Yeah, I know. No excuses. (OK, one excuse, I’ve been busy.) Sorry.
All the same, this post is an attempt to quickly summarise much of what’s been a reasonably successful year. It’s not going to win any journalistic prizes but there will be pictures and videos. What’s not to like?
The last thing I talked about was the race at Brands Hatch which took place back in April. So, there’s a lot to cover.
After Brands it was time for another trip north to Croft. Last year this had been a great meeting, we were made very welcome by the circuit and everything went really well. This year all that was the same but the shine was rather taken off for me by off-track shenanigans by some car builders and designers. To be honest, I seriously considered just jacking the whole thing in after a fractious meeting with one of the car designers.
This is the video of the first race of the weekend, before the off-track unpleasantness started.
The second race was rather poorer, I suspect because I was still considering just giving up racing, It ended, unfortunately, with David and I having a coming together which left us both off track and in the gravel at Clervaux corner.
That left a prodigious amount of gravel in the car and the front bodywork was pretty sick. But, that was going to force my hand. I could either fix the glass fibre front or actually do what I was supposed to be doing and make the carbon fibre version. That, though, was going to take a lot of time, not least because it was by far the largest carbon part I’d attempted to make. The photo here is the inside of the mould, just before starting the layup. There’s actually six parts to this mould and here they’re all bolted together.
Here it is after the layup has started. The white stuff is breather fabric as an attempt to insulate the upcoming vacuum bag from any sharp bits on the back of the mould. The problem with this is that later on resin tends to wick into the breather fabric and make a spectacularly rigid layer that is a real bugger to shift. Perhaps next time I’ll do something different. One other thing I did this time was to make what I hoped was going to be some little housings for front lights, so that they didn’t have to stick out so stupidly.
In this photo the part is completely laid up with one layer of 200gsm twill weave carbon, one 2mm layer of hex core material and one layer of 300gsm directional fabric. After this experience I actually think I could make this rather lighter as it comes out too strong. Not sure how to do that though.
And here’s the part with the vacuum bag fitted and sealed up. (That took some time!). Sitting on top of it (why not, I thought?) is the vacuum pump and catch pot that I’m about to use to infuse the resin.
Finally, here’s the part during the infusion process. We actually used two vacuum pumps as it was a fairly large part and you can see the edge of the resin as it’s creeping across the part. Here, in fact, it’s almost got to the edge of the part. In the background you can see Adrian adding a photo to his family album.
Once that was all done it could be left to go off for a while. As I’d used only the slow hardener I left it for a couple of days before setting about the demoulding process. Here it as we were starting this job. I’d removed the vac pumps and catch pots and there’s the start of the pile of instruments of destruction that were going to be needed on top of the part. Note how much the breather fabric has compressed and that you can actually now see through to where I’d written “FL” on the back of one of the parts to indicate that it was the front left flange of the mould. (There’s eight of these flange mouldings and they’re quite hard to tell apart!)
Some time later, after a considerable amount of swearing and sweating, here’s the carbon part sitting in our hall. The blocks for the light mounting are still in situ and as you can see there’s a lot of trimming to do. Initial impressions were how light part was and how stiff it was, it could easily be a lot lighter and less stiff. The biggest problem with demoulding was actually getting the bag and the breather fabric off. Once that was done actually getting the part out of the mould was trivially easy, a testament to the effectiveness of the chemical release agent that I had used on the moulds.
The next photo is the car complete with the CF front and before it was painted. I did wonder about leaving it as carbon, as I did the sides. However, the finish really isn’t good enough. Next time I make a large part I’m intending to use some gel coat to try and make the surface finish rather better. The problem is, I don’t really want to spray the gel, the best thing to do, as I’m using a spare bedroom as a composites workshop and getting epoxy resin on the walls and floor is probably not a good idea.
After all that it was time to go racing again at Anglesey, always one of the highlights of the year. To be absolutely honest, I can’t remember that much about the race at this distance. Here’s a gratuitous photo though. Just behind me is Matt who actually won the championship this year, winning every race for class F. I actually had a couple of good dices with Matt over the weekend.
As a summary of the results, I qualified 9th (7th in class) and 8th (6th) and finished 7th and 9th (8th). Here’s the video of the first race of the weekend:
And so the train moved on the Silverstone International. This is the “far end” of the GP circuit and run out of the “Wing”. That means that you get the paddock that’s worst for a club meeting along with a circuit with the infamous “link”. This is a part of the circuit where they’ve connected one part of the GP circuit across to Chapel Curve so as to make a smaller circuit. It’s clear that when they did this they allocated the tarmac duties to a collection of blokes that showed up one afternoon and who offered to tarmac the drive for a cheap rate. They made a spectacularly poor job of it leaving a collection of ludicrous bumps in road. At one point over this weekend the surface broke up enough for it to be necessary to stop racing for a while to repair the track.
They probably got the same blokes in to do it.
Admittedly I’ve managed to get some weight out of the car but all the work is slowly paying off. The problem is that the chaps at the front are doing times around 4 seconds quicker. I have no idea how this is possible…
The first race was a mixed affair weather wise and seemed to include all possible weather conditions during the race. You can see this in the video:
The second race was a rather more dry affair, culminating in a couple of quite decent laps and a nice battle with Paul and Colin:
In summary I was 9th (8th) and 7th on the grids. In the races I was 7th (6th) and 8th. Not too shabby.
After that we were off to Rockingham for a weekend I’d rather forget. To be honest I very nearly pulled out before the weekend because I hate the circuit. It was conceived as a place that was going to have American style oval racing which, surprise surprise, never worked out. Consequently an infield circuit was added that is, again, very poorly finished and which allows you to use just one of the banked turns. My problems with the place are that it’s just so soulless and bumpy and I think the banked circuit is plain dangerous for our cars. Ian had a suspension failure at Silverstone which put him into the barriers fairly smartly. The same thing at Rockingham on the oval would result in a huge impact with the wall, not something I want to think about.
All the same, I did go, but promised myself I won’t do so again. The weekend was a bit of a disaster with me spinning off in a race, screwing up various starts and getting so much mud into the car that I looked like a Dakar entrant. What’s more, we had several red flags almost all of which were due to total incompetence from people who should know better by now. As you can tell, I wasn’t happy… So much so that I never processed the video. I have got it, but it’s hidden…
Qualifying results were 10th and 8th leading to 19th (14th) and 11th (9th) in the two races.
So, the final RGB meeting of the year was at Donington. We were again scheduled for two races but after a half decent qualifying it rained like I haven’t seen for some time and the first race as cancelled. Not surprisingly really. The second race started out well but I started suffering from extreme brake fade while I was chasing Matt and had to drop back a bit. Luckily, I kept the chasing pack behind me.
No video, I’m afraid as the wet weather meant there was a lot of condensation inside the video housings. All the same, the results were; Qualifying: 9th and 20th, 8th (7th) in the one race of the weekend.
And so that’s it for another RGB season. I must admit that there were times, especially when other supposedly adult members of the paddock were behaving like spoilt children that felt like jacking it all in. I ended the season in 15th position in the championship, which was 8th in class. Not too shabby. All that’s left is the Birkett…
…to where we retired a couple of weeks later. For the first year for ages the weather forecast was good. This year we had a cut down team running as RGB’argy of me, Colin, Adrian and Doug in an attempt to keep the numbers of changes to a minimum and hence improve our overall scratch time. As usual, we didn’t have much hope of doing too well on handicap as it’s always harder for the faster cars to hit their allocated lap times than the slower cars. Essentially we’re always passing them but they just drive their race.
The big problem we had is that the newly refreshed engine in Adrian’s car dies in qualifying. In an effort to keep going I offered Adrian the chance to double-drive my car which we did. That meant that my car did half of the Birkett (4 hours of balls-out running) which is probably more than the rest of the season. Miraculously it didn’t miss a beat although I’m in the process of taking it to bits now. The best bit about the Birkett is really that it’s a team event and pretty much everybody is in the photo here, drivers, team manager, pit wall people, car fettlers and so on.
We managed to keep a decent pace up for the entire six hours and ended the race in third position on the road. This is amazing considering the cars we were up against, the chaps in front of us had wings and slicks to help them along whereas we were on the usual RGB road tyres.
This time there is some video. This is my entire first session in the car:
and this is the second session that I drove:
So, we ended up getting interviewed in the podium enclosure. For some reason in the photo above I look ridiculously laconic while Doug appears to be losing his religion in his car…