The Lair.News Archive


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14 July 2004

The engine is all back in one piece and seems to be running just fine. A new alloy expansion tank fabricated to the Uno Turbo design rather than the X1/9 has been fitted and the cooling system replumbed to use it. What remains is to move the water pump or reroute a couple of pipes (much harder to acheive) to improve the efficiency of the system. I'm also creating a "plug-in" fan unit for the radiator to assist with evaluating when the cooling system is working, basically the idea is to go back a step and try to recreate the original plumbing of the Uno Turbo as that should be quite capable of handling the thermal loading the car currently generates - if we still can't get the cooling under control then something else must be at fault!

The results table has been updated slightly as I have received notification that Terry Di'Francesco's original entry at Mallory was wrongly classified instead of him choosing to swap classes for race 2 onward. Not much of an upset but it does given him as extra 12 points!

On the subject of points I'm still feeling a bit sore over losing my 2nd place in the championship overall. Even coming last at Brands would have left me just 2 points behind the current leader. The only saving grace is that the final score is the best 9 out of 10 so my "0" will be thrown away provided I finish at all of the other races this year (only 6 more to go now) unfortunately the same rule applies to everyone else too.

3 July 2004

Another frustrating day with no points scored and a blown engine but I really do think I know what the problem is now! - race report.

2 July 2004

Not sure what all the fuss was about, had the car ready by about 2pm yesterday and would have been much sooner except for traffic on the roads. The only difficult task was getting the radiator in place singlehanded when it seems to be slightly off centre compared with the original. All the same though it went in and does a magnificent job. Not all is roses though as we spotted a small coolant leak at about 8pm last night - just what I needed but this is a relatively easy job to fix.

Everything is now ready (apart from the leak) for the race on Saturday although it would perhaps be fair to say that I am not! I will be starting out from Stratford and need to be at Brands Hatch for 7:30am which means leaving at about 5am! Not too bad normally but I will have to be rather careful about my celebrations on Friday night...

ad.: In a small flash of inspiration I believe I have worked out why the cooling system seems to be lacking efficiency. When the water pump was plumbed in it used the delivery pipe from the thermostat as a pickup before pumping the water towards the radiator. Unfortunately, despite being very convenient and roughly in the right place it is also bypassing a large chunk of the cooling circuit so roughly half the engine is relying on convection through the metal and oil paths to provide any cooling at all. I doubt if I will be able to make any changes today but it will certainly need attention before the next race!

28 June 2004

Tight really doesn't come close to describing how the schedule will become in the next few days. The radiator has arrived at PTS and will be collected by myself tonight. The cylinder head is still at the workshop having a wayward manifold stud removed and refitted properly in the right place (sounds simple to me but it seems to be taking forever). The wiring is still incomplete while the correct size terminals are located for the new battery and there is a wealth of small fabricating jobs needed for the new oil cooler like ducting baffles and getting the new pipework assembled. To make things more interesting Terry is on holiday on Thursday so that just leaves 3 days in order to get all of the work finished!

On the upside at least I know there is more than a passing chance that I will make it for the weekend which is rather good news although it will mean a great deal of unexpected perparation work on Thursday and Friday when I am supposed to be getting utterly rat-arsed with the rest of my petrol-bloodied friends at PistonFest '04.

24 June 2004

It looks like things are going to get a little bit tight on the schedule for Brands. Unfortunately the date of the race has been confirmed as Saturday 3rd instead of the Sunday as we had all hoped. The race car is still in bits and the eta for the radiator has slipped. The fabricators estimate changed from 4 days to 10 days which completely ruined any plans I might have had but they will try and get it done sooner (much sooner I hope).

18 June 2004

Other than the radiator, everything needed for the car is on hand or already in place. The oil cooler has proven a little problematic - we measured the connections at 0.75" but when the old one was removed the connections turned out to be somewhat smaller so the new one will have to go back.

Further investigation of the wiring problem has shown that the wire that burned out shouldn't even have been connected to anything while the engine is running - the only time that circuit is made is when the engine is cut off (through the isolator) so the best guess for the actual failure is that the low power isolator switches had failed completely and were shorting out internally. Just as well that the isolator has already been replaced!

14 June 2004

A somewhat fruitful weekend! I now have a replacement cylinder head (with plenty of meat on it compared with the one just cleaned up) and two backup blocks. I had been worried that they would be just bare blocks but they are instead complete and ready to use (subject to checking the status of the bearings). A big relief but there is still a long way to go. I had hoped to collect an old radiator which was to become the template for a new alloy radiator but in the end I just ran out of time so I now have to consider alternative ways of getting the radiator where I want it!

I've also treated the car to a new oil cooler (about 120% larger) and a proper red-top battery so at least part of my upgrade schedule is now complete (provided the cooler fits and does its' job).

The Anglesey weekend has been given the go-ahead but there is no chance now of getting the car ready in time so I am left with just 3 weeks before the date at Brands Hatch (I still don't know if it will be a Saturday or a Sunday).

Part of this weekends work was to find out about head gaskets - or more importantly alternative head gaskets. It seems I have just two choices, Fiat's own design (which is actually remarkably good) or the Spesso racing (group N spec) design. I had hoped to go for seperate fire rings but no such luck. Something of a disappointment as I've also been warned that even the high quality gaskets are a little iffy at high boost, but then I received contradictory information saying that the original stock gasket will reliably hold past 1.6bar boost. The conversation twisted at that point to query how 1.6bar was being acheived and I now know where to find the hardware I need or at least where to look for it.

6 June 2004

The replacement electrical parts are at the workshop - a new master isolation switch plus a number of circuit breakers to replace the fuses (expensive little blighters but worth it if it means I can restart the car instead of abandoning the race). I've also been offered another cylinder head, except this one comes ready prepared instead of stock so I will be grabbing that as well.

I've also produced some lap charts for the last two races (the Mallory chart would have been too depressing although I might construct it if I get really bored) these can be seen at the bottom of each race report.

2 June 2004

After the continuous rolling disaster that was last weekend it seems I have been given some relatively good news. The head gasket is blown but that appears to be the extent of the heat damage. A spare cylinder head is winging it's way to me already (just in case) and replacement electrical components were ordered this morning. A bit more luck and I will have everything up and running again in a couple of weeks.

31 May 2004

The results of yesterdays racing are up with a report of my perspective of the day. Not all good news but a most enjoyable race - race report.

25 May 2004

The racecar has spent the last week in the workshop at PTS of Luton having the oem engine management system ditched in favour of a DTAFast P8Pro. The major part of this is the plan to raise the boost level to more useful levels (for racing) so that I can go that bit faster. Unfortunately some analysis on the rolling road has shown that while I may have been making good power last year it is all for naught this year as the car is way down on previous readings. The cause is fuel pressure, it holds fine at lower revs but near the top end (where the torque is really working for me) the pressure tails off with a huge loss of power as a result. The danger is that the suddenly lean mixture will do some serious damage so all effort is being made to resolve this problem before the boost is wound up as that would just make things worse otherwise.

So while I may have a new engine management system for this weekends race (assuming it is finished in time) there is a distinct possiblity that I still won't have any more power than before. I may get more boost but will likely have to start short-shifting to prevent the mixture going lean.

We have a few ideas on how to combat the problem (depending on what the cause is) but none of it will be viable before the weekend...such is motorsport!

15 May 2004

Another good race day - a bit more to plan than the last event but not without it's trials - race report.

13 May 2004

Should have known better than to tempt fate by saying the wheels were due - Parcelforce seem to have "lost" them in their system. They tried to deliver them on Tuesday while I was at work - so I arranged for them to be delivered to my work address, where they are now is anyones guess but they aren't *here*.

The car was collected from the workshop last night and is looking somewhat better than when I left it. The bodywork has been resprayed on the o/s door and rear wing, o/s rear wheel is now at the correct camber angle and the induction bay has been shielded from the heat of the turbo. The cyro system is partially installed but unfortunately won't be ready in time for the race (not that I have any gas in the bottle yet anyway...)

12 May 2004

All systems are go - the new wheels arrive today, the car is ready and waiting in the garage (or so I am told). Hotel room is booked for Friday and Saturday night. All that is left really is for me to turn up and drive.

There were some initial worries about a rather slim looking entry list but it seems Carol has been going around contacting all and sundry to drum up a few more entries and things are looking much healthier.

7 May 2004

Some more good news - this time for the towcar. It seems the engine problems are down to fault exhaust gas sensors which are tending to read lean at the moment resulting in the engine management unit over fuelling which then washes the sensors. The overall result is that the engine feels like it is bucking slightly and my fuel bill is noticibly higher than it should be. The sensors are a mere £200 to replace but there is a lot of labour needed as the manifolds have to be removed in order to make the swap. Needless to say that while the engine is running safely (if not smoothly) I will be postponing the work until *after* the race at Oulton and quite probably Silverstone as the ECU upgrade is scheduled for the time inbetween and I don't want to leave the racecar stranded in Luton...

On the racing front there appears to be some confusion over which variation of the Oulton Park circuit we will be using on the 15th. The original calendar showed us using the short Fosters circuit. The MST timings website has us down us using the longer Island circuit while the timetable released this week reckons we will be using the full International circuit. One of them has to be right.... The other bit of news is that our race has been rolled up with the production saloons race, presumably a slightly low number of entry forms is the culprit but it does mean we get a full 20 minutes on the circuit instead of the usual 10-15 we normally expect. I would like to think that the production saloons would be a little closer to my car's current performance but they proved to be very quick at Mallory so maybe I shouldn't be making such assumptions.

4 May 2004

The news from the workshop is that the suspension strut had indeed moved on it's mounting and that nothing is bent or twisted - a big relief but it does highlight the delicacy of the current suspension setup. Fortunately this is very easy to fix even in the field (if only I had known where to look before the last race).

Now I am feeling about as positive as I can get about the next race - it looks like everything will be in place and ready, at least as far as the race car goes. The problem now is that the towcar is playing up again, it took a month to get it fixed last time so I am more than a little worried about what will happen this time around!

Had a busy weekend with Brooklands Italian Car Day on Sunday and a trip to Castle Combe yesterday to watch the Special GT race. Brooklands was a lovely day and I got to meet up with a lot of friends and make new ones, Castle Combe however was frustratingly dull thanks to the weather and the fact I missed the race I wanted to watch. I did manage to eye-up the GT competition and check out a new seat thanks to Merlin Motorsports (again).

30 April 2004

Looking ahead a bit, I have booked my car in for the replacement of the engine management system. The work is scheduled to take place the week after the race at Oulton. This should allow me to run much higher boost safely at Silverstone - it would be nice to have it before Oulton but there will simply not be enough time to get this arranged with the current repair work. The target is to get the engine output to 200bhp which is only a modest increase over the current delivery the effect will be to get the power/weight ratio close to 300bhp/ton which is getting into the right ballpark.

26 April 2004

The car is back in the workshop awaiting investigation of the rear offside suspension (and a few other jobs). Things do look pretty hopeful and everything should be back together again and ready to roll within the next couple of weeks with just 3 weeks to go until Oulton Park it is still going to be feeling a bit tight towards the end!

22 April 2004

After a longish phonecall with Carol (our race organiser) last night I am feeling somewhat reassured that the EuroSaloons series will be upheld as a friendly series with any ideas of BTCC style bumpercar driving being stamped on quickly. It looks like Carol will be much of the driving force behind the promotion of the series and the centre of our communication web.

Compared with previous years where everything has been rather ad-hoc it is proving to be something of a pleasure to see someone taking control of the situation from a position of authority and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

20 April 2004

The news this week is that the first Silverstone race has indeed been cancelled. Initially we suspected this was the result of poor turn-out on entries (only 3 before the original deadline) but it seems it isn't just our race - the whole day's activities are in the bin. It seems that the day had been rather optimistically scheduled and there is a distinct shortage of marshalls at that time thanks to five other meetings around the country. A small saving grace for the series but still rather uninspiring.

The next target then is 15 May at Oulton Park and it all seems quite reasonable at the moment - the cause of the undesirable camber appears to be the lower strut mounting which carries slotted holes for just such adjustment (something I hadn't originally spotted). The expected worst case scenario is that the strut casing itself is bent in which case Oulton might be in danger but I will keep my fingers crossed and a large piece of wood on hand...

16 April 2004

I have to admit to a certain degree of discomfort with the direction that the EuroSaloons championship is heading. It may be too early to say for sure with just a single race completed but the "racing incident" between Peter Challis and Roger Donnan has not done anything to help the situation followed by the series sponsors (LeMansMotorsport) almost encouraging the behaviour on their website. Until they post a proper report instead of just the statistics I will hold fire on openly flaming them. What I have done though is to pen an open letter to the powers within the Euro Saloons series. I'm not asking for punishment to be delivered only that they pay attention to what has happened and think carefully about what is going to happen in the future.

Having just been through an accident at Mallory that should have been avoidable but was ultimately my own fault I can appreciate that these things happen but for someone to willingly create an accident is something else. For that accident to happen at Mallory where there is a question over driver safety (it has one of the worst records in the UK lying equal 1st in the list of drivers killed per year) is quite a serious situation - worse still that the incident happened very close to where one of our competitors was killed two years ago makes it doubly serious.

Roger has taken the whole thing very calmly (typical Roger) given that he came very close to having his car destroyed on its first outing and all credit to him for not losing his temper over the matter as has been seen in other high visibility championships (BTCC anyone?). I would very much like to hear Peter's side of the story too in case I am hounding at a situation that doesn't really exist - certainly he too appeared very calm at the presentation on Monday.

The letter in full

12 April 2004

A very late start did not hamper our efforts today with a class win as reward for all the hard effort.

The full story.

9 April 2004

A stroke of luck yesterday has changed my fortunes for the next race. Thanks to Martin of the SFC I managed to get my rear brake lines replaced at Merlin Motorsports at the Castle Combe circuit. It may have taken over an hour of travel in each direction and a mere hours work on the car but everything is now in good working order and the pedal feels firmer than it has ever done.

No news on my towcar but Martin has offered his services to get the trailer and race car moved around as needed this weekend. All of a sudden the whole race seems quite viable!

7 April 2004

Just over a year ago I set off for the first race of the 2003 season but ran into a number problems, one of the more worrying (prior to blowing up the engine) was that the rear brake lines were leaking. My mechanic swore afterwards that they were all sealed up tight and bled the day before but given the unfortunate turn of events that day it is hard to know what happened.

Today was the first outing of this year and once again I fell foul of the same problem and once again my mechanic swears the same thing - that they were fine the day before. The difference is this time it nearly cost me the car completely, at the turn into Gerards corner at Mallory Park the rear end just let go for no apparent reason - while I managed to stop the car flying off the track I didn't manage to avoid being hit by another car resulting in the decorative rearrangement of my off-side rear quarter.

Having limped the car back to the paddock the reason became apparent - the inside edge of both rear wheels was soaked in brake fluid - the souce being the brakeline union onto the calipers. Either the braided lines have burst at the union or the copper washers have failed, whichever it is the result is the same! The race now is to get replacement flexible lines in time for Monday's race and to get them fitted.

There is however another problem - the temporary towcar, that was so generously loaned to me (actually a worn out piece of barely road legal scrap) by the dealers that sold me the usual towcar, blew its engine on the way home leaving me stranded with no means of getting to the race on Monday....

6 April 2004

The suspension and tracking is all dialled in and the car is running just sweet for now. The new dump valve is working nicely and the replacement injector seals have solved the poor idle problem.

Unfortunately the weather forecast for tomorrow is rain but that does give me a chance to get to grips with the car in the wet (never driven it in such conditions) and I doubt if the weather will clear up for Monday so it is all good practice.

5 April 2004

Panic sets in - I got *a* tow car back today but to be honest it is such a wreck that I am fairly unsure if it would make it to the local shops let alone Mallory and back. I'm told the towcar will be back in one piece and ready again for tomorrow so maybe I can get it back!

The racecar is looking good with just the suspension settings left to adjust and that is booked in for 2pm tomorrow. Everything else is sorted and ready to go now (except I need to get a photo for my race licence).

4 April 2004

A new look? After seven years of the same theme and an increasingly congested website I have had a spring clean, ditched a load of old, unused junk. Not satisfied with that I've completely redecorated too!

For those looking for the mini car database or some of my old code samples - sorry but you'll have to contact me directly for those. They are no longer available from this site.

3 April 2004

With just over a week to go until the LeMans Motorsport Euro Saloons championship starts it's inaugural round things are looking tight to say the least. The plan is to take a testing session at Mallory Park before the race to perform a shakedown and to get all of the new modifications working properly. The testing is scheduled for the last possible available date on the Wednesday before the big day - that is next Wednesday!

All was going well and more or less to schedule until two weeks ago. First of all the towcar blew a timing chain and is now laid up in a workshop waiting for a replacement chain to arrive which was due on Thursday - and still we wait! Then came the discovery that the new suspension parts use 60mm I.D. springs instead of 2.25" which means the spring perches had to be machined to make things fit and better still the front springs are too short. The old wheels no longer fit over the new brakes, despite the fact that everything was dry fitted beforehand to make sure that they did and the real kicker is that the rod ends on the new front wishbones bind tight because they are at the extreme of their possible movement range. The spring problem was easily solved with a selection of new longer springs quickly ordered up and the perches sent off to the machine shop. The hubs have all been converted to studs and fitted with spacers to get the clearance needed. The wishbones though are a big problem, it all arises from the fact that the designer of the new parts failed to realise the implications of an angled ball-joint mount on the original parts. Some alterations have been made to the fabrication but it is a little bit late in the day to be making such discoveries....

The towcar is a real show stopper - I need to pick the racecar up on Tuesday at midday to take it over to the local tyre shop to get the new suspension re-aligned but it looks like I will need to be 30 miles away collecting the towcar (or a substitute) at the same time. At least I have a guarantee of some transport for Wednesday.

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