After all the waiting over the winter, the season commenced at the end of March with 2 rounds of Locost racing on the Silverstone National Circuit. We left our sunny little Island with high expectations but it would turn out to be a long weekend attemtping to salvage some championship points. Here’s the lowdown on the weekend events…..
Firstly, another trip to Tom Airey in Southampton to see what the new car was putting out and hopefully eek a few more horses from the engine. We arrived nice and early as usual and soon had the car on the rollers. Mixture looked good, spark plugs looked nice, car was certainly making a fair bit of power nice and low down, but peak power was staggeringly low at just 78bhp – the old car had 91! This would prove a challenge for Tom. After a few more runs and tweeks we managed to find another 4bhp, but where had the other 8 disappeared to since this engine had been to Dave alker and made 90?
A quick drive up to Silverstone and we settled in for the night in Garage 1A which we would be using for the test day and also the 2 races on Saturday. We jined by fellow racers Sam and Richard Bradley who were also testing Friday and were our team mates in the Birkett 6 Hour – the last event we had run in the old car #74.
The next morning and an early start prepping for our four 30 minute test sessions. Immediately it became apparent that power was down at the top end, the car feeling flat at the top and struggling to keep up with Sam. Times were reasonable at 1m16, but Sam had already pipped the 1m13 barrier in the first session and I expected to be up there with him. Drive out of the corners seemed good, but from the pit wall the car sounded flat in 4th near the top end. Time to start lookng at what could be wrong.
We started to replace the parts we had popped on the car over the winter when prepping it such as the new fuel pump, leads, plugs etc and even checked the timing. The fuelling looked spot on given the nice biscuit colour of the plugs so what could it be? Second session and the same – times in the 1m15’s but no improvement. Able to take Copse flat without even a lift so definitely missing some top speed as that shouldnt be possible without going 4 wheels off on the exit. Chatting to Richard who I had been following round the GP circuit 3 weeks before, revealed that whilst I thought I was doing well keeping up with him, he had been lifting on all the straights as they had been running their engine in. Looks like the problem had been present then as well, as I had been pushing hard to keep up. Before the second session comes to an end we pop Sam in the car and he comes back in after a couple of laps agreeing its got nothing at the top and saying its like its driving without getting full throttle. We check that, but throttle is fine.
Meanwhile Sam and Rich are having problems with their own engine and a lack of oil pressure meaning they think its done for. Having the spare engine with us, I lend it to Rich and Sam and with some help they get it installed in their car. We go over the fuelling again on ours and retard the timing a little to see if that helps at all. Third session and no change. Still struggling to get a decent time and starting to scratch our heads. Scott is here who owned and raced the car last year so have a chat with him and he goes out in the last session for about 9 laps towing beind their second locost they are running as an arrive and drive. Best lap 1.15.26, 3/100ths off what I was doing the previous session. Clearly not driver error then on my part. Scott suggests checking the fuel pressure as the only part different to when Scott was racing it last year is a new fuel filter we fitted the week before.
Check the fuel pressure and its down at 1.8psi, about half what it should be. Hopefully problem located but session is now over and its the end of the day. We pop a newplastic fuel filter on and crank the pressure up to just under 4 psi – hopefully qualifying in the morning will bring a smile and our missing horsepower back.
Next morning sees us lining up in assembly for our 15 minute qualifying session. Right near the front of the queue, I get out behind Sam and Stuart with Max behind me. Immediately on the first straight it becomes apparent that power is still an issue, as Max flies past and then waits for me to catch up. I am not happy at all and end the session qualifying a disappointing 21st for race 1 and 20th for race 2. Sam on my spare engine has had a cracking session, qualifying 3rd and 2nd.
!st race and a great start taking i think, 7 places on the first lap. Having to change my usual style as towing on the straights to overtake is just not working, so make use of the excellend handling to squeeze past under braking in the corners and get good drive out. See Sam by the barrier on lap2 just after copse on the run down to Maggotts. Doesnt look good. Soon find myself dropping back, and with no one behind, ease off by 5 seconds a lap – no pint ragging the engine as something clearly isnt right and there is a scond race to try to get a few points in. Get back to the pits and Sam appears with a frown and a large hole in the side of my spare engine where no4 rod has had a bolt let go – thats racing!
Back out for Race 2, having borrowed back by 2nd carb from the engine I lent Richa and Sam. Good start and for the first 2 laps car seems a little more crisp in 4th near the top, but aided by being in traffic and getting good tows. Find myself racing with Dave Berry, Vicki Pickles, Jason Gibbons and Lewis Dallas. Great close clean racing and come across the last lap board challenging for 10th, again overtaking in the corners and struggling on the straights. Just cant maintain position and finish 14th, but at least a few points I suppose.
Start planning what to do next – engine to go to Procomp and see whats going on. Trip arranged for April 17th, fingers crossed whatever it is it will be ready for Brands less than 2 weeks later – cant afford another set of poor results.