Circuit debut

Well the long awaited day has finally been and gone with Ross competing in his first circuit meeting last weekend at the Castle Combe circuit. Months of work have gone into transforming Ross’ SHP Peugeot 206 from the hotrod which started the year into the circuit racer which arrived at Castle Combe ready to take part in the BARC Quaife Intermarque Championship.

Well at least it looks the part

With all the issues from our Llandow testday last month taken care of we were pleased to see the car pass straight through scrutineering with no problems. With the weather improving we were also pleased that the 20 minutes practice and qualifying session would be reasonably dry, giving car and driver time to get into the swing of things and learn the track before racing began.

With the Intermarque cars lined up for practice however we were to fall at the last hurdle after failing the noise test which is carried out just before the cars are allowed out on track. Once back to the pits we frantically began attaching a deflector plate to the end of the exhaust. This would stop the exhaust pointing directly at the floor beneath the car and instead direct it more out the back of the car, thus reducing the echo effect under the car and making it quieter. So with the work hastily carried out we had the noise test carried out again and whilst it was quieter we were still over the maximum level. By now practice/qualifying was virtually over so we returned to the pits and removed the old silencer entirely and made a trip over to Merlin Motorsports who (luckily for us) run their business from a building within the Castle Combe pit area. They were extremely helpful and let us take a number of different silencers, pipes, bends and clamps back to the car to try and fit before deciding which we could actually fit into the fairly cramped rear of the 206; so a big thanks to Merlin Motorsports, our favourite business of the day!

In the rush to get the car back together we’d completely forgotten the rule which prevents any driver from racing who has not completed 3 timed laps in practice or qualifying. Thankfully Steve Hall (another of our favourite people of the day!) reminded us of this so Ross dashed over to race control where the very helpful clerk of the course (yet another favourite person of the day!!!) said that if we were ready and had passed the noise test we could go out at the end of the last practice session and follow the pace car round to complete the few laps necessary to take part in the races! (Along with Richard Smith who had fallen foul of the same rule) It still didn’t look like the car would be ready in time however but somehow Brian and co got it close enough to being finished to pass the noise test and just make it out in time for Ross to get his first glimpse at the track. A few laps behind a pace car at least enough to know the main layout of the track although not to work out any braking points, gears, or to find out how the car felt…the main thing though was to be in the race!

Note the new exhaust exit point and the novice cross!

Once back in the pits we could tidy up our new silencer system a little and secure it further before the first race. We’d had to fit two silencers and put several 90 degree bends into the system to fit everything in using just clamps and no welding equipment so although not ideal from a performance point of view it had done the job for today and once back at the garage we can route everything a little better.

Ross lined up for Race 1

Back on with today though and the first race was looming as #26 lined up at the rear of the 18 car grid for the rolling start. In all honesty Ross was glad to be at the back and out of the way as he spent the first few laps just trying to learn the circuit whilst hanging onto the back of a couple of the Tigers which race in their own class. A few laps in and with a bit more belief and track knowledge #26 passed the two green Tigers and enjoyed a trouble free run to the flag, finishing 1 lap down and in 14th place. A best lap of 1:20.6 was a long way from the 1:11’s being set at the front of the field (but only 3 or 4 from the mid pack runners in our class) but we were still pleased to have finished with no errors or car problems. The important thing at this stage is just for Ross to get more track time as driving on these circuits at these speeds is a completely different world to the short oval racing he’s previously been doing.

Ross at speed. Thanks to Neil Dolman for this pic. More here

Race 2 and #26 was looking slightly more the part in this one as Ross enjoyed a good race during the early laps, making up a few places from the start past a few more of the Tiger class cars whilst improving to a 1:19 best lap as he moved into 10th place. At the end of lap seven though Ross saw a black flag being shown as he crossed the start finish line, with no other cars in front or behind Ross assumed this was for him and that he had some sort of problem so he made his way into the pits at the end of the lap only to discover that the black flag had been for someone else. Apparently the black flag is left on display to all drivers with a number being displayed to the relevant car as it passes! A little frustrating then to not finish but it’s not the end of the world at this stage as it’s just experience we’re after for next season.

No you can’t take my photo!

So with everything still in one piece we left Castle Combe pleased and looking forward to the next meeting at Brands Hatch on November 7th. Ross has the track loaded up on the simulator at home while a list of improvements is being drawn up for the car. Firstly we will be finishing the front and mid undertray which we ran out of time to do before this meeting. This should certainly improve the aerodynamics whilst we hope to gain some power back by refining our new silencer system. Finally the car will be on a strict diet as it’s currently at least 40kgs over weight, and there’s plenty of free speed to be had getting rid of all that!

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