Adventures in Wales

6 11 2015

Sorry about the big gap in blogs. Brands Hatch was ages ago, and lots has happened since then.

Funds were low all summer and for one reason or another the dates for the miglia championship rounds weren’t working out so I jumped at the chance to race at Pembrey in their 25th Anniversary race. The entry was just £100 and it’s within 100 miles from home so it was a bit of a no brainer.

I had not raced at Pembrey since about 1999 so I did a bit of revision via old YouTube miglia in-car footage of some old races just to reaclimatise to the corners. I usually draw a picture of the circuit and mark the gearchanges, turn in points, apexes and exits, and if possible the braking points. It’s not better than real experience but it can give you a head start. Of course you have to hope the video footage is from a decent driver – if possible I look at the Peter Baldwin or Endaf Owens videos. Peter is very smooth and doesn’t look that quick – but he really is!  Endaf’s style is very different. He still looks very smooth, and as a typical ex-karter he makes a lot of time up under braking. Endaf’s entry to Paddock Hill bend at Brands has to be seen to be believed!  There are some other real quick miglia racers but they often put the camera somewhere you can’t see their gear changes and braking action – very unsporting ha ha!

So we got to the circuit on the Friday. In the paddock we were parked by Dave Jenkins who was the truck driver for Guy Martin’s bicycle speed record he did on Pendine Sands. Dave was doing some demonstration runs in his race truck and he’s a real nice bloke. We even got him working on the miglia over the course of the weekend. We were also parked by Peter Hills who has a 16v twin cam mini that he races in the WSSCC races at Pembrey, so for the day we were a 2 mini team. Peter walked the circuit with me and gave me a few tips which came in dead handy.

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Qualifying was fun. There is a real variety of cars ranging from spaceframe national hot rods, Ginetta GT cars, Sierra Cosworths, Westfields, and a host of BMW’s, Clio’s, Fiesta’s and Minis. I built up speed slowly and qualified mid pack.

In between qualification and the race the Owens/Summerhayes crew did a quick cornerweight and tracking setup for me. Unfortunately we ran out of adjustment on the rear anti roll bar links so had to disconnect it for the race meaning any advantage from the changes would be negated by not having a roll bar!

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The races are rolling starts which can be a bit hairy with the first corner being a hairpin right hander, but it seems everyone gives a lot of respect as there have been some bad shunts there in the past. We all got through that ok but on the run to Brooklands right hander there was a coming together a couple of cars in front, and i had to take avoiding action – making me dead last. But the good news was I could now have a bit of fun catching up the rest of the field. I don’t know how many I passed, or remember what position I finished in but it was good enough for the marshals to vote me driver of the race which I was dead chuffed with! Throughout the race I’d struggled with wheelspin (probably knackered tyres) which probably made it more spectacular!

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For some reason I was getting a problem with it falling out of 3rd gear when coming off the throttle. I have an adjuster on the detent spring/ball bearing that I have fabricated. I wondered if tightening it up a little might stop it falling out of gear. I’d also made new rear anti roll bar links. We were at the Castle Combe Mini Action Day with the car on the Mini7 club stand, so that was the perfect opportunity to try it out on track. I got some laps in late in the day but unfortunately my adjustment hadn’t worked and it was still falling out of gear. Added to that I’d broken the little stub on the selector shaft. Oh well the gearbox was coming out anyway.

monday 103  monday 110

I quite fancied doing the Pembrey WSSCC final round in October so it was out with the Quaife dog box, and in with the Jack Knight dog box. So with the gearbox and the anti roll bar problems fixed I was confident I was going to be much quicker this time.

In fantastic sunny autumn weather, me, dad and my brother Sean set off on the Saturday morning. We met up with Darran Taylor of LCP Racing Engines on the way. All our racing was on the Sunday so after setting up camp we could go straight to the bar, have a pint, watch the racing, whilst keeping an eye on the rugby world cup on the telly. Perfecto. The big trucks were racing which are quite a spectacle, and also the Pickup Trucks which are always good to watch.

monday 172  monday 175

Qualifying was 9am Sunday morning so we were up early to get ready. Once out there I could feel that the car was handling much better, but I was still getting terrible wheel spin out of the slower corners. This continued all through the session so I didn’t qualify that well. I also had a water leak so I cut short the session anyway. Once back in the paddock it was clear that the front tyres were past their best – in fact they were completely shot. I had some other tyres that were much better so changed them for the race. The water leak was traced to one of the water pump bolts coming loose so that was tightened up.


A bit further down the order than I’d have liked we set off on the formation lap for the rolling start. You get just the one lap so we are all furiously weaving around to try and get some heat into the tyres. All this time I’m also trailing the brake pedal to warm up the carbon metallic pads which simply don’t work when cold. Even after all that it takes a couple of laps before you can really push but everyone else is in the same boat so the first lap is where you can make some real gains. The change of front tyres to slightly less crap ones changed the car completely. I was getting much more grip out of the slower corners and I set about moving through the field. Technically my car fits into class AS in the WSSCC championship so my aim was to beat all that group if possible. It all went to plan mainly helped by the better front tyres giving me almost 2 seconds a lap quicker times! It was great to be overtaking again – something that rarely happens for me with the miglias. One by one I picked off the other class AS cars as well as a few from higher classes too. I don’t think I would have caught Peter Hill’s 16v mini but he had an electrical issue and retired, meaning I was top AS car (if I’d entered for the championship that is…). Happy with that!

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The second race was going very well. I started much higher up as they use your first race finishing position as your starting position for the second race. I was alongside Sam Summerhayes who needed to finish first in his class to clinch the championship. I didn’t want to interfere with that but he made a break at the start anyway leaving me to battle with a flame spitting slick shod Megane turbo which was very quick on the straights but holding me up on the corners. Three quarters of the way through the race I could see the temperature creeping up and got a few flicks of water from the engine bay onto the windscreen. I monitored it for a while and the temp was still going up so I had to pull off. It was the water pump bolt coming loose again, thought to be caused by the new alternator mountings I’d made. Bugger. I’ll use Loctite next time.

So, looking towards next year I’ve got lots of new ideas so I’ll update soon with any progress.