Last minute race prep
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So here and there I've been doing some last minute jobs when possible. Most importantly was the OS front wheel bearing - honestly it's insane how some jobs to some people are a nightmare, yet other find that job dead easy but another seemingly simple job hell on earth. I had my long awaited easy turn with what can be a pain in the arse job. The hub nut - with the help of a breaker bar and tube of scaffolding - came off reasonably drama-less. The old hub came off intact with the brake disc, the screw holding the hub together I'd sprayed with copper grease so wasn't seized. All changed to a new one in around 20 mins! Satisfyingly, the old hub bearing could be used as a musical instrument such was the knackered-ness of the bearing. With that sorted, the car feels much more positive to drive. That, and I'd luckily guestimated to complete turns of my track rod end should dial out any toe in, and the fronts are now bang on straight 0 degrees. I have a lot of set up work to do, but for now this will do me fine as a safe base to work from. Cheers for the help to Tom for most of this.
The transponder was next - quite important. You aren't racing without it! I've cunningly routed through my new made loom through the old brake wear sensor routing into the cab through the fusebox loom gromet in the bulkhead. From there it goes to the stereo plug on the accessory socket for hot-on-live power, and I'll assume from the green LED that in the pic it's working with the ignition on.
My really bad camera mount (the camera case cable tied to the cage) did provide some results at Llandow - see the video here , but a more up to the job solution was required. These generic camera mounts from demon Tweeks seem well engineered, and should pass as a basic driving standards camera to get me through one meeting. Plus I'll need to see where i'm driving badly, specifically...
Here we have a lap timer temporarily fixed for the moment. I'll quite possibly be too busy to notice it but what race car would be complete without one...
And talking of completeness, here is my number (actually bought these from ebay as wheelie bin numbers...). 29 being the age at which I first provisionally entered the championship and reserved.... very creative of course. Also, a bit sad in various ways. Not least that it's taken me a few years since to actually get sorted! Also - managed to bag some free wheel-rim swapping and balancing, courtesy of some sticker sponsorship from http://www.autocentres-gwent.co.uk/cwmbran-garage - good service cheers guys!
So there's a few more bits needing doing (as always), my anti theft steering wheel detachable boss - also handy for getting in and out of the car - is rattling a bit at speed on less than smooth roads. To be honest that's down to usage and skimping on budget, but as it's too close to me anyway I think at the tracks I'll just uninstall and re-install it afterwards. Won't take too long. The ride heights will also be adjusted there using my notes from Llandow. Noticed I've ticked all my prep list plus some bonus features, but of course I'm not ready and never will be completely...
First race - Brands Hatch GP Circuit August
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At long last - and I did check how long ago I started this blog - I've booked my first race! The whole family is coming for a few days in sunny (hopefully) Kent with some family friendly fun bookending the race weekend. The Production BMW Championship is running under the Lotus festival so should be a good weekend out.
Brands Hatch GP includes the forest section and was formally run (most recently as the European round) of the Formula 1 championship, and is arguably the most prestigious racing circuit in the UK after Silverstone. I at least know the indy circuit having driven in my Fiesta(!).
So a bit of car prep is needed before then, I have a set of Toyo proxes in good condition ready to go. Turns out I have a slightly knackered wheel bearing too so that's on order. I'll be watching plenty of youtube track guides over the next few weeks....
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Wow, so this section is a bit empty! Finally (sort of) moving off the "car build" and on to more blogging matters. Actually this could be the final article about the car in it's own right, because instead of selling up (two people committed to buying... just a strange matter of no money exchanging hands...) which I nearly did, I finally got the car out on circuit to pop it's track cherry. In summary, all went well, so I guess the car is finished? Actually scratch that these cars are never finished! The shopping list is never empty.
Llandow circuit is near the South Wales coast and is pretty windy and wet on a good day! But the circuit is pretty challenging despite being short and deceptively simple. Nook bend in the wet certainly makes you ponder whether to brave it flat and the first chicane is a good test of your heel and toe technique. I skipped that test as I don't have one....
Weather promised to be utter toss, in the end apart from being very (very) windy and some sharp showers, the day was manageable. A dry line even started to appear around Nook - shame it didn't start earlier in the bend as I could never bear to take it flat all the way through.
Early on, did one sighter lap after rushing changing over the wheels in the rain (breaker bar and cordless impact wrench now sourced!) to the set with worn 888's I have, and dropping the front suspension down a couple of cms from what I have on the road. Straight away I can hear some scraping, so I come straight in. Can't see what the issue is, doesn't seem to be any obvious rubbing, so out for another 3 laps. Then, bang. Shit - what was that... steering "seemed" instantly wobbly, so I limp back to the paddock and inspect the car expecting broken wishbones or suspension hanging down, but instead I only find I've lowered it so much I can't get the jack under, and it's sodding raining cats and dogs! No garages at Llandow either.
Guy next to me in an X5 (cheers!) asks if I want to borrow a low trolley jack - which I didn't even know existed! I give the front a good look, then wonder why the mudflap is dragging on the ground... check other side, no mud flap. Hmmm. It's come off and gone under the rear wheel. So I take a front wheel off, and oh dear another issue. The coilover collar has gouged the wheel... so back up the suspension goes a couple of cms! I now know I need a couple of wheel spacers on the shopping list then - I remember seeing this advice but the problem is you get conflicting advice, and can never hold it all in.
This calamity caused me quite honestly to think ah well, I don't really know what I've been doing over 2.5 years, the thing was bound to break. That was a almost a fun few laps. But sod it, I've got a lift home as the other half came down with the kids to see. So I pushed on. I go out for a few more runs, and it turns out all is now well. Before lunch I'd sorted the tyre pressures up to 25psi cold (probably should have gone a bit higher as it was a freezing day), and the handling was muchmuch improved. After lunch I put in a few more runs, gaining more confidence with the car and really getting a feel for it. In hindsight starting on a slippy track was probably not such a bad thing.
In summary, I've found the inevitable teething issues and know what I need to do, but best of all the car is absolutely solid and the setup is a great foundation to work from. It's predictable and even a little bit fun when the tail happy characteristics get poked with a stick! Also, nothing broke, nothing fell off, and I built - I have pages and pages of proof!
Bit of vid from the early laps, with some slapstick humour for good measure.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88orotzwkyc
So for the next chapter then, I'll have to get a decent set of Toyo 888 proxes and go out for some dry running, with the necessary changes. From there, I'm hoping to sign up for a production BMW race this year.