|2009 Race dates and results|
Club & Series
|Car||Result o/a||Class result||Weather|
|A||19th March||Snetterton||CSCC Test Day||GT6||n/a||n/a||Cold and dry|
|1||9th/10th May||Brands Hatch Indy||CSCC Swinging Sixties||GT6||3rd||1st||Warm and dry|
|2||13th June||Oulton Park||CSCC Swinging Sixties||GT6||2nd||1st||Hot and dry|
|3||5th July||Spa Francorchamps||CSCC Swinging Sixties||GT6||12th/7th||1st||Very hot (30+)|
|4||1st August||Silverstone||CSCC Swinging Sixties||GT6||17th||1st||Wet|
|5||15th/16th August||Donington||CSCC Inter Series||GT6||1st SS||1st||Warm and dry|
Each year prior to the first CSCC race meeting there is an open test day for CSCC members and this year I decided to take the GT6 up for shake out after the winter. Dave Thompson will be sharing the car with me for some races this year so I invited him up too for a bit more car familiarisation.
The car is pretty much unchanged from last year apart from two fairly significant upgrades. I decided to try the car with an anti-roll bar as it seems too unstable on fast corners so I made up some mounts and fitted one of my commercially available anti-roll bar drop link kits. I also decided that the time had come for a limited slip differential (not really been able to justify the cost before) and a Bastuck alloy diff case to go with it. I asked Mike Papworth to put the final drive together and it was a very neat job.
We had some initial problems with the engine; it warmed up ok then suddenly started misfiring just before the start of the first test session. It took 30 minutes to find the problem and just 5 minutes to fix it. One of the push rods had jumped off its rocker so the car was only running on 5 cylinders – I have never had that happen before and I have no idea what would have caused it. It did mean we missed a session but as I had no intention of doing every lap possible that was fine.
The day was cold but dry and I managed about 10 reasonable laps and comfortably got down to the same lap times as I had done at Snetterton at the end of the 2008 season. My second session however was a waste of time as somebody had spread oil round half the track adding about 6 seconds to every lap which was really frustrating. Dave went out in the final session before lunch and reported back that the car was still unstable. Over the break I found that one of the rear wishbone bolts was allowing a rod end to move a small amount and that was translating into a lift-off steer. As soon as that was corrected it became a different car again! Dave did another session and took another second off his time.
It was now getting late and there had been a major oil-on-track problem so I went out for the final session at 16:15 and got in the mix with a BMW M3 and a couple of Caterhams. I stuck with them all session and took nearly 2 seconds of my best lap time (in this car) and was very happy with that! The changes have certainly improved the car at Snetterton but we'll have to wait and see for elsewhere...
Steve Adams Porsche GT3 and Jon Wolfe Triumph GT6
(Surely a GT6 must be twice as good as a GT3!)
The first race of the year for the Wolfe/Thompson pairing was at Kent’s Brands Hatch circuit. Probably the best known circuit in the UK with a history of bike racing spanning back to before the war when they used to run in the opposite direction to now.
It was our normal CSCC Swinging Sixties approach of Dave starting and then me taking over half way through so that’s how we arranged the practice session too. It was warm and bright and the car went without problem; I had even managed to get the automatic lap timer to work again – a really useful device to have. Dave did about 13 minutes and then I took over to finish the session which to be honest was very much as planned and without incident. There were so many Swinging Sixties cars entered that the grid had been split into two races (only possible because a Lotus race had been cancelled) and we were in the “up to 2 litres and FiA Appendix K” race. We qualified 3rd on the grid with a best lap of 58.443 seconds behind a couple of rapid MG Midgets. This was my GT6's first outing to Brands Hatch and I was pretty pleased with the lap time; about 1.5 seconds quicker than in Dave's GT6 the year before.
Dave didn’t really get the finest start and was swamped by a number of cars on the first lap; there was also a big wheel locking incident up at Druids (turn 2) which cost him a couple of places too. He did the right thing though and settled in to catch the crowd.
First lap mayhem at Brands Hatch, May 2009
By 20 minutes (half distance) Dave was back up to 3rd place and came into the pits for the driver swap. I then had a pretty uneventful race and was lapped by the battling Midgets towards the end. By the chequered flag we were comfortably 3rd, a lap down on leaders and a lap up on the 4th placed car.
Early-race chasing, Dave Thompson driving.
Mid race action, Jon Wolfe driving.
Elsewhere, John Thomason suffered from an engine problem (I think he’d have been in contention for an outright win) and there were a few broken cars littered around the track although I understand it was a pretty clean race. So we picked up our first trophies of the year by dint of getting a class win and now have our eyes set on Oulton Park then the main event of the year...Spa!
Two years since my last appearance at Oulton Park (missed 2008 because of show my kids were in) and the nightmare of a journey up the M1 and M6 on Friday afternoon. It took a few more hours than the Sat Nav would have you believe but we arrived in time for a very pleasant evening meal of octopus salad followed by a stew and veg! All courtesy of the ‘The Mighty’ Dave Thompson.
The car didn’t really need much doing from Brands Hatch and one new tyre was about it for changes! Other than that it was a fluids check and a good clean and we were ready. As at Brands Hatch the Swinging Sixties race was split into classes so we had another good chance at a top-end result.
Practice Dave went out first and did about 17 minutes of the 30 minute session and managed to bring us up to 4th on the grid; I did the final 4 laps of practice and managed to go slightly quicker to pull us up to third slot. The session was pretty uneventful save for a V8 engined Warwick 350 spilling all its oil on the track through Druids when an oil cooler hose came adrift.
John Thomason was on pole in his fabulous sounding 1500 Spitfire with the very rapid Andy Yool/Calum Lockie Ford Anglia in second place.
It just got hotter and hotter as time passed and Dave and I did some serious practice and track analysis to try to get Dave’s times improved a bit. We went round the track for some line spotting and discussed gear change options. Come race time Dave had quite a lot to think about especially as I had imparted a few tips for how to get off the line more cleanly than he has in recent races – it was all time well spent. I have never really taken my GT6 racing too seriously but I seem to be changing slightly back to how I was when campaigning the TR7V8; looking for every advantage there is.
The race Come the red lights extinguishing Dave had a great start and actually got up to 2nd place momentarily only to be taken by the Yool/Lockie Anglia on Cascades. Steve Adams also had a cracking start and made it past Dave after just a few laps and got in behind the Anglia. For the next 6 laps it was Thomason, Yool, Adams and Thompson all running very close times and they pulled out a big gap to the 5th placed runner, Andy Vowell who had passed Chris Draycott’s Sunbeam Alpine on lap 4.
Dave was running much quicker in the race than he had in practice which indicated two things to me; firstly he had been listening to what I said and was driving faster and that secondly there was more grip now that earlier. I called him in at 17 minutes for the pit stop and driver change. We had a very bad change over – too much confusion with the seat belts such that we took nearly 45 seconds from start to finish, that’s a good 15 seconds more than at Brands Hatch; not good.
I hit the track again in clear space and immediately saw the SC boards displayed at the marshall’s points indicating that the Safety Car had been deployed. Under SC rules the whole field forms up in a line behind the safety car but I could see that it was nearly a lap ahead of me. I had to drive quickly (but not at racing speed) to catch up with the Safety Car and that took two laps – I was about 20 seconds off race pace which I figured would be OK and would not seem unduly hasty. The cause was Steve Adams Spitfire parked in the gravel at the main apex of the Knickerbrook chicane; he was out of 3rd place bringing me up to 3rd. Once I caught the car train I could see John Thomason about 5 cars ahead and the Anglia (now being driven by Calum Lockie) 2 cars ahead.
When the Safety Car pulled in there was a mad dash for turn 1 and I was really badly baulked; the same happened at the next corner and suddenly I was 7 seconds behind Lockie with only 4 laps to go! I then drove as smoothly and quickly as I could but just could not gain enough time. I did put in fastest overall lap of the race but ended up in 2nd place. Lockie picked up an outright win because John Thomason suffered one of the worst racing things ever…his gearbox broke (although we thought he ran out of petrol) on the last lap while in the lead…oops.
As it turned out the bad pit stop was negated by the Safety Car but that’s no excuse and we’ll have to rehearse for Spa on 4th July!
Steve Adams' pit stop - before it all went horribly wrong! Photo: Jo Sollom
(Nice bonnet Steve...the result of it all going horribly wrong once before I believe!)
What a weekend this was. The CSCC had secured two races, each an hour in duration with a 30 minute timed practice session. And we'd decided early on in the year to take the GT6 for fast drive in the country. It was in 2003 that Dave and I last went to Spa, back then he was in his GT6 and I took my TR7V8; since that time the bus stop chicane has gone to be replaced by a very slow right-left chicane. To be honest it’s not a good change as it has created the only non-flowing part of the circuit but I guess F1 safety issues prevailed.
We left at 6am on Thursday for the long drive to the Ardennes, this time via the Channel Tunnel rather than our normal ferry route. I had also set myself a challenge of trying to get all the way to Spa and back in the RV without refuelling! Quite a big ask for a 9 tonne vehicle with a 6.5 litre V8 turbo diesel engine. I also intended to avoid any altercations with the police as had happened on the way back from Brands Hatch 6 weeks previously! Oops.
We hit the A1 and I set the cruise control at 55 mph and we basically went all the way to Folkestone at that speed, a fairly relaxed rate of progress but with minimal need to overtake as the trucks seem to travel at that speed too. We arrived an hour earlier than our booked crossing and as it wasn’t busy were allowed straight on.
At Folkestone Channel Tunnel terminal just prior to loading
The nice thing about the tunnel is not having to get out of the RV so we could just sit and have a late breakfast while watching a DVD of the Italian Job on the telly! "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" It’s only about 25 minutes travel time so we were soon on the motorway and past Brussels before rush hour, again at 54/55 mph. As we passed Liege however there was an enormous bang as one of the rear tyres blew out. It was the inboard right hand rear tyre and I pulled over to check if we could continue onto a lay-by which we could and did! I did not fancy changing a wheel at the side of the motorway.
It took Dave and me about 30 minutes to put the spare on and cost us about a litre of sweat each. It was over 30 degrees and we were in the direct sunlight doing it…not a nice job with two screw jacks and some pretty huge sockets! From that point on I cruised at 51mph concerned that the blow out was heat related – the blown tyre was fine but with a 15cm gash blown in the sidewall. The tyres are 19.5 inch diameter which is a USA-only size so the chances of finding a replacement tyre were about zero so we could not afford another failure.
Those pesky RV tyres!
We arrived at the circuit (after a bit of detour as I had set the Sat Nav for the wrong gate) at around 5pm and set up – it’s such a great place and we soon headed off on our bikes to the village of Stavelot for a beer! On the way into the circuit we had followed the old circuit and passed through the Masta kink seen very clearly on the 1967 film Grand Prix (which we watched later) and the into the banked Stavelot turn. It seems quite different from the Nürburgring Nordschleife in that it was comprised mainly of enormously long straights with sweeping bends.
The old, banked "Virage de Stavelot"
D & J with some liquid refreshments in Stavelot village centre
(Dave seems to have been rubbing his legs with instant coffee)
See this excellent web site for more information about the old Spa circuit. http://www.f1-grandprixhistory.net/Belgium.html
Come Friday and signing on was the typical European affair with an unnecessary level of admin and form passing. At one stage we were given a form (which was already filled in!) and asked to hand it in elsewhere; the elsewhere being the next desk along!
Untimed practice (known as free practice although it cost 100 Euro!) 50 minutes Dave went out and bedded the brakes in for 3 laps and then did some quicker laps to get reacquainted with the circuit; after about 25 minutes he came in and we swapped over. I managed a number of reasonable laps and made a mental note of the new chicane.
Steve Adams managed to munch his new final drive unit in his session and then had a mad fast attempt to fit the spare for timed practice which amazingly he did with a bit of help from Nigel Gibbins who normally drives but had come over to watch the racing.
Timed practice 30 minutes We were running as two races combined, Swinging Sixties with German TR and MG Competion so with over 50 cars in the race there was plenty of track action to watch and Dave managed to improve considerably on his free practice times. He was definitely in the groove and quicker than I had been. The car was good but then the rain came down! That slowed the session down for about 10 minutes but as the weather was so hot the track dried out completely before the end of the session! That set me a target and in my final 2 laps I managed to get us into 19th slot overall on the grid and 12th out of 30 in the Swinging Sixties.
The race 60 minutes A Rolling start with some mighty V8 cars in the front positions including Graham Miller in the TR7V8 in 3rd place. He and I have raced together for years; he has an amazing track record of wins in this very potent machine. In front of him were Simon Lane’s red Camaro and Luke Wos’s ‘Captain America’ Chevrolet Corvette. Alongside Miller was Harry Wyndham in his lovely pale blue, E-Type Jaguar.
The rolling start ‘warm up’ lap was very fast (some of the back-of-the-grid guys could not keep up!) and once the lights went green it took over a minute for the 53 cars to pass by. Dave made up several places over the next few laps and from the in-car video had some good racing with a variety of different cars. I called him in at 28 minutes and we had a reasonable stop; a bit longer than our practice stops because one of the shoulder belts got stuck behind my back. We are definitely getting better at driver swaps and can do it in 25 seconds on a good one.
My session was good with Glen Canning in his NSU TT hanging on to my tail for 2 laps until I managed to put the Yates/Cooper Sunbeam Tiger between us. That diverted his attention I think as I then managed to pull away and catch and pass the Bailey/Kennedy Chevrolet Corvette which seemed to be having some problems getting round the corners! The bigger cars really struggle on hot days as the tyres go off; that is they get so hot they start generating debris and small balls of rubber start to roll off the surface, not unlike when you use an eraser on a pencil line on paper.
The GT6 is pretty harsh on the front tyres too; we had fitted a softer compound tyre to the front left but by the pit stop it was on its limit of grip. This meant that when I took over the car it would turn left OK but was not so good on the right handers. Having said that Dave got some benefit from it early in the race; these long races are all about compromise and getting reasonable performance for the entire race.
Late in the race I was passed by a powder blue Triumph TR3 which got in front but could not pull away. Suddenly, about 3 laps from the end its right rear wheel broke off and it careered in to the gravel trap and then into the tyre wall causing extensive damage; the driver walked away unhurt though.
We finished 12th overall (7th in Swinging Sixties) and first in class C with over a lap of margin. Our main rival for the weekend (Mike Wroe in an 1800 Marcos) did not start for some reason although he qualified ok. Does anyone reading this know why?
Wow, we're just so cool!
Our main delight however was beating the Andy Yool/Calum Lockie Ford Mustang; they were the pair that just beat us at Oulton Park earlier in the year in a very nicely prepared Ford Anglia. That makes it one each…when’s the next one chaps?
Steve Adams had a typically eventful weekend. He had entered both races (we just did the Swinging Sixties race on the Saturday) so had two qualifying sessions to do too. He also elected to do one of the untimed sessions on Friday. Friday untimed: broke the diff, Race 1 qualifying: broke the exhaust off, Race 1: DNF when a drive shaft parted company from the u/j yoke on lap 2, qualifying 2: all ok somehow, race 2: a spin but a finish too!
And lastly, yes we made it all the way there and back (720 miles) on one tank of diesel, that's nearly 16 mpg; not bad at all.
It has been some time since I raced on a properly wet track and it was looking very much like Silverstone was going to be the one to dampen things down a bit. The forecast all week was for heavy rain on the Saturday and the preceding week’s changeable situation made that look likely.
There was not a lot to do on the car for the race, just the basic spanner checks and I decided to swap the diff oil again to see how well it was standing up. At least is was still partially brown in colour; it’s normally black which is why I have been changing it every other race. It’ll go again for the Donington F2 race but then be changed again for the Nürburgring.
Usefully we had been allocated a garage space for this meeting so that made it slightly better in the event of rain. As it turned out there was a light drizzle overnight on Friday so come the Saturday morning there was a very slippery looking, damp track waiting for us.
Practice Dave went out first and it was pretty clear almost immediately that he wasn’t enjoying it. The lap times for everyone were desperately slow even though it wasn’t actually raining. There was a red flag incident within 5 laps and all the cars were pulled into the pit lane while a Jaguar E-Type (sans front wheel) was recovered to the paddock. After just another 4 laps I signalled Dave back in for the driver change and I took over. I did about 15 laps and I have to say it was horrendous. The car was truly hopeless; sliding all over the place and with wheel spin at every opportunity.
I have a nasty feeling that a GT6 might be hopeless in the rain! It is very well set up for the dry and we should have been well up the grid if not for the rain. As it was we were 19th on the grid and on class pole by just a small margin. Dave was looking a bit pale and shell-shocked over how bad the car was in the wet! It’s normal to have no grip but it was very unforgiving with very little warning about the back end braking away. We did soften the suspension a bit for the rain but I now think we should have backed it right off.
The race Given the situation we decided that we’d keep with the normal plan and Dave would go out first in the race. We did consider going the other order if the rain was torrential but it was just light rain but still very wet. The spray from the cars was immense even during the two green flag (warm up) laps and it was excellent that everyone got away from the grid at the start of the race with no incidents. Dave struggled with the car and surface conditions from the off and elected to come in as soon as the pitstop window opened following a spin. I had anticipated he’d come in so was ready in the pit lane all ready for the change. That gave me nearly 25 minutes to get us into the lead of the class. Dave had dropped a slot as one of the MGBs had slithered past and he was being hounded by Mike Wroe in his 1800 Marcos.
I went out into 3rd in class slot with about 17 seconds between me and the leader, quite a gap to make up. Wroe then came in for his mandatory pitstop and I just managed to get in front of him as he emerged from the pit lane. This, however, was soon followed by me spinning off in Luffield at what must have been about 9 mph and at the same place Dave did it! Mine must have been the slowest spin in motor racing history! Wroe was away again.
Next lap the MGB blew its engine! That left just Wroe to catch – easy because he had a spin too! I then had 10 laps to keep him behind me. It was a very, very close thing for all those laps but I just about did it, winning by just 0.25 seconds. It was a proper race for a change and that, combined with a bit of luck, kept our winning streak going.
Andy Vowell and Steve Adams, long time colleagues both finished well and incidentally I also met up with Richard Measures who has just bought Stacky’s old Gulf Spitfire; he is hoping to have it out racing later this year or early next year.
Westley Harding's race winning Ford Falcon
Westley Harding (sharing with Desmond Smail) won outright in the former’s Ford Falcon…it has really spurred me on to get mine ready now and I spent the following Sunday in the workshop refitting the shortened back axle! And Josh Files (son of long-time Triumph racer Keith Files) managed to whack the TR6 into the wall on the start/finish straight…his father has taught him well!
Next stop the F2 support race at Donington; 36 cars from all 4 series of the CSCC. Should be fun, I just hope it stays dry for us.
A very unusual race – last year the CSCC was invited to support the World Touring Cars at Brands Hatch and this year it was the FiA Formula 2 at Donington. Rather than select just one series it was decided to run an invitation-only mixed race with 9 cars from each of the four CSCC series; those being Swinging Sixties, Future Classics, Tin Tops and Magnificent Sevens. Dave and I were fortunate enough to be invited in my GT6.
At Silverstone we had noticed an excessive amount of noise from the rear end of the car and our supposition was that the inboard Lobro (constant velocity) joints had failed and the excessive wear was the cause of the rumblings. On stripping down the back end of the car it was quickly shown to be the rubbers in the back of the diff casing again! They were the blue poly bush type and had completely melted away. Given it was the Saturday prior to the race we were a bit limited on solutions but Dave suggested we try his chum Neil Howe (of FiA Triumph TR4 fame) who was the proud owner of a second-hand lathe. Dave made a call and Neil was happy to make some aluminium ones there and then. We charged over to Cambridgeshire with the final drive unit and to cut a long story short, Neil made us some superb aluminium ones from some bar stock that I normally use for making TR7 sub-frame spacers!
Aluminium diff case bushes (courtesy of Neil Howe)
The Lobro’s were re-packed with high temperature grease and the replacement ones I had bought stored into the spares box! At the same time I changed a couple of slightly clicky rod-end bearings at the rear of the car and re-tracked the whole lot once reassembled.
We thought that would be it and set off on Friday night to Leicestershire.
Practice Plenty of CSCC cars in our gravel paddock (not nice but at least we were all together) as the CSCC had brought 8 reserve cars anticipating some retirements from practice. Although it was a class-less race (too complicated with so many cars from the four series) we still had eyes on our normal Class C rivals of Mike Wroe in his Marcos and Chris Draycott in his Sunbeam Alpine. In the dry we can normally beat them but in the damp it could be different as the GT6 is not a happy splasher!
Mike Wroe's Marcos
Dave did about 6 laps of practice and I called him in for the change over but as I exited the pit lane the oil light came on; the pressure gauge was showing just 5 PSI! I gently drove back to the pits and retired the car to the paddock where we glumly assumed it was all over for the weekend. However, being tenacious chaps we let the engine cool down for half an hour and stripped out the oil pressure relief valve, cleaned it and fired up the engine again…back up to 20 PSI! Next morning when the engine was completely cool the engine showed 40 PSI so we changed the oil and saw it climb to 55 to 60 PSI.
During the oil change while the car was jacked up I noticed excessive play in the front left track rod end; without a spare (oops) we stripped it of an smacked it hard with a lump hammer to try to close it up enough for the race. Fortunately, Martyn Adams who lives close by and had gone home for the evening was able to bring us a good, used one. It was quite a chunky repro one and took some considerable filing to get it to clear the vented brake disk but it did the job!
Practice was also marred by a big accident when Mike Wroe had a collision with a Peugeot hatchback and one of the Reliant Sabres. I have no details of the accident but Mike’s car was very badly damaged with crunched up rear bodywork and a broken rear trailing arm – these arms are very rare and hard to come by. Oddly, Mike had been telling us before practice that was the one thing he would find terribly difficult to replace if it was broken. Mike was very upset as the car has just had a new chassis (box plywood) and lightweight fibreglass body fitted at huge expense. Hopefully Mike will find the wherewithal to get the thing back together again.
The Race Some trepidation for us as Dave headed out for the warm up lap and start; it was a good get away from 28th on the grid and mid-field for the Swinging Sixties. Dave was soon past the Alpine and had a good dice with a Porsche 944 for a few laps. Suddenly he was in Class lead as the Draycott Alpine and the Wilkinson E-Type pitted and the Iso Rivolta was out with engine problems. The pit window wasn’t open yet so we were not sure why they had come in but this gave Dave a great chance.
Race start: Dave making for the gap caused by Draycott's poor get away.
Our pit stop was a shambles. We had been allocated a really short pit lane for all the driver swaps to take place and it was mayhem; we inadvertently blocked Jefcoate’s 911 and took an age to change over. I went out in 2nd place behind the E Type. I was sure he would have to pit again though and then a lap later saw him come out of the pit lane ahead of me and (wrongly) assumed I was now a lap up. In fact he had been give an drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane during his first stop and was still ahead. I drove sensibly for 20 minutes passing quite a few slower cars with just 20 PSI oil pressure showing but came home safely. I thought I was lead Swinger but the E-Type was already in champagne podium spot so I went back to the paddock having collected Dave on the way. We chatted about the race as he sat precariously on the roll cage and fire extinguisher, we were second in the Swingers and fastest Class C (although that didn’t mean much in this race).
A timing issue then came to light; the Wilkinson E-Type had indeed stopped too early and the Clerk of the Course awarded them another, post-race, drive through penalty! At Donington this is set at 25 seconds for classic cars and that dropped them to 5 seconds behind us. So, suddenly, we had won!
From thinking it was all over on Saturday evening to winning at Sunday lunchtime!
We didn’t get any fizz and we didn’t get an interview over the PA but we got the Race Winners trophies!
JW entering the pit lane at the end of the race - in second place at this stage!
That’s probably it for 2009. Not going to venture to the Nürburgring with the engine as it stands and it could take a few months to strip, rebuild and re-dyno. Snetterton at the end of the year in the TR7V8 is a maybe…
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