Catching Up – 2019 to 2022
the break much has happened in the world, about which we are all so
familiar that no extra comment is necessary. From my Motorsport
perspective 2019 was quiet, just 9 events culminating with a broken con
rod through the sump and side of the Ensign’s crankcase, just before the
finish at Shelsley Walsh. The rods had been in the engine since 1972 so
I suppose they did quite well really!Following this failure repairs
were a prolonged saga, much of which no one would believe and I’ll say
A long gap since my comments at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 and much has happened along the way, most of which has nothing to do with motor sport. I decided that whilst continuing to enjoy the sport, I was fed up writing about it and would take a break, maintaining the web site for perhaps the future. Covid then made a big dent in motorsport as with everythng else, some competition in 2020 and a more in 2021, all of which I left alone apart from spectating at a few events when restricttions became less arduois. Since starting driving again in 2022 people have made polite comments about this blog so I thought I might start again, having forgotten, of course, how to upload text and images and also just how time consuming it is!
in 2021 I took my camping trailer to Paul Dunnell’s Stowmarket workshop
to collect the rebuilt engine. Briefly, Paul was one of the
Dunnell/Reid family who were Holbay back in the day, based at Martlesham
Heath near Felixstowe. Paul made a fine job of the repair and along the
way a providing a wealth of interesting information. Amongst other
things the engine now has a new crank and con rods, rebuilt dry sump and
the crankcase is in the original Holbay green. I've fashioned an
original looking stone guard to keep dirt and grit out of the plug
recesses, always a problem with twin cams. Back home the engine was quickly fitted into the chassis and started up in the workshop.
Paul had dynoed the engine on his Ford spec dyno as that is his main
work, settling with 160 main jets and B9 spark plugs, larger and harder
than I used on the hills and I changed to slightly softer B8 plugs for
workshop running, feeling they might be less tempermental with the
shorter runs we have with sprints and hills.
Late in February 2022 I visited Llandow sprint track, close enough over the Severn Bridge near Cowbridge, for a morning's testing, the track in Wales having only just reopened after a prolonged Covid closure. Conditions were dry if a bit cold cold and a few other cars and people I knew were also testing. One other open wheeler to share my sessions, an ‘off’ on his first session leaving me to myself for the rest of the morning, driving quiely to run in the engine. It was rather peaceful and just what the Ensign and I needed!
Initially the engine was diabolical but after a couple of laps the cobwebs were blown away and thereafter it ran smoothly for several sessions, until I ran out of petrol! After rescuing by resident factotum ‘China John’ it seemed a good time to stop, checking that petrol was indeed the problem for my peace of mind. When hot the engine ran smoothly to 6500rpm briefly, all the liquids stayed inside the engine, oil and water settled at 70C. A satisfactory morning.
Several jobs needed doing before the new season. Our governing body, having changed their title to Motorsport UK felt they must justify their existance. In my case the quaintly title PDVIF vehicle description for my 1960 Mallock and 1972 Ensign to confirm they were what everyone know they are, plus new hillclimb Log Books now referred to as Vehicle Passports. All of which cost, of course, although I do the details and images - why should it be otherwise! Plus a new harness which looks of poorer quality than the 'out of date' one I removed, but it has the correct holorgram.
April 7th 2019 – MGCC Curborough Sprint
I was not expecting to be at Curborough having less enthusiasm for cool spring days, or
wet. However, Event Secretary Martin telephoned early in the week,
asking if I would be attending as in past years. In a weak moment I said
yes! The Ensign was ready to go apart from fuel and numbers so apart
from the early start on Sunday morning, everything was simple. Curborough
is easy to get to, close to Lichfield and mainly motorway, 110 miles
but I always imagine it’s closer. Arriving too early Glyn, my compatriot
in the single seaters had already unloaded and was doing jobs on his
turbocharged Force PT, his excuse being a short drive from Leicester.
Unsurprisingly the event, organised by the MG Car Club, comprised mainly
of those cars and members of that club, although many other clubs were
invited. A few saloons, plenty of sports cars, one or two old, a fast 4 litre V8 MGB, a yellow Lotus 22 which are such pretty cars and the two single seaters. This the first event of the season at Curborough and despite this the track was clean, dry as well although the road giving access between the paddock and start area was dirty. There had been tarmac patching during the winter and I found the surface just after the finish line rather uneven under braking, something I did not recall in the past although whether this was renewed, I’m unsure.
A small entry of 35 cars meant the programme moved
along quickly, roadgoing MGs heading the field, just a Mini and Renault
Clio interloping. The paddock was well organised with a marshal on hand
to ensure we were ready when required. The morning was cool
with a modest easterly breeze and I expected the track to be difficult.
On the contrary, track conditions were reasonable and after P1 there
was modest heat in the worn cut slicks that I was using. The Ensign’s
time was satisfactory, today using the ‘figure of 8‘ layout
which I enjoy, and no need for any adjustments or fiddling. The was the
inevitable activity in the paddock, one MG Midget busy with a plug
change as I walked past,
two redundant distributors resting on the scuttle. One Midget emitted
‘fan slipping’ noises occasionally although that did not sound life
threatening. I always think of this paddock being quite spacious but the
vintage MGs had trouble with their poor turning circles, the Ensign
parked conveniently at the start of the paddock beside a sharp left turn
which made this obvious. Seamlessly P1 became P2 and practice times
were improving, in my case by 2 seconds saved on the first half of what
is effectively a 2 lapper. I was disappointed with the finish speed,
traction proving illusive on the exit from Fradley Hairpin onto the
finish straight. Competitive runs started immediately after P2, the
programme moving swiftly without delays. This time the Ensign was a tad
slower, 5 hundredths to be precise! The grip remained, in the main, reasonable, the weather still cool but remaining dry. After T1 we stopped for lunch, to recommence at 1.00pm with T2 and extra runs if drivers were willing.
had a wander through the paddock and the car park beside the track.
Several interesting cars including a Lotus Elan +2 with a non-standard
nose, an exceedingly smart MG TF, a pretty red Lotus Elan with knock on Minilite
wheels, presumably these were modern manufacture. Various small
displays of MG cars which seemed appropriate as this event was being run
by the MGCC Midland Centre. Not too crowded and people seemed to know why they were here and what was happening. T2
started on time and I concentrated more on the sharper corners, using
the normal gear change points but trying to carry more speed. This
produced a result with the Ensign's fastest run, not a PB but close
enough considering the conditions and the tyres. Glyn disappeared and
hid in his Force, annexing BTD on 56.25s on T2 with 118mph across the
finish, making the Ensign improved 98mph rather pathetic! Two more runs
were then on offer, not counting for the results, sometime referred to
as ‘fun runs’.
Unusually, probably because it was so early, I took one further run
which was tidy but half a second down on T2, not that it mattered. It
was then pleasant to load the transporter with the sun starting to
shine, a contrast to the last time I was here in October when it was wet
and miserable. The results are here.
in the workshop one job needed attention, apart from the usual checks.
When the Ensign was scrutineered the throttle pedal was commentated
upon, suggesting that the arm to which the throttle cable was connected
might catch the side bodywork. Whilst I’ve never had a problem this
point was valid and as I had to collect a gearbox casing from Mark
Bailey, south of Chippenham, I took the offending item along. Mark is a
superb engineer, apart from his Hewland
expertise, and quickly fettled the throttle pedal, the arm shortened by
5mm and an extra elbow to make it bullet proof. At the same time, we
looked at his long-term project, one of the sports racers he built some
years ago and now being rebuilt for both road and track use, a
beautifully engineered and handsome car to which Mark has done much of
the design and engineering work and with some fascinating plans still in
the pipeline. I admire this sort of project and how nice that there are
people around with the skills, time and budget to pursue their dream.
March 23rd 2019 – Castle Combe Sprint
has seemed to be a generally mild winter is nearing its end with the
usual winds and ‘April’ showers, albeit rather early for these. Time to
think about the coming season of speed events and I entered the Mallock
for the first sprint at Castle Combe at the end of March. I’d 'been
through' the car during the winter but I was overtaken by events as it
was seemingly sold and as a consequence, I substituted the Ensign. The
buyer then changed his mind, but what's new! So, Saturday 23rd May and
all roads led to Castle Combe, or at least for keen sprinters including
British Sprint Championship contenders and many Bristol Motor Club members enjoying the convenience of an event close to home.
A lovely morning and the paddock busy
at this early hour although many drivers had arrived the previous
evening and camped or motor homed, walking the track in the twilight.
Saturday morn was
perfect with a light breeze and dappled sunshine, the track invitingly
dry and clean as was the spacious paddock, the Ensign’s allocated spot
ideal. I was not planning to walk the track as my main problem in the
past, the entry into the two chicanes, was now resolved and I just needed more track time, as indeed my timorous approach to all the corners showed, lifting and braking too early.
There were plenty of interesting cars although I forgot my camera so any images here I'm afraid I’ve borrowed! Keith had brought his Dialynx prepared Audi R8 from Swindon, a 2-litre turbo Golf engine rather than the exotic and heavy V10 normally associated with
this car. Keith had no shortage of bhp, however. In the same Sports
Libre class Jeff, his ‘new’ 1500ccT Zeus Challenger Evo 11 with
apparently zillions of bhp although Jeff had, as yet, little experience
of driving this impressive car. The Championship contenders were similar to 2018 with the Calder family's 3.5 litre Gould GR55, Stuart Robb’s 5 litre Pilbeam
MP88B apparently now exhibiting better manners when slowing – it's all
in the electronics. The 2 litre SBD Dallara is always in the chase, SBD
and head honcho Steve Broughton again sponsoring this championship. The
programme ran in a slightly different way with classes up to and
including Sports Libre then followed
by the single seaters, then class groups A and B completing the
programme. We had 3.3 miles in which to wear out our cars, start at the
exit to the marshalling area, a full lap and another 2/3rds with the
finish just before the return road into the paddock. Cars were run in
loose class order,
although to avoid delays organised to reduce the risk of a fast car
catching a slower car, which would cause a rerun as overtaking’s
forbidden. This ran smoothly and I was fortunate to spend little time
waiting either for practice or the two competitive runs – probably too
Competition started quickly after the brief driver's briefing, C of C Paul straight to the point and no waffle.
Being parked away from the other 1600s I’d checked who I should follow
into the marshalling area although we were advised in good time on the
PA and by the paddock marshals. Like many drivers present I’d not
competitively driven since last October but the routine was quickly
re-established. I’d chosen the older set of tyres on the Ensign, old a
relative term with 29 events and looking rather nasty but fit for this
purpose, essentially a run out to make sure everything worked correctly,
including the driver. Sitting at the start line the track looked
inviting and rushing off towards Avon Rise and Quarry the twin cam was
singing up to 8000rpm
and everything felt settled. As usual I was lifting and braking too
early but there was grip, unlike past encounters with this track on cold
March mornings. It was much the same entering Esses chicane and
proceeded thus although with confidence in the grip Camp Corner felt
smooth and the 2nd lap was uneventful and even quicker over Avon Rise.
Back in the paddock no issues, the way we like it.
noticed how the paddock was busier than usual and someone pointed out
that people had been talking up the event on ‘social media’ and if they
had, why? The club did not benefit financially and the paddock was
almost overcrowded with cars driving around, people with no idea where
to park and what was happening. Visitors and children, many of whom thought we were just here for their pleasure and
knowing no different; no thought for caution or hazards. An interesting
contrast to Crystal Palace in South London, where spectators pay to
enter and are accordingly organised and behave carefully and with
respect, children properly controlled, safe for everyone.
was the speed of the programme that the first competitive runs
commenced well before the lunch break and track conditions were at their
best. I made small adjustments to the suspension settings, running the
Ensign’s suspension softer than its last visit here and perhaps it felt
better; certainly, the car was
balanced and easy to drive with smooth turn in at the corners. During
the winter I’d fitted new rear brake pads but not changed the brake
balance so cautious on P1, thereafter harder on the brakes and all was
perfect. Rarely seeing any oil temperature on short speed events, I was
surprised by the oil temperature at 70 degrees at the end of each run,
in fact the same as the water, which might or might not be telling me
something? T1 showed improvement in the times and I was happy enough
until told by several people that the Ensign had a misfire off the start
and also when passing the paddock! I’d not noticed anything untoward
and the Ensign 64ft times were good. I looked at the plugs, checked the
Weber's balance, generally poked around – nothing obvious although I was
tempted to remove the air filters but left well alone for T2. A faster
run again, the elusive misfire again reported and I noticed the engine
go slightly dull at 8300 when approaching Avon Rise flat on the second
lap, a slight lift finding another 150 rpm before braking. Overfueling – air filters sucking in – who knows. My choice of the older tyres was wise as they were developing heat and showing distinct signs of distress.
slightly dejected with this ‘mechanical’ I was happy with the Ensign’s
performance and Castle Combe was an enjoyable first outing for 2019.
Whilst tempted to consider a rolling road test I’ll leave things alone
for the time being although a new pair of foam filters arrived today,
the old ones decidedly second hand in comparison. Considering mechanical
mayhem, I was fortunate. Driving his ‘new’ Zeus on P1 Jeff bottomed the
suspension whilst approaching Avon Rise rather quickly on his second
lap, bending the suspension push rod and ruining a new Pirelli as well.
Something similar happened to the Calder Gould at the same place and
Stewart lost the rear wing of his Pilbeam
on T2, again at Avon Rise. Desperate moments for all concerned but no
one hurt and little damage. I expect others had tales to tell, it’s just
the extreme examples that catch the headlines. As things finished Colin
Calder took BTD on 115.08s but missed out on the BSC runoffs – Steve
Broughton followed by Matt Hillam in the SBD Dallara taking 1 & 2 on both. Looking through the official times there were some impressive results.