the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb on July 3rd, and the Santa Pod 1/4 mile drag strip on July the 4th.
Friday 11th June 2004
Dismantled the front suspension today. Took it all apart to see if there were any more strained bits since we replaced the M10 rod ends with stronger M14 items two events ago, and I'm pleased to say that everything looks perfect. I measured the lengths of both the track control arms, and found a 5mm difference in the near side arm (shorter). This would explain why the near side drive shaft binds when I jack the car up. I've made sure that the near side arm is now the right length by adjusting the rod end. In fact I've lengthened both arms, so I now have a slightly wider track at the front too, and a fraction more -ve camber. I'm satisfied that the arms are both exactly the same length, so the geometry left to right should be the same. I'll adjust the tracking too, once she's back on her wheels again.
I've modified the B&M shifter, by fitting the rubber cylindrical mounts (photo). I used the stiffer of the two packs of mounts that I bought from Radio Spares, and with the shifter refitted, it feels much smoother. Just some more fine adjustment left to get the linkage aligned correctly. I've ordered some vibra-technics competition engine/gearbox mounts from Burton-Power this afternoon (VIBFOR63MX). These will replace the two rubber mounts on the engine cradle, and the additional mounting next to the cam pulleys. They're almost solid, so will increase noise and vibration, but should stop the engine from pitching when I'm throwing her around.
I've ordered some Ferodo DS2500 brake pads too, for the front and rear brakes. These should be arriving next week, in time for the next sprint at the Aintree circuit on June 26th. The rear calipers are straight forward Sierra Cosworth/4x4 ones, so the pads are available off the shelf. But the fronts have to be sourced through a different supplier, as they're for motorsport use, and are not stocked by many companies (despite them referring to themselves as suppliers to the MotorSport industry)
To save weight, I've removed the XR2 reversing light housing from the car, and replaced it with a piece of aluminium (photo).
Wednesday 9th June 2004
The 7" x 15" OZ Superleggera wheels have arrived from larkspeed.com. They're not ET35, but ET37, which makes little difference to the overall width (4mm) so I'm not too fussed. They weigh 5.5 Kg each, which means I'm going to shave 18 Kg off the total weight of the car just by fitting new wheels. That'll bring the overall weight down to around 735 Kg. I'm still trying to source some cheap slicks at the moment. A friend says that there is a company who specialises in selling 2nd hand slicks, and I'm just trying to find the details out so I can give them a call to see if they can source some for me. I need some 205/50 R15 equivalent tyres. These are 23" diameter, which are less common than the 21.5" tyres that others use. If I go down to 21.5" I'll reduce the top speed of the car, which is not what I'm looking for. There are tyres from Dunlop which are close to what I need, but they may not necessarily be available in a soft compound. The nearest size in radial construction is 190/570R15. If anyone knows of a stockist of such a slick tyre in soft compound, please let me know.
I'm ordering some Ferodo DS2500 brake pads for the Fiesta. My HiSpec Racing 114-4 front calipers use AP Racing CP2340 D43 style pads, and the ones I need from Ferodo are part number FRP 218 H. I'm getting a set for the Sierra Cosworth rear calipers too, to improve the stopping power. The Greenstuff pads dont work at all well from cold.
The spare wheel mounting on my Woodford Trailer has cracked, and the chassis has also cracked, where the spare wheel bracket was mounted. I'm getting in touch with the manufacturers tomorrow to see what they are going to do about this. I'm quite shocked that the welds on the bracket have broken. I've only made around 20 trips with the trailer, covering no more than 3000 miles in total. Imagine what would have happened if the wheel had come off on the Motorway at 60 MPH?
Tuesday 8th June 2004
Somehow I still managed to change down from 3rd to 2nd on the finishing straight, which over revved the engine to 8743 rpm. I just cant understand how I'm managing to do this. My 2nd timed run was easily the fastest of the day, and I ruined it by screwing up the gear change. Its on a straight piece of track, I've reached the rev limiter in 3rd, and I simply pull the gear lever straight back to get 4th. But I'm getting 2nd gear. It never happened once at MIRA the weekend before, so theres something about the Curborough track thats causing the problem. I've had this at Harewood too, again along a straight piece of track, changing from 3rd to 4th, same thing happens. Its just driving me nuts now. All I can think is that its a misalignement problem. If the engine is jumping around and I stick it in 4th, but due to misalignment the selector shaft actually selects 2nd gear? Most disturbing. I'm not happy that the new B&M shifter bolts directly in to the floor, with no play, so if the gearbox has twisted then the selector will be misaligned. Also there is still some play in the universal joint on the end of the selector where it connects to the gearbox, so I'll chop the UJ off and replace it with a new one.
Apart from that it was a good day. I managed to get within .23 seconds of my PB on the final (3rd) competitive run, even with fuel surge problems halfway round, due to me running the fuel tank low to save weight. I should have beaten my PB on the 2nd run, but for the damned gear selection problem.
It was a very hot day, and most people were going off and making mistakes, stall on the line, suffering suspension breakages, broken clutches, or just suffering from brain fade.
I simply must resolve this stupid gear selection problem, or I may as well give up now. Whats the point in spending so much time and and effort building the car for racing, if I'm just going to purposefully change down in to 2nd gear at 80 MPH. What is going on? And why does it always seem to be happening at Curborough? Argh
Saturday 5th June 2004
I've been invited to show the XR2 on the Retro Cars stand at Santa Pod on July the 4th. I may be at Shelsley Walsh the previous day, but I'll still be at the Retro Cars Show on Sunday. John Beardmore should be there with his fabulous Morris Minor, and with a bit of luck we'll be able to run up the strip against one another.
The website stats for March are quite impressive. I've now moved to Webalizer to generate the reports, which gives more presentable data, but the stats below created using Analog, still show that during March 2004 we had over a million hits in a single month.
There's a map below of the MIRA track. The section we were using is shown in red, and the track map from the datalogger shows the section we were using.
Race report for MIRA (and the previous two events in 2004) are now in the event news page.
Friday 4th June 2004
I was 3rd in class, and 52nd overall last weekend, out of 108 finishers, which is one of my best ever results. I beat all but 3 of the 13 Ferrari's, including a 360 Modena.
I've ordered a set of new wheels. I've gone for the lightest cast alloy available, which is the OZ Superleggera. Tyres are proving a little harder to obtain. Yokohama dont stock slick tyres at the moment, and wont have any until next season. Hoosier don't make any my size (180/570 R15), however Dunlop do, and the tyres are used for the Renault Clio Cup, but they're a harder compound than I need. Avon of course sell tyres in this size, but the price is very high at £200 per tyre, which is why I'm trying to find an alternative.