Smokin’ at Rockingham

Welcome to the second half of the season, round 5 at Rockingham! We arrived at the slightly deserted but hugely impressive Rockingham Motor Speedway late on Saturday night in preparation for the following days racing which greeted us with heavy rain. Rather happily though by the time we made our way through signing on and scrutineering the weather had improved, the sun was making an appearance and although a slightly damp track was making the first few laps of qualifying pretty treacherous it soon dried up and the cars could stop some serious lapping.

Without so much as time for a track walk this weekend Ross really was working it out as he went along (as were a few of the others mind) but was enjoying the technical infield layout and the ‘fast and ballsy’ banked turn 1 which seemed to suck you in faster and faster with every passing lap! Not so good however was the re-occurence of the dreaded rear end braking problems we were suffering with at Snetterton, the brake pedal feeling more like a handbrake when anything more than gentle braking was required. Rather embarrassingly (in fact so embarrassingly it almost got left out of this update) once back in the pits we checked the brake bias bar was working correctly and realised we’d marked up the brake bias adjuster wrongly, so instead of winding more front bias on to cure the problem Ross had actually been inadvertently winding more to the rear! With more than a few turns back to the front and a bit of fine tuning during race one the car was behaving much better with the laptimes improving hugely.

‘Is that a toy car down there?!?!?’ Big grandstands at Rockingham!

From 13th position at the rolling start car 26 was soon climbing the order, a good run round turn 1 allowed Ross to pass newcomer to HR class Colin Gomms Mercedes into the hairpin before nipping round Baz Johnsons Pontiac at turn 2. The pack narrowly avoiding a spinning Mick Robertson at turn 4 before Ross set his sights on Mike Thurleys 206cc in front. Coming round to start lap 2 and the passenger side window net made a bid for freedom as it unclipped itself from the door, unfortunately with the net being fixed to the roof as well it was flapping around all over the place and much to the annoyance of Ross the net and the bar connected to it would come flying across the car and attempt to beat him up on any tight left hand bends! Still, the little 206 was going better than ever, especially on the tight infield and Ross spent a few laps crawling all over Thurleys rear bumper before getting alongside at turn 3 and finally getting up the inside through the series of left handers in the middle of the lap. Once through #26 could began to open up a gap and posted a best lap of 1:32.4, a massive improvement on qualifying and much closer to the front running pace than we’ve been before. We’ve been keeping track of our times relative to Keith White throughout the season and to be within 3 seconds of him on such a long lap was very pleasing. Still, back to the race and things were starting to go wrong with oil now covering the passenger side floor and the inside of the car starting to get pretty smoky. Believing it to be gearbox oil being blown out the breather again and with only a few laps to go in such a good position Ross decided to risk it and carry on and finish although he did lose out to a recovering Malcolm Harding on the penultimate lap. Still, 7th place overall and 3rd in class in front of some quick guys was a very pleasing result, especially with those problems!

Watch Race 1!

Once back in the pits we set to finding out where the oil was coming from. With the gearbox cover off all became clear as the rear gearbox seal had come out, letting gear oil spray out the back of the gearbox. With a full flat floor under the car the oil had no way to escape and most of it found its way into the passenger side while the smoke was caused by more oil spraying onto the exhaust which runs down the side of the gearbox. Once everything had cooled down we cleared up the oil, refitted the seal and topped the gear oil back up (fortunately there was still some left in the gearbox!), replaced the various tunnels/covers and doors and we were ready for race 2! Well, almost ready, first we went to watch fellow South west racer and friend, Lee Rogers who was also at Rockingham for the Pickup Truck Championship, 3 cheers for the westcountry! 😉

A good start to race 2 saw Ross back in front of Malcolm Harding a few corners in and upto the dizzying height of 5th overall but it wasn’t to last as it became near impossible to select 2nd gear resulting in a few ‘interesting’ entries into the 2nd gear hairpins and slipping back behind Malcolm Harding and Colin Gomm a few laps in. With the safety car out Ross realised that his problem was the gearlever being allowed to move too far across to the left, past where it should (into the reverse gate effectively) so provided you carefully placed it you could still find the gears you wanted. With the race restarted however the bad news was a re-appearance of gear oil and more smoke. Fortunately the cars had been circulating behind the safety car for so long that by the time the race was restarted there were only a few laps to go and it wasn’t until the last lap board went out that things got really smoky so 26 (rather luckily) cruised home in 9th overall, 3rd in class.

Despite the problems then a pretty positive meeting overall, we were very happy with the pace and Ross was extremely pleased with the handling through the tight infield sections…if only Cadwell Park was on the calender this season! Now we’re off upto the garage to clear up the car and fix the problems before Lydden Hill next month, fingers crossed for another good showing!

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