At a crossroads…

29 05 2012

Since the start of this build I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to construct the car in such a way that I could easily convert it to a Mini Miglia, as firstly I’ve always fancied racing in Migs myself, and secondly if and when I came to sell it it would be easier to move on.

After the recent trips to Gurston Down Hillclimb and Castle Combe to see the Miglias race it became quite clear that I have more appetite for racing a Miglia than a Hillclimb car, and coupled with the fact I have to add all sorts of extra bits of bodywork to comply with the MSA Hillclimb rules, I’ve decided that a change of direction is going to take place. The car is now going to be built to Mini Miglia rules.

To be quite honest since I made the decision its been quite a relief. It was starting to feel like the whole build was a compromise as the car was originally built as a Miglia/Se7en, and I was having to chop and change bits that were already fine as they were to fit MSA rules. Now I can finish it with no compromise.

Theoretically, as well as competing in Miglias there is no reason why I couldn’t still do the odd Hillclimb event with a Miglia but I expect I would be moved up to the Sports Libre class. I can live with that.

For me personally the time is right to have a pop at circuit racing again. I raced Mini7 from 97-2001 but was always hampered by budget problems and having built my own car I struggled to get a decent set up. Back then I was stubbornly trying to do everything myself, but nowadays I know my limits and will be asking for help in a few areas such as suspension setup. I can do pretty much anything on the car myself but it makes sense to get an expert to set the ride height, shocks, camber, castor, corner weights etc rather than me spend all season working it out for myself…

Without a doubt Mini Miglia is by far the most prestigious Mini race series in the world. Some fantastic drivers have passed through the series over the years and the trip to Combe proved that it’s still in rude health. The calendar looks much better than in years gone by with the double header format meaning much less travelling costs. That said circuit racing is never cheap and there are plenty of hidden costs involved before you even turn a wheel. I notice now you have to buy in car cameras and transponders so that is different from when i raced se7ens last. I’m sure i’ll be detailing/moaning about these costs as the next few months unfold…

Check out the website to see what its all about… http://www.mini7.co.uk





Cashflow Issues…

21 05 2012

It’s been a bit quiet in the garage lately mainly due to me having to do some decorating in the house, but also the money from the sale of the Autograss mini has run out now, so I’m having to fund the build by selling parts and working on other peoples race cars. I try my best not to use my wages for racing too much if I can help it…

Of course the fastest minis in my class are using KAD or BMW 16 valve heads, but that’s not viable on my current budget so my plan is to build a decent 5 port engine to ‘learn my trade’ with and then add horsepower each year as I become more proficient and familiar with the hills.

I aquired a 1380 short engine with a half decent spec. I know the history of the engine and it was at the right price. It had steel rods, Cosworth pistons, a wedged and crossdrilled crank and an A+ block with all the right machining done to it such as centre main strap, 11 stud, drilled out to 5/16, oilways capped etc. Unfortunately when i got it home I found that the crank had a small bend in it and the bore was past it’s usable life. All was not lost though as after a chat with Darran Taylor at LCP Race Engines we had the crank sent off to Coventry where they got it straightened and reground. Luckily it was at STD/STD so it’s still got plenty of life left in it. I had a couple of spare blocks so Darran bored and honed a new one for me, and he’s going to balance the whole of the rotating assembly when we are ready. Until then I can go on and build the gearbox, fit the diff and get a few other engine bits ready.

We went to have a look at a Hillclimb at Gurston Down near Salisbury, but as with most things this year the rain ruined it. Shame really as there were some quick cars in all the classes. They really have a good setup at Gurston and if you get chance it’s a fun day out – as long as it doesn’t rain of course…

Gurston is where the quickest minis in my class reside and there were 6 or 7 entered. With 2011 champ Neal Masters having a year off Jim White was the class of the field in his 16valve BMW headed Clubman. There were several 16 valvers there including Paul Fidlers KAD version and Phil Eatons, but it was good to see that the 5 port Mini of Derek Mullis was right up there posting very quick times – gives us hope…

Phil Eaton’s Mini Hillclimber at Guston Down

The Mini Se7ens and Miglias came to my local circuit Castle Combe on May bank holiday so we went to have a look. I used to do Mini Se7en so always like to keep abreast of the championships, but I also wanted to have a look at some of the cars for ideas, as these guys really do lead the way in race prep. The Miglias in particular are like little touring cars with acres of carbon fibre and aircraft spec parts.

Ex Chris Lewis/Andy Hack Mini Miglia. Fantastic preparation to aspire to

Miglias are powered by 1293 5 port engines with a control STR930 cam which is pretty much the same as the old 649 but a lot more accurate. They generally use dog boxes, open diffs and 45 Webers so on the face of it they are quite restricted. However they have been developed by the best in the business and have been known to put out 140hp and do 0-60 in about 4.5 seconds! Born out of the days when they were sponsored by Rover the cars were required to look as much like a standard Mini as possible so still have headlights, indicators, windows etc as well as running subframes front and rear.

Fantastic to watch, we were lucky enough to have 2 races at Combe and both were crackers. Rain played a big part and really sorted the men from the boys. Some things never change and it was the legendary Peter Baldwin who was the class of the field again, especially in the second race where he overtook 2 cars in a place where it’s rarely tried. Add to this that he is 71 years old and it gives hope to us all. A bit like Last of the Summer Wine but racing a Mini Miglia instead of going down a steep hill in a bath on wheels. I know which one I’m going to do…

Business end of the legend that is Peter Baldwin’s Miglia