The Donington I have forgotten about


Masters Series, April 19-20


OK I have to admit to being a little slow to say the least about writing up this report about the recent Masters Series event at Donington – Le Grande Passione.  You see I have been trying to forget about the entire weekend even though I know I will fail.


So lets get this over and done with then and describe the events over a weekend of pretty miserably cold and windy weather that then added rain into the melting pot on the Sunday.  Ecurie Scalpel had two cars out and both were run by Frank Lyons and the team for the first time. 


First up was the Surtees TS9B making its return to the track after the engine failure at The Silverstone Classic in July.  This was a big deal and ultimately required a new block as well as all the other moving bits.  The excellent Terry had pronounced the engine peachy after its dyno run which was something.  Here comes the alibi bit – I hadn’t driven the car since the same Donington meeting last year, and the main reason for running the car was as a final test before Monaco.


Also out was the Toj SS02, which we were racing for the first time since it arrived last year.  It was taking part in the new for 2008 Proto ‘70’s series although the grid on this first event was compact to say the least.  The car was pretty much as last driven apart from fettled brakes and new rubber.  The idea was to see what the car is like and take it from there.


So off we went with the Surtees and straight away I could tell a few things.  The engine was good, strong and very drivable.  The car handled well – since I had driven it they had found a broken shock absorber.  Oh, and I could not fit in properly – my hand could not manage the gear change for a start and within a couple of laps I was struggling with cramp in my left arm.


Last year I was running mid 1.11 laps and this year it was mid 15’s albeit in colder and slower conditions.  VERY depressing. 


So then came the Toj – brand new tyres of course.  A few sighting laps went fine – a fine brake vibration on heavy braking notwithstanding.  Then suddenly the car coughed, then again and then died.  After being towed back a dead battery was diagnosed.  Very annoying and last on the grid – first time ever for me that one!!


F1 race one just carried on as before.  I simply could not get my head or body round the car and although I did not crash – quite a few did – it was probably because I was not going fast enough.  Only after the race did I realise one of the problems.


The beautifully moulded seat with my name on it was of course made for Derek Bell who as Jackie Stewart once said is “a man of average height”.  We immediately removed it and suddenly began to see a way forward for the second day’s race.


Lets get the T0j finally sorted for this report – four laps in the car did exactly the same in the race.  It died at the Old Hairpin and this time the NEW battery was dead.  Very odd indeed and it needs further investigation.  However, I want to drive it again soon!!


Sunday – now we had rain as well as cold.  Not proper rain but enough to cause cars to slither off here there and everywhere at regular intervals.  So on went the wets.  Simon pumped the rears up to 20psi and when he turned around there was a huge explosion!


Basically the wheel had exploded – yes the wheel it self had come apart at the centre.  It turned out this was an original DiMag and the outside part came flying out towards the wall of the garage which now has a big gouge.  A nasty incident indeed and the original wheels are now consigned to history!


So on went Judy Lyons wheels – thanks Judy – and I elected to drive to gain some seat time for Monaco.  All well and good except that there was a huge wheel vibration at 6000 and above.  So that pretty much capped off the whole weekend – even though I finished second in class.  It was ALL very frustrating and included mechanical, driver and weather problems the whole time.


Monaco WILL be better!!


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