ECURIE SCALPEL NEWS - MARCH 2006

ECURIE SCALPEL DONINGTON TEST

With the new season about to start in earnest on Sunday the team thought a test day might be in order – we try to go testing at least every other year!! The Crossle was now back in its original configuration devoid of the slicks and wings and certainly need a shakedown and of course I had still to try the Chevron B28.

We arrived at Donington to find a damp but drying track. The only problem was that every time it dried, the rain started again which made it a bit frustrating. Anyway, off we went in the Crossle to see what the effect of much money – the engine rebuild - had been on this car. The first thing to say is that the engine has been transformed by Geoff Richardson and it is now much more powerful, highly responsive and will rev easily to the limiter.

However beyond that we had lots of problems and the car felt like an accident waiting to happen. There was a huge vibration from the front at high speed which is almost certainly due to the wheels being out of balance. That will have to wait until Sunday when we will get them checked by John Pearson’s Dunlop team at the track. More worryingly though was the tendency of the car to dart about unpredictably – especially at high speed. This type of behaviour is most alarming because the driver begins to lose trust in the car.

Immediately it seemed to me that this would require the help of Simon Hadfield but in the meantime I thought we should soften the front dampers. I proposed three clicks but by the end of the day we ended up putting the adjustment at full soft – with three clicks softer at the back. After my adjustment the car was much improved and far more predictable – albeit still not as I would like. Simon then jumped in after lunch and made some more adjustments including a re-positioning of the gear lever.

One small feature both Simon and I noticed – all four tyres are a slightly different profile! The two offside tyres are slightly convex with the nearside tyres slightly concave. Nobody knows why but we plan to ask the Dunlop folk on Sunday.

After lunch the weather was clearer and the big white Hadfield monster truck arrived and spat out a McLaren M19A, Brabham BT36 F2 car, Chevron B8 and my own Chevron B28. Simon assured me that I would enjoy driving the car and that apart from heavy steering it was forgiving. Hopping in, the first thing I noticed is that compared to the Surtees there is a huge amount of space. Indeed too much for me as I do not have enough lateral support and for the first time ever in a car I was able to say that the pedals were too far away!!

Off we went for the first time and immediately I could see what Simon ment. This is a car that is very easy to drive slowly and there is no sense that the car plans any surprises. There is a little high speed understeer but nothing vicious. The engine runs easily up to 7000rpm and the brakes work fine. The mirrors are however useless and lean backwards at speed giving a nice view of the oil coolers!

The second run was interrupted by rain again but before that I had come down a gear in most corners and begun to increase speed. I am now back to trying to convince myself that the car will stick and go round the corner – that confidence just comes with being comfortable in the car and seat time. For me I can immediately see that there is so much lap time to come with the car. For example after ten laps I was running 8 seconds a lap slower than Simon would do in his B37. He is flat in top down Craner Curves and I was lifting in fourth!! That’s got to be two seconds alone so I am confident we will get below 1m 10secs before long!

The car has been entered in the Brands Hatch SuperPrix meeting. I have never actually driven at Brands Hatch and the chance to run on the full Grand Prix circuit is too tempting to miss. Before that the Surtees TS8 returns from the winter break armed with new half shafts to defend the honour of the early F5000 cars. Let’s hope the weather is kind.

 

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