All change

Just a few short weeks after our first meeting of the season we found ourselves back at Brands Hatch for round 2 of the 2011 Quaife Intermarque Championship. It’s a miracle we made it there at all as Ross’ 206 was missing the complete rear end of the car from the roll hoop backwards just 1 week before the meeting as we looked to avoid all the scrutineering problems of the last meeting. A big effort though and the rear of the spaceframe has been completely redesigned and built in this final week along with the new rear firewall as well as new fuel and brakes lines, a new smaller fuel tank safely located inside a separate sealed box and far too many other little jobs necessary to complete the car!

Paul models his new pit bike!

There was therefore much relief in the Loram pit when the car passed straight through scrutineering at the dreadfully early time of 7:30am! Luckily for us the Avon Tyres Lorry arrived nice and early which let us get some nice new tyres for our shiny new wheels, all on the car ready for qualifying at 9am, quite easily the earliest Ross has ever had to drive a race car!

It’s fair to say that qualifying was a complete disaster and after the week we’d had to get the car ready it was obviously pretty disappointing. The slightest touch of the brakes caused massive vibrations that made simply holding onto the steering wheel a bit of a job while a dreadful imbalance in the car was making left handers extremely challenging. To make matters worse, just as Ross was thinking of attempting a half decent lap to make a few places on the grid one of the Tiger cars lost an engine, the resulting oil on the track certainly giving Ross and the other drivers something to think about as they made their way into clearways! With all this going on 26 and a number of other cars made their way into the pits, once there the team set about trying to find the cause of the problems.

Change everything!

We found one of our new wheels to be slightly out of balance but suspected this wasn’t enough to cause the severity of the problem we had. We then noticed several small cracks in the front brake discs, almost certainly the cause of the problem but rather irritatingly we could do nothing to fix it without any spare discs. With a resigned shrug of the shoulders we accepted we’d have to live with it for the rest of the day and began looking for the cause of our handling imbalance. This turned out to be a pretty easy (if slightly embarrassing) fix. In our rush to get the car ready we had mounted the Panhard rod where we wanted it whilst the car was in the air with the wheels hanging down. Obviously with the car on the ground the location was miles away from where we wanted it, fortunately we had enough adjustment to get it somewhere close, at least that was one problem fixed!

“Don’t take a picture now, you can see my bald spot!”

Onto the races then and Ross would start from way down in 16th after the qualifying problems but determined to ‘have a go’. With a bit more experience of rolling starts ’26 was off to a decent start, passing a few Tigers and completing lap 1 in 13th before moving past fellow HR class runner Philip Blackford into Paddock at the start of lap 2 for 12th and then upto 11th later on in the lap. The balance of the car was much better although we had shifted it a little more towards a tail happy on power setup through right handers which was costing some time onto the main straight but still much better than practice as the stopwatch proved with a 53.303 on lap 3, some half a second faster than our best effort at the last meeting. The brakes were still proving to be a huge problem though, shaking both car and driver to pieces every time they were leaned on. Still, not to worry, there was a race on here!!! In a repeat of the last meeting Ross was now chasing Jezz Hobbs in his Caterham for 9th place. After a few laps of close racing the pair encountered oil on the track at Graham Hill Bend which just about gave Ross the chance to slide through on the inside on lap 8. It was a quiet run to the end of the 14 minute race from here with a couple retirements promoting 26 to 7th place at the flag. (3rd in class behind Daniel Smith and Philip Young who were 4th and 6th overall)

A better result than expected from the first race then. Once back in the pits the team also discovered the cause of Ross’ ‘understeer’ in the last 2 laps….a front right puncture! The first new tyres we have for years and we get a puncture, typical! With no spare of the same compound we had to go back to our old A10’s on the front for race 2, bad because they’re knackered, worse because it also meant putting the old heavy wheels on and making the steering even heavier.

Uh-oh! (Thanks to smiffyman for the pic)

Race 2 however brought with it the chance to start in 7th place in front of some of the quick guys who’d suffered problems in race 1. A clean start saw Ross come out of the hairpin in 7th place but he was soon diving for the grass at Graham Hill bend, narrowly avoiding the spinning Philip Young but taking 6th place in the process. It was good work undone on lap 2 though as Ross got caught out with the different tyre compounds on each end of the car as he turned into the hairpin and ended up doing a ‘wall of death’ around the outside, just about getting away with dropping a few wheels in the kitty litter around the exit and rejoining a few seconds and a few places further down the pack in 9th. That was about it for action in race 2 with Ross having a steady run to the end in 9th (2nd in class) whilst hoping that nothing would shake it’s way loose or break altogether! (Thankfully it didn’t!)

Up at the sharp end Keith White continued his perfect start to the season with another win to go with his win from race one and 2 wins from the first meeting. Surely Chris Brockhurst will get the rub of the green sooner or later though and take a win with his new Tigra. Chris Ayling is another driver looking for a change of luck after another 2 DNF’s this meeting, a puncture in race 1 and a blown engine in race 2. We’ve been there and we can sympathise!

Ice cream time!

Our next meeting is the televised Mallory Park event on May 30th, another new track for us but we’ll be doing our best to put on a good show! New brakes discs will be going on the car before then (and spares in the van!) while we’ll also look to take a little more weight out of the car, although we’ll be hard pressed to match the 45kgs we removed between the first and second meetings!

See you at Mallory! Or if you can’t be there, see us on TV!!!

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