Archive for June, 2009

Trackside View, Britishers at Doune, June 2009

Posted in Trackside View on June 24, 2009 by Giles Guthrie

Doune is an attractive village just north of Stirling. It’s one of those places you drive through on the way to Scotland’s stunning scenery, but to pass it by is to do it an injustice. It’s a lovely place, with antiques shops, tea rooms and free parking. But every year in June the place reverberates to the sound of hundreds of horsepower tearing up a narrow strip of tarmac.

My companion and I arrive shortly after nine on the Sunday morning, after a pleasant blast up the motorway. He’s driving, and by the time we arrive I feel I’ve thrown off the last vestiges of last night’s fine dining and fine wine. Paul by contrast is suffering from the exuberance of others, and is tucking in to a strawberry cheesecake/trifle thing, for which tasting worse than it looked would be an impossibility. Scott and I walk the paddock, spotting the regulars from the Scottish championship, and taking note of the more interesting machinery that’s playing the British game. There’s a beautiful Audi Sport Quattro (see http://giles-guthrie.com for pictures in due course), and the collection of serious Goulds is something to behold.

Cars are running already, so we make our way up the hill, settling just beyond half way ‘twixt Oak Tree and Garden Gate. Seems a good place to be, although from the commentary it seems that everyone’s going off at junction, including the aforementioned Quattro, which comes down the hill sans chin. Easily confused as we are, Scott and I lose count of the batches, and the fact that the cars are coming up out of numerical sequence doesn’t help. Some seriously quick cars have been up already, and my complete failure to take decent pictures of most of them is testament to the error of judgement I made about shaking off last night’s wine. That and the fact that Doune’s tight confines make the speed so much more apparent than at other venues.

Consequently, we’re not entirely sure when Paul’s due up. However, when he starts his run, I confidently pronounce to Scott that this is the Bogey. Indeed it is so, and whilst Paul’s not massively quick through Oak, the acceleration towards Garden Gate is inescapable. Too early on the brakes into Garden Gate, then two bites at the gas on the exit before finding confidence and traction, flatshifting at big RPMs through the tunnel. Gone.

Charging the Garden Gate

Charging the Garden Gate

Doune’s busy today, working its magic on an increasing number and cross-section of observers, from the nail-fiddling, Buckfast-drinking besoms at the bottom of the hill to families with barbecues and foldaway chairs in the Meadow. A senior chap in tie and shooting jacket gets a respectful nod.

The Return Run

The Return Run

For the first of the timed runs, we’re up high, looking out over Junction and the Meadow, and then spinning round to watch them through Esses. Everyone seems slow through Junction, even though we’d surveyed the corner on our way up the hill, noting its narrowness and unhelpful crest in the braking zone. Not everyone is slow enough though, Neil Marshall emerging unscathed from a double roll in his Fisher Fury. Paul’s pulsing the throttle through Meadow, we hear screeching at East Brae, and then he blasts through the Esses on his way to another personal best.

Running the Esses

Running the Esses

I have to leave early, and so miss the final timed run. Paul hadn’t exuded confidence that the time was there, so it is all the more pleasing to get the 47.30 text message a couple of hours later.

Doune Hillclimb – National A event 20th and 21st of June 2009

Posted in Hillclimbs with tags , on June 23, 2009 by Paul Lawrence

Doune is a scary place, and the one event on the calendar where I am not on the pace. I know the car has the ability, but that place really is an awesome challenge and with the record set at a low 46s (more than three and a half seconds better than my best time) I have a lot to do.

Last time at Doune, I had terrible propshaft vibrations, so knew I could go faster with the new propshaft in place, but how much quicker would I go?

Camber was reset after Kames and with the new boots on (thanks to Drew) expectations were of getting a decent 48 second run. Hopefully that would be enough to match Ross from earlier in the year. Scoring two 3rd places previsouly really hurt my chances of taking the A4 hills title so the pressure was on.

The main event was a National A event, so I was bumped down into a class of National B license holders and was very fortunate to end up with a paddock place next to Mac, Andrew and a fellow Paul in a lovely 600bhp Evo from Yorkshire. We had a good if not somewhat tight spot but we had a good laugh during the weekend and some good banter on the Saturday night. Due to the number of cars and the big single seaters being in attendance, the Saturday was scheduled for 3 practices and the Sunday had one practice, two timed runs and two top 12 run offs on the schedule.

Under the old oak tree
Under the old oak tree

I was pleased that I had no nerves on the Saturday morning, but with a wet track and changeable conditions I decided that I didn’t need to break any records and to try and get some confidence on the lower half of the track. Analysis of earlier results showed that I was losing all of my time to Ross and John in the first 18 seconds — up to the split at Garden Gate. With new 245 rubber on the rear and very little scrubbing in, I decided to take it easy on the first couple of runs and get my eye in.

My first run was on a damp track, which is often slippier than when fully wet, so taking it easy I put in a rather sedate 57 second run. The earlier A4 runners, John Hamilton and Colin Hodge had dry runs and put in 55 and 54 second runs respectively.

Second practice was on a drying track with the run up through Oak, Garden Gate and the Tunnel being dry – only to discover that the meadow had rain and looked damp. This shook me a little and I slowed through out the later half of the run. My time ended up at 51.82 against John and Colin’s 50.29 and 53.06 respectively. I wasn’t sure where all the time was going, but knew I could go faster.

The last practice of the day was my opportunity to state my intentions for a victory on Sunday and managed to slightly better his last practice time of 49.59 with a 49.52 and a new personal best. Tyres were scrubbed in nicely now and weather permitting knew that I could go quicker.

Without any help from the noisy buggers from the Scottish Kit Car Club (SKCC) I managed about 3 hours sleep and felt pretty tired but motivated in the morning.

First practice was a pb of 48.73 against John’s 50.48. The track was perfect. This run really lifted my confidence and I started to believe that I could go faster again. The car was beginning to come alive and move around underneath me, which was really good but a little bit scary as you don’t want to explore beyond acceptable levels of grip at Doune

Through the meadow
Through the meadow

Time for the first timed run. John put in a fantastic 48.37, his best run for the last few years anyway. I was in the fortunate position of knowing what I needed to do and managed to raise my game and put in a 48.29 which beat Ross’s and John’s times from earlier in the year. I was chuffed and actually thought that I had it in the bag.

Standing in the paddock with GWR and the A6 guys, John put in a stunning 47.60 on his last run and my heart sunk. That was a good six tenths quicker than he had ever been before and way beyond my expectations for the weekend. I was the first to congratulate John and he was clearly elated.

It was fantastic that so many people came up to me and said I could do it, many thanks to them. But also amazing how many people commented on the cooling conditions and how grip levels were dropping by the second. I knew I could go faster, but could I go that much faster?

The big Goulds take priority and due to overheating and double entries, the clerk wanted to leave the Nat B running until last, but after some sense by Vernon the clerk of the course we were allowed our runs. Yes the track was cooler, yes the grip levels were lower but I was up for it. I’m sure that Giles or Stephen will say that I was quiet, but I was in the zone as they say. Melodramatic, but I honestly felt the best I had in the last couple of years. A heady mixture of adrenalin and the challenge.

My start was perfect, just the right amount of wheel spin, then a slight lift over the first bend then buried the throttle right up to 10k through 2nd and 3rd gears taking the first sweeping right bend faster than I ever thought I would, I actually scared myself a little and had to cover the brake before Oak. I was then back on the power through Oak up to Garden gate with the car right on the limit. Never had that amount of movement in the car at Doune before but it felt great. Had a couple of bites at Garden Gate, but I knew it was quick so buried the throttle again and carried loads of speed up the hill with the car going light over the crest then hard on the brakes for Junction. A little bit of oversteer on the exit, perfect I said to myself – now get back on the power. Again going faster than ever before I had to lift before East Brae. Late on the brakes, snicked second and off again after some opposite lock. Brake hard for the Esses, selecting second to help me stop. A good exit and over the line nearly flatout in 3rd gear. Gobsmacked – I had smashed my own best and beat the listed record of George Coghill Snr of 47.60 and sneaked in a 47.30 to take all the points. We all know that Wallace went faster, but for some reason the record is not used. Will have to wait and see if I get the record and the additional point or not.

Kames Sprint 13th and 14th June 2009

Posted in Sprints with tags , , , on June 19, 2009 by Paul Lawrence

Next up was a double header at Kames only 30 minutes or so South of the house, so an easier journey than Golspie last weekend. The event ran anti clockwise on the Saturday and the more favoured clockwise direction on the Sunday. Both days counted in the Scottish Sprint Championship so I needed to get down to near record place to stay in touch with the leaders.

The car was running well, no major problems, just a small oil weep near the front of the car that only persists at very high oil pressures and the steering rack has some play that will need some attention during the next break after back to back events at Doune, Forrestburn and then Boyndie.

After another flawless event run by the lovely Lesley at EACC (East Ayrshire Car Club) we managed five runs during the day and although my tyres were past their best after Golspie, I thought records were possible with the right conditions. After some strong practice times I set about the timed runs. I managed to get below the record on both runs and in the end lowered the record to 76.63 from 76.99. So good points scored. Only the Lambies were in attendance and were suffering badly from second gear vibration problems and I am sure they wont mind me saying that they couldn’t get near me all weekend. Billy Snr actually had a big moment going losing control over the finish line and ripped his exhaust and rear wing off on his last run. Ended up 10th overall, so another class win and point in the top 10 championship.

Sunday weather forecast promised rain, but another good day transpired and weather looked promising. Kames is very abrasive and after my complaining about lack of grip, again on the rear and around right handed bends, I spotted after the event that my camber setting on the rear left of the car was way out and must have affected the car at Golspie too. Due to the really low ride height, when the suspension is fully extended when up on a jack the springs are popping out of their collars and when setting the camber the spring had clearly been unseated and I had ended up with way too much camber. Silly mistake.

Now that the excuse is out of the way. I didn’t manage match my previous best time and ended up 1.19 seconds off of record pace and pretty disappointed. We only managed one proper timed run though as the rain came in nicely for the second ones. I decided that new rubber was required and have since stepped up to 245’s on the rear. Especially important as the mighty Doune is next week. The very competitive A6 class were on fire this weekend lowering the clockwise record. Congratulations to Les in the mighty GWR Dax.

So two class wins and extended my lead in the A4 class. After normalising the scores on the overall championship I am sitting 3rd overall behind Graeme Bremner and Les Mutch which is way above expectations. A top 5 finish would be a great result from an A4 runner. Very much looking forward to Boyndie in a three weeks time where I currently hold the record and have high expectations.

Golspie: a view from the pits

Posted in Sprints, Trackside View, Uncategorized on June 16, 2009 by Stephen Hynds

As Paul said previously – it’s quite the journey to Golspie, especially if you go via Aberdeen. The trip north via GWR on Friday was well worth it though. I was a bit lax in my responsibilities to take photos of everything but I was too busy taking in all the nuggets of information that Graeme was dispensing. The fact the car got a clean bill of health is testament to all the work put in over the winter and since the start of the season.

The rest of the journey up was pretty relaxed with us convoying up from Aberdeen with Matty. It helps that the scenery in that part of the world is so nice.

The racing weekend itself was great fun, despite what the weather threw at us on Saturday afternoon. It was nice to see the fireblade out in the hands of Paul’s brother Russell. It’s still an awesome sounding car. 900 and odd ccs of opera singer.

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It’s still shy on power obviously but Russell looked like he was having plenty of fun.

Saturday started dry and Paul was straight in to the thick of things and it looked good for a decent attempt at the record in the afternoon.

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The commentator at Golspie, who was initially (but not laterally) an amusing addition to the proceedings, was very interested by Paul’s car. I’m not sure if I could reprint his description of the car’s colour on a child friendly website. He was soon eating his words though when the times came up.

Unfortunately when lunchtime came the weather closed in on the circuit much to everyone’s chagrin. The track was well rubbered in by that point and the addition of the rain left it extremely slippy.

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A class victory is always good but the car is chasing class records too so it was tinged with disappointment.

Saturday night was spent at the clubhouse of the local golf club where we were very well fed and watered for much cheapness. My penchant for sticky toffee pudding had clealry preceeded me as the slice I was served could have fed an army.

Sunday morning soon arrived and the threat of rain was ever present. Paul’s first time surprised just about everyone, not least himself. Surely, to paraphrase Yazz, the only way was up?

Golspie Sprint 7th June 2009

As Paul said on his post Matty had a pretty big off on the second practice run. I was only standing about 10 yards from where it happened but I was waiting with the video camera to catch Paul’s run and so never caught any of the incident on camera.

Once the dust had settled and the tyres were back in place I did my best to avoid being Mr Shaky Cam who seems to film everything on youtube. I’m quite pleased with the results:

After a lovely BBQd lunch we set about the business of the timed runs. Paul put in a solid, but not earth shattering first run as the skies dulled and rain could be seen in the distance. It looked good for a class win at that point unless anyone could really up the pace.

Golspie Sprint 7th June 2009

The rain never arrived but the last timed run saw Paul fighting with his tyres and colder weather. This was a big moment out of the beach corner that put the nail in the coffin of a record attempt.

Golspie Sprint 7th June 2009

We’d prepared the tow car and the trailer for a sharp exit so after the final run the bogey was immediately tucked away for the journey home. It’s not quite as smooth as KITT driving into the F.L.A.G, but we’re getting pretty efficient at it now.

Other highlights of the weekend were Donald in his evo managing second fastest time of the day on the Saturday. I suppose the endless supply of grip from 4wd helps with that.

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The large turnout of single seaters was also welcome. The turnout at Kames of late hadn’t been brilliant. My own personal favourite was this one in what can only be described as a timeless livery.

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The GWR dax was up to its usual tricks – lifting the rear wheels clean off the ground over the jump on the Sunday.

Golspie Sprint 7th June 2009

With 2 class wins and plenty of war stories we said our goodbyes to the rest of the competitors and started the journey back down. It seemed to pass by pretty quickly. I guess it helps that we took the more direct route. Overall a good weekend of racing and fun that was well worth the trip north.

See Flickr for the rest of Saturday’s Pictures and Sunday’s Pictures. They’ll be up on Photobox in the next few days if anyone would like prints.

Golspie Sprint 6th and 7th June 2009

Posted in Sprints with tags , on June 9, 2009 by Paul Lawrence

It’s a long, long road to Sutherland so respect must go out to all those hardy heilanders that visit Kames on a regular basis.

Recent results have been strong in the bogey with a particularly good run at the Machars Kames event that actually saw me take lead the Scottish Sprint Champsionship – albeit briefly and primarily down to Graeme Bremner’s car trouble.

I have been bugging a few people about general car handling over the last few months and decided that a trip to GWR (Graeme Wight Racing) was appropriate. Considering his talent not only as a driver and engineer, you will not meet a friendlier more unassuming chap than Graeme.

So with Nicola and Stephen in tow we set off up to Graeme’s workshop early on Friday morning, with the trailer and the “big car” running really well we made good time and was at GWR HQ for 11:30am. After the offer of a cup of tea or two and a good look at some lovely work being done for the Raptor we set about the bogey. I have been running between 0.32 and 1.5 seconds off record pace so we didn’t think the bogey was a million miles off. Expectations weren’t too high for major setup changes but Graeme has forgotton more about cars than I will ever learn, so a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

After a good look over the car, Graeme was impressed with the build and generally happy with the setup. We realigned the front and added a little bit of toe out after my trip across the stones at Kames but overall not too bad. Camber was reduced slightly on the front and also some removed from the right rear where it was when I setup the car. Nothing too dramatic change wise but a good confidence builder that the car is good. When I have time I will probably add a bit more castor to the front and possibly toe in the rear slightly.

We then weighed the car and with around 10 litres of fuel, the car weighed 480.5 kgs. Pretty good considering the full cage, ZZR1400 engine, oil cooler and accusump. This differed from the 495 kgs when weighed at MNR due to the removal of the heavy Toyo 888’s, replaced by the sprinter’s choice of A24 compound ACB10s. A reduction in the fuel level and removal fo the Quaife reverse box also removed a few more kilo’s. Graeme suggested shortening all of the extra bolt threads all over the car as I would be surprised about how much weight I could save. Less impressive was the weight that I added to the car, but being 6ft 4 I really cant expect to be 12 stone.

So with the bogey loaded and some chat about race strategy we headed further North to pick up the rest of the convoy. After seeing the folks briefly we then headed up the road with Matty in tow to Inverness. We were in Golspie by 19:30 and went straight to the track. Littleferry is a great place and the late evening sunshine was very welcome. My brother and Jen had already arrived and were setting up their tent. Not a good decision by all accounts as the wind howled  in from the coast line. So after a nice meal and everyone tucked up in their B&B’s/sleeping bags everyone was looking forward to the event.

Saturday started out well, with the bogey still planted at the font but with the rear end still as lively as ever. Two practice runs saw me with a strong lead with Bill Lambie (jnr) in chase. Russell was running well, but a bit wild (no doubt he has the same DNA as me then!) but was getting to grips with the red car running on very tired ACB10s.

After a quick call to Graeme, I enacted the guru’s suggestions but with the weather worsening I wasn’t sure if I could really test the changes. On schedule the rain fell over lunch. Two full wet timed runs followed with the first being a bit lairy, with me completely over driving the car  ending up with a slow 1.24 with Matty only 1 second behind.

I was pretty fed up with my immature drive and “screwed the nut” on the second and in worsening conditions put in a 1:20 and won the class by over 4 seconds. After a good meal on the Saturday night and a few beers, we retuned to the Golf hotel for a good nights sleep.

Sunday morning was looking good, but the weather report promised rain at 14:00, bang on schedule for after lunch. I made a pact with myself to go for it from the off. First run went remarkably well. Was on the pace from the word go and surprised myself with a rather neat 74.17 run. Only 0.82 off of Stuart Dow’s long standing record. So sitting fastest road car overall from the first run I was feeling confident, probably a bit over confident and focused on the record rather than tidying up my first run.

Conditions were definitely cooling, so my chance of the record drifted away (a bit like the rear end of the car!) during the afternoon. I put in a second practice time of a low 75, but I was getting more and more ragged. This wasn’t helped by my good friend and room mate for the weekend going off at the first bend and using the tyre barrier as a brake. Fortunately Matty was fine and we got his car repaired over lunchtime.

After lunch I put in a high 74 which was a good safe run and way faster than anyone in class. Bill Lambie had never done a 74 before and was complaining of gearbox problems.

Russ was going well and smoothing out his runs and ended up on a 79 at the end of the day. Only 3 seconds down on my run from last year on good tyres. Bodes well for my wild wee brother. Last run I decied to secretly tweak the brake balance and made a right hash of things. Over driving and then a (nearly) spin on the bend infront of the clubhouse, so finished on a lairy 77.

I really can’t complain and with some work on my driving (90% of the problem) and some fettling on the car to tame the rear end (10%) I could be on record pace, which would be a great achievement. So two class wins and 4th road car overall on the Sunday.

We managed a good run South and got home about 21:30. The round trip was a crazy 560 miles at roughly 17 to the gallon, so an expensive weekend. A big thank you must go out to Caithness Car Club for a great event.

Thanks to Nicola and Stephen for their support and encouragement over the weekend.

Photos, more accurate times and some video links later in the week.

🙂