The 2002 season as it happened

 

2002 result: 2nd in class G and 4th overall

Sincere thanks to everyone who supported my racing in 2002, especially my family, Martin Stackpoole, 'Team Wolfe' and everyone who popped over to see us during race meetings. A big thank you to everyone who supported us in the USA especially Jim Henningsen in Florida who has since helped me acquire several special racing parts in the US. You're all always welcome to come over and chat even when we look busy and stressed; let's do it all again in 2003!

 

See Alex Moore's digital photo's of Oulton, Rockingham and Cadwell at: www.pbase.com/pingu


Leading the way at Castle Combe in April

2002 Race dates & results

Championship result: 2nd in class G and 4th overall.

  Date Circuit Organising Club Result o/a Result class
1 March 16th Silverstone MGCC 2nd 2nd
2 April 1st Castle Combe BRSCC 1st 1st
3 April 27th Oulton Park JCC 4th 2nd
  May 4th/5th Spa Francorchamps Invitation - non championship not racing not racing
4 May 5th Brands Hatch AMOC no race, ill n/a
a May 11th Silverstone Peterborough MC 5th & 6th n/a
5 May 25th/26th Rockingham MGCC 5th 2nd
6 June 8th/9th Pembrey JCC not racing not racing
b June 13th/16th Mid Ohio USA Invitation - FOT 3rd in feature n/a
7 July 14th (tbc) Mallory Park BRSCC 3rd 2nd
8 July 27th/28th - 2 races Cadwell Park JCC d.n.f.
d.n.s.
d.n.f
d.n.s.
9 August 3rd Thruxton BARC d.n.s. d.n.s.
10 August 24th/25th Snetterton MGCC 2nd 2nd
11 September 7th/8th - 2 races Croft JCC d.n.f & 3rd d.n.f & 2nd
  September 14th/15th Spa Francorchamps Invitation - non championship    
12 September 21st/22nd Brands Hatch MGCC not racing not racing
13 October 20th Donington Park JCC not racing not racing

MGCC = MG Car Club, BRSCC = British Racing Sports Car Club, JCC = Jaguar Car Club, AMOC = Aston Martin Owners Club, BARC = British Automobile Racing Club, FOT = Friends Of Triumph

Points are awarded as follows:
4 or more starters in class - 1st 8, 2nd 6, 3rd 4, 4th 2.
3 starters in class - 1st 6, 2nd 4, 3rd 2.
2 starters in class - 1st 4, 2nd 2.
1 starter in class - 1st 2.
plus 1 point for talking the start and 1 point for fastest lap in class. The Championship is decided on the best 8 results. 

Top 6 2002 Championship positions after Croft:

1st

Graham Miller

72 - championship winner

2nd

Mike Hazlewood

47 (48)

2nd

Simon Knowles

47

4th

Jon Wolfe

44

5th

Dave Bailey

35

6th

Dave McDonald

25

Bulletin 1, 17th January 2001. The car is nearly ready to roll, the engine has been rebuilt and re-dynoed and is developing a few more BHP! Stacky and I made the trip to the annual Autosport International and Racing Car Show at the National Exhibition Centre on the 12th and spent some time getting technical and practical information about the braking system, which will hopefully prove useful. We hope to be out shake-down testing by mid February. On another note it looks like my Spitfire is sold and will soon be on its way overseas, but more on that later.

The Spitfire has now gone to Portugal to be raced in the pre-1971 Historic championship - good luck Miguel.

 

Round 1 - Silverstone

Top 6 grid positions 1. Hazlewood, 2. Miller, 3. Jeram-Croft, 4. Wolfe, 5. McDonald, 6. Gammage
Overall/class result 2nd/2nd 
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller/G, 2. Wolfe/G, 3. Hazlewood/F, 4. Thomason/C, 5. Bailey/D, 6. Chapman/E
Class G result 1. Miller, 2. Wolfe, 3. Maund

Practice. Only 5 degrees C and a very damp track following heavy overnight rain. Fairly uneventful practice except Ralph Jane (lass C Spitfire) who crashed into the wall on the start-finish straight, badly damaging the front nearside suspension. It was repaired for the race however. There were various spinners in all classes as the rain started on the 4th lap making progress very pedestrian. The slipperiness of the track and torque of the car combined with the gearing allowed me to complete the whole of the session just in 4th gear, six full laps without a single up or down shift! The rain allowed Mike Hazlewood (Class F TR4) to finish higher than he would normally and he took pole in front of three class G TR7V8s. The fourth class G runner, Hugh Maund, was back in the mid-field pack in his green and white roofless convertible.


Through the Silverstone complex

The race. A complete change of weather for the afternoon; it was 5 degrees warmer and the track was almost completely dry, but the rolling start (the norm for all 2002 rounds run by the MG Car Club) was a relatively new experience to most of us although it does avoid the potential embarrassment of a bad, wheel-spinning start! The initial get away was clean, however, it all ended very abruptly when Larry Jeram-Croft lost control passing Mike Hazlewood and slammed his car, nose first, into the outside retaining wall on the approach to Copse (turn 1) at about 100 mph. The race was stopped while Larry was recovered to the medical centre and his shortened car to the paddock. He was OK which is more than can be said for his car which looked pretty bad and will certainly be out for a few months at least.

On the restart about 30 minutes later, Graham and I powered past Mike again and sped off into the distance, never to be caught. Graham pulled away at about a second a lap from then on until near the end where I backed off slightly and let the gap open to 18 seconds, happy to be taking 2nd place. A totally uneventful race from my perspective although I did get to know the car better and hope to put that to good use in later rounds of the championship.

Round 2 - Castle Combe

Top 6 grid positions 1.Wolfe, 2. Knowles, 3.Hazlewood, 4. Bailey, 5.Gimson, 6. Maund
Overall/class result 1st/1st 
Top 6 result/class  1. Wolfe/G, 2. Knowles/F, 3. Hazlewood/D, 4. Maund/G, 5. Bailey/D, 6. Chapman/E
Class G result 1. Wolfe, 2. Maund

After 125 attempts and 13 years of racing I finally scored my first outright win; and I couldn’t have chosen a better place than Castle Combe to do it.

Practice. A dull and overcast morning and we were the first session of the first race meeting on the 2002 Castle Combe calendar. The track was damp and greasy as well as being only about 8 degrees C, so sparkling lap times were unlikely. As it turned out the track conditions improved dramatically over the 15 minute allocated to us  and lap times dropped and dropped such that by the end I was some 10 seconds a lap quicker than at the start. I finished off with a final flying practice lap of about 1 minute 25 seconds. As it turned out I was nearly 3 seconds quicker than second placed Simon Knowles (TR6) who in turn was just ahead of Mike Hazlewood (TR4).

The race. Only my second pole position ever, on the inside of a three car front row. It was a new experience to lead the warm up lap in my new car and the nerves calmed down as the grid formed up and we all waited for the lights.

I didn’t get the best get away, experiencing excessive wheel spin, but once I’d backed off to get grip I was able to nail the throttle and stormed to the front, arriving at Quarry some 2 seconds ahead of the next placed car. I wasn’t overtaken for the entire race and had pulled out a 6 second lead by the mid point at which point I had a slight degradation in braking performance and was suffering from some oil surge. Despite these annoyances the lap times got quicker and quicker and I could see Simon Knowles blue and yellow car getting ever closer assisted by a yellow flag incident which slowed me but not Simon and a couple of back markers. By the end of the last lap he was only half a second adrift, but I had done enough to win.

Winners laurels and a victory lap in the Castle Combe open backed car made the day. With several thousand spectators, it was a great feeling to finally win one.  

Round 3 - Oulton Park

Top 6 grid positions 1. Petch, 2. Kennerley, 3. Miller, 4. Ellison, 5. Davies, 6. Wolfe
Overall/class result 4th/2nd 
Top 6 result/class  1. Petch/F, 2. Miller/G, 3. Henderson/F, 4. Wolfe/G, 5. Knowles/F, 6. Hazelwood/F 
Class G result 1. Miller, 2. Wolfe

Quite a respectable turnout for round 3 of the TR Register/TSSC race championship with 24 cars entered for the fun of the full Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire. The weather had been threatening to be poor for the whole week and it didn’t let us down, it poured with rain all the way up the M6 on Friday night and we got up on Saturday to a very damp and overcast day. To make matters worse, in strong gust of wind,  the awning had blown off the side of the motorhome on the way up the M6 and we’d had to re-attach it using tape and cable ties. It’s a bit of a mess but at least it’s repairable.

We had made some fairly major changes to the front braking system since Castle Combe and replaced the Wilwood Dynalite based set-up with a full Group 4 Escort system from AP. The discs are about 30mm larger in diameter and the calipers slightly stiffer than the Wilwood items. The improvement is significant.

Practice. We were race 6 of an 8 race programme so practice was quite late in the morning. The weather had been changeable all day but dried out for the hour before our session, however as we pulled out onto the track it dumped on us! That really big rain that splashes! I managed to spin twice, once at Foulstons and once at Druids and then got severely baulked by slower traffic leading to a disappointing 6th on the grid. I’m usually pretty good in the wet and feel 2nd or 3rd position would have been possible with a clear lap.

I was also pleased to welcome some support from a group of colleagues from Merrill Lynch HSBC (www.mlhsbc.com) who had come up from the Midlands to experience the excitement (?) of a UK club meeting. There’s a great series of photographs of the meeting on www.pbase.com/pingu/oulton

The race. I converted 6th on the grid to 3rd by half way round the 1st lap due to having a nice dry track on which to out gun a couple of quick-in-the-rain TRs and the ailing TR7V8 of Hugh Davies who retired at Knickerbrook. Chris Petch (TR5) and Graham Miller (TR7V8) were up in front followed by me then Joe Henderson (TR6) close behind. The four of us soon separated out from the rest of the pack. Joe was slowly catching me and overtook on lap 4 with an excellent late dive. He went on to finish 3rd, but only just. As he approached the line on the final lap his propshaft broke, but still managed to coast over the finish just in front of me in 4th.


1st lap, powering past Jonathan Ellison.

The annoying factor though was that the race had been shortened by 2 laps…if only…but that’s racing, some you win, some you lose.

Round 4 - Brands Hatch

Unfortunately, due to sickness I was not able to attend this meeting.

Non Championship - Silverstone

As a result of missing the Brands Hatch round due to sickness (self and family!) I decided to enter an all-comers race at the Peterborough Motor Club’s annual meeting at Silverstone. As it turned out there was a low entry for this and for the Alfa Romeo championship race so both grids were amalgamated, but that meant we got 2 races!

Practice. Just one session, but 20 minutes for the 2 races, with both grids being decided off practice times. The car was good, very good. All the work done on the brakes had come together and fitting a new brake master cylinder a few days before the meeting had made a huge difference. I was over 1.5 seconds a lap faster than at the same circuit 8 weeks previously!

Unfortunately as I slowed down on the cooling down lap of practice there was a huge crunch from the gearbox followed by an inability to change gear. After mashing the stick around I managed to get into a gear but moving from one to another was very slow. Back at the paddock I let the car cool down and went for a drive out on the old runway; gear selection was possible but very notchy and 3rd to 4th impossible without going via 5th! Even so, I decided to give it a go in the races.

Race 1 To be 8th in the grid was pretty good in the mixture of cars entered and I took a sensible line off the grid, accelerating through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th then back to 4th where I left it for the whole race. With a V8 there’s a good spread or torque and as there are no really sharp bends at Silverstone I was able to keep within 1.5 seconds of my practice time. I finished in 5th, delighted to have finished at all let alone so high up.

Race 2 Same start line tactic as before, but this time a Lotus Elan which had failed to start race 1 was up and running and won, so I finished 6th in this race.

A really great day’s racing with nearly an hour’s track time for one entry fee. Subsequent gearbox investigation showed a failed oil pump which consequently resulted in the needle roller getting welded to the mainshaft! Not good, but it could have been worse.

Round 5 - Rockingham

Top 6 grid positions 1.Bull, 2.Miller, 3. Knowles, 4. Wolfe, 5. Kennerley, 6.Ellison 
Overall/class result 5th/2nd 
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller/G, 2. Bull/F, 3. Ellison/D, 4.Knowles/F, 5. Wolfe/G, 6. Hazelwood/F 
Class G result 1. Miller, 2. Wolfe, 3.Maund, (Davies d.n.f)

The gearbox was swiftly repaired (thanks to Bernie at Competition Transmission Services of Markyate) and a spare one built too to take to the USA. The weather was not looking too good for the whole weekend and we were relatively lucky with just a shower or two throughout the day and there was certainly an air of caution in Team Wolfe with the USA trip looming! 

Practice. The 15 minute session was shortened to only 8 minutes after Clive Gimson put his GT6 on its roof on the exit from the banking on Turn 4 when a rear wheel separated from the car. Clive was unharmed but the roof of his car is write-off and there was some damage to the front section of the bonnet.


Oops, Clive's gone all upside-down on us!


Rockingham pit lane with Knowles' TR6 after Clive's inversion. Note new roof decal!

The race. Fairly uneventful rolling start, with just a few front-ranked spinners sending everyone off on crash avoidance trajectories and I held 4th for most of the race finally succumbing to pressure from Simon Knowles 2 laps from home. As Simon went past me my gearbox broke again, preventing selection of 4th gear, dropping my lap times by nearly 2 seconds. Still, I was happy to be coming home with the car in 1 piece.

see www.pbase.com/pingu/rockingham for a selection of photos of the meeting.

The gearbox was replaced and the broken one repaired again prior to shipping to the USA. Not too sure what the problem was this time, but there was evidence that the oil pump failed again.

 

See special pages for full Mid-Ohio update!

Round 7 - Mallory Park

Top 6 grid positions 1. Ellison, 2. Hazlewood, 3. Miller, 4. Lucas, 5. McKenna, 6. Wolfe
Overall/class result 3rd/2nd 
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller/G, 2. Hazlewood/F, 3. Wolfe/G, 4.McKenna/F, 5. Davies/G, 6. Lucas/C 
Class G result 1. Miller, 2. Wolfe, 3. Davies, 4. Jeram-Croft, 5. Maund

USA Post Script

The cars arrived back from the USA a week later than expected following our truck being inspected by the US government’s agriculture inspectors at Newark. Apparently the vehicle should have been inspected on arrival but somehow was missed so illogically they decided to do it on the way back out (doh!). This meant the truck missed the weekly ferry and was stranded on the docks until the following weekend.

The truck arrived in Luton on the Tuesday night and as I was unavailable, Stacky and Colin Pendle ferried my TR7V8 and Steve Adams’ Spitfire over to my house. Steve’s car had been ‘inspected’ thoroughly – everything was out of his bags and boxes, they had even dismantled his tyre pump! Colin’s car had been similarly treated.

Interestingly we had hidden a couple of wine boxes and half-a-bottle of whiskey in the truck on the way back – the bottle was still there but was empty and we had been relieved of the wine! Everything else was in order though, so nothing to be too upset about.

After 200 miles of racing in the USA we had quite a list of jobs to do on the car before the Mallory race:

Fortunately as part of the check I decided to inspect the rear axle mounts and found pretty severe stress cracks around where the mounting points meet the floor and rear bulkhead. The cracks had probably been slowly developing for months and some serious remedial work was required. We removed the seat and battery and I initially set to welding up the cracks, prior to adding strengthening strips. As always, one problem follows another and I ran out of gas for the MIG welder five minutes after the local gas supplier had closed!

We resorted to the bodge-mechanics saviour; Dexion. For those who don’t know, Dexion is multi-purpose steel strip and angle, generally used in factories and industrial units for building shelves and stairs etc. It’s very useful stuff to have around and by judicious use of several strips and plenty of nuts and bolts a very serviceable, temporary repair was made. In fact it’s so good, once I have some more gas I’m going to take the Dexion off, weld it up solid (along with the car’s floor sections), and refit it as it’s not even all that heavy and is a real necessity.

As a by-note, Stacky and I also repaired the awning on the RV (see Oulton 2002 report) – damn useful as Mallory Park was extremely hot and the shade was very welcome.

Practice. A very careful six-or-so laps, to check all was well and that the gearbox oil was fully warmed up, followed by a quicker ten, but there was plenty of oil down on the track from a leaky TR3 and my lap times were not as good as I’d hoped for. I gridded in sixth slot with Jon Ellison and Mike Hazlewood in their TR4s on pole and 2nd respectively. Graham Miller was 3rd, Paul Lucas in his 1300cc Spitfire 4th and Mike McKenna in his beautiful blue TR6, 5th.

Larry Jeram-Croft was out in his TR7V8 for the first time since Silverstone where he had crashed heavily at the start. Larry had been busy; he’d re-shelled his car and this was also its first outing with its new JED fuel injection system. Unfortunately he had not been paying attention in 2001 when both Colin Pendle and I lost the bonnet off our cars simply through insufficient bonnet pins being fitted – Larry lost his on the 1st lap of practice, but was allowed to race without it. The under-bonnet pressure is immense and at least 6 pins are needed for a GRP bonnet!

The race. Extremely hot weather and a 27 car grid made for an exciting start, especially when the gantry lights failed and the starter had to resort to the old fashioned Union Jack start! Hugh Davies had the start of the year and went from 7th on the grid to 2nd by the first corner – I subsequently asked him about this and he openly admitted a rather optimistic prediction of the flag being dropped meant he was off the line about a second before anyone else…his pace wasn’t to last though and by lap 4 he was back to 6th. John Thomason had his worst start of the year; he had accidentally selected reverse gear and was lucky not to cause a pile-up.

I had a customarily poor start and the engine coughed all the way to Gerrards (turn 1) as the engine temperature went over the 110 degrees C mark. It soon cleared and I began to move back up from about 7th or 8th. After 2 laps the order was: Miller, Ellison, Hazlewood then me. Jon Ellison’s car expired on lap 3 with a burst/failed water system (again!!!) and I was then on the chase for 2nd place with Mike Hazlewood about 8 seconds in front of me. I reeled him in at about half-a-second a lap until lap 14 when he had a terrible time getting through back markers and a yellow flag incident – by lap 15 I was only 10 feet behind.

Mike then proceeded to take up the entire width of the track on every corner, even accidentally side-swiping Ian Agnew’s TR7 whilst trying to keep in front of me as we lapped slower cars. I had about four overtaking opportunities but they were all too risky and I took 3rd spot just 0.95 of a second behind.

P.S. A big thanks to 'Team Wolfe' for coming to support as usual!

Round 8 - Cadwell Park - 2 TR races + allcomers

Top 6 grid positions 1. Wolfe, 2. Henderson, 3. Miller, 4.Hazlewood, 5. Lucas, 6. Vowell
Overall/class result d.n.f./d.n.f. 
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller/G, 2. Hazlewood/F, 3. Chapman/G, 4.Lucas/C, 5. Thomason/C, 6. Winterton/C 
Class G result 1. Miller, 2. Chapman

A very hectic lead up to the race with plenty of work to do on further strengthening the rear suspension mounting points and reinforcing the seat mounts. I was entered in all three available races and wanted to ensure the car stayed together for the weekend. Alas, this was not to be although the chassis was not the problem!

A complication had also arisen at the circuit; insufficient senior marshalls had turned up so we would have no alternative but to run the Saturday on the short circuit. This is non many peoples' favorite, but I wasn't too bothered given that the alternative was to go home. The short configuration incorporates a severe and very bumpy hairpin corner which is negotiated at little more than 20 mph followed by a full-power acceleration up the long hill to Charlie's. Anyway, at least we were racing.

Other notes: Malcolm Chapman has moved up into Class G.

Practice 1 - TR Register race 1. Not great turn-out of competitors; about 16 cars had made their way to Lincolnshire but I was on good form and driving quite well. I had a huge spin about half way through the session, but then went on, two laps later, to clinch pole position for only the 3rd time ever. Incidentally, we had been warned prior to the start of the practice that the timing equipment may not be set up in time following the decision to use the short circuit and I had drawn up a 'grid' based on my knowledge of all the drivers and their form - luckily this was not needed although happily all the drivers had agreed to it.

Paul Lucas (Spitfire) suffered a drive key failure in a rear hub (a very common Spitfire problem) and was sidelined - he managed to 'fix' it for the race but his start was very cautious and one of the slowest of his long race career!

Practice 2 - Allcomers. With the variety of cars assembled in the paddock, it was certain from the outset that there would be some quick machines out there along with several Triumphs. Not a bad session though and I was a bit quicker than I had been in Practice 1.

Race 1. A good start off pole with Joe Henderson (TR6) right alongside me for the first 100 metres. I took the first turn in the lead and then held the position for half the lap until Graham Miller (TR7V8)  'nudged' past me at Park Corner. My chase didn't last long though as the engine failed on lap 3 making a nasty noise from the bottom end. That was the end of my weekend's racing, but the start of the Team Wolfe barbeque party...Stacky won't remember too much about the end of that session in the bar! A twelve-strong Team Wolfe contingent plus the Miller/Pendle gang had turned up and most stayed overnight - good times - thanks for coming guys.

Notably, during the race Richard King (Spitfire) also wrecked his big end bearings and after his slow start, Paul Lucas had a big coming together with John Thomason at the hairpin but both cars, although quite severely damaged, continued. Joe Henderson was out of the race a lap after me and Andy Vowell (Spitfire) was a d.n.f. with an electrical failure of some sort.

Race 2. d.n.s. although we did all go and watch Malcolm Chapman in his V8 and a bunch of Spitfires take part..

Practice and Race 3. All but pointless as there was only one Triumph! Ralph Jane's Spitfire circulated amongst the Metros.

Postscript. Paddock investigations revealed the problem was quite severe and once home on Sunday night we discovered that numbers 3 and 4 big end bearings had failed, wrecking the crank and two of the conrods. We were grateful it didn't happen in America, but an almighty effort would be required to make it to Thruxton just 6 days later.

Round 9 - Thruxton

Pre-race. After much discussion between Stacky, myself and various engine experts we decided that caution was the way. Rather than throw the engine back together we fitted a totally bog-standard 4.0 litre engine from a Range Rover. I've had this engine, condition unknown, at the back of the garage for a couple of years and it became the only logical solution once we had ascertained that the main engine needed a full strip-down and clean and a new crank, which would take up to three weeks to prepare, and probably a pair of new conrods. It was more trouble than we anticipated but at least should get us out there.

Well the week was a nightmare - Stacky and I spent hours and hours in the garage getting the engine built, set up and installed ready for Thruxton and by Thursday night it was 99% ready with just a couple of jobs to do before we left on Friday evening.

Practice. One of my shortest ever. Scrutineering was OK but on the way down to the collecting area one of the head gaskets gave way, pumping water down the driver's side exhaust giving forth huge clouds of white smoky steam. I managed 2 very slow laps before pulling off into parc ferme. Back at the camp I soon had the cylinder head stripped off while Stacky zoomed to Otton's, Salisbury's Land Rover dealer, in Colin Pendle's van for a new gasket.

Once the new gasket was fitted the engine immediately fired up but spewed steam and water again - after a couple of phone calls I discovered that standard Range Rover cylinder head bolts for Post 1994 cars are not re-usable; they stretch and cannot be torqued down properly - what we needed was a simple set of Rover SD1 ones! That was the end of that then, so I had to withdraw from the race. We watched the TR race and soon had the car back onto the trailer and set off home. On the subject of the race, it was an excellent one with a race-long, three-way tussle for the lead between Graham Miller, Richard Bull and Simon Knowles with Graham the eventual winner. There was also a most entertaining battle between Paul Lucas and Andy Vowell for Class C honours, with Paul just winning it at the end despite some great efforts from Andy. Andy won TR/TSSC championship driver of the day for his persistent challenge.

Finally, and to add to the insult, right at the end of the journey down, the rear brakes on the RV had failed, so I had to block off the rear brake system with a pair of mole grips and then proceed home very slowly with only the front brakes operating. Great day - not.

Post script - the problem was more serious than I thought - one of the cylinder liners had dropped, meaning we had to change the block for Snetterton!

Round 10 - Snetterton

Top 6 grid positions 1. Miller (1:20.59), 2. Wolfe (1:24.19), 3. Hazlewood (1:25.09), 4. Kennerley, 5. Lucas, 6. Lambe
Overall/class result 2nd/2nd 
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller/G, 2. Wolfe/G, 3. Richards/G, 4.Lucas/C, 5. Kennerley/F, 6. Chapman/E 
Class G result 1. Miller (1:20.39), 2. Wolfe (1:24.272), 3. Richards (1:26.93)

A very busy spell between Thruxton and Snetterton with a major brake overhaul for the RV and an engine block change for the TR, however we got it all done and were able to prove to ourselves that the TR's V8 would at least make it round a couple of laps this time! 

The engine was exactly as before, but with another block and a mild, fast-road camshaft fitted in an attempt to recover some 'lost' torque from the full-blown, race engine. Essentially it was reassembled from various parts, none of it crack-tested or balanced and done on a small budget, but at least it was completed in time.

Practice. A couple of very slow laps just to get the feel of the engine and make sure the oil was up to a good operating temperature. I later learned that the car was making an odd knocking noise for 2 laps, but I wasn't aware of it from within the car and once it cleared it never recurred. The engine felt very torquey with good low-down response but was definitely not on song at over 5000 rpm, so I decided that would be my limit for the day. This is rather limiting at Snetterton with its two rather long straights and is the main reason that Graham Miller was so much faster.

I had about 4 or 5 good, clear laps and later when Stacky returned with the practice times I was stunned to see I was 2nd on the grid! I was well off Graham's pole time (by nearly 4 seconds) but had somehow beaten all the others, with Mike Hazlewood in 3rd about a second slower and Pete Kennerley just behind him.


Stacky, Dave Thompson and Steve Adams pre-race

The race. I had an excellent start from the front row and held position alongside Graham, but had to yield at turn 1 to let Graham through, but only just. He had over-cooked his entry though and after a couple of big tank-slappers, spun off onto the grass, letting the entire, sixteen-car field go past. Thus, I was in the lead and away aided further by Mike and Pete taking each other off on a brief grass-tracking trip. By the third lap I was over 11 seconds clear of the field but knew that Graham would be making up time hand-over-fist. By the end of lap three he was distant in my mirrors, but gaining on me at 4 seconds a lap so by lap six he was on my rear bumper and then past! A lap-or-two later Mike Hazlewood parked his very pretty, yellow TR4 into the tyre wall at 80 mph just on the exit to the bomb-hole and the race was red-flagged. Mike was OK, but the car was a bit of a mess (again).

I was delighted to be second after such a bad few weeks - the 'new' engine isn't as good as the full-race one but it ain't-arf-bad! We'll run it again at Croft then pull it apart to get it dynamically balanced prior to reassembly as the official 'spare'. Meanwhile I have a few tweaks for the race engine planned for 2003.

Round 11 - Croft - 2 TR races

Top 6 grid positions 1. Miller (1:38.35), 2. Wolfe (1:39.14), 3. Knowles (1.39.50), 4. Kennerley, 5. Richards, 6. Blake
Overall/class result Race 1: d.n.f./d.n.f.    Race 2: 3rd/2nd 
Top 6 result/class R1 1. Miller/G, 2. Knowles/F, 3. Richards/G, 4.Blake/E, 5. Kennerley/F, 6. Marsh/F 
Class G result R1  1. Miller (1:43.42), 2. Richards (1:43.21), 3. Chapman (1:46.34)
Top 6 result/class R2 1. Miller/G, 2. Knowles/F, 3. Wolfe/G, 4. Kennerley/F, 5. Blake/E, 6. Chapman/G
Class G result R2 1. Miller (1.38.06), 2. Wolfe (1.40.20), 3. Chapman (1.43.88)

Very mixed weather for the Saturday and most paddock discussion was about tyre choice. Notably though there were very modest numbers for a two day race meeting and I can't see clubs surviving on such small entry levels at what should be good, well-attended  meetings. Interestingly, the MSA has just announced the formation of an action group to address the current maladies of British club and professional racing - we've had these groups before but with very little impact, we'll wait and see. For a major meeting there were only four races on Saturday and just three on Sunday and once again it was a Jaguar Car Club meeting without a Jaguar in sight! It was interesting to hear quite a number of other drivers agree with my Brands Hatch comments below.

The only modification we had made to the car since Snetterton was fitting the race cylinder heads to the otherwise virtually standard Range Rover motor. I don't actually think it made a huge amount of difference other than slightly raising the compression ratio as the combustion chamber volumes are slightly smaller. This engine though, by comparison to my full-race unit, does have a huge amount of low-down grunt and I am going to try a different camshaft in the race engine for next year. It was good to see Keith Files up and about again as a spectator - keep up the good work on the recovery and we all hope the physiotherapy goes well and you're out in your TR6 again soon. How about Denise having a go in it? Andy Haw made his first appearance of the year in his very pretty GT6 Mk III, but although he was 8th in the first race was a d.n.f. on Sunday.

Practice. A dry track and plenty of clear space with only 16 cars (there were five TR no-shows!) on this two mile, ex-airfield track. Graham and I circulated quite close to each other and I ended up in second slot on the grid, just 0.8 second slower than Graham. I really enjoy racing at Croft even though our last outing one year previous, resulted in two d.n.f.s.

Ralph Jane was going very well with his Mikuni, slide-throttle carbureted 1300cc Spitfire which by his own admission has been very difficult to set up, but seems to be paying dividends now. see picture.

Dave McDonald had his customary trip into a tyre wall - it wouldn't be TR racing without him having at least one crash. The impact was quite severe resulting in him being jammed under the dashboard where we left him for the rest of the day... 

The format for the TR races was that Race 1 was a race for grid positions for Race 2, for which points would be awarded. Each race was 20 minutes + 1 lap, so pretty tiring.

Race 1. Very mixed weather and nearly everyone opted for wet tyres which ultimately turned out to be a marginal choice; by the time we got out on the track it was pretty much dry with just a few shallow puddles. From the start I was demoted to 3rd by Simon Knowles in his TR6 but stayed in close contact for the entire race and I was significantly quicker through some parts of the circuit, but as he was driving defensively I was not able to get cleanly past. On about lap eight I made a move on the inside of him at Tower but he just saw me and shut the door at the last minute. On the next lap at the same place I made a feint to the left then dived right, hard on the brakes and got in front of him. Unfortunately I think Simon had a brain failure and turned in although I was well in front. His front right tyre hit my left rear wheel arch and sent the back of my car off onto the grass; I careered back across the track and made contact with the Armco barrier and tyre wall right in front of a marshall's point. It was not a severe impact but the engine stalled and would not restart. I was out and rather annoyed...this can be clearly seen and heard on my in-car video footage, it's 18 rated, and not for children!

Graham went on to win with Simon second. Mark Richards in his Class G TR7V8 had a fantastic drive and finished 3rd in what looked like a very wayward handling car. As a d.n.f I was relegated to the back of the grid for the Sunday race along with Jon Whitely who never even left the grid (except by being pushed) and Steve Adams who had an oil breather pipe blow off his Spitfire which left him oil soaked and stranded after only one lap.


Jon Wolfe and the TR7V8 at Croft, September2002 (Photo: Allen Hall)

Race 2. Chris Petch (TR5 and Mid-Ohio race winner) turned up for Sunday's race only and with his car still in US-trim, i.e. Ford Mustang radiator, tape, cable ties etc.! He had a brief practice session with the Centurion Challenge cars and was added to the TR entry. As he had not raced on Saturday, he too was at the back of the grid. Jon Whitely was a d.n.s. with engine ignition problems again. Come-on Jon, get it down to Emerald and get it sorted! Just before the start Simon came over and apologised to me about our Race 1 incident, which I appreciated.

All I can say is that I think I had the best start I've ever had. I went from 13th on the grid to 3rd by the second corner, making up 9 of those places by the the first! I was just in fourth by Clervaux when Phil Marsh had an almighty tank-slapper, followed by a slow spin right in front of me - I was lucky not to be involved and very happy to be up to 3rd. I tried keeping in contact with Graham and Simon, who were 1st and 2nd respectively, but I just couldn't keep up and they stretched out quite a gap over the the next 11 laps.

By lap 8 I had destroyed my tyres with flat spots and was slowing down but Pete Kennerley (Class F TR4) was closing fast from behind. By the last lap he was on my rear bumper and sneaked past me at Sunny In. My handling was so bad I just couldn't get back round him but knew (as did he) that as long as I stayed close through the complex and hairpin, I could out-drag him to the finish line. Pete then made a pretty basic mistake; he went to take the racing line for the start of the complex, but with more power I simply slotted in up the inside and then plodded round the corner using Dave McDonald as a baulk for Pete. As long as I took complex 2 on the inside there was no way Pete could get by unless he cut across the grass...err...which he did! Wallop into my door. We both spun off, but luckily my engine kept running and I shoved it into 3rd gear and limped round the hairpin then blasted down to the finish line still in 3rd place. Pete had stalled and it took him a few moments to restart his engine and he finally finished in 4th place over 17 seconds behind.

 
I claim the 'Flat-spot-of-the-year' award for my front right tyre...the shiny looking bit is the steel webbing!

I was very satisfied with 3rd and Pete was most apologetic about the 'incident'. Chris Petch had an event-packed race with a spin and some some car-to-car contact which put him into retirement. Steve Adams had yet another d.n.f., this time with an engine failure

So folks...that's it...the 2002 Championship is over for me now.

 

Round 12 - Brands Hatch

Not racing. £170 entry fee for a 10 minute race...err...no thanks. Come on Octagon, get a grip on reality, escalating entry fees caused by escalating track rental fees are driving everyone away...or is that the plan?  I suspect that the enormous income from corporate entertainment days is more appealing to circuit owners and us clubbies are just getting in the way.

Round 13 - Donington

Not racing - other commitments.