MALLORY PARK, 11 MARCH 2007

ANOTHER FINE MESS!

Mallory Park has never really been kind to me – or to be more accurate the cars of Ecurie Scalpel. In the past the Lotus 20 burnt a hole in a piston at the same meeting the Elva Mk7S broke a driveshaft. Last year at this meeting of course the Huffaker engine went bang while we tried to race through the snow.

As any follower of these new reports will know we have had nothing but trouble with the BMC engine since that now fateful day. At the recommendation of somebody who said he knew (!!!) we sent the engine to a so-called BMC expert near Manchester along with the spare that came with the car. The instructions were clear – strip both engines and make me a good race unit. Doesn’t sound too tricky you might think.

Several months later the engine returned only to pour water out when started and the whole process started again. This time the engine returned just in time for the Oulton Park Gold and the Goodwood Revival meetings. The engine was frankly hopelessly down on power and went a large way to ruining the performance of the car at both meetings.

Stern words were had I can assure you and both engines were returned without delay. The “builder” promised to make at least one good engine and this time planned to dyno the finished article. Who ever heard of not using a dyno I hear you asking and well you might! Two weeks ago the engine returned and was installed just in time for the season opener in Mallory Park.

For years now the 750 Motor Club have hosted the traditional season curtain raiser at Leicestershire’s finest. Mallory in March always seems like a bad idea on the day – last year it snowed a lot. This year it was dry and sunny albeit with a biting cold wind. The entry was huge with a full field of both front and rear engined juniors. The day started with a mild panic when the engine would not start!! The ever-calm Stuart Riley – helped yet again by Stuart Rolt – found some blocked jets and soon had the car running well. But would it be good enough?

Now Mallory Park is quite a simple track, which needs power as it is basically made up of two long straights connected by the infamous Gerard’s Bend – the longest corner of any British track. There is a fairly evil bend called the Esses at the other end where there is also a tight hairpin. Almost immediately after practice started I was startled to see Crispian Besley and his Elva 100 come storming past down the straight. I was happily taking Gerards flat in top and not braking at all for the Esses but this was in vain – the engine is way down on power still! I did manage to break the 60-second barrier but found myself down in 12th place.

As for the race itself it was more of the same really. This time I managed to get down to 58 seconds best time but was just left standing on the two straights. There is really nothing more frustrating that this because the driver is pretty helpless. A quick check with the other BMC powered drivers tells me that my engine is more than 20bhp down on the field. He certainly just walked away on the straights.

For the record, James Claridge put Geoff Richardson’s yellow Lola Mk5A on pole position but was beaten to the win by Steve Smith in his Cooper. Derek Walker was third in his Terrier.

While waiting for the race I was mulling over what I should do – use the car as it is for the year and go for a re-build at the end of the season or take immediate action? The race answered that question, as there seems little point in using the car in its current form. I cannot see any option but to take it out and try for a final fix. Neil Swift makes the fastest BMC engines out of his firm Swiftune and I have already called him!

He tells me that my dyno confirmed 88bhp is just not good enough and 110 bhp should be obtainable from this engine – at least. Certainly that is more like it and it sounds like the engine that went so well at Monaco. One thing is for sure – I feel a large bill coming on!! Watch this space.

Next big dates are the Masters Test Day at Donington on April 12th followed by the HSCC races on April 15th. It must get better eh?

 

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