Trackdays etc.

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Llandow Circuit, 8th March 2003

My first trackday in the Megablade and true to form the weather is awful. Wet, windy and cold. The surface at Llandow is only a couple of seasons old and proves to be much grippier than you expect, so you find you can actually push harder than you expect. It's certainly a different beastie to drive round a circuit than the Evo, especially in the wet. I do manage to build up a bit of pace and have a good day despite the weather. A sort of dry line appeared for us for a spell towards the end of the day.

The car performed great all day, never missed a beat. With the small steering wheel I've got it was hard work though and my hands and forearms were quite sore the next day or two!

Cadwell Park, 28th March 2003

Long long way to Cadwell but it's got to be done! The trackday is on a Friday and I'm due in a meeting near Newbury that evening so I decide to go direct from Cadwell to the meeting. It's about 270 miles to Cadwell so I left early evening on Thursday, stayed overnight in Lincoln Travelodge then made my way to the circuit Friday morning. The day started very foggy and cold which delayed the start but once the sun got going it was a lovely day. The circuit is fabulous if scary and it took me a long time to get up to a reasonable speed. The Megablade was almost maxing out in 6th down the finish straight, then it's into a sweeping left hander uphill which can be taken much faster than you first imagine. Took me a long time to stop touching the brakes! It's the first time I've been out in the car on a dry track, and I've no idea where the limits of grip are. Turns out there much higher than I thought!

The Mountain was great fun, although you wonder what you're doing to the engine when you take to the air and it revs its nuts off! Only made one mistake all day when I outbraked myself going into Park but managed to get it back under control without taking to the grass.

Met up with a couple of guys from the Westfield club, including Tommo whose trailer I bought. Again the car was fine although I found the reverse box gets quite noisy and vibrates once you're above 120mph.

Llandow Circuit, 26th April 2003

This day was with the boys from the Yahoo bike-engined-cars group, so lots of noisy quick little cars there. Wet again! Had a great day socialising and talking cars with the guys as well as the driving. We did get some dry track towards the end of the day and I felt I was stringing together some quicker laps. I know this circuit pretty well by now (well I should, shouldn't I!) and despite its length it's still a challenge. I did manage to take out my mate Trevor who was there in his MR2 - he'd been out most of the day and knew the track fairly well, but after the first lap I cold see him reaching for the harnesses and tightening them up. Turns out we were getting towards the chicane at the back of the course travelling much quicker than he was used to. That was OK until we got to where he thought the braking point was and I was changing up a gear and planting the throttle! I reckon in the Westy I'm leaving the braking till about the 30 metre mark compared to 80-100m in the Evo. Phenomenal!

Llandow Circuit, 14th June April 2003

Another Bookatrack day, the difference this time being the weather. Brilliant sunshine and hot! One thing I really like about coming here is that it's generally open pit lane, so loads of track time and you don't need to stay out long at a time to feel you're getting your value for money. Found I could keep up with most cars round here, even the a Westy with a 'Busa engine wasn't that much quicker and we're in a different league to the 'standard' quick cars like TVRs, Porsches etc.

One tendency the Westy has is to understeer out of the slow tight corners. Last time I was here I spoke to John Fack who has lots of racing experience and he reckoned it was just the LSD working. I found I could work round it by getting on the gas a bit earlier, but today I found that as the track heated up and the tryes got stickier I cold cary quite outrageous speeds round the slower corners without any understeer.

Disaster struck at about 3.30 when barrelling into the chicane - banging it down into 3rd gear when the gearbox let go. Lots of horrid 'spanners in a barrel' type noises and although I could use the other gears 3rd was definitely dead. 3rd gear has always been a bit suspect - it was always noisier, with more of a whine, and coming back down through the box I could always use the noise to tell me whereabouts I was in the gears (it can be difficult with a 6 speed close ratio sequential box). So I trundled back into the paddock and stuck the poor stricken beast on the trailer and headed home.

Click here for the story of the fix.

Llys y Fran Hillclimb, 27th July 2003

Early in the season I entered the Westfield Speed Series. I knew I couldn't start competing straight away as the car needed a couple of mods, and work and other commitments would get in the way. I entered two events, a sprint in Llandow on the May bank holiday Monday and a hillclimb at Llys y Fran on 27th July. I missed the Llandow sprint as I was working that day and couldn't get out of it, and it had been looking like I'd miss this one too partly becuase I was due to work the weekend again and the car was broken. In the end I did have to work 9am-noon and 6pm to 10pm Saturday and 6pm-midnoight Sunday but managed to get the car ready and made it to the event.

I had two concerns, firstly noise and secondly my steering wheel. I reckon at 2/3 max revs the 'Blade is about 107dB, and for some reason I thought the noise limit was much lower than that. On checking the MSA blue book however it looks like the limit is 110dB, so should be fine. Dave Hackett at some time had mentioned that he thought a D shaped wheel wasn't allowed for sprints, so I checked that as well. Turns out Dave was half right - you aren't allowed wheels with a break in the rim (like the 'C' on its side shaped ones I've seen on touring cars) but D shaped wheels are fine. Yipee! also couldn't find my MSA licence as I'd 'put it somewhere safe'. Doh! Found it eventually.

Saturday was a frantic effort getting my oil catch tank sorted, making and painting up a timing strut and generally fettling the car. By the time I went to work Saturday evening it wsa more or less ready and loaded onto the trailer. I reversed the trailer into the garage with the car on it for the first time, it does fit but it's tight! It'll save me time in the mornings of trackdays etc. in the future though.

I had expected to be really nervous before the event, but I was just plain excited. Had trouble getting to sleep and woke up early! Llys y Fran was an awesome course. A steep hill with some very challenging looking corners, a narrow bridge on a braking area and practically no run off anywhere. Lots of trees and armco, all within about 6 feet of the tarmac. And overhanging trees menaing the track could be quite slippery. Nice day again though.

After signing on I went to walk the course which was helpful although the bumpy bits look worse when you're walking, especially the bits on corners and in braking areas! met up with lots of the Westfield Speed Series competitors who were a thoroughly nice bunch of guys, really friendly. Some interesting cars too, like Tom Green's 5 litre Rover V8 powered Westield with about 400bhp. Scary!

New addition to car - timing strut (click for larger image)My car in paddock at Llys y Fran (click for larger image)

View over Llys y Fran reservoir (click for larger image)

Westfield section of paddock at Llys y Fran (click for larger image)Westfield section of paddock at Llys y Fran - mine's at far right (click for larger image)

Delightful vintage Austin coming round hairpin (click for larger image)

A blow by blow pictorial walk along the course:

The start - couple of hundred metres before sharp right (or the dam!) (click for larger image)Approaching first right (click for larger image)From first right towards narrow bridge (click for larger image)Narrow bridge into first uphill section (click for larger image)

Right hander uphill - very bumpy! (click for larger image)Short straight into sweeping left hander (click for larger image)Sweeping left. Note extensive runoff. not!! (click for larger image)Further round sweeping left (click for larger image)

Exit sweeping left over hump onto short straight (click for larger image)End of straight into right hander (click for larger image)Entry into right hander (click for larger image)Exit right hander into short straight up hill towards hairpin left (click for larger image)

Left hairpin with significant hump (click for larger image)View of apex of hairpin (click for larger image)Next section is slip road with very bumpy entry (click for larger image)Section along reservoir. Again note runoff! (click for larger image)

At end of this section very sharp right hander with stategically placed trees to catch you! (click for larger image)Short climb up to left/right chicane. no room fo rerror. (click for larger image)Right hander out of chicane (click for larger image)Last section up to finish (click for larger image)

As I got nearer the start line the expected anxiety didn't really emerge, I was really looking forward to it. No plans to set the track on fire of course, main thing was to do it and get me and my car back home in one piece. When there were only a couple of cars left in front of me I did start to get a bit nervous - I realised I didn't know what would happen in terms of start lights etc! Fairly simple in the end, you're told when your start is imminent, then when the red light goes green you plant the gas and drop the clutch! On my first run I didn't give it quite enough revs and bogged it down a bit in first. Bang it into second with no clutch and by the time I'm getting through second it's time to hit the brakes before the first right hander. this is very sharp. Back up into second keep it nice and straight through the narrow bridge next to the dam then onto the brakes for the next right hander still in second. Up the straight, balancing the throttle around the long sweeping lef thander under the trees, over the hump and almost flat out in second before braking for the long right hander. Big hump on the braking line coming into the left hand hairpin, down into first gear just before turning in. Get a bit of wheelspin and not too much sideways before heading out left ready to take the right hand slip road up the next bit of the hill. Into second along the short straight then hard on the brakes again for a sharp right hander with at least 2 feet of run off. Around a quick left/right chicane still in first gear than a blast up the hill to where I thought the finish was. couldn't see and finish marker or the timing equipment so I kept on going round a right hander, and realised I was almost in the car park! Definintely finished then. Fantastic, no real moments, but definitely potential for improvement.

The times were really slow going up but I managed 54 and a bit seconds, not too bad.

Second run was definitely quicker. I had a much better start, some wheelspin but managed to keep it straight. Quicker round the sweeping left and right, also round the hairpin although probably a bit too sidways!. This run was 52.28 seconds, so quite a big improvement, well pleased.

Lunchtime was delayed as soem poor bugger in a single seater had collided with the scenery losing two wheels and some bodywork, so we'd been kept waiting quite a while to do our second practice run. Over lunchtime the Clerk of the Course called me over the tannoy to tell me he'd put me in the wrong class (3A, modified production cars excluding kit replica, space framed up to 1400cc). Truth was I didn't fit in any of the classes as the classes that seemed closest specified car derived engines. He thought they were going to put me in 4A, which was for Sports Libre cars up to 1700cc. Sounds very reasonable till you see them - these are the single seater 300kg bike engined specials with wings and slicks! Not terribly fair methinks!

Eventually we get to do our first official timed run and it goes fine. I don't feel I made any mistakes, although it's obvious I'm not pushing terribly hard. Which is what I'd planned all along! Steve Robinson who's collecting all the Westifled times has me down as 51.79, so a slight improvement again. Well pleased. By now it 3.40 and I decide I'd better head off to get back for work in time.

So, my first competitive event over. I'd enjoyed it more than I expected, and definitely want to have another go. I'll post some pics of the course as soon as I can find time.

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
D Day! | Finishing Off | SVA | Registration | Post Registration | Trackdays
Home | Links | Contact me
The next project ...

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