Autumn November 2018
quiet on the hill climb and sprinting front and, for that matter, in my
workshop as well. Season end can be a little depressing although any
negative thoughts soon disappear as one starts fermenting plans and
ideas for next year. As I have remarked, the Hillclimb & Spring
Association has rather boldly obtained agreement from the MSA to not
only resurrect the Sprint Leaders Championship but to also take over the
management of the MSA Bristol Sprint Championship. In the former case
this is something of a green field so within certain parameters anything
is possible. In the latter case there is, for good or evil, an
established format and I think it unlikely that much will change
although, from the outside, a breath of fresh air might revitalise this
championship which for so long has been something of a poor relation of
the MSA Bristish Hillclimb Championship.
Since the last wet weekend at Curborough
I’ve been busy in the workshop making the most of the mild autumn
weather. I generally strip down the corners of the Ensign to check,
clean and lubricate everything whilst I also like to clean the engine
bay which is difficult without removing the twin cam, not part of the
plan this year. The exhausts always need wire brushing and respraying
whilst the starter motor is removed and checked, easier with the
exhausts removed. It’s always difficult deciding which parts to replace
and I suppose I’ve learnt from experience. For example, I expect a
serious competitor would annually replace the rubber 'rotoflax’
couplings on the drive shafts. I examine them regularly and listen, as I
was told that if they are deteriorating, they squeak! Perhaps he was just kidding me? This
year there will be no change although I always carry one in the spares
box – they are easy to change providing a securing ‘stud’ has not also
The cooling system had a small water leak during the season which a
turn on the appropriate hose clip resolved and it remains drip free.
It's easy to drain the fuel tank and apart from petrol nothing nasty
appeared. Looking closely, it’s easy to become depressed about scratches
and marks on the bodywork and I avoid this by quickly moving the
bodywork into the cellar or garden room. The small incident at Shelsley in late July did cause an odd dent and fracture plus dzus fasteners ‘pinging’, places not easily restored will be put
down to patina! However, I have resprayed the chassis rails at the
front of the car, an awkward job but necessary as some of the paint
applied after the Werrington incident was lifting where I’d not
adequately removed brazing flux. Funnily enough, the major problem here
was matching the grey chassis colour, originally achieved with an
acrylic Valspar aerosol from B&Q no longer available. The web can be
so useful in these circumstances and I found the identical aerosol, confusingly being marketed under a different name.
In much the same way matching the red bodywork developed into a problem with the original colour no longer available and just
one or two aerosols left. The replacement seeming a choice between Audi
Laser Red or Post Office Van Red although I’m sure an accurate match
could be expensively found elsewhere. Unlike previous years when the
engine and gearbox were removed, I’ve left the Ensign on wheels to make
life easier in the workshop. That provides the
opportunity to use my original Ensign magnesium wheels which look so
handsome on the car although, for obvious reasons, I’ll not use in
anger. Obviously, oil and filter changes which should perhaps be carried
out more frequently but I choose annually, regularly checking the oil tank for signs of water. The workshop fills with leaves in autumn,
although with such a colourful ‘fall’ this year I have accepted this
with good grace and deriving pleasure from the local streets full of
leaves, road sweepers a bit like policemen these days, a rare breed.
That said, it’s no hardship to clear up outside one’s home although not
being a green bin supporter the compost heap is starting to overflow.
I’ve previously remarked it is interesting to eavesdrop on the issues
that upset various areas of our sport although sometimes it’s best to
mind one's own business. Inevitably season end is a time for thought and
reflection and perhaps changes to be implemented next year. It is a
shame that sometimes the issues and complaints are the same that were
being voiced 10 years ago and fascinating to be
privy to discussions in the world of classic single seaters racing on
the circuits. Whilst accepting speed events are different from the
circuits in many respects the issues are similar and draw attention to
how much is owed to the volunteers who chose to be involved with the
organisation of events and championship, many even competing as well.
excitement in the motorsport world as the governing body, always
referred to as the MSA (Motor Sport Association), has decided to
relaunch itself as Motorsport UK which I shall now refer to as MUK? This has been accompanied by fine words and we all hope that change is afoot. Shortlyafterwards, the 25th of November to be precise, the HSA held its annual awards luncheon at Prescott to which was invited David Richards, who assumed the position of non-executive chairman of the MSA (now MUK) at the beginning of 2018. I gather the HSA was honoured as he had the alternative of spending the weekend in Abu Dhabi
for the last F1 Grand Prix of the season. There was an audience of
nearly 100 competitors and supporters, covering the speed event disciplines of hill climb and sprint and I’m sure all were interested to hear what he had to say in his brief yet detailed address. He initially covered the relaunch of the MUK management of our sport, moving from a brief outline of professional motorsport to what interested us, competing
at an amateur level. He highlighted the fall in numbers of competition
licence holders and the fact that most competitors spent less than £5000
per annum on motorsport and then proceeded to explain part of his vision for the sport during his 3 years tenure at MUK. He felt that motorsport was losing its relevance in today’s world, amongst other things no longer developing technologies that passed road vehicles, for example the disc brakes.
Referring to club motorsport he echoed most competitors' recent concerns, highlighting the almost obsessive safety culture - for example the requirement of replacing the seats in rally cars after 5 years and the regular replacement of safety belts, even though seats and belts in road cars are allowed to last indefinitely with merely an annual MOT inspection. He suggested that within certain parameters competitors should be given more responsibility for their own safety, cutting back on the cascade of F1 inspired regulation on club competitors. MUK should concentrate
on the safety of officials and marshals and spectators. Importantly he
did not want club motorsport to become financially only within the
resources of the very rich, or commercial organisations running heavily
promoted championships. Some small revisions have already been
implemented and he asked to be judged over the next 2 years. Apparently
there have already been changes in the management of MUK to help
implement the new thinking. So, a wind of change and the fact that
Richards attended this club event and answered questions can only offer
encouragement to those who support club motor sport.
Prior to this we had a decent lunch and afterwards the presentation of the awards for the SBD/HSA
Speed Championship together with other odds and ends. In all a well
organised event that ran smoothly and swiftly and a pleasure to attend.
Christmas tail piece, exiting Fallow at Loton Park in 2011 - how time
flies. The end of my 2018 motorsport year and Happy Christmas and New
Year greetings to everyone in the motorsport world.
HSA Curborough Weekend 13th & 14th October 2018
was my last competition of the 2018 season and a new venture by the
Hillclimb and Sprint Association with a ‘double header’ weekend at
sprint course, Saturday using the cross over track layout and Sunday
the traditional single lap. Surprisingly the Saturday entry was larger,
getting close to the maximum normally run on this layout whilst Sunday was comparatively empty. There
again, the cross over track is much more fun and better value. The
entry was the usual mixture of road going saloons and sports cars,
specialist cars and single seaters, all fairly standard stuff.
chose to drive up on Friday afternoon and inevitably the afternoon
traffic was dire and I was glad to drop the transporter in the paddock
and head for the local Premier Inn, not my usual choice but close.
Saturday dawned grey but the rain was light and there was every hope of
the track drying, which proved to be the case. After last weekend at
Prescott there was little to do on the Ensign other than change the gear
ratios, whilst I chose to use the old set of tyres, this a relative
term but they certainly look old after hard treatment during our hot
summer. Alone in the classic racing car class, I was moved to another on
both days, not that it mattered. Curborough is normally well run, the venue itself overseen by custodian and sometime clerk of course Dave Pattison, who lives nearby.
started in good time with Gary Thomas, a regular competitor, managing
the paddock effectively, calling cars to the start line just in time so
that the drivers of open cars were not sitting in the rain for long. As
it transpired the light rain soon stooped but Gary maintained this
routine throughout the day, long queues even in the dry being tiresome.
It was drying on track for P1 but I was cautious after watching the
single seater in front weaving off the start and later spinning. Much
drier on P2 and a satisfactory time, running the Ensign with soft
settings. The start line was surprisingly quick and an excellent launch
on T1, the run ruined by a spin half way round, too much speed and cold
tyres my excuse. The final T2 went well enough although only a tad
faster than the best practice run, perhaps
caution after the spin. The day finished quite early and it was good
not having to pack up and tow the transporter home. The results are here.
The weather changed overnight and it was cool and wet on Sunday morning. I viewed
the paddock with considerably distaste as the rain continued to fall,
initially planning on taking just one practice run but after due
consideration and discovering a soaking wet driver's seat in the Ensign I found every reason to scratch. A poor end to the season but that’s how it is sometimes and I would have had no pleasure getting wet and cold paddling around Curborough. The results are here.
Another season concluded, quieter than past years with 30 events entered in the Ensign and Mallock,
the direct cost about £6500. This excludes car maintenance which this
winter should be quite straight forward as no major, meaning expensive,
jobs are planned. It will be interesting to see what is being proposed
by organisers for 2019. The HSA, who organised this weekend, are planning a major assault on the sprinting world in 2019 by resurrecting the Sprint Leaders Championship
and at the same time taking over responsibility for the MSA British
Sprint Championship, this apart from running their familiar club
championship sponsored by SBD Motorsport.
Clearly major changes for a club that is manned by volunteers and I
wish them well in these ventures. Noises emanate from other
championships but whilst these often excite gossip, meaningful change is rare, most preferring the ‘status quo’, the simple solution hiding any problems away.
Prescott 6th & 7th October 2018
nights and sometimes chilly days now and then the Prescott ‘American’
weekend had weather for every taste. This is their season end classic
extravaganza filled with every taste of American cars and bikes on
display and at the far end of the main car park the ‘Wall of Death’,
music and dancing. There was something for those totally disinterested
in hill climbing, plus the usual bars and fast food emporiums. The
classes on both days are a little confusing when I read the regulations
but I sent my entry off suggesting that Martin, Prescott’s competition
secretary, selected the most appropriate class for the Ensign. This he
duly did so mid-morning Friday I was unloading the Ensign in a dry and
empty paddock long before the rush. Prescott is about the closest venue
to home apart from Castle Combe and it makes sense to attend events here
although over the years I’ve found some of their organisational aspects
difficult to accept. However old age brings resignation, so I'm told.
to the forecast Saturday morn dawned grey, wet and cold. Today single
seaters were correctly parked on the tarmac which avoided trying to
drive off grass with mud in the tyres. Better still we were running
quite early in the programme, a large handicap class with everything
from the latest OMS to James’s Raven Ford 4wd built by his father many
years ago. Considering Prescott boast a ‘proper’ handicapper his figures
were laughable, for example a sparkling new 2018 2.6litre OMS TKD
handicapped on 48.32s as compared with 1972 1.6litre Ensign on 45.64s.
I’ve stopped bothering, other than occasionally observing how I must be
considered an elite driver! It rained on and off throughout the morning,
finally stopping around 2.00pm although the track remained damp to the
end of the day. The entry was varied and interesting and the programme
moved swiftly, drivers being cautious due to the conditions or had
scratched having looked at the miserable weather forecast. Saturday’s
results are here.
the better weather the entry was full, today mainly classis cars and
the Ensign a positive youngster with its 1972 build date. There also
seemed more American display vehicles so the programme was full with
their demonstration runs adding to the track time. Our class was again
running quite early in the programme, P1 appearing quickly and
uneventful, track conditions good. By the time T2 arrived the track had
been well scrubbed and times improved and everyone had more confidence
with the conditions although the start line remained slow. Lunch time
arrived although the track marshals were kept busy with the demo runs
and it was a while before competition again started. Most
of our class were again quicker on P1 and Mike had overcome the
misfiring in his Ensign’s twin cam, whilst my Ensign was a tad quicker
although annoyingly too much understeer exiting Ettores wasted time. As
T1 proceeded with the other classes there were various ‘offs’,
immediately signified in the paddock with strobing red lights. The
Morgans seemed to being particularly prone but that is not surprising as
the cars are ill suited to narrow slippery hill climbs and the drivers
do well in the circumstances. Approaching 4.00pm I decided that the
Ensign would be no quicker on T2 and slipped into the trailer park to
quietly load and slip away. I find that being an early morning person
I’m ill-suited to afternoons sitting around waiting as the weather cools
and the sky dims.
clear sky for Sunday morning, no rain in the offing and the track had
dried overnight although it remained cold. The sun shone intermittently
during the day but it was autumnal warmth, cool in other words. Happily,
chaos is still alive and kicking in the hill climb world as cars
entered for both days had to move their locations and change numbers,
something that even Shelsley
Walsh seems to have changed for good. The single seaters moved to the
sloping wet grass rather than level tarmac, this now reserved for road
going cars, just another feature of Prescott’s seeming lack of
understanding to the needs of competitors and their cars. There was
little room between the single seaters when parked and a chaotic Sunday
morning with new arrivals having to unload on the steeply sloping access
road. Due to the space problems one car was even parked in the
scrutineering bay although the scrutes understood! As
always everything was sorted out by the drivers and I was delighted to
have another Ensign parked alongside, Mike’s car recently brought back
from Germany, apparently a 1971 chassis and looking very smart although
Simon Taylor’s track test and article in Autosport 30.12.71 did not
mention it. I found it interesting comparing the cars whilst of similar
age, Mike’s car not featuring the period modifications made to cars that
regularly raced in 1972/73. Its smaller side radiators looked neat and
the top front radius rod chassis mounts fabricated into the top chassis
rail, later changes by Dave Baldwin being designed to improve the front
suspension geometry. Mike’s car was quick and fast off the start line
although apparent spark plug issues made for inconsistent running, a
shame for him. After a cold night all the cars were covered in
condensation and even ice on the exposed nose of the Ensign although it
started quickly, the exhaust condensation as the twin cam idled looking
enjoyed this Prescott weekend and Saturday, despite the rain, was
enjoyable as the programme flowed and track conditions encouraged smooth
and tidy driving. Sunday conditions were much better but, like Shelsley Walsh's Classic event, the venue over loaded with competition and demonstrations, for me at least. The results are here.
Shelsley Walsh 15th & 16th September 2018
Still some life left in the hill climb season and a weekend double header at Shelsley Walsh, two ‘B’ clubbies
with a varied entry and generally avoided by the faster and
high-profile cars. There were rounds for several championships including
the Hillclimb & Sprint Association, Classic Marques, Midland Speed,
Porsche, Lotus, MG, Ferrari and others. Sufficient to fill the paddock
on each day with many competitors enjoying both days and in this connection the paddock was organised
so that cars staying for both days retained the same running number and
the same paddock location. In itself not life changing but nice that
the MAC seems to have at last permanently eliminated the farce of
‘musical cars’ on Saturday evenings, following their successful
arrangements at the Classic meeting in July. Whether the day would be
filled with extraneous activities like music, dancing, interviews,
demonstration runs and so forth remained open to conjecture and most competitors just hoped for a dry track and a car that behaved. In fact there was but one ‘demonstration’ car, an early fifties Indy car on display courtesy of owner Dean Butler and doing a couple of demo runs up the hill. Truly something from another age, constructed like the Forth Bridge and difficult to drive on the hill with an Indy 2 speed gearbox.
This weekend the Ensign was again
in use although I felt a degree of trepidation, somehow being the one
that takes things apart and then screws them together again sharpens
one's senses to the effects of bad workmanship. Driving up on Friday and
staying at a b&b in Bromyard removed the pressure and a pleasant
paddock location, backing onto the grass with plenty of space and clear
of the start line assembly area. Running in the merged classic
class with a mixture of cars; Lotus Elan and Elite, TR2 and MGC, Austin
A35 together with Chevron B19, Alexis F3 and Lotus 51 FF, the class levelled with handicaps although on what basis and by whom was a well-kept secret, although who cares? Many touring cars in the overall entry
with Empire, OMS and Force in the small racing car classes, five
Formula Fords apart from the one in our class, masses of Loti in the two
self-contained Paul Matty classes whilst some Minis finished the day’s program.
Practice started promptly, the dry track had been swept and looked excellent when I wandered up to top paddock on Friday afternoon with Mike, still ruminating why it had been necessary to place wooden sleepers the whole length of the finish straight. However, what do we know? Our merged touring and racing pre-1975 class were running in the middle of the programme and for P1 I used the ‘old’ tyres for reasons
to be explained. Still running the experimental ‘higher’ gear ratios
with a 16:36 start gear the launch was poor, using insufficient revs but
still excessive wheel spin, otherwise the run was tidy but slow although sitting
in the finish paddock afterwards I was satisfied that the car was
working correctly. For P2 I changed to the ‘new’ tyres as I wished to
check that one wheel, the rim of which had been bent, was running true
although it had balanced perfectly. At the same time a small damper
adjustment to increase rear end grip. The start was quicker with the new
tyres and more revs, the damper adjustment giving understeer at
Crossing so removed for the afternoon, overall 3s faster although slow
for the conditions. All our class seemed happy with their results, the
Lotus 51 also returning after an ‘off’ at the last meeting here, the
Formula Ford quickly repaired although I’m sure Briony was a bit
detuned, like me.
With an efficient morning practice official runs started at 1.15pm and the programme continued to flow well.
Apart from two serious incidents the day was generally trouble free and
whilst those cars were returned to the paddock on Richard’s wrecker the
drivers were unharmed. Conditions remained excellent and the Ensign’s
two official runs were similar, a bit off my
pace and separated by 0.01s! A good day for most of the competitors and
there seemed quite a few spectators, doubtless brought out by
occasional sunshine. Annoyingly the Chevron B19 had gear change issues, Richard and Amanda opening
the gearbox to examine the dog rings. Inevitably they looked perfect so
the box was reassembled with the rings fitted the opposite way, the box working perfectly but disconcerting when the cause of a problem was not found. On T2 their times had been separated by 0.02s! Our class was won on handicap by Mike in his 1845cc Alexis F3 and a contrast with Philips Austin 1275cc A35 the runner up. The overall BTD was a surprise with Stuart Bickley’s 1 litre Jedi taking the win on 27.08s against some theoretically faster opposition, several of whom succumbed with mechanicals. I bet Stuart was happy. The results here.
Sunday morning was again dry with dappled sunshine although the threat of a ‘front’ blowing through with rain showers. A peaceful Sunday morn with no rush, cars from Saturday not having to complete the signing on or scrutineering
formalities, so much so that I decided to again stroll up the hill
although this time just to the Esses. Always a crucial part of driving this hill and approached quite quickly. I know exactly where I should brake but always lift too early and brake too gently before the entry to Bottom Ess, simultaneously dropping to 2nd gear for the sprint between the bottom and top. For those of us without personal GPS timing arrangements the timekeeper provides a sector split time here, this weekend around 7% off split PB which was much the same as the Ensign’s finish time, which says something, or nothing?
Leaving aside the statistical ruminations today there were sufficient entries for pre-1975 touring and racing cars to have their separate classes, the racing class joined by several Lotus staying on from Saturday and Ed in the family Ginetta G16 BMW 230bhp 2 litre, a handsome and rare sports racer driven by his father back in the
day. He too had trouble with gear selection but found a solution as the
engine had been fitted with a rigid stabiliser after its last outing.
As on Saturday the George family B19 was parked at the other end of the paddock which made socialising tiresome. Their car was as quick as Saturday despite occasional light rain showers which made little difference to the track although several Saturday runners, including the Ensign, a bit slower. I was using the same settings and tyres that worked well enough on Saturday so clearly it will be back to the established lower gearing in future. Handicap scoring once again and won by the Ginetta with Richard in the B19 runner up. Overall today's BTD went to Neil Coles in his 1.6 litre OMS 28 on 26.85s, the results here.
An enjoyable weekend and I am happy to say that both days finished in good time although running in a mid-field
class does help on Sunday with transporter loading and travel home. As
I've mentioned previously the competitor trailer parking arrangements
are excellent here, a vast trailer and camping field with a separate
members car park. It is good that paying competitors are treated
properly in this respect, compared with other well know venues. The
general organisation was good as one expects at this old established
venue although traffic jams in the paddock continue as a new batch of queuing cars sometimes stop the previous batch from accessing their sheds. Yes, it’s always been this way but a solution has been found for sheds and numbers in 2-day events so perhaps this could be the next paddock management objective?
Classic Curborough 8th September 2018
Following the Ensign’s ‘off’ a Shelsley Walsh the season has not been
disrupted too badly, although not helped with a failed brake cylinder on
the Mallock the following weekend at Loton Park. This more in the
nature of annoying rather than disruptive and I took the opportunity of
comprehensively servicing all the hydraulics, even replacing the master
cylinder seals, none of the parts costing much and available from Powertrack
Braking. In the meantime, new front suspension arms for the Ensign
being fabricated by Peter Denty near Thetford whilst I sorted out those
oddments like ‘forced’ dzus fasteners, bent wheel rim, marks on the
paintwork and the underside of the nose, the latter not due to the 'off'
but grinding in the rubble of the Gurston farmyard paddock. The
recovery off the hill at Shelsley had been carried out
fastidiously by their recovery expert Richard Weaver and the track side
marshals without additional damage, unlike Werrington in 2014. Aware
that fast dismantling can lose items I did not remove the suspension at
Shelsley, which made loading the transporter difficult, subsequently
finding that with everything removed it rolled easily on 3 wheels!
Peter was prompt with the replacements which I quickly fitted, Ian
Dayson at Force Racing Cars then corner weighting and adjusting the
chassis so it’s now sitting in the workshop on 4 wheels looking normal again!
is moving into autumn and the weather starting to
cool although many days are hot and dry. Hill climb events towards the
end of August were disrupted by wet weather, much as the Classic
Shelsley weekend, with the Shelsley National damp and slippery on the
Sunday and wet the following weekend at Gurston Down National. I
normally enter this 2-day event but not this year, the
right decision for whilst track conditions for Saturday practice were
good, Sunday was wet enough fo the officials to abandon the event
towards the end of the first timed runs. This meant that no competitor
was awarded a time which must have been frustrating for those drivers
who drove to the conditions, finished, and recorded a time. Last
weekend that delightful Classic Scottish hill climb at Bo'ness happened
once again and was apparently a success although I gather there is
discussion about the veracity of the new hill record time, established
on a wet track. I decided to enter Shenstone Car Club's first
attempt at a classic event at their Curborough sprint track on the 8th
September, taking the Mallock as the weather forecast decreed wet so, if
nothing else, an opportunity to test the brakes and if necessary
adjust, drum brakes always being difficult to set perfectly in the
The entry was modest with road going cars like Mini, Escort,
MG and Triumph, a smart and original C Type Jaguar, Mustang and Scimitar SE6. A few
sports libre cars – Ray Rowan’s Pilbeam MP43 which looked the BTD
candidate together with a Davrian Imp, a delightful Lotus 23 and an
immaculate Mallock Mk11 with later side boxes and sitting on period
Mamba Solar split rim wheels which have 16 bolts holes rather than the
usual 18. My Mallock was in the 1600cc racing car
class with the 1600cc McNamara of Gary Thomas and finally two Formula Fords, Merlyn and
A well organised day with 2 practice runs, then demo
runs by around 20 display cars with the first competitive run before
lunch during which the display cars had another outing. There was an
interesting mixture, with Keith Harris’s Chevron B25 heading the pack
that included TVR, Mustang, Cortina and Escort and the rare 1968 Jomo
F3, looking like a Brabham of that period and possibly copied? A Lister
Bristol was due to appear but it’s tow vehicle would not start. The
commentator Jeremy Bouckley was excellent, making what could have been a
rather boring procession into something of real interest to
plan was for as many competitive runs as possible in
the afternoon, a refreshing approach, in fact only 2 as the rain became
more persistent after a day of light showers with rare periods when the
track was dry. Certainly, P1 was slippery and I spent that day
driving cautiously, having established that the brakes were working well
with the Mallock stopping in a straight line. Unsurprisingly times were
slow and no significant incidents other than cars occasionally
spinning or demolishing lines of cones guarding the wide kerbs, placed
to make the
track layout a replica of its original layout.
A pleasant and relaxing day
out although I’d had sufficient after T2 and slipped away before the
final damp run, the
2 hour drive back to Bristol becoming tedious having done the return
trip twice earlier in the week as Ian Dayson is based just a couple of
miles from Curborough! I hope the organisers felt the day was a
success as it would be nice to see it become a regular fixture, a simple
approach to a classic day and without the razzmatazz some consider
essential to encourage paying punters, at least for the moment.
Classic Shelsley 28th & 29th July 2018
Again, hot and dry, Friday evening although I wandered in during the afternoon to dump the Ensign which was consigned to a 'posh' and noisy location close to the start line. Jobs done and the transporter in the trailer park I walked the hill, the first time in '18 and it didn't seem too steep, always good for someone of deteriorating physique, the surface perfect although the finish straight is starting to break in places. Just a fine walk in the sunshine although the forecast suggested that the hot weather was due to finish. Standing at the finish line and looking down the valley is too beautiful for words. Back in the paddock more cars were arriving and there was a vast array of interest although, hot and dry, I needed a glass of ale!
Saturday dawned with mixed weather and threatening skies and so the day progressed. Lots of peripheral activity and interesting stalls in the car park including one selling a vast selection of Spanish olives - I think they had lost their way as they asked me what was happening! The olives were perfect and I collected some more Sunday morn and enjoying as I write this epistle. With sunshine and showers the runs were tiresome and, in the case of the Ensign, the high gears fitted for the very hot weather at Blyton and Gurston unsuited to launches on a slippery start line here. So, it passed throughout the day until T2 when the rains seriously descended and many of my class declined to run as I should have done, but being silly and bold and old I took on the rain and had a minor off, probably a front link failure. Little harm done, a couple of suspension arms and my ego – and what does that
amount to although more people got too wet for which I apologise.
Richard Weaver did a perfect job lifting the red car onto this 'wrecker'
by the roll hoop and depositing in the paddock to be stuffed into the
transporter with the assistance of Keith Thomas, here from Cumbria with
his Buckler and with constructive suggestions in moments of stress!
Having left early on Sunday morning I gather the driving was difficult with moisture and later oil in the Esses. More pics of delectable cars on the site and happily fewer words!
After stripping the suspension on Sunday afternoon the red car might be out again fairly soon, with the support of Peter Denty's Thetford workshop. This morn the Mallock started on the button and will make a delightful substitute for the next weekend or two.
Gurston Down 21st & 22nd July 2018
The summer continues and this weekend the track conditions at Gurston were perfect. I towed the Ensign on Friday morning when it’s peaceful to unload and do the chores, the car then parked in the farm yard and covered, a little rain forecast for later. This was overnight which served to wash the dust off the track, the surface dry and clean for Saturday morning.
With time to spare I walked the course and across the fields to the
village, very peaceful with just the wildlife and pheasants running
ahead of me on the path, not thinking to flying away as they are just
too silly. This weekend the classic class was minute, just the Ensign and Sue’s Palliser that was going quickly although, with only slick tyres, rather restricted if the weather is damp, as the previous event here. I left the same gearing in the Ensign as I’d used at Blyton, effectively one ratio higher through the box and with the advantage that the higher1st gear could be used at the sharp right at the top of Karousel until exiting Ashes onto the final straight. Otherwise it was wait and see.
later in the programme there was no rush on Saturday morning and
driving from Bristol the roads were deserted, a blue sky and dappled
clouds suggesting perfect weather. Being
located beside the 1100cc class it was amusing becoming involved with
different discussions, with Steve and his 1100 OMS alongside who always
seems to lead a fraught life, competition wise. As usual practice
started promptly just after 8.30am, motor cycles in the first batch. The Ensign was in batch 5 which soon came around and my expectations about the track conditions were confirmed, with an easy and quickish run, without drama. The taller first gear was fine off the line and selected easily at the top of Karousel, proving to be a good choice and exiting Ashes providing a good launch into the final straight. It was much the same on T2, boring really but making me think about the details, in particular carrying more speed through Hollow Bend, or in other words being braver, as the Ensign’s time into the bottom of Karousel seemed to have plateaued.
Looking around the paddock there were most of the familiar cars that attend Gurston’s club events and this weekend a large Formula Ford class with
newer and older chassis and good competition for them, a new class
record being established on Sunday. With what seemed to be a smaller
field than usual practice finished not long after midday and it was a relief to remove the race overalls although I was using kit bought during the winter, slightly thinner 2 layer and cooler than 3 layer I’d otherwise use. With time to spare I walked the
first half of the course, looking for inspiration which was sorely
lacking. Along the way I enquired of the timekeepers why the Ensign did
not get a split time at the top of Karousel. Interestingly, they knew all about this, the Ensign sharing this anomaly with two FFs, apparently due to the timing beam being at a steep angle due to the massive camber of the track here – apparently the Ensign going beneath the beam! Yes, I too thought that odd but it was good to know that these things are noticed, whilst the lack of this split time was not significant. Why worry as in these conditions a good time was easy, a very good time or PB needing real effort.
Into T1 and in the 33s similar to P2 although I wanted the 32s! A little slower on T2 as I inadvertently selected second gear at the top of Karousel,
no problem other than the time. At the top paddock we had a delay until
Steve appeared with his OMS on the wrecker. I expected the worse but he
cheerfully climbed out of the passenger seater to apologise and explain
that the drive sprocket on his engine had fallen off! This was
recovered and the car quickly repaired for Sunday with no harm done.
Peter Smith took BTD in his Force PT on 29.68s and the results are here.
More of the same on Sunday, weather and cars (in the main). Once again England was asleep as I wafted along quiet roads to Gurston, and not much happening in the paddock. This quickly changed and the track was soon busy, motor cycles again starting the proceedings. The Ensign’s
two practice runs were almost identical in the splits and 0.17s
difference in the time, still on that plateau! Making more of an effort
on T1 I forced myself to be a braver into Hollow Bend which showed a
decent saving in time, followed by an aggressive late turn in at Ashes
and the quickest run up the final straight to the finish line and a low
33s, ok but again not a 32! Still in the 33s T2 was a little slower but I
now know the Ensign will go through Hollow faster, particularly if I keep off the inside kerb, which I have a tendency to follow and which upsets the car. Peter Smith again took BTD on 29.57s and the results are here.
really enjoyable weekend with perfect weather and track conditions
giving the opportunity of driving the Ensign as hard as I could. Almost worryingly the car continues to
run perfectly and I have been using significantly softer chassis
settings the last few events, which might or might not mean something.
Interestingly, Gurston's award luncheon is scheduled for October 13th,
before the end of the hill and sprint season and clashing with
competitive events elsewhere. Bad planning, lack of thought or
consideration of other clubs - what do I know? Anyway, this coming
weekend it with be the MACfest at Shelsley Walsh with their annual Classic jamboree, promising a very busy weekend with all the fun of the fair during which there might even be the opportunity to drive the hill a few times. Could be fun.
Burning Blyton Park 14th & 15th July 2018
Since Prescott, and for that matter Pembrey,
the UK has enjoyed almost unprecedented hot and dry weather, although
I’ve taken a break from motor sport for a week or two. Returning to the
regular weekend regime heralded a journey to Blyton Park for a weekend’s sprinting, this track not far from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. Yet another old WW11 RAF
airfield and used by bombers in what is, of course, the bomber county
of England. Closed in 1954 its subsequent use has been mainly
agriculture although much of the original runways remain and it was
converted into a motorsport venue in 2011. There are a choice of track
layouts and they are entertaining to drive, if not quite the ‘wide open
spaces’ of a circuit like Pembrey. Even better, I was staying at a delightful b&b just a short drive from the track so the right ingredients for an entertaining weekend.
there on Friday the roads were surprising clear and the scenery amazing
– golden fields either full of corn or recently cropped, balers tidying
the straw to be removed. I gathered that the harvest has been early due to the recent hot weather,
despite a cold and wet spring. Hot and dry when I arrived although
there had been plenty of rain at home after I left, enough to fill the
which was something. The paddock’s a mixture of grass and tarmac, the
later in mixed condition and remembering last year I packed a stout
broom as the Ensign was parked on the tarmac. In fairness to the
organisers, it looked as if the tarmac had already been swept. The track
itself is good, this tarmac recent enough and with a clearly marked
white line edge, ever a
subject for conversation these days on what defines ‘wheels off’. This
was slightly confusing as the white line was inside the yellow painted
kerbs and we were told the 3 wheels off were ok, but not 4 on pain of
losing the time, assuming the misdemeanour was even spotted! I walked
the track on Friday evening and noted that cones on corner apexes were
supported by stout bales – best avoided.
Saturday morning dawned hot and dry and today this Westfield Sports Car Club event was using the ‘Outer Circuit’ with the long straight bisected with a chicane to slow us down followed by some challenging swerves heading toward the finish line. I drove the track last year in the Mallock
and after last evening's walk the layout was familiar although driving
the Ensign would be swifter. The race car classes were small although
the Formula Ford class continued to enjoy its recent revival in the
sprint and hill climb world. There was just one other 1600cc race car
today, an OMS, whilst the Ensign had no company on Sunday, not entirely
unusual with this category showing something of a decline whilst, of
course, a classic class remains a rarity.
Not that it really matters as I knew what I should achieve and had my
own personal targets. Suitably replete following a proper cooked
breakfast I was starting to uncover the Ensign when a scrutineer arrived
post haste, so that formality was quickly dealt with. In this spacious
paddock the transporter was parked beside the Ensign, a convenience I
still appreciate when space considerations at many hill venues dictate
driver’s briefing confirmed the ‘wheels off’ criteria although we were
allowed to have them off over the finish line on Sunday, a special
dispensation due to its location quickly following a 90 right, MSA rules
stating that all wheels must be on the track over the finish line and
yes, some clubs do appoint an official
to monitor this. They must have a very exciting day...? Following this
practice was quickly away around 9.00am and the C of C suggested 2
practice runs and the first competitive run before lunch. That looked
befitted an event run by the Westfield Club the entry included many of
these cars, with the odd Caterham and Silva interloper and quite a few
Lotus Elise which make a decent car in which to drive to an event and
then compete. Practice moved at pace, not surprising with 3 cars on the
track most of the time and few delays. It's worth mentioning that Time
Team, the official time keepers, did a good job with little time lost
due to equipment failure, the most when a Formula Ford took out the finish lights on Sunday, that delay being minimal.
Running late in the field P1 still came
around quickly. A quiet run in the Ensign, the first half ok but I had
difficulty navigating the curves in the return ‘straight’ neatly. Whilst
I was using the Ensign’s older set of tyres grip was excellent as they
were hot before the start, whilst everything else was working perfectly.
I was using a hard setup on the car which, as things transpired, was
not the best choice.
Before one almost had time to think, or indeed gossip, P2 arrived and
the Ensign’s time was improved by less than one second, very poor and
compared with other cars desperately slow, my driving rather lazy. Perhaps the fact that my class competitor Chris Thomas’s OMS was 10s faster than me limited my motivation, a poor excuse and I used a different gear choice for T1 which at least chopped around 2s off the time. Yes, all this was easily accommodated in the morning and it was the lunch break and more of an opportunity
to wander and chat and enjoy the summer weather. Despite tyre warming
being banned the layers of rubber were quickly accumulating on the start
line and the grip excellent.
plan was T2 after lunch and then a further 2 competitive runs, all
times counting towards the final result, which seemed a good idea for
those involved with close competition. For T2 the Ensign’s chassis
settings were softened although I was not entirely convinced this a good
idea which shows how little I know! The start was excellent with 2.04s for the 64ft and the overall time was better by less than a second although
I made a mess of two corners which cost a lot of time. Excuses, but I
was starting to get there. Most competitors, unsurprisingly, continued with their full quota of runs but I stopped after T2, still early around 2.15pm. The championship with which I’m involved only accepts the first 2 competitive
runs for scoring so extra runs were merely wearing the car out for
little reason other than proving it will go a bit faster – or not. However, it was interesting to relax and spectate near the finish line and enjoy the atmosphere. The day’s results are here and the 4.2 litre turbocharged SBR Chrono V8 Audi TT look-alike of Simon Bainbridge took BTD on 59.01s, a good effort as their day was dogged by an early electrical sensor failure that took a lot of discovering.
dawned with a repeat of Saturday’s conditions although perhaps a
slightly smaller entry, enhanced by several Aston Martins ranging from
newish to pre-war 1.5 litre Le Mans and Mk2. I’d walked the new ‘Eastern
Circuit’ on Saturday evening, this incorporating the middle part of the ‘Outer Circuit’ with a complicated first section concluding with an awkward long right-hand bend followed by a sharp left onto the back straight of Saturday.
Just the same as last year, of course, and I did not try to remember
the first section although the initial entry from the starting straight
was sharp and slow. For a change, we did not have to sign on again for this separate event and yesterday's scrutineering of the car sufficed unless the car had been damaged, all making life simpler for everyone. I kept the Ensign’s soft settings from Saturday and practice started just after 9am and moved quickly. This was due, on both days, to an efficient paddock marshal who ensured we knew well in advance and as a result there neither long queues of cars in the paddock, nor start line delays with no cars. The Ensign was slow off the line, slightly ‘bogging down’ although I gave that little thought as I was more interested in what was happening ahead. Curiously the early part of this circuit seemed to flow naturally although I cheated and selected 3rd gear early for an easy Sunday outing. Joining the ’Outer Circuit’ was well understood although the finish was easier with the curves now leading onto a straight, the finish at the end of this after a 90 left once again. This time there was little space after the corner so I’d decided to brake late in top gear and let momentum carry the Ensign over the finish line. I chickened out of my planned braking point but as the finish was free of drama perhaps I could be bolder. It was a slow time but for P2, after again bogging off the line, I stayed in 2nd gear through the early wiggles which seemed a good idea and shaved off 5.5s after later final braking, without too much effort. Once again P1 immediately followed the practice runs and this time more use of 2nd gear produced a further time saving although the poor start line launch was accompanied by slow 2nd gear acceleration onto the back straight.
Lunch time and I had a fiddle, checking the spark plugs and correcting the balance of the Weber carburettors. Nothing much wrong there so I decided on serious start line revs and using 1st gear briefly to launch onto
the straight. This worked, as a 2.05s launch was accompanied by
seamless acceleration onto the straight, braking before the finish about
as late as safely possible and after scrabbling over the finish line a
further 2s saved. The ‘Eastern Circuit’ is a bit slower than the ‘Outer’
and today the Ensign’s times compared more favourably with my bench
mark, which was satisfying and I’m sure due to more track time. Again,
competitors had the option of a further 2 competitive runs although I
took Saturday’s option, loading up and on the road by 3.00pm with a
surprising easy and uneventful 4 hours journey home. Today BTD went to
David Tatham in his 1litre OMS Hornet on 64.40s, just heading the large
Bainbridge car, the small single seater more suitable for today’s track.
The results are here.
Despite the travel I found this an enjoyable and well-run club event, obviously helped with perfect weather and decent overnight accommodation. Whilst Ginetta
Cars have taken over the ownership of the track from founder Richard
Usher, he still runs the place with a ‘hands on’ approach and the venue
reflects this attention to detail, exemplified with the main water
supply being broken by the local farmer whilst harrowing an adjacent field and Richard’s efforts to sort the problem. I shall be inclined to enter again in 2019, all other things being equal, and hope standards are maintained if and when changes are made at the top.
Prescott 24th & 25th June 2018
who would have thought it, a hot and dry weekend at Prescott after the
miserable and wet conditions earlier in the season. Of course, with its picturesque sloping grassed paddock complete with the fruit trees, Prescott is particularly vulnerable to the rain,
not so much on track but the logistics of moving competition cars
around and towing out immovable trailers and mobile homes from the grass
car parks. However the venue recovered and dropping the Ensign off on Friday morning looked pristine. This was a weekend of two separate events, Saturday hosting a number of championships and Sunday a round of the prestigious Midland Hillclimb Championship, Porsche and The Hillclimb and Sprint Association Championships being invited to both days. Sadly, this weekend also clashed with a weekend of sprinting at Snetterton which was another HSA championship round. In this case 45 as opposed to 145 miles travel mads my decision easy although I'm sad that their entry was below expectations.
Saturday dawned with a clear blue sky, filled with the vapour trails of jets to and from Heathrow, a sight that makes me ponder about emissions and global warming and the strength of the airline lobby within the corridors of power. Nothing I can do about that other than join them, making my own contribution to emissions in a racing car, albeit we are taxed. The paddock was busy with early
arrivals and always something to look at on a sunny morning. Apart from
the Porsche classes there was one for Sunrise Speed Championship
competitors, a recent innovation by the Midland Automobile Club, plus a Bugatti Owners Club class, handicap based. The HSA class was large and the field was completed by a motorcycle class and classes for Midland Speed and Ralli22. Cars were therefore a mish mash in each class, saloons vying with Locaterfields vying with single seaters. Particularly good to see were a number of Mallocks, this their 60th Anniversary year with Ricard and Ben sharing drives in a Mk26 and Mk25 with Richard Fry and Tom Brown. Richard Churchly was in his immaculate Mk24 although son Tim was unable to drive having having been summoned to his ship somewhere in the Mediterranean! There was also a Mk4 which sadly was one of the few incidents of the weekend and had to scratch. The HSA class contained some quick cars including two Impreza, a pair of OMS single seaters and the Locaterfield cars of Simon Jenks, John Bradshaw and HSA Chairman Chris Howard-Harris.
The day started promptly with the bikes and with Prescott having a return road, progress was fast although there were the occasional delays throughout the day, as is inevitable. The track was in perfect
condition, hot and clean, the grass edges dry and firm. It was good to
get moving on P1 and settle into the routine, the Ensign with softer settings and more 'front end' caught me out at Ettore, oversteering onto the inside grass although recovery was simple and the run completed. Happily,
P2 was free from drama and straight forward, the chassis setup
satisfactory so I can only assume the oversteer on P1 was due to cool
tyres. Much the same after a prompt lunch break with the Ensign' times
for T1 and T2 within 2 hundredths although I would have forgone neatness for more pace! I felt that the Ensign should enter The Esses quicker but over the weekend I was unable to take the left hander without lightly braking, here a case for left foot braking if it wasn't for the steering column in the way!
ran quickly enough and finished around 4.30pm which was good. Many
competitors were staying for the Sunday events and it was the usual case
of changing race numbers and playing 'musical cars' with different paddock locations. On Saturday the HSA class were parked on the tarmac which was excellent and for Sunday the Ensign, running with the modern 1600s, was again on tarmac and now at the top of row A where the great and the good park with their transporters, motor homes and what have you. I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and moved my transporter to establish squatters rights before heading south and home. Like Saturday morning the M5 remained busy, the summer trek south with caravans and mobile homes a plenty. Mathew Ryder took BTD in his Empire Evo 2 Hayabusa 1600cc on 40.21s and Saturday's results are here and here.
Sunday morning was again hot and clear blue overhead. The paddock seemed quiet compared with Saturday and I suppose most people arrived the previous evening. Today most classes followed the pattern laid down by the MSA as that's how the Midland Hillclimb Championship operates. This was also another round of the HSA Championship and thanks to their sophisticated digital scoring system it did not matter where a contender was placed in the paddock – their best time entered into the system and points/position automatically allocated. Several Mallock cars remained to be joined by Peter's immaculate and shining Mk4 with a Lotus Ford twin cam. The fast end of the paddock was occupied by Gould, Dallara, Ralt, Raptor, Pilbeam, Force, Empire and OMS, a veritable' tour de force' of fast hill climb single seaters although several were missing, enjoying a round of the British Hillclimb Championship at Doune in Scotland. All exciting to watch, both mechanically and the skill of the drivers.
With the Midland Hill climb entry, the day was likely to drag due to a Top 12 runoffs after T1 and then T2, one of the reasons I tend to avoid Midland and National events. However, P1 started early enough and the programme buzzed
along. The Ensign's 1600cc class was towards the end of the programme,
number 155 says it all. For P1 I tried settings that I'd successfully used here in the past and they made no obvious difference so I returned to what I'd been using on Saturday. As happens all too frequently P2 was
the Ensign's fastest run of the weekend, a second or so short of this
on T1 and T2 for no good reason. Still, the sun was shining and plenty
of time to wander the paddock and eat ice cream! Whilst by no means a definitive judgement many of the competitors T2 runs were slower than T1 and it was remarked that the very hot weather would not help the volumetric efficiency of engine breathing, even with electronic fuel injection and turbo/ supercharging. Whatever, the Ensign's twin cam felt good although an unrecognisable 1% drop in performance could be a much as half a second of lost time.
aside this weekend it was interesting to learn that the inovative HSA
are preparing to revive the Sprint Leaders Championship in 2019, the MSA
having given their approval pending the final regulations. The MSA
Sprint Championship has been in the doldrums for a while and this might
help to revive it's profile and certainly, if they have a class for old
bangers in the Leaders, I'll be inclined to enter.
the day finished and I was able to load up and slip away before the
final Top 12 runoff. To squeeze through a gap another competitor's panel
van was kindly relocated, seconds later the space to be claimed by a
Skoda almost filling the space I needed to exit! Anyway, it's all a day
out and bit of sport and the king of the sporting Prescott jungle on Sunday was Robert Kenrick, taking BTD in his diminutive GWR Raptor 2 BMW 1 litre on 37.94s, making the big beasts look a bit like dinosaurs. Sunday's results are here and here.
Gurston Down 16th & 17th June 2018
A weekend off before this Gurston weekend, absorbed in a family affair with an 80th birthday which was pleasant although as the allocated driver I was not at my zenith of enthusiasm. In the mean time the Ensign's ratios were changed and the usual preparation, including the tow Audi which developed odd leaks solved with new pipe and hose clips whilst the dreaded airbag warning light was due to bad electrical connections! The weather forecasts were, as usual, inconsistent and I planned for a wet Saturday and loaded the brand new A15 tyres as they needed a couple of runs to remove the mould release agent, wet conditions being ideal for this job.
I was again staying at a local farmhouse b&b so drove down Friday with time to prepare without rushing, followed by a walk up the track in the dappled sunshine with fellow class competitor Mike. Following the recent hot weather the tarmac was warm and a road sweeper had cleaned the hill so the surface was good, if slightly dusty. The grass edges were dry and there were no floppy posts beside the sharp left hander at Ashes so this could be driven aggressively.
What might have been a red kite slowly wafted above our heads getting
'lift' from the tree line, joining us later in the weekend wheeling
above the paddock.
The weekend comprised of two separate clubbies with a full entry list on Saturday which included a class for bikes. There were 8 cars in the classic class excluding a non-starting Gilbern and we were in various locations around the paddock, a shame and I think organisers sometimes fail to grasp the fact that for many hill climbing
is a social activity and we spend most of our time standing about
chatting! The sky was rather grey first thing but the clouds were moving
and the sun appeared briefly throughout the day. Our class included the familiar faces, Jeremy's pretty Lotus Elan, Mike's delightful Alexis Mk17, the George family Chevron B19, Sue's smart Palliser WDF3, Brian's Gilbern GT and Charles 1100cc Cooper Mk7 which was ensconced with the other bike engine Coopers. Following its winter
rebuild the Chevron's handling was still a trifle wayward, particularly
in a straight line which was a trifle disconcerting for Richard and
daughter Amanda. They adjusted dampers and roll bars throughout the weekend and there were improvements, their times certainty quicker. The Alexis was fresh from the workshop of Aldon Automotive following a lack of engine revs which involved replacement parts and detuning the electric rev counter, apparently returned from servicing a while ago set for a 6-cylinder engine.
Hill activities started soon after 8.30 and the bikes were unusually in the first batch, I gather new arrangements following missing
their 'run off' at the last event here. With the Ensign's new tyres P1
was a slow run and I noticed how the car felt rather stiffer on these,
someone remarking perhaps I was feeling the stronger wire carcass
with the new tyres. I had been considering removing the tyres after
this run but the weather remained uncertain so I left them, the old
tyres now to be avoided in moist conditions. There was a hint of moisture in the air for P2 and whilst we waited at the finish paddock during some delays very light rain, which I always refer to a 'Scots Mist', gently wafted over us. Returning eventually to the paddock this had disappeared although it had made the track moist enough of a couple of offs in the final practice batch of cars.
in fact, was the worst part of the day, weather wise, afternoon track
conditions were good. Remaining on the new tyres the Ensign's grip was,
of course, excellent, with reasonable times for T1 and T2.The Palliser was fast and headed the Chevron and Alexis and the rest of the class. I was trying to take a wider line into Hollow, that fast left-hand
bend at the bottom of the hill off the start line. I only managed that
once, still too close and on the kerb which the Ensign's suspension
absorbs well enough but at 100ish the car is unsettled and there is certainly a neater way of driving this bend. When walking the hill it was interesting to
note that the 'clipping points' had been marked in yellow, for the
convenience of the driver training events held here regularly. Always an interesting subject to inspect and discuss.
Sunday dawned much as Saturday with a breeze and clouds although the weather forecast was optimistic with little rain expected. The motor bikes appeared again and this was the second day for the Tony Marsh Trophy which would be won by the driver improving the most on his target time in the Gurston Championship, of which 4 rounds were being held over the weekend. The Ensign had been running excellently on Saturday so there was little to do other than check the tyre pressures, normally 16psi on the hills.
I was lazy and left the new tyres on the Ensign consoling myself that I
would anyway be using them next weekend at Prescott. The classic class were still spread around and today joined by an Alvis 12/50, Jensen C V-8 and James's familiar and unique Raven 4WD which he was listed sharing with daughter Georgina but she instead drove the family diesel Mini in another class, sensible girl. Geoff had entered his ex-Spencer Elton Lotus 22 but the car did not appear although Geoff was around the paddock. Mike with his Alexis and the Ensign remained in the filthy part of the paddock which, without rain, was bearable.
It was good to see the BOC Classic class with a delightful array of classic single seater and sports and saloon cars, all pre –1971 although I did wonder what a modern Leastone F5 was all about, with a Suzuki bike engine and second in the class on scratch. Andy had his recently refurbished Brabham BT30X-1 with a 3.5litre V8, I believe the ex-Mike Mac Dowel hill climb car, looking smart and surely to achieve great results in due course. Nick is always quick in his red Lotus 51B and Grant was driving his ex-Harratt family Braham BT21B, Jane coincidentally acting as club steward today. David Owen was driving the ex-Jeremy Smithson Merlyn Mk11 FF having forsaken his OMS, a slight culture shock although he was settling in well and just ahead of Les Buck in his ex-Mike Fisher Pringett Mistrale FF,
David and Les once sharing an OMS. A nice class with plenty of sports
and saloon cars as well, won decisively, on scratch at least, by Richard Jones in his swift blue Brabham BT29X
As usual practice started promptly and for P1 I managed to exit the start line on idle, total lack of concentration on my part although the twin cam looked after me and the engine pulled from 1000rpm, surely the slowest 64ft of the weekend at 3.42s! Everyone was going well although Mike in the Alexis and Jeremy in the Elan were today running in the aforementioned BOC Classic Class, rather confusing as Jeremy was listed in our class results whilst Mike, though still parked beside the Ensign, was listed in the BOC. I can just work it out although can the spectators, not that it matters.
Still dry P2 was better and after lunch a dry T1 was exhilarating, the Ensign recording 104mph down the hill off the line and again over the finish line. Sadly the overall time did not beat my PB but great fun nevertheless. The skies had been getting greyer and the 'Scots Mist' appeared for our final run and I adopted a cautious
approach and both Amanda and Richard were quicker in the Chevron, to
their credit. The moisture quickly disappeared so it was dry to load up
for the journey home. The results for both days are here and Peter Smith took BTD on both days, Saturday 30.13s and Sunday 30.00s. Mark Crookall won the Tony Marsh Memorial Trophy in his Mazda MX5 for the second time in succession.
Pembrey 2nd & 3rd June 2018
A week or two doing other things but Friday morning I was on the road again, west along the M4 and this time to Llanelli and then the coast road to Pembrey. This race circuit is located at an ex-WW11 RAF station that was operational between 1937 and 1957, mainly
for training. Famously, the first FW190 acquired by the RAF landed here
on the 23.6.1942 flown by Oberleutnant Arnim Faber became over excited
after downing a Spitfire from Exeter and now, low on petrol, made the
biggest error of his life and landed. The bright duty pilot at Pembrey
grabbed a Very pistol and jumped onto the wing of the FW before Faber
knew he had landed in Wales, disoriented and having flown a reciprocal
course. Thus FW190A-3 No.5313 from 11/JG2 was dismantled, shipped by
road to Farnborough, reassembled in 10 days and extensively test flown
until 28.1.1943. I suspect this the most exciting thing that happened at
Pembrey throughout the war. Apart from the race track there is a small
airfield with a single 805m runway and somewhat ambitiously named
Pembrey West Wales International Airport, opened in 1997. Otherwise the site is used for agriculture although much of the original runways and hard standings remain, the paddock being a part of the main runway. There was also a police heliport in use when I was here in 2012 which now looks expensively abandoned, like most public spending or rates and taxes!
I planned to travel early as Friday motorway traffic is dire everywhere, but once arrived entry is normally not a problem. This time it was, vehicles and trailers parked outside the gates so I dumped the transporter and went off in search of my weekend accommodation. It wasn’t far away but as this was my first visit it seemed a good idea to check it out and indeed find the B&B through the rural lanes. Back at the track later the queue was growing and I learnt that we would not be allowed in because of work taking place on the track and we would be a health & safety hazard. Eventually we were officially allowed to enter although work appeared to still be in progress. With the possibility of having cars scrutineered at 6.00 I unloaded and prepared everything and then walked much of the course. A scrutineer indeed arrived at the appointed time and completed his formalities, following which I was then able to 'sign on' in the office, a
different way of doing things but who cares? As usual the weekend was
being run by BARC Wales and hosting several championships including the HSA and British Sprint Championship. There was a mixed entry which, on Saturday, included the Paul Matty Classic Lotus championship which I particularly enjoyed; many handsome cars being driven quickly. The Ensign was in the usual 1600cc single seater class, an interloper as the other cars in the class were competing in the BSC although I had nothing to do with them as the BSC people were located in a different paddock close to the start line marshalling area. On both days the event was 1.5 laps of the 'original circuit, nominally 3.5km and the opportunity of keeping the twin cam at 7500 revs for a while, in top gear. along the main straights.
Friday night and the mists came in making the drive to the local pub like something out of the Hammer House of Horrors. I survived and Saturday morning an excellent breakfast launched me towards the track. Whilst moist overnight the weather was clearing from the west and the sky was soon deep azure with the odd cloud - just perfect. Without a paddock marshal and an incoherent PA system, together with the threat that if we did not appear at the right time we would forfeit our run, battle commenced. Practice started at 9.10am and
I was 31 on the official running order and appeared in due time.
However, various BSC cars then wafted down from their adjacent paddock and took priority over the rabble and as a result I was sitting around for ages. This scheme continued throughout the event and as the weather was perfect, sitting in a single seater with all the kit for 30 minutes or more was character building. It could have been worse, of course, if it had been raining. It's times like this I appreciate the Ensign's excellent upholstery and nearly dozed off a couple of times, such was the excitement!
Eventually I was sent forth on P1 which I found rather daunting, the Ensign all over the place although the tyres started gripping at the end of the first lap and when considering the run afterwards I was clearly trying too hard on cool tyres, also not in their first flush of youth. Also, the track had just dried from overnight rain and obviously was not yet perfect. However I stayed on the track and the engine was running sweetly, my choice of chassis settings probably ok although too much understeer early in the run. I decided to leave everything where is was and listen to other driver's experiences and settle into the established routine of these events. The programme seemed initially to be moving quickly but later slowed, probably an organisational matter for sometimes there was only one car was on the track, where it is possible to simultaneously run 3, with slick management. The Lotus classes were running at the end of the programme despite being listed as 2G, normally an early running class in the normal course of events, which seemed rather machiavellian.
By P2 the tyres and the track were heating in the sunshine so I was more confident. Again the aforementioned delays in the marshalling area but on track the Ensign's run felt quicker and much more controlled, although only a small improvement in the time which was disappointing. Such are speed events, whether on the flat or the hills. After this run I checked the spark plugs and was delighted that they the proper colour for once as they generally have that nasty sooty look at shorter hill climbs.
Practice eventually finished at 1.45pm and the lunch break was shortened and I'm sure the marshals needed the break after a morning in the sunshine, clad in their
overalls. The official timed runs followed the same pattern but as the
programme was running slowly there were no Top 12 Runoffs for the BSC
and indeed it was only with luck that all the Matty Lotus class
completed T2, the last car running at 6.10pm which was past the official curfew time, although I do wonder just how important that is bearing in mind that apart from the wild life there are few local residents. Having completed T2 I wandered over to the track wall at the exit of Honda, a quick part of the course, looking at the line of cars exiting this quick bend. Most were running onto the runoff area, as indeed I found was necessary in the Ensign. Some stayed on the track and looked as quick, although appearances can be deceptive. Perhaps it was where people initially turned in and their cars behaviour, although it looked a lot slower from the wall than it felt in the Ensign's driving seat!
entry list was much as usual at this type of event. Roadgoing cars
included a Celica GT that had electrical problems on P1 when a 100amp
fuse burnt, subsequently repaired enabling the car to run both days. A Volvo 940 estate was unusual and driven exuberantly and Gordon had his 'new' Focus, problems with its Brembo brakes at Llandow not having been identified by the Ford dealer although they were obviously working. Caterham and Westfield abounded in a number of classes with SBD head honcho Steve Broughton
double driving his Westy and F3 Dallara to identify handling issues, or
perhaps just trying to confuse himself. Single seater cars included all
the usual suspects with Jedi, Force, OMS DJ, Ralt, Gould, Pilbeam and Lola although no example of Bill Chaplin's prolific Empire cars from Bridgwater, which have not made an impact on the sprinting world as yet. Classic cars included that hoard of Loti with Elan and Elan+2, no less than two exquisite monocoque 35 twin cams, a 20/22 FJ with a 1600cc engine, four 69 including Tony's pristine F3 twin cam, two 23B sports racers and more. Carole's regularly used Nike Mk11 FF, built by her late father Ken, was another rare car competing.
Saturday's sprinting having finished we repaired to Burry Port for supper and liquid refreshment. Sunday dawned with the clear blue sky interspersed with the vapour trails of aircraft heading to and from Heathrow.The organisers decided that there would be just one practice run today, then the two Top 12s from Saturday, then T1 and T2 which they naively thought might happen before lunch. Perhaps they do not realise that the reason many of us enter is to play hooligans round a race track for which we pay sufficient, so having our days quota cut by 25% was not met with universal joy. The field was smaller as most of the Lotus crew had gone, probably relieved that they actually had a 2nd competitive run on Saturday,
unlike 2017. There were a few new arrivals just for the day and they
would have been delighted with just one practice run, particularly if
they had not driven Pembrey before. Conditions were now even better than Saturday and seriously hot. The Ensign was working perfectly although the tyres were slowly being destroyed, not that this was so important as this their 25th event and now need really hot conditions to work properly.The track was delightful and by this time I had an idea of where the Ensign should be and was concentrating on staying on the throttle more as there were only 2 braking points, Hatchers Hairpin at the end of the main straight and the 120-degree Brooklands Hairpin before the straights.
As things turned out the BSC crew had their two left over Top 12 runs in the morning after P1, this followed by T1 which finished the morning activities,T2 following after lunch and finally a further two Top 12 Runoffs.The day ran swiftly and perhaps there were more cars on the track now although I was released after long delays with a single car ahead of me. Still, what do I know about running a sprint at Pembrey? In the end the Ensign was 3 seconds off its PB which was disappointing but that's how it sometimes is with this sport.That said,it was a pleasure driving this track in almost perfect conditions when, I noted, my alternative choice of the Classic event at Harewood was wet and miserable. For once, I'd made the right call.
The results for both days are here,
rather confusing with the BSC and Top 12s and what have you. In
conclusion, I hear that two BSC specialists managed to a. miss a red
flag although we all have at some time, and b. ran 3 laps instead of 2
and I'm saying nothing as the driver was old enough to be able to count. Happily summer seems to have arrived at last and local hill climbs beckon in the next week or two, Gurston Down followed by Prescott at the end of the month. Monday morning and the gears have been changed and now a 100mpg top gear for Gurston after the heady heights of 112mph top, 97mph 3rd and 75mph 2nd at Pembrey. That seems a small change but I assure you it isn't!
early start today but not too far to travel, just over a deserted
Severn Bridge and past Cowbridge to yet another ex-RAF airfield at Llandow.
I've been coming here, on and off, for years as it's useful for a
morning's testing and the owners are very obliging. Resurfaced and
organised in its present layout in 2000 the site is neat and tidy and
the paddock seemed to have been swept recently, few flying stones. The
track surface remains good although cracks are developing here and there
although nothing to worry competitors. The day was organised jointly by
the Bristol Motor and Bristol Pegasus clubs, actually rather slick for
at times there were 3 cars on the track, the event using a 1¾ lap
format. Timing was simple, without speed traps or splits, adequate
although as the Ensign is not endowered with modern technology to record
its activities these extras are handy. Once again this will be the only
sprint being held at Llandow in 2018 and it is surprising that more clubs do not run an event here as the entry places were soon filled.
entry was large and the paddock busy with cars and apart from the usual
categories there were large MX2 and MG classes and classes for DEWS and
HRCR. As last year the MX2 class was sponsored by our local barber's
shop! There were two classes with just 2 cars, unusually 1400cc
roadgoing and the 1600cc racing car class, the Ensign joined by Carol's
Nike Formula Ford. The sky was overcast and walking the track it was
obvious that rain had fallen in the previous hour or two although it was
drying quickly and the day warmed and the sun shone occasionally. The
track was much as I remembered although at the end of Hanger Straight
the location of cones beside the narrow 'Kink' appeared closer and
drivers were warned that they covered holes
week at Werrington and again today I was using different chassis
settings, aimed at sharpening corner turn in. I'd left the same gearing
in the Ensign as used at Werrington but changed the petrol in the car.
For the early season events I've been using 4star leaded which is
available from a garage on the A38 at Berkeley. For Llandow
I reverted to Shell Optimax, or whatever they now call it. The tyres
were looking a little used and this was their 24th event and whilst fine
in hot weather I'm sure they’ve lost their 'edge'. Llandow is notorious for destroying tyres so the new set could remain in their bags for a while yet.
the usual formalities of scrutineering and driver's briefing there were
convoy runs for those that wanted, which were most of the entry
although I did not bother as I'd already seen what I wanted to see.
Practice then proceeded promptly and the 10 racing cars were running
mid-field in numerical order so it was easy, located as we were not far
from the start line. Like Werrington last weekend, and indeed many
tyre warming was not allowed. On P1 the Ensign bogged down off the
start lineas I was not concentrating. I'd been confused by an immediate
green start light, there usually being a period on red. I
was using insufficient engine revs although the twin cam took that in
its stride. The odd damp patch remained but grip was good and the 2.1
miles were entertaining. Despite the entry of over 100 cars P2 came
around quickly and I again made a leisurely start although this time
made full use of the distance markers at the end of the two straights
which improved the time. In the past I've always used 3rd gear through
and after the 'Kink' at the end of Hanger Straight. I was now finding
the Ensign quick enough to remain in 4th gear, round the Glue Pot and up
Paddock Straight, before braking at the Bus Stop.
The fastest cars were in the 2 litre race car class in which Steve Miles in his Van Diemen RF96 and Dave Sims in his Ralt
RT33/34 were closely matched, the shared Formula Vauxhall of Gary
Buckingham having a curious problem of jamming in the 1st gear of its
gearbox. Subsequent dismantling showed just a scrap of metal in the
wrong place and after reassembly car then ran correctly. As always Luke
Trotman was very quick in his bike engine Mallock
18b, sharing the Sports Libre class with Roy Sims in his 'new' methanol
burning Singer Californian Imp, although there was not much Imp to be
seen with its forced induction bike engine with 8 injectors and a plenum
chamber location reinforced with webbing straps to stop the inlet
charge pressure forcing the connections!
The lunch break soon arrived and with it warm sunshine. Following my tardy departure from the line during practice I did the job properly on T1 which saved a second. The twin cam was running perfectly on the Shell fuel, without the occasional flat spot that had happened with the 4star, although in fairness some of the days had been cooler. More to the point, being a tad under geared in 4th the engine was running to over 8000revs in top without distress when braking for Bus Stop, so the fuel seemed an improvement. With more 'front end' and compliance
with the antiroll bars the Ensign was delightful through the twisty
parts of the circuit without spoiling the faster bits. It was great fun and whilst a PB on P1 I was unable to improve on P2 despite conditions remaining excellent.
the battle for top spot Dave Sims took BTD on 70.02s which was well
deserved, particularly as he was helping organise the cars in the top
paddock last weekend at Werrington. The results are here.
Werrington 5th & 6th May 2018
further south this weekend for the 'Jewel in the Crown' of South
Western hill climb events, Werrington Park, 2 miles north of Launceston.
As oft repeated, a weekend in early May on an agricultural estate who
open their access roads to Torbay Motor Club and one of the finest hill
climbs in the UK. In the 1980s the Ensign took several BTDs here in the
erratic but devastatingly fast hands of Coprnish driver Kevitt Payne and
also in the hands the previous owner to me, the late Nigel Bigwood.
I relish this hill although the paddock grass is generally much too
long for single seaters. There was a surprise this year as the cold
spring had slowed the growth. The forecast was hot and dry, the way we
was mostly motorway and dual carriageway travel to Launceston although
this a bank holiday weekend which suggested traffic chaos? The roads
flowed easily and a quick journey, without rushing. During the week I'd
received an interesting email from a hill climb competitor who had
acquired a handsome and smart Ensign from Germany. He is planning on
hill climbing the car, much the same as his previous Lotus 61, again
entering the Aldon Classic Championship which will provide them with
something fresh. More gossip and I was pleased to learn from an inside
source that Crystal Palace is likely to reappear in 2019, good news for
this South London refugee. The Ensign
was easily unloaded and sorted in the Werrington paddock, followed by
an early evening stroll up the hill to see the sights, to be sensibly
followed later by a steak in the local pub and even better, St Austell Proper Job on draught. A small pleasure!
dawned misty but this quickly cleared to a clear blue sky and sunshine.
The track was ok, dusty but clean, a mechanical sweeper had been up on
although small lumps of mud and the rough edges remained. As I walked
the hill a contentious soul was thoroughly cleaning the track edges
approaching the kink. More protection, although for who's benefit, was
apparent with extended tyre barriers secured with convenor belting, just
more work for the indefatigable members of Plymouth Motor Club. After
the usual formalities practice started early and to speed matters two
cars were being run on the hill, the second being 'released' when the
preceding car had exited the 90-degreeleft
after the manor house. This worked well and the programme ran smoothly
over the weekend, apart from the occasional 'off', the barriers at said
'90 degree' getting a bit of a beating, as did those involved cars. The
Ensign was running in the small racing car category with the other 1600s
- Empire, OMS, and Carol's delightful Nike FF, built by her late
father Ken who finished his successful career just up the road in Bradworthy.
Track conditions improved as the surface warmed and scrubbed by the
traffic. This was my first time with the Ensign for a while and the
approach to the cattle grid seemed a bit quick, whilst additional water
filled road barriers to the right of the subsequent braking area created
something of a tunnel effect, initially strange but then useful to
access the braking distance. Good conditions, clean track, nothing to complain about other than I was not fast enough, but what's new?
was a trifle moist and anyway, most people were naturally cautious,
their times depending on their personal interpretation of cautious! It
was immediately obvious that Ben Wheeler in his immaculate and well-prepared
Empire Evo 1550cc would be setting the pace although Mike Lee and Andy
Forsythe were closely contesting the next place in their respective OMS
3000M and CF04 cars. For P2 everyonewas settling into their routines
and I was more assertive in the Ensign although happy enough to improve
as in the circumstances, a good time in the car would be largely
irrelevant. Lunchtime and KeithRichards in his OMS Hornet dropped a chain and had to scratch for the rest of the day although knew he could collect a replacement in the evening. In the large race car class Dave Gardner and Andy Dinner battled with their immaculate Pilbeams, closely matched although Andy took the class by 0.07s.
our 1600 class Ben reigned supreme with 33.50s which also secured BTD
and I believe there were 3 new class records. Plymouth Motor Club had
organised a barbeque in the evening but I decided to return to the local
pub at St Giles on the Heath.
dawned as fine as Saturday, the track now thoroughly 'scrubbed' by the
competition traffic and a large entry looking forward to the day. The
event ran equally smoothly with fast times. I might of course be wrong
but there seemed fewer spectators on both days although they might have
spread themselves more; a shame if this was the case with two hot and dry days and interestingly, the North Cornwall coast was shrouded in a cold mist. As on Saturday Ben won the 1600 class and took BTD on 33.19s. The results for both days are here.
Wiscombe 28th & 29nd April 2018
The notorious first event in the Wiscombe calendar, infamous for wet weather, slippery
track and challenging grass paddock but with the charming and relaxed
attitude of officials in the face of every possible adversity. The
previous weekend we heard that the event was 'on' following positive
weather forecasts, then severe rain during Thursday and Friday called
for all the ingenuity Wiscombe hands could conjure up. I had long since
decided that the Mallock would be ideal as this was an event to quietly
enjoy with no pressure for results or points or whatever. I'd used the
family front wheel drive for last weeks Gurston
following damage to my regular Audi tow barge but this weekend 4wd
would be at a premium so I left Bristol with the car's front secured
with nylon cord. A new plan as rather than commuting I chose a pleasant B&B close to the hill.
choice of 4WD was wise as the sloping grass paddock was very slippery
although, arriving early, it was easy to park the transporter in my
'usual' spot beside a large tree, single seater and sports libre
cars being allowed to park with their transporters, where they prefer,
in the allocated area. Whilst damp the track looked clean enough, more
than could be said of the surrounding lanes as I headed for my accommodation, covered in 'soil and gravel run off' and plenty of large pot holes which were difficult to spot as they were full of water!
usual the entry was predominantly from the West Country with a modest
selection of single seaters and sports libre. Rod Thorne was driving his
MP43 sports racer but had an accident after Sawbench on P2 and whilst
unhurt, the Pilbeam was scratched for the rest of the weekend. The
1100cc class included two Jedi (one double driven) and two OMS whilst
the 1600cc class had three OMS and an Empire, Mike Lee's newish OMS3000M
looking smart with a bare carbon fibre body. Two Pilbeam
and the KMD made up the 2000cc class. The weekend hosted rounds of
several championship including Wiscombe's own, the ASWMC, ACSMC, WAMC
and DEWS, if you can work that out.
Saturday practice the track was slippery although it improved for the
competition runs. Sunday started drier and times showed an improvement over Saturday although the track remained very cold. The Mallock
ran smoothly and slowly on Saturday and it was a pleasant change to
drive the little car after the Ensign. Sunday was annoying as, having
strapped in for P1 the starter would no turn, just that clicking of the
solenoid. A quick check suggested the starter motor and I was not in the
mood for a paddock repair session on a cold day so I packed up and left
at lunchtime. Stripping and cleaning the starter motor on Monday
resolved the problem - sticking brushes. That said, having to remove the
manifolds to gain easy access I'm also stripping and checking the
Webers and respraying the exhaust! The results for both days are here.
Gurston 21st & 22nd April 2018
A return to the South of England and the hill climb at Gurston
Down, located in and surrounded by swooping chalk down lands and from
first sight a simple hill to drive – the farm tractors do it every day.
However, like every speed venue the real problem is driving the hill at
speed when simple curves take on a life of their own and even the finish
line, complete with a kink, requires concentration at speed.
to stay at a B&B for the weekend I delivered the Ensign to the
track on Friday, the day dry and warm so my preparation work could be
completed leisurely, followed by a walk up the hill. This did not reveal
any secrets although the right-hand slope beside Hollow had been
cleared of vegetation to provide more accommodation for spectators. The
short-term downside of this was soil washing on to the track as the
naked slope had not yet stable with grass. The whole hill was dusty
although it appeared to have been mechanically swept. However, it was dry and even warm in the sunlight, a good omen for the weekend.
As usual with Gurston,
practice started early and just as well as the entry was large, also
including bikes and trikes. The Austin 7 class is always interesting
although this time I did not browse their cars. A large Porsche class, a
TVR class and Classic Marques also with a very large entry, on both
days in fact, a popular place to compete with road going sports cars.
Various standard MSA defined classes followed and our class ran in the
penultimate batch. Like many others our class were conservative in their
approach to P1, particularly Richard and Amanda in their shared B19,
not having driven it following the extensive rebuild. It was running well and
some of the rebuild team assisted during the morning, getting the
suspension settings correct and keeping a general eye open for issues.
Of interest were the finish times being recorded, 107mph for the Ensign –
no way! Sports Libre and the race car classes followed in the last car batch, the 1600s looking like the class of the day.
last week at Loton Park it was delightful to have a congenial B&B
close to the hill, the treat of a cooked breakfast and no rush. I'd left
the Ensign in the trailer
park as yet again our class was located beside those disgusting
farmyard sheds, the Ensign close to the large water drain and with
virtually no ground clearance, something that I am no longer going to
accept if the organisers insist on placing historic racing cars in an
area suited for trails cars. With no rain and none expected over the
weekend I was hopeful, although had no intention of remaining here if it
came on to rain. Our classic class included the George family's Chevron
B19, resplendent with a new finish with a maroon tinge – very
the winter the car had been apart and had extensive repairs to the
chassis and body so not only the body but the chassis glowed and the
metal shone. They too had problems with this part of the paddock as
there's also disintegrating concrete which was scraping the low front of the Chevron. Surely road going cars could be parked here? Mike had his familiar Alexis twin cam with a new Hewland gearbox casing following the failure
last year. Jeremy was driving his Lotus Elan Sprint FHC which looks so
pretty. The Tearle family Ginetta G12 and Sue's Palliser twin cam
completed the class, the Ginetta fitted
with a modern bike engine which was rather out of place in this
pre-1972 class whilst much had been done to the Palliser during the
winer, most obviously a new paint finish and new exhaust system. This
weekend hosted the first rounds of Gurston's own Championship sponsored
by Skoda dealer Meadens
and different from the past in that each timed run counted for points
and for the final score the best from 10 rounds from 14 scouring
remained dry and the track benign but the Ensign was not performing
quite as I would have hoped. Perhaps unfamiliarity with Gurston
following the winter layoff – who knows. Anyway, T2 came around and the
B19 was being driven with aplomb now that Richard and Amanda were
comfortable that it was working, more or less, as planned. Mike was
finding the starting of his twin cam slightly inconsistent and
annoyingly, the rebuilt gearbox was leaking a small amount of oil which
I'm sure he didn't need. The Elan time improved by 4 seconds so Jeremy
was getting used to its behaviour, so very different for the Merlyn FF
that he previously ran. I had my usual fiddle with the Weber
carburettors which had slipped out of balance once again, making small
mixture adjustments as the front 2 cylinders seemed a trifle rich. I'm
sure these had little effect but I enjoy fiddling in the sunshine and
when there's no pressure; this time the Ensign went over the finish at
116mph, according to the infallible timekeepers!
shortened lunch break came and went and we were into the official runs.
There were a few drops of rain but track conditions were unaffected.
The Ensign showed a slight improvement
over T2 and this time the finish speed bore a semblance to reality at
97mph, this time making a decent launch off the start. Times were much
the same between T1 and T2 with some improvement and some slower, like
the Ensign, following a diversion onto the grass at the top of Karousel. Peter Smith took BTD in his Force on 30.72s and the results are here.
Saturday evening was fun and scary as after a pleasant meal with good company up the road in Dinton there
was a serious thunderstorm with sheet lightening and plenty of rain,
and if rain had to happen this was the right time as far as we
were concerned. Sunday dawned moist and still but the air was warm and a
breeze developed which dried the track. I had again left the Ensign in
the trailer park and so avoided it being washed away in the storm,
although there was a large puddle in the cockpit, a plastic sheet
fortunately containing the water.
The heavy rain had washed away much of the dust and the track looked
cleaner. Many of Saturday's entries stayed on with additional classes
for Triumph, Austin Healey and Morgan cars with the popular MX5 class
and the other standard categories.
of the first practice runs depended upon ones view of track conditions –
there were dry and damp patches but unless the track had been walked it
could be something of a lottery. In our class Chevron exponents Richard
and Amanda adopted the positive approach, disappearing and hiding on P1, their car clearly exhibiting its form. Richard continued his dominance in P2 although the Ensign was faster now the track was dry, third gear at the top of Karousel inhibiting
progress and as the run was obviously spoilt I left it there through
Ashes and up the hill. The Ensign improved on T1 and for me, happily,
everything came together on T2 with a good launch off the line and everything working well to make a decent time although the Chevron remained devastatingly fast on the final uphill sprint between Ashes and the finish. Gurston being the sort of hill that it is, split time comparisons can be confusing as a missed gear can make a significant time difference, although that is how it is with hills and sprints – it’s doing everything correctly at the same time on the same run!
Once again the
day dragged on a little and having taken P2 I loaded the transporter
but did not exit the hill until 6.30pm, missing the prize giving
although that did not appear to be happening anyway. We were very lucky
with both days remaining dry despite the dire forecast, a good track
surface and the usual efficiency of the officials. Peter Smith took BTD
in his 1600cc Force on 30.44s and the results are here.
Loton Park 14th & 15th April 2018
The season is starting to move along and the Ensign headed north last Friday to Loton Park in Shropshire, the well-establishedhill climb in the deer park of Sir Michael Leighton's estate at
this park at Alberbury,sometime an ammunition dump which makes an
interesting contrast, those buildings long since flattened although
their foundations remain. As the book says, this is a technical course
and, spanning 1475 yards, one of the longest in the UK. For lower
powered cars it is also slowish and the Ensign runs an 88mph top gear, having
one brief moment touched 89mph through the speed trap on the
euphemistically titled Cedar Straight. With the camber change and bends
this is a marvellous place to check whether or not your car suffers from
bump steer. That said, following the track's resurfacing it is a
pleasure to drive with excellent grip, whilst pleasant officials and,
for single seaters at least, a tarmac paddock, combine the right
ingredients for a pleasant weekend.
days motorsport was the plan, staying at a familiar B&B although
their local pub was closed, hopefully briefly, whilst the new owners
battle with their unexpected rotten roof, which cannot have been a
surprise as one look at the ridge suggested further examination.
Arriving on Friday there was plenty of time and space to unload and walk
the course, which looked the same as last year apart from the water
sodden soil and the pond beside the start looking high, following the
winter's rain and snow. There was a promise of pleasant weather, for
April, although does anyone ever trust a UK weather forecast?
it wasn't raining on Saturday morning although the track remained damp
with little breeze to dry the surface. The usual formalities were
straight forward and it was good to chat with Jerry Walton who
scrutineered the Ensign, having
not seen him for some time, Jerry the official who issued the Ensign's
hill climb 'log book' on a cold March day back in 2005. There was a
small class of 1600cc single seaters and the OMS parked alongside was having starting problems although they were eventually overcome. Practice moved alongquite
leisurely, I believe pheasants causing delays on the hill! It was
obvious that the hill remained slippery, the way many cars twitched
sideways when changing into 2nd gear off the start a clear warning. No
improvement when P1 arrived and with the Ensign loose when accelerating
out of the first left hander I opted for a leisurely run. This gave me
the opportunity to use 3rd gear rather than 2nd gear through Triangle
and Museum and the Ensign accelerated easily enough despite the slow
entry speed. Despite the slippery track there were few incidents and by
the time P2 arrived track conditions had improved. I again followed this
different gear selection whichworked well apart from understeer exiting the corner so I started playing with damper settings, trying to confuse myself.
Practice ran into the early afternoon but there was a short lunch break before the official timed runs. In the meantime, the track had further dried and was offering much more grip with the times of early runners
improved compared with the morning and with no obvious slipping and
sliding off the start line. I continued with the new gearing routine
using 3rd rather than 2nd through various corners which seemed a good
idea, a better time on T1 although T2 was slower as the sun which had
warmed the track had now disappeared, that being my excuse. Competitive runs did not finish until much before 6.00pm but that was not as issue for me with accommodation just down the road Wil Hall took BTD in his demon Xtec 2litre turbocharged Force on 47.16s and the results are here.
looked overcast as I ate my breakfast a mile down the road from the
track although stepping outside the air felt dry and the BBC said that
rain would appear in the afternoon. Quite a lot of new faces compared with yesterday together with plenty of Caterham 2 seaters as the Lotus Seven Club were invited.
Following on from Saturday there were again plenty of motor bikes and
Morgan 3 wheelers, the latter including a pair of 'new' cars with 5
speed gearboxes although they looked as spartan as the early trikes. In
an attempted to speed the programme practice started early and continued
through the church service, following the test last year. Running 2
cars on the hill also reduced noise levels sufficiently to avoid inconveniencing
the neighbouring service although one sage did wonder what happened in
the days of open exhausts? The bike classes were also run 'back to back'
in practice which also seemed to speed the programme, quite a few car
competitors always wary when there are bike classes in the expectation, probably unjustified, of delays.
conditions were good this morning, dry and cool but the grip was there
and the start line provided an excellent launch. Today I decided not to
bother with tyre warming for whilst the Ensign did a sub 2s launch on
Saturday it did not make a significant difference to the time,
Loggerheads just one hundredths of a second quicker with transmission
destroying tyre warming! With no other 1600s entered the Ensign was
dropped into the large and interesting Formula Ford class that had been present on Saturday, very unfair on them. Conditions were good for both the practice runs and I continued my hunt for front end grip by hardening the rear dampers. This worked and the Ensign handled correctly on P2, undoubtedly
assisted by being 'flagged' after the Triangle on P2 with an almost
instant rerun with hot engine and warm tyres. Having missed red flags in
the past I was delighted that this one caught my eye as explanations to the C of C can be a bit embarrassing.
Sunday's programme moved hastily forward which was as well for the sky occasionally looked dark and odd specks of water fell. Our class ran in the dry and the Ensign a little slower than P2 which was a dissapointment. Returning to the paddock rain was lightly falling and that was enough for me to pack the Ensign into the transporter as no improvement in times would happen and anyway, it had been a good weekends sport. It is now becoming apparent that the tyres are no longer at their best but I'll continue using them when the weather is hot (?) of for sprints, as I'm planning to visit Pembrey and perhaps Snetterton later in the season. Will Hall again took BTD on 46.44s from Trevor Willis, the results are here.
After some doubt Wiscombe is 'on' next weekend, the notorious paddock
apparently dry enough although at the moment rain is forcast for the
weekend. It's the little Mallock's turn to get wet, or perhaps I'll just
frequent the beer tent?
Curborough 8th April 2018
by the vast MG Car Club, who I gather in passing, has over 40000
members, Sunday's event had around 50 competitors, much better than in
2017 so I hope the organisers will continue to run this early season
event. Arriving before 8.00am the paddock was quickly filling so having
squeezed the Audi and transporter into its allocated space I quickly
walked the track, amongst other details noting some fresh tarmac at the
end of the finish straight. With the recent snow and rain the grassed
areas were wet and to be avoided, which is generally the case
the outing to Castle Combe it was time to get the Ensign active and
I've used this event for a number of years solely for this purpose.
quite basic as a small sprint venue, located on the wartime Fradley
Aerodrome site which was a busy airfield during and after WW11 and today
covered with large transport warehouses. It has a simple charm and
these days I have a soft spot for it, although over the years have
voiced some cruel comments. Certainly, the development of the track
layout with a cross over enabling the 'figure of 8' format has made a
significant difference to the driving experience. There are basic
catering and lavatory facilities and happily the grass is cut
infrequently, if ever, so one does not feel out of place not wearing a