SILVERSTONE, 15 OCTOBER 2005

AUTUMN HORRORS END AN EVENTFUL YEAR

Early autumn it may have been but the dull weather of the early week soon brightened up to reveal a warm, dry and sunny day for the final event of the HSCC calendar. Run over the National Circuit – which I have to admit is slightly “Mickey Mouse” – a full programme of all the usual races were scheduled to bring down the curtain on the 2005 season. For your intrepid heroes two events were entered based on what cars were healthy and which events were on the slate. So the Elva was up again for the Classic Sports Car race and the Crossle out in the Derek Bell Trophy race – the Surtees still out of action with rear hub problems after Oulton Park.

The Elva was up first and faced the ex- Chris Amon Mk8 Elva owned by David Clark, built by Simon Hadfield and driven on this occasion by Richard Oldchurch. This car is a generation (Mark?) ahead of the 7S being wider and stiffer and in Simon’s hands is three seconds a lap faster around Donington Park. Basically the trusty 7S has no business staying with the 8 – certainly when driven by Simon. – so I was happy enough to find myself sharing the front row with Richard just 0.4 seconds shy of his pole time. I drove the practice session with headlights on in the vain hope that the slower drivers might see me coming and get out of the way. Now I wonder if that was a good idea – first it didn’t really work and second I wonder if it drained the battery more than usual. The traffic was pretty bad and rather worse than usual but I was nonetheless quietly confident that I might at least be able to keep Richard honest during the race.

Lets be honest – the Derek Bell Trophy race was a disappointment from start to finish. Well to be more accurate the Crossle was the disappointment rather than the race! We started the day with a high speed misfire and lack of power and that’s the way it stayed all day. The 1600cc Ford BDA really doesn’t come on stream until 6000 plus and I was losing everything at just over 8000. The car just had no guts at all and was painfully slow. It certainly game me the chance to test out the brakes and handling which I have to say don’t disappoint. I was soon able to take Copse flat in fourth and trust the slicks and wings to get me round safely. However this was no consolation to find my self on the other end of the grid – third from last!!

We could not easily identify anything wrong with the engine and the only suggestion coming from the Hadfield team was to ensure the battery was fully on stream in case we were losing voltage. So the car was plugged in until race time without much optimism.

The CSC race then turned out into a complete disaster! When the lights went out I made a reasonable start ahead of Richard Oldchurch but soon fluffed it badly – changing from second to fifth allowed third place man Jamie Boot in his 5 litre TVR slip through into the lead. All was not lost yet and I was confident of getting him back until we got to the sharp right hander at Becketts. This is a tight corner and there is really only room for one car so when Jamie slowed down MUCH more than I was expecting I had a choice – hit him up the rear or swerve left! I chose the latter and soon found myself spinning around on the grass. Now I was faced with another melee of cars spinning in several directions which stopped me getting going. Eventually I got on my way plum last and started to cut through the field. However then things started to go very badly! Suddenly I began to develop a misfire and within one lap the misfire was complete and the engine died on the back straight. Basically I think the battery was dead either drained by the strain of having the lights on or by the alternator finally giving up the ghost.

Of course now I had to wait to be towed back to the pits which meant that on arrival I found the runners for the Derek Bell event already circulating in advance of their rolling start. Leaping into the Crossle I exited onto the pit lane and was held by the marshal in readiness for a pit lane start. Off I went and circulated in splendid loneliness with the misfire and lack or power as bad as before. My fastest lap time in the race was identical to qualifying suggesting to me that I was on maximum attack but just too darn slow.

So the season ended rather lamely for our team although good fun was had and everyone was safe. It was a year of great change with several new cars arriving and I suppose it is not too surprising to have such problems. It looks like being a winter of engine issues with the spare BMW engine being re-built by Lester Owen, the Formula Ford Elden engine to be sorted out and now the Crossle to be examined. As ace preparer/driver Martin Stretton said to me yesterday, the best way to save money on an engine is to spend some! I think the engine need to go to Geoff Richardson for a strip and look for safety – these engines are worth £25K – and I also think we should ask the question about carbs versus injection. Personally I think twin Webers sounds like a more sensible option to me bearing in mind all the hassle with injection. Let’s wait and see what the experts say.

I am hopeful that 2006 will bring more reliability than this year. I also want to concentrate on learning slicks and wings with the Crossle and Surtees. The Goodwood Revival should see the Huffaker securing an entry and hopefully we shall finally finish the race. Should we do Monaco or Pau?? I think budgets will probably say no if the engines are to be sorted once and for all!!

 

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