2014 is go!

“Stuff it, let’s go home, it’s not gonna happen is it?”

It’s just gone midnight on Thursday night before the season opening meeting at Brands Hatch. The new Tigra has had an unspeakable amount of hours spent on it in the previous week and it’s still a frustratingly close but not really feasible amount of hours away from being ready to leave the garage in the early hours of Friday morning in time for Friday afternoon testing at Brands. To compound matters the car has just rolled off the scales, beeched itself by the sills on some breeze blocks while the quick jack has gone straight through the undertray. Sometimes you’ve got to throw in the towel…

All really getting tired of this car by this point


…really tired

So, after a refreshing 6 hours of sleep it was back to the garage on Friday to finish up the last few jobs, do the setup, signwriting, pack the van and load everything up. By 7pm we were on our way, we might be worn out and we might have missed testing but the new Tigra would be making its debut the following day! A huge thankyou to everyone who’s helped work on the car, supplied us with parts or, as in the case of the last panicy few days, just plain let us rob parts we needed from their own race cars to finish ours!

Oh it’s done, lets go racing!

“Umm, how much wider than the 206 was this again?”

“Well, as least it can’t slide to side to side on the trailer!”

Saturday dawned bright and early at Brands Hatch. It’s safe to say after the previous week or so we would have preferred not to have had scrutineering at 7:30am but sometimes that’s just how things work out! The Tigra sailed through scrutineering with no problems whatsoever, proof that we must have more of an idea how to prep a car for circuit racing these days.

It’s official, we made it!

The entry list of 21 cars for this season opener was ultimatly a little disappointing but we spoke to a whole host of people over the weekend who were planning on being back for round 2 at Rockingham so it’s still looking like being a very busy championship this year.

9am and Ross was making his way out of pitlane for his first taste of the new car in qualifying. The plan for this 15 minute session was to turn a few gentle laps just to bed the new pads, gearbox, rear tyres and refreshed engine in while keeping a close eye on the gauges and the new car in general. All while getting a feel for the Tigra, figuring out any problems and maybe setting a laptime. Hmm, what was all that again?

(Photo used courtesy of Keith Duke, thanks!)

Everything was going reasonably well until midway through the session when the red flags were brought out to retrieve Mark Fuller who’d stopped at the hairpin. A quick dash into pitlane for all cars followed before Ross and the rest of the field retook the track for the remainder of the session. Unfortunatly all that remained of the session for #26 was an outlap and a trip through the gravel at Paddock as Ross perhaps decided it was ‘hotlap time’ a little too early in the new cars life. The turn into Paddock was okay, the apex was okay, and then things were less okay as the front end really wasn’t interested anymore. Running out of track Ross jumped at the throttle to ‘steer things with the rear’ a little which was the trick through Paddock in the 206 if you found yourself running out of black stuff on the exit. Turns out the Tigra was a bit overgeared through Paddock for that though which Ross found out with a resigned sigh as he powered himself into the gravel, luckily keeping enough momentum and steering to avoid getting beached or hitting the barrier before coming to a stop on the narrow strip of grass just off the racing line as you brake for Druids hairpin. Without wishing to moan we’ll just say Ross wasn’t too impressed about having to get out of the car with cars whizzing past him about a foot away.

Whoops! (Photo used courtesy of Keith Duke, thanks!)

With the session over the Tigra was dragged back to the pits, ironically being towed past our old 206 which ended up in the barriers on the exit of Druids after the end of the session. Enough damage was caused to rule the car out for the rest of the day. As it’s still in our colours it did make the viewing slightly easier though!

“Whoops. Gravel trap – 1. Super lightweight bumper – 0”

Back in the pits and everyone set to work shovelling gravel out of the Tigra while Brian did a rather convincing job of recreating the missing part of the front bumper. It’s always worthwhile carrying a spare sheet of aluminium in the van for such occasions.

Good fix! Even down to the orange tank tape lining

With the repair work finished it was time for race 1. We didn’t realise it at the time but we came pretty close to missing the start with Ross being waved straight through the assembley area and onto the grid. Ray Harris suffered a problem on the formation lap which meant the other drivers had a few laps behind the safety car until the track was clear and the 2014 season was underway!

And they’re off! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Ross made a few places in the early laps passing the famous Mr.Cheese and newcomer to the series Paul Adams who is racing the ex-Ian Butler Mercedes SLK. A further place being inherited when Simon Smith had to retire with a broken halfshaft. It looked like that was going to be as high up the order as the new Tigra was going to get in this one however with a few things needing some attention before all of its undoubted speed could be unlocked.

Racing Paul Adams and Philip Young in the early laps. (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

(Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

First up on the list were the brakes which need a little more tuning before they can inspire some confidence. Another big problem being the very heavy steering which was causing Ross’ laptimes to slow by over a second a lap as the race reached midpoint. It was also stopping Ross being able to change down into the gear he wanted at a couple points on the track as it just wasn’t possible to hold the steering with one hand through the sweeping last right hand corners for instance whilst changing down. This in turn was causing some midcorner understeer by being in too high a gear.

(Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

These are of course the sorts of problems you’re bound to have with a new car and in truth we were suprised and pleased to still be running in the 51’s, (around a second off our normal laptimes in the 206) while carrying all these problems. It’ll certainly be a fast car when it’s been sorted! Still, back to the race and it seemed Ricky Hunn was also having some trouble keeping the pace up as the race went on so Ross made the effort to get the laptimes back to somewhere nearer where they’d been in the first few laps to take another place and finish in 8th position. Thumbs up for no silly reliability issues then!

It was full on debrief time back in the pits as the team figured out what to change for race 2…the answer being most things!

Everyone knows you need to make yourself look like a burk when describing a cars handling. Ross certainly managing that here

We took to the track for race 2 with real optimism at having made some good progress but unfortunatly we never got chance to find out. Off the start one of our more recent National Hot Rod converts decided to play Pinball on the way up to Paddock which resulted in an innocent Keith White being whacked over towards the pit exit before coming back across to the outside and collecting Ross. The pair ended up in the gravel, Keith nosed into the wall and Ross half on the track, half in the gravel. Paul Adams joined the party briefly but the marshals managed to push him out so he could continue.

The safety car came out to allow our Tigra to be pulled out of the gravel and out of harms way. A quick inspection revealed broken suspension, a bent steering arm and some broken panels as well as several buckets full of gravel (again!) At least the gravel pretty much avoided getting too stuck in the cam belt and making for a very expensive problem! You can watch our very brief outing in race 2 on Youtube by clicking here (sorry for the poor camera placement, we’ll sort them out for next time)

Photo from www.snappyracers.com

Photo from www.snappyracers.com

So that’s the first meeting done and dusted. It’s obviously very disappointing to be wiped out of a race before the first corner for no good reason but there’s still a lot of positives to come out of the meeting. We now have a list of improvements and alterations to make before Rockingham which should result in a much more sorted car….and when it is sorted….it’ll be fast!

Oh, and finally, what was the most remarked upon part of the new car? The body? No. Suspension? No. Not even our different shade of orange (although that was a close second) It was in fact our dashboard. We clearly should have made 20 of the things, pretty sure we could have sold the lot of them! See you next time!

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