September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011
The car is off the trailer so I can work on it. I have so far drained the brake lines to the rear axle and removed the leaking pressure limiter from inside the car. I've also drained the fuel system, and intend to replace the hoses used inside the car with hard aluminium pipes. And at the same time I shall replace the fuel pump and the filter, due to their age.
Monday 12th September 2011
Loton Park Hillclimb, 11th September 2011
Car number #77
Depart 5:25am
Arrived 7:30am
Distance 98miles
Average 34.5 MPG

The week leading up to the event involved getting the Fiesta up on to the axle stands so I could prepare all the tyres for the cars last event of the year. I hadn't been to Loton Park since 2004, where I didn't even compete, as the Rutland front suspension broke during practice in the morning.
So with all four wheels off I checked the suspension, and found that the front tie bar bracket bolts needed tightening on both sides of the car, as they'd vibrated loose from the events I'd participated in over the previous couple of months.

It was only on Thursday evening however that I spotted that the bottom of the near side front strut had a crack in it, around the weld on the circumference of the bottom of the strut. With the wheel on the car, I could move the wheel side to side, and the strut didn't move by the same amount. So after removing the wheel and the strut, the crack was too significant to ignore. I clearly couldn't run at Loton with a cracked strut, so a couple of phone calls later and I had a pair of brand new Fiesta AVO fronts sat waiting to be installed on the car. So I then set about swapping the bits over, and getting the car back on to its wheels. Ideally I'd like to have bought some 2 way adjustable front shockers, but I didn't have the luxury to wait for a pair to be built, so I simply replaced the fronts like for like (ie top adjustable, 2.25" coilovers)

That's when the problems started to appear. When I put the car back on its wheels, I noticed that the front wheels now toe'd out, significantly. So I extended the driver's side steering arm by one turn, and the passenger side by three turns, which made things, look a little better. I loaded the car on to the trailer, and after the 100 mile journey to Loton, when I unloaded the car, I noticed that the camber on the near side had gone from -ve to +ve, and the front wheel looked like it was tucked underneath the car. The journey on the trailer had allowed the suspension to settle and it was now obviously very much out of alignment.

This had all stemmed from the replacement struts, which I was now beginning to realise, didn't have the two front hub carrier bolt holes in the same positions as the old ones. I'd dropped the original struts off with AVO, for repair/refurbish so I had no way of comparing the new and old ones side by side. So what to do now? There was nothing left but to adjust the Kustom track control arm, by winding the heim/rod end out to lengthen the arm and give me some -ve camber. So I wound the heim out by about six turns. Now something else odd was going here. The TCA heim on the near side, was always wound almost fully in to the arm. Yet the driver's side heim, was out about 8 turns. So maybe the old struts weren't doing their job properly, and holding the hub carriers at their correct positions. Hmm.

So with the car 'adjusted' by eye, my first practice run was very tentative, and I climbed the hill in 75seconds. Back in the paddock, I adjusted the toe in again, and wound the near side steering arm out by another two more turns to compensate. I had also swapped the front and rear tyres around in preparation for Loton, as the rears had for more tread than the fronts, so the plan was to run the tyres with the deeper tread on the front, which also altered the cars handling characteristics. Not that I'd notice now with the geometry so far out.

On the second practice I went 10 seconds faster, and set a new personal best of 65.00s. Very encouraging. It wasn't ideal, but the car went round corners, and seemed quite chuckable, so I decided to stop adjusting, and start concentrating on getting my times down.

On the first timed run, I crossed the line at 63.57s, so another 1.43s improvement on my PB, and the car was absolutely flying. Loton is such a great track when the suns out and its dry. I was really getting my teeth in to the circuit. Nigel Hinton in the NG TD V8 kit car, ran a 64.01 and he was as determined as I was not be beaten, so with it all to play for we lined up for our second and final timed runs.

I was slower off the line, slower in to Triangle, and thought I'd messed things up, but up the Cedar straight I positively nailed the throttle to the floor and hung on, leaving my braking as late as I could, and crossed the line in 63.41s, yet another .16s improvement on my PB. I waited for Nigel to arrive, and when revealed he'd gone .5s quicker than his previous run, to record a 63.5, I'd done enough to beat him. Almost a tenth quicker, and if I'd have gotten the car off the line more quickly, I reckon I'd have easily dipped in to the 62's.

So, even with wonky suspension, and 7 year old tyres, it was perfect end to the season, with a nice bit of competition to liven things up. I finished 3rd in class, Nigel in 4th, with the £40,000 Force LM001 of Graham Wynn, the winner (51.03s) and Mike Turpin's sequential Vauxhall Nova (1840cc) in 2nd with an incredible time of 56.47seconds. Clearly I've got some more time to find, but had the front suspension not been swapped over, I know I could have gotten a lot closer to the Nova.

Great to meet so many great friends at Loton, and I'm so looking forward to returning next year.

Youtube video of my first timed run, 63.57s

Youtube video of my second, fastest, timed run, 63.41s

Loton Park Hillclimb, 11th September 2011

So thats if for this year. No more events for me, and I can now start working on preparing the car for 2012. I'm very happy with the engine and gearbox. I just need to concentrate on improving the traction at the front end, so when I give it full throttle the wheels dont skip around all over the place, which will drastically improve my times at all of the venues I visit. Fitting a flat shift system will also help, as the paddle clutch is not at all forgiving, and tends to encourage the wheels to break traction when I change gear. The fuel and brake lines inside the car are going to be re-routed, to avoid the heat from the exhaust tunnel, and I've some other plans to 'refresh' some of the items on the car, that are approaching 10 years old. Such as the fuel pump and filter, and a few other components.

I've won the Sports Libre crown in the Midland Speed championship, again, and could do with some more competition. MidSpeed are talking about making the points scoring more fair for people like myself stuck in a category with full race machinery, and there's the usual rumour of a Saloon Libre class for 2012, which gets my vote. Lets get the Escorts and other modified machinery back out on the hills, where they belong.
Tuesday 6th September 2011
Aintree Sprint 3rd September 2011
5:20am depart
7:40am arrive
120 miles 33.5mpg
Fiesta Top Speed: 115MPH in 5th

Aintree was a bit of a washout to be honest. It started raining soon after I arrived, and carried on raining for most of the day. No problems with the car though. The gearbox steady bar bracket didn't break this time, though the bolt securing the bar to the gearbox had worked loose, so I nipped it up with a spanner. That was about as exciting as it got. I was in with Jim Belt in his Juno TR400 sprint car, which has 400BHP and a Jaguar V6 in the back, and a Radical, and a Lotus Europa 2.4 Duratec, and after the first timed run I was showing as 2nd in class. Cool. Alas, the times for Jim and the Europa were incorrect, and on their 2nd timed runs, I duly slipped to 4th in class. There's no way I can compete with machinery like that. Still, there's talk of a Saloon Libre class next year, which might mean I get to fight against similar machinery.

After my 2nd timed run, I put the car back on the trailer and went home. I wasn't going to get any faster, not fast enough to challenge the other cars in the class. It was nice to get back home before 5pm for a change, and I've unloaded the car off the trailer, so I can give the suspension and tyres a once over prior to the last event for me this year, the Loton Park hillclimb on Sunday 11th September.
Aintree Sprint, 3rd Sep 2011

Youtube video of my fastest run between the showers.