NSCC Blyton entriesThe Blyton round in September, run by Nottingham Sports Car Club, is always oversubscribed with a huge scramble for places. So this year, they've decided to open entries on the 15th July, at 7.30am. OK, so its a Saturday, no big deal.
What might be an issue is that most drivers are either at Lydden Hill, or Barbon Manor! So thats going to be fun. Can we get a decent mobile phone signal, and has anyone the time to afford to be sitting around, trying to enter a sprint when they need to be focusing on the event that they're entered in.
The BARC Wales event also opens tonight, for the second visit to Pembrey in September, which I'm entering. This is proving to be an expensive month!
BARC Midlands Snetterton 100 entries openThe BARC Midlands event opened yesterday morning, for their sprint at Snetterton in August, so I quickly put my entry in. Its £300, which isnt too bad, but it is one of the most expensive weekends on the calendar. The next event to open is the Kirkistown Sprint, also in August, which I hope to do, but I've yet to put the budget together for. The cost of the ferry is around £348, plus the entry fee, around £190, plus the fuel for the van and the race car.
FTD videoWith the forecast of rain for the second timed runs, I had to throw caution to the wind and put in a quick but scruffy first run to secure FTD.
FTD winner at CurboroughAbsolutely zero problems at Curborough, the car was perfect, although the weather had different ideas. I ran the Avon HC3's for both practice runs. For the only dry timed run I was almost two seconds faster after bolting on the Pirellis. Again swapping from Avon to Pirelli puts me at a disadvantage because there is such a big difference between the grip levels. Had I had one more dry run on the Pirellis' then I would definitely have improved again.
Because of the impending rain, Owen Motor Club decided rather than having a 1 hour lunch break after the second practice run, there would instead be a ten minute break, which meant that everyone completed their first timed run in the dry. And then after the half hour lunch break that followed T1, the impending rain finally arrived, at which point people started packing up. So we were very fortunate to get one dry run, and everyone was thankful that the club made the decision.
After I packed up in the refreshing rain, I changed in to dry clothes, and walked over to the cafe and sat watching the drivers who braved the torrential rain, thunder and lightning, complete their runs, with spins, and slides and big smiles on their faces. The meeting finished around 4pm. I was very pleased to take FTD, and collected the £100 prize money, a bottle of champagne, and of course the beautiful Graham Hill Trophy.
The journey home was beset with more torrential rain, but after an hour, I was back home safely.
My next event is the Lydden Hill sprint in July, which is the next round of the BSC.
No faults foundI've finished with all the cable tieing, and the seat is now back in the car, and when I connected the laptop to the ECU there were no faults reported. I loaded the CAL back from the Friday before Pembrey, to restore the IO and other fixes that I had to apply to get around the VVT issues. So its just a case now of cleaning tyres, for the next outing, which is the Graham Hill Trophy sprint at Curborough on Sunday. Sadly, the heat wave we're currently having in the UK will be replaced by rain showers from Sunday, so there's little chance of breaking class records if that's the case, so I'll just throw the wets on and work on the wet setup.
Starter replacedThe starter motor has been replaced with a Bosch refurbished motor, which should cure the starting issues, where the motor can be heard spinning, but it doesnt engage with the flywheel. I've also finished refitting the wiring I'd removed, and its all secured very safely with lots of cable ties. All I've left to do is refit the seat, the seat belts, and a couple of other parts, then I can start cleaning the ten tyres for the car's next outing.
Found the issue!I cleaned all the pins on the Life ECU connector, using Deoxit, cotton buds, and a fibre glass pen, and they all came up very clean and shiney, so once that was done I plugged it back in to the car, and powered up the ignition. Then, using LifeMON I displayed traces at 100Hz for ECT, ACT, EOP and vBatt, and whilst keeping an eye on the laptop screen, I went around the whole car, pulling and moving the loom to see if anything would indicate where the problem lay. I eventually ended up checking the engine loom where it ran down to the crank sensor, when I spotted the problem. The engine loom had been rubbing on the alternator belt, and the crank sensor cable was showing exposed copper wire. Plus the seperate cable that powers the inlet vvt solenoid, had worn all the way through the positive supply, which is why the vvt failures occured on Saturday until I swapped the exhaust and inlet vvt solenoid cables over.
What I'd done, is missed off a single cable tie, that would have held the harness away from the alternator belt. A table tie that probably cost a penny. Lesson learnt, I repaired both cables, and plugged them back in to the crank sensor and the inlet vvt solenoid, and with the power back on, the ECU reported zero errors.
I will now refit all the connections I took off to check, and reconfigure the ECU for inlet and exhaust vvt operation, and hopefully, when I'm back out I'll be back to full power again with no more glitches :D
Deep dive timeI downloaded the data from the final run on Sunday, and I can see spikes in the water temp and air temp readings, which is a bit odd. And whats even weirder is that the spikes, the limp mode, and the engine cutouts, ALL occur on the same corner, across the different runs, on both days. Its Brooklands Hairpin. Where I'm standing on the brakes, and turning right. OK, so thats a sign, something is trying to tell me something here. Why, on that corner, did I have electronic issues?
So at the moment, without spending any time investigating on the car, I've got the wiring diagram that I produced, and the ECU Pinouts, to try and find whats common to all the issues. And I think I've found it.
There are two 5 Volt supplies provided by the ECU. Pin 63 is 5V Out #1. Pin 64 is 5V Out #2. The 5V Out #1 is used by the Chassis Split connector, which joins the engine loom to the chassis loom. And on the chassis loom, we have the Exhaust Cam Sensor. Now it should be wired direct to the ECU, like the Inlet Cam sensor, but dont forget we had to improvise with these cars, and IO is limited and we've had to repurpose various connections to do jobs they werent meat to do. In this case, the Rain Light output is used to drive the Exhaust VVT solenoid, and what was the Front Left wheel speed sensor, is wired to the Exhaust Cam sensor via a long shielded twisted pair cable.
Another sensor using the same 5V supply is the crank sensor!
5V Out #1 also goes to the Spare Inputs connector, which is used to monitor both front and rear brake pressures, and steering wheel angle. All of the connections for these are crappy sureseal connectors, which are next to the clutch and brake pedal, at the front of the chassis. And the same 5V Out #1, feeds the Inlet Cam position sensor. So I am wondering if there could be a problem with the sureseal connectors, which is causing the 5V signal to drop, under heavy braking whilst turning right?
It could all be linked. I will remove the body work and see what I can find. At the very least, the sureseal connectors could all be unplugged so I lose the brake pressure and steering wheel sensors, but it would rule out if one of those sensors was affecting the 5V supply. I am tempted to cut the sureseal connectors off, and use DTM connectors, as the sureseals are over 10 years old, and heaven knows what state they're like inside.
Time to go investigate :D
Pembrey reportSetting off from Leicester at midday, I was hoping for a decent journey across to South Wales, sadly the M42 and the M4 had different ideas, and I eventually arrived at around 5pm, to join a very short queue. After just a few minutes we were allowed in to the paddock, where we then bagged our garages for the weekend. I shared a garage with OMS driver Simon Wallis, there was plenty of room to spread out, and room was something I needed with all ten wheels in use over the weekend. After walking the course, I cooked myself some food, and prepared myself for the following days racing.
SaturdayOnly ten drivers were present, so qualifying was just going to be a formality. The Avon rears gave the car a very unusual feeling as I pushed around the quick corners. Hard to describe, it felt like the rear end had a push rod failure, as the car pivoted unusually. I thought perhaps the diff was on its way out, but for the first timed run, on the Pirelli rears, I broke the 1600T class record, finishing 2nd fastest. Back in the paddock, I suddenly realised I'd just used the rear run off tyres on the qualifying run. Idiot. The big 300mm rears were still sat wrapped on the garage floor! Right, out with the heat gun again, and I quickly cleaned them both and fitted the pirelli fronts.
On the next run, the first run off, I tried very hard again and improve the record again by another second, with a 95.11s, but everyone else also improved and I was down in fifth place, the win taken by Pete Goulding with a 94.25s run. Good effort. The top five were all within a second of the winner. Drat. But I'd knocked 4.2 seconds off my PB, it was a shame the car would later deny me from making that 5 seconds.
Never mind, put the avon fronts back on and the big rears, and for the third timed run I'd work on my braking points. So for T3 I again lead the batch of cars away, and half way around the track, the dreaded Limp Mode struck. I couldnt see why, the dash wasnt giving me any clues, so I dipped the clutch, turned the ignition off and on again, and tried again. All good, so I accelerated hard, and then, limp mode struck again. So I continued around the track, and completed the run, ensuring I'd qualified, albeit in tenth place.
Back in the garage I checked the data, and it said VVT Failure. Damn. What could that be then? The inletraw data was showing zero, so I quickly refitted the spare inlet cam sensor, and reset the fault code, refitted the cleaned Pirelli rears, and fronts, and got ready for the run. The engine started ok, and I drove to the start line, again first away. As I floored the throttle to enable launch, and released the clutch, and limp mode struck again, leading to a very very slow 160s lap of the track, placing me tenth and last :(
Back in the pits I again checked the data, and ran the engine, and every time I gave it full throttle to enable launch, it tripped in to limp mode with a VVT Failure. I flattened the exhaust cam map to all zeros and tried again. But it still failed. Cant be the exhaust sensor then.
Scratching my head, after getting some suggestions from Pete Howgate, I decided to swap both the VVT solenoid plug over. In fact the exhaust connector would reach the inlet solenoid, but not the other way round. So I reconfigured the IO to make the ECU drive the inlet solenoid from exhaust solenoid output, and in doing so disabled the exhaust VVT altogether. Then when I started the engine, and floored the throttle, the engine ran without going in to limp mode. I repeated this several times, with no more trips. Phew. So the fault lay in the two wire connection that fed the inlet VVT solenoid. Either there was a problem with the +12V connection, or the PWM connection, but either way, the connector probably needs replacing if I'm going to revert back to using inlet and exhaust VVT in the future. For Sunday though, it meant I could compete, and get points, a far better position to be in that packing up and going home. I'm glad all the hours spent learning the Life software paid off.
SundayToday we were on the Clubmans circuit, which I actually enjoy more than the National, as its more time on track, more challenging and technical and I enjoy chucking the car around. I set the class record in 2022, with a 103.92s run on my last run of the day, which was a real thrill. It was cooler, with rain on its way, so I had to do my best and I finished 2nd in the run off to Terry Holmes. With the hot sunny weather forecast, would I get close to that time again?
Overnight I'd cleaned six tyres, and added fuel and air, so the car was ready (touch wood) to give me another chance of some run off wins. As I've already mentioned, the temperature was meant to be even higher, so it would be a real test of everyones ageing rubber. On the first practice run, I was red flagged due to John Loudons car becoming stranded with gear selection issues, so I only completed one flying lap. Offered a rereun, I chose to preserve my car and tyres.
The modifications overnight had worked, no limp mode. Then the first timed run came, and I was third with a 106.95s. Again, no issues. For the first run off, I put in a blistering lap, with the track warmer than ever, and finished second again, this time to Chris Jones, just 1/10th of a second ahead. Frustratingly, the car died on me half way around, I put it down to traction control, the engine burst back in to life a second later, but if definitely affected my time. I would certainly have won the run off had it not happened. Pete Goulding also had an ecu issue, and failed to complete the run, and that helped me close the gap on the championship leader.
So what was wrong now? I downloaded and checked the data, and it showed that although the engineEnable signal was OK, the runMode dropped from RUN to STOP, twice, rapidly, which I dont think was an engine trip, it was more like a missing crank signal. Hmm. Then I checked the data from the previous run, and it happened again, on the same corner, so it looks like its caused by high lateral G force when turning right. I will check the crank sensor connection, and made sure the connector is plugged in securely. (Ed: I am thinking now that it may have been caused by the original inlet cam sensor that I'd refitted on Saturday when I was trying to diagnose the VVT limp mode failures)
On to the third timed run, and I'm sat in the car, belted in, ready to go, press the starter button, and nothing. Again, nothing. And again! The starter motor was spinning, but not engaging. I knew it was on its way out, as I had removed it a few weeks ago and washed the mechanism in meths to clear all the crud out following some other starting problems. But no, it had decided it wasnt going to start the engine. So I had to get out, remove my helmet, then the engine cover, connect the jump start battery, and try again. Still nothing. So I had no option other than whacking the starter motor with something solid, and I chose a large socket, which after another try, did the trick. Right, helmet on, engine cover on, get back in, drive to the line and complete a run. It wasnt my best run, but I'd still got round, and I was third, on the old 300mm tyres, with a 109.00s, saving the run off tyres again for the last run.
OK, so one more go, and would it start? Yes, it did, and I was able to take my run off with everyone else. Sadly, as I'd had to start the engine before 5 minutes before we were called, I arrived at the line, with a decent oil and water temperature, but the start line marshals kept me waiting five minutes, whilst someones gopro was recovered from the track. And I darent turn the igntion off as I'd probably not start it again. By the time I was released, the car performed perfectly, but I could only manage 4th, with Steve Miles taking the win, again I was less than a second from the winning time.
I couldnt complain really, I'd got a good suntan, and a decent haul of points, with no fails to finish, and I'd got something to write about, and deep dive when I got home. Speaking of which, the journey back was far better, and an hour quicker, despite crawling on the M5 for 10 minutes following the clear up of an earlier crash. What was a real surpise was the calory count on my Garmin watch. Ovcer the three days I'd walked 50,000 steps, and burnt 15,000 calories. That deserved a beer when I got home :D
The full list of finishing times for all runs can be found here.
Pembrey challengesQuick summary, I'll find some time to write the full report in the next day or so. I knocked 4.2seconds off my PB on Saturday, on the second timed run, but then the engine developed an electrical issue with the VVT system, meaning I was last on the third timed run, and last on the second run off, scoring points, but far fewer than I would have liked. I fixed the issue on Saturday after the final run. On Sunday, with the car repaired, I was second in the first run off, setting the second fastest time of the day. However during the run the engine cut out twice, which we think may be the new crank sensor failing, so that needs a deep dive. And then the starter motor packed up for the third timed run, which I had to hit with a large object to coax it in to life, and I qualified. On the final run, starting the engine before I got in to the car, I was fourth. So just one podium this weekend, lots of points, and it could have been worse if I hadnt been able to fix the VVT problem. I am still second in the championship.
Over the three days, I walked 50,000 steps, and burnt 15,000 calories, it was exhausting, but fun, and the weather was a little on the warm side for the pirelli's.