Mallory Park - 5th July 1998
In 1998 I competed in the Triumph Sports Six Club (TSSC) race championship which used 4 rounds of the 750 Motor Club Roadsports championship and 5 rounds from the TR Register. The results were as follows:
DNF - electrics
18th & 19th April
DNF - oil leak / 1st
DNF - accident
3rd - transmission problem
1st & fastest lap
Did not race
1st & fastest lap
1st, fastest lap & lap record
Silverstone was a mix of elation and disappointment. Easy class pole, followed by a minor intermittent electrical misfire which turned into a major misfire just minutes before the race without the chance to properly trace and fix the problem (we even tried a new coil from a Silverstone based race spares shop). Although I formed up on the grid, from the warm-up lap it was obvious that the gremlins had well and truly struck and I pulled into the pit lane even before the race had started. Once the race had begun I tried to join the pack from the pit lane but only managed half-a-lap before the engine cut out completely and I pulled off onto a safe part of the circuit where I opened the bonnet and tried to find the problem again. If I could just get out for a couple of laps I knew I could get a point for fastest lap.
After pulling off all the secondary wiring from the coil, the engine re-started and sounded and felt like it was back on full power! I blasted back on the track only to break down again 500 metres later. This time it was the end of the line and once the race was over we shoved the car onto the trailer and went home with that 'Silverstone Curse' not yet defeated.
Subsequent investigation revealed a bad connection in one of the plugs on the electronic ignition module. Bollocks.
Practice At Silverstone we had encountered a problem of oil being forced from the rocker box into the catch tank at an alarming rate, but thought we had fixed it by fitting an extended breather pipe. Alas the problem was not fixed and after only 7 laps of practice I had to come in with a heavily smoking car. We had work to do. We fitted an extra crank case breather by drilling and tapping the cover plate which blocks off the petrol pump aperture, then ran a pipe (borrowed for the day from the van!) over the head and into the catch tank. We also fitted a deflector plate inside the rocker box to try to reduce the volume of oil being splashed down the vent pipe.
The other problem was that the race was oversubscribed and I had been placed as 1st reserve. Luckily or unluckily (depending on how you see it) a novice driver severely bent his TR3 in practice by trying too hard on a very greasy track. He must have gone over 50 metres off the track and piled into the tyre wall at great speed!
Race 1 Due to my poor practice session I was well down the grid at 15th, but a dynamite start saw me up to 7th by turn 3 and just behind Martyn Adams in his MkIV Spitfire. Just before the end of the 1st lap, he and I both needed the same bit of track and I came of better, sending Martyn spinning onto the grass, but letting Steve Crane through. Pointless however, as the race was 'red-flagged' (i.e stopped by the marshalls) due to there being 2 errant TRs in a dangerous place in the gravel trap at turn 1.
My restart was not so good and by the end of the 1st lap the car was smoking heavily so I pulled off into the pit lane. Inspection showed a full catch tank; the pre-race mods had made matters worse not better. At this point we nearly packed up and went home.
Race 2 Come Sunday morning and I'd calmed down a bit and we removed the crank case vent and lengthened further, to 2.5 metres (10 feet), the rocker box breather pipe. All we could do was hope that it worked.
The grid for race 2 was determined by finishing position in race 1, hence I was car 27 of a 28 car grid! Not very encouraging. I made a sensible start, planning to gradually make my way up through the field with the ultimate aim of getting in front of all the other Spitfires. Steve Crane was the class winner in Race 1 so he was my eventual target. Martyn Adams was already out with a dead engine on the start grid, leaving him to be unceremoniously pushed away by the marshalls.
The oil problem still isn't cured but at least it's contained and we have 6 weeks to the next race.
Practice The weather had been unkind all morning but due to my last minute change from using Yokohama A008Rs tyres to the A032R type, rain did not mean a change of wheels. The amount of water on the track was significant at the start of the session and Kevin Ginger opted for his Avon CR28s whilst all the other Spitfire and GT6 racers went out on whatever they had - generally the good old A008Rs which is pretty poor in standing water unless it's brand spanking new!
There was a great deal of traffic and, added to this, after only 3 laps my windscreen wipers packed up. There soon after followed a red flag (practice stopped) as a Lotus Elise had been left stranded on what the marshalls felt was a dangerous part of the track; the entry to Shaw's Hairpin. The restart of the session was for only 2 more laps or so and hence my lap times were nothing to rave about. In fact steve Crane was the fastest Spitfire, followed by a very miffed Kevin Ginger and then me alongside the Fiat X1/9 of Pete Richards. Incidentally, I finished the practice session on the grass after a huge moment at the Devil's Elbow when feeling for grip - there wasn't any! I also received a warning from the Clerk of the Course (Witness, Judge and Jury combined) for overtaking under caution which I have no idea as to the accuracy of.
Significantly my oil breather problem seemed cured - we had fitted a gauze filled breather box (as per MKIV/1500 Spitfires) to the top of the rocker box and this has done the trick. I had inadvertently been using a MkIII box this year which I had heightened to take account of the valve lift and the roller rockers and the oil was simply spalashing down the out pipe.
The Race The rain had cleared by the early afternoon race start and everyone who had used wets in the morning was back onto their dry tyres and settings. My target was to catch and pass Kevin and Steve as soon as possible and to try to avoid getting caught behind the slower cars that had qualified further up the grid than me. To be honest, I knew that the Triumph behind had little chance of keeping up with the 3 of us so I didn't worry too much about them.
By the exit of Gerrards on the 1st lap I was nearly alongside Kevin Ginger with Steve just in front when I let the car drift too wide and put all four wheels on the grass at about 80mph (130kph). As the armco barrier got closer I genuinely though 'This is going to hurt', but I managed to keep the car straight on the wet grass and regained the circuit without losing any places! I learned afterwards from Pete Richards that when everyone behind saw me go, they all backed off expecting a huge shunt to occur right in front of them.
It was then a case of reeling in Steve Crane, who had been passed by Kevin, then set to chasing Kevin who was about 3 seconds in front after 3 laps. I was slowly gaining on him and he admitted later that he had to 'step-up-a-gear' to try to keep in front of me. Lap five saw the end of the charge as John Hazzard's Lotus Esprit hit the outside barrier at the exit of Gerrards at 120mph (190kph) and smashed the car to pieces, spreading bits of metal and plastic all over the track (he was OK). The race was stopped next lap and the result declared.
The results are confusing - In the 750MC championship I was second (after KG) but in the TSSC race Championship I got a 1st in class. This is because although Kevin drives a Spitfire, he is not registered for the TSSC championship!
If only I can keep winning we might have a chance at the TSSC championship....
Practice Only 3 laps completed when the alloy radiator header tank burst spraying hot brown water all up the windscreen. Sometimes I wonder if I am destined to have problems every 5 laps or so!
The Tuesday before the race Martin (Stackpoole) and I took the racer out on the road to check the car was running OK and managed to shear off the right rear drive key inside the output flange! A rapid repair was made and seems OK.
With only 3 laps of practice completed I was glad to be 4th fastest (in 750MC class) with Kevin Ginger (Spitfire), Dave Broadway (MG Midget) and Martyn Adams (Spitfire) up in front of me on the Grid. In the TSSC class, Martyn Adams was faster as was Andy Haw in his newly rebuilt GT6 which had suffered an engine seizure at Mallory 4 weeks before. Unfortunately Kevin Ginger's engine had expired with a golf ball sized hole in the side of his engine block, so he did not take the start grid. Also Steve Crane had crashed in practice, bending his steering rack. Kevin did the good thing and lent him the rack from his dead car allowing Steve to take the start. We fixed my water tank problem by fitting the expansion tank of the van - shades of Croft!
Other Triumphs included - Bob Mosely, Dave Jones, John Thomason and Pete Whiteman - Spitfires, Dave Thompson - GT6 and Russell Munn - TR7 Sprint.
The Race The worst accident I have ever seen at a club meeting happened about 300 metres into the race. Andy Haw had a poor start with too much wheel spin and had been chopped by Martyn Adams. This didn't stop Andy trying to push through on the outside of the first bend (up hill left hander) and both cars spun into the tyre wall which is only about 1 metre from the trackside. This sent Andy Haw's car spinning back across the track collecting Bob Mosely's Spitfire, Pete Richards' Fiat X1/9 and John Hazzard's newly rebuilt (See Mallory report) Lotus Esprit as well as 2 others. The accident started right next to me and Steve Crane and I were lucky not to get caught up in it all. No-one was hurt but it took an hour to clear the track. Bob Mosely managed to take the restart with a heavily taped up car. The race was reduced to 5 laps and without Keving Ginger or Martyn Adams I was looking at another TSSC class win.
I have a racing philosphy of not just being there to make up the numbers. Even if the car in front is in another class I still want to beat it to the line. After 2 laps I was comfortably in front of Steve Crane (i.e. TSSC 1st) and just behind Russell Munn (Class B) and Dave Broadway (making me 750MC class 2nd). I had judged a way to overtake Russell so as to be able to get to Dave, but as I exited Park with a speed of about 25mph more than Russell, his car jammed in 3rd gear stopping him accerating properly. He unwisely jinked to the left to try to get out of my way but I was already committed to overtaking in the same place. I smashed into the back of his car and was pitched on the infield grass at about 80mph. The car went airborne over the bumps but came to rest with the bonnet smashed in and the front valance wedged into the front right tyre. Another bloody retirement and I was furiuos. At the time I thought Russell had done it deliberately even though logically I know he is not that sort of driver at all. It was only when I went to see him after the race that he explained and was most apologetic.
When the results were issued I had acheived fastest Class A lap (1st time ever) and on only
the second lap. Mallory next weekend will see if I can regain the momentum.
Our 4th visit this year to Mallory Park started with the usual 6 a.m. drive up the M1 to arrive for signing on at just after 8. Stacky and I had completely repaired the car following the accident at Cadwell and apart from a few small(?) paint runs you wouldn't even know it had happened.
This particular meeting was hosted by the Aston Martin Owners Club (AMOC) and featured various races including Aston Martins, Jaguars, Porsches and Ferraris. In fact the grid of the first race must have had a value in excess of �ith 2 Jaguar XK220s being included. The biggest buzz, however, was that we were set up in the paddock not a hundred metres from Rowan Atkinson (Blackadder, Mr Bean etc.) who was racing his Aston martin DB1. He told us he'd been out of racing for 10 years or so and was just now getting back into it, hence the novice cross on the back of his car. He arrived and left by his personal helicopter!
Practice With nearly 30 cars entered for the TR Race, there wasn't much track space to be had even though I was first out on the track. After only 3 laps there were red and yellow flags displayed at several marshalls' posts due to various TRs having engine problems. Everyone was slow and as I'm always very cautious in such circumstances was gridded behind Steve Crane and Martyn Adams. My only problem appeared to be excessive water in the radiator catch tank and a mild overheat on the engine.
The Race I made a very gentle get-away which left me a little behind the pack with Steve and Martyn, and after avoiding 3 spinning TRs on the 1st corner (Gerrards), began the chase which I was confident would be successful. Alas, those gremlins came a-knockin' again and the gearbox synchro packed up meaning very slow down changes and almost impossible to select 1st for Shaw's Hairpin. Soon after, a 7000 rpm misfire set in followed by something in the transmission line failing on the last lap. It is said that things break in threes and I got the lot in one go. I managed to hold my position (3rd in Class) in spite of needing a push from the marshalls at the hairpin due to the near terminal transmission-slip!
As an end note, Martyn Adams has never won the class and by lap 9 was ahead of Steve Crane and in the lead when he was pushed off by a TR allowing Steve through. Not surprisingly, Martyn was pretty upset and feels destined never to win. I know how he feels.
Once back home, Stacky and I stripped the gearbox and diff out and on Monday they were despatched to the appropriate experts - I'll let you know the diagnoses when I have them. I think the misfire is linked to the coolant problem - probably a blown head gasket. With the TSSC International weekend coming up we are now polishing and re-painting to get the car in shape for public viewing. I hope no one wants to see it running as it does not have a gearbox and is temporarily fitted with a Herald diff unit so we can wheel it around!
Roll on Oulton Park where last time I crashed on some oil in testing then broke a wheel off in the next session....but that's all another story.
Update The gearbox had lost all its dogs (whatever they are), the clutch arm pin had dropped out leading to clutch
drag, the diff needed new bearings and the cylinder head gasket had blown thereby cracking the coolant tank.
Only my second ever visit to this circuit which began ominously badly - a rear drive shaft key sheared whilst loading the car onto the trailer the day before the race, which necessitated a late evening half-shaft change once we had arrived. Followed by a complete brake system bleed we were ready to go and with an early start to the Saturday racing programme, most drivers were asleep by about 11:00 (very early by normal TSSC standards).
Practice Scrutineering over, I made sure I was first in the collecting area for practice (it's the best way to ensure a clear track), arriving even before the paddock announcements for our session were made. 10 laps of Oulton's shortest configuration were a dream, the car felt good with neutral handling tending to over-steer; the best way to go quickly. I qualified 8th on the grid behind 7 TRs and about 3 seconds a lap ahead of the next two fastest Spitfires of Steve Crane and Martyn Adams.
The race Just prior to the start of the race, one of the TRs was withdrawn making me 7th on the grid, but that wasn't to last. The TRs are mighty fast off the line and I was back to about 12th by the first corner with Steve Crane behind me by turn 2. The Spitfire, however, comes into its own when cornering and over the next 4 laps or so I pulled well away from Steve and back up through the melee of TRs. I had a huge battle for 6th with a Red TR6 and we swapped positions a couple of times, but I finally left him for good by lap 8 (incidentally he lost a front wheel on the last lap and was not classified as a finisher).
I comfortable won the class (which comprised about 10 cars) much to the delight of Martin Stackpoole in the pit lane and Mark and Jo Field (TSSC race organisers) who were highly enthusiastic about my final overtaking manoeuvre on the red TR. For once my pit board had shown P1 for the entire race. To add icing to the cake, the organisers had provided laurels for each class winner as well as race winners and we came home with the laurel jammed into the back window of the Spitfire.
And Damon won at Spa the next day...what a great weekend.
Round 7 - Thruxton - Hosted by the 750 Motor Club
For various reasons I did not compete in this round.
Lots of rain on the drive up to Snetterton signalled an extremely wet race was likely, but in the event, the weather cleared up and both practice and the race were dry.
Unfortunately not many Spitfire racers turned up for this meeting and the whole Roadsports grid comprised only about 20 cars. Steve Crane had already secured the TSSC Championship by winning at Thruxton so he missed the race as did a couple of others. A most unusual incident occurred when Bob Mosely failed scrutineering due to having plastic doors and no door bars. A problem which has been pointed out to him on many occasions in the past. The only course for him was to find a steel Spitfire door on a car with a full cage - guess what, it was mine. I duly swapped driver's doors with him leaving me with a white door and him with a yellow and blue one in its place...
Practice This was rather uneventful and I came in after only 5 laps with a minor misfire, but as I had easily secured class pole I was happy at being over a second quicker than Martyn Admans in his MkIV Spitfire.
The Race I had one of my best starts ever and even overtook Brian Cowan's mighty V8 Aston Martin on the Grid (he was soon past again). I had a great battle for the next six or seven laps with a Lotus Elan, but soon had to let him go as my misfire re-started (we thought we has fixed it by removing the rev counter). I finished comfortably in the lead of class A and took fastest lap.
The last race of the year and a final (but slim) chance to move up the TSSC championship table from 3rd to 2nd. With about 7 cars in the class, the only way was for me to finish well and for Martyn Adams to not finish at all.
Practice The rain had stopped by the start of the practice session and a dry line had formed round the track, but with the danger of throwing the car into the tyre wall if one was to lose concentration and stray onto the damp. About 30 TRs, Spitfires and GT6s streamed out onto the circuit and I was fortunate to have clear track for the whole 10 minute session letting me gradually build up speed over my 5 or so laps. The car ran well but as I crossed the start-finish line on the last lap the differential made an dreadful noise and seized up solid - I had to have the car lifted back to the paddock where we soon had the car up on stands to investigate the problem. Once up, it was obviously a serious problem. Thankfully the TSSC racers are good chaps and Andy Jowett (Martin Adams' and Steve Crane's car preparer) offered to drive back to his workshop near Leicester to get the unit from Steve's race car. (Steve had already won the TSSC Championship and had decided not to race). Fortunately the diff was already out of Steve's car ready for the winter re-build. By 2 O'clock Andy was back and the unit was into my car, ready to go.
The Race There was a bit of balls-up when the grid was formed and I was up in 8th slot whereas I should have been a couple of rows further back, still, not my problem! The start went well(?) and I only got passed by about 5 TRs (they have loads of grunt off the line compared to us) but by lap 3 I'd caught and passed them all again only for the race to be stopped after an accident involving a couple of TRs. On the re-start (grid formed up in on race order) there was mayhem as a couple of TRs got sideways going down Craner Curves and I took to the in-field grass to avoid a pile-up. Because the grass was damp I had to be very careful not to spin and stayed on the green stuff until the bridge (about 400 metres), by which time I'd been passed by about 8 cars including Martyn Adams and Bob Mosely in their Spitfires. A lap later I had caught and passed them both again when Martyn Adams suddenly dropped back and disappeared from view. I later learned he had suffered an engine problem and was out!
I won the class with fastest lap (3rd time in a row now) and thereby took 2nd place in the championship from Martyn due his failure to finish. It's fair to say he was a bit upset.
Straight after the race, Bob Moseley announced his retiremnent from Spitfire racing and he plans to race a Westfield in 1999. Good luck Bob and I hope that whoever buys his car will get out onto the track with us soon. I also learned later that I had broken the class lap record by 0.2 seconds - my 1st time ever.
Thanks to everyone who supported me this year and most of all Martin Stackpoole my ever present
mechanic and friend. See you all again next year.
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