April 4, 2004

Picked up trailer

I picked up my Minno trailer from Brian James trailers in Northamptonshire early on Saturday morning. Unfortunately when I arrived they were still finishing it off, but after 45 mins or so it was ready - it was a bit embarassing when my tow bar wiring failed to light up anything! I drove it to Guy's (7heavensoon) and we soon found a non-connecting earth which once sorted, fixed everything. Towing the trailer back to Caterham was simple and got close to 'not knowing it was there'.

Put the car on it, and I have to admit that it is a very high quality, user friendly bit of kit. It was a bit disappointing to find that the spare wheel bolts hadn't been tightened and one of the tyres not inflated but perhaps I had put them under pressure by waiting for it to be finished.

Towing was a different story when I had the car on the trailer. It was very definitely 'there' and inclines were a real experience! Anyway, the car and trailer is safely at my Mum's house now, waiting to be picked up on Tuesday morning for the Silverstone test day.

Posted by charles at 10:52 PM

April 7, 2004

Silverstone test day

It was a good day ? one dry session, two wet (scary and slippery!!!!), then a dry(ing) session which was great fun. Confidence was building and I really threw the car around the track ? even got good comments from the instructors! Final session was wet again and I wasn?t looking forwards to it but it was actually great!!

Had to wash the car after I got it back though :-(. Need to clean the trailer at the weekend as well, and have a whole list of jobs to do including fixing the tonneau on so it can?t blow off!

Posted by charles at 10:41 AM

April 11, 2004

Final (?) race prep

There were a number of small jobs I had outstanding and a couple of problems that had been picked up at 'scruitineering' at Silverstone. So I set about adjusting the headrest so it was right up against the seat

sealed the gaps around the edge of the boot floor with translucent silicon sealant

and made it so that the cycle computer can be removed (not legal for racing) and put more 3M Dual Lock on the tonneau so that there is no way (hopefully!) it can blow off in the wind.

Then things got serious and I put all the Academy stickers on the car

and finally the picture you've all been waiting for. The Nissan by twilight....

Posted by charles at 11:15 AM

April 26, 2004

Academy Event 1 - Sprint, Aintree

Let me start by saying that my personal aim was for a top 5 position.

That out the way, I drove up to Aintree on the Friday afternoon with the trip taking just over 5 hours. The trailer definitely seemed a more than worthwhile investment after that. A number of us were staying in the Aintree Travel Inn and it wasn't long before the car park was filled with people attaching numbers, timing struts and other bits and pieces!! I'd fitted the red frot ARB that morning so my first time out with it was going to be on the circuit. Perhaps not the best way of going about it, but there you go.

The Aintree sprint course is 1847 metres long and has three corners. One left hander followed by two rights. You can see a map of the sprint course here. We got to the circuit shortly after 06:30 (!!!!) and signed on at 07:00. There was an Academy 'course walk' at around 08:00 which was very useful. The run offs at every corner are grass - which is good in one way, but also means that you go a long way if you do come off, generally ending up on the Grand National course. The first left (Country Corner) is a 90 degree left hander (3rd gear). Best to turn in late to lessen the chance of understeer on the exit and to gain straight line speed in the run up to Village, the second corner and first right hander. Village (3rd) is fairly long and has a very late turn in and appears to tighten slightly on the exit as you move towards the grass! Then it's accelerating up Valentine's Way, into 4th, and braking down to 3rd for the (again late) turn in to Beechers. As soon as you make the first turn, you need to get the power down as the corner is very long but opens - changing into 4th round the corner. Finally, there's the long run down to Railway Straight to see your time and finish line speed on the large display!!

I definitely have two 'modes' of driving (maybe everyone does). The second is my 'confident' mode. You can see this in my times.

So, first practice lap out. Managed to do what everyone says you will and not quite be ready after belting myself into the car and then realising that I'd left my gloves in my tow car!! Anyway, made it to the start line. Took the circuit pretty gently, crossing the line in 61.35 at 103 mph. Didn't seem too bad at the time but it put me in around 20th (out of 26th)! Second practice lap I got a bit more agressive, reducing my time by ~2.7 seconds to 58.62. At this point the fastest lap was 55.41. Some work to do.

So, first timed run. Trying to concentrate, the lines seemed alright but I still felt there was much more speed to come. Crossed the line with a time of 57.67, another 1 second improvement. 17th - not happy.

So, at this point I move into 'confident' mode (although I don't know it in advance!)

Second timed lap - really pleased with corners one and two, turn in far too early on 3 but still cross the line with a top speed of 103 mph in 55.69. Really pleased - much better! This puts me 9th.

Final timed lap - pleased with corner 1, turned in too early on corner 2 and had to back off on the exit, but corner 3 was fine, crossing the line with 104 mph but unfortunately 55.85. Surprised and disappointed that I didn't go faster on this lap. However, I hold onto my 9th place.

So, not bad, but 'could do better'. There was another 0.5s there for me easily.

Full results, lap by lap, can be seen here (PDF)

Congratulations to everyone, especially Paul Jepson (54.11), Adrian (Wag) Wagstaff (54.67) and Henry Fletcher (54.68) from Group 1 and Jeremy Ellis (53.84!!), Guy Harrington (54.17) and Keith Chanter (54.19) in Group 2.

Some pictures from the day.

Caterhams all around....

Jeremy Ellis about to start his final practice run....

My car....

See you (Group 1) at Harewood!!

Posted by charles at 3:19 PM | Comments (2)

Guy Harrington said:

Great report Charles, By the way sorry for blocking you from getting into your parking spot at aintree! you looked a bit mad at me!


Charles said:

No problem Guy - it was all pretty hectic!!!

Congratulations on your 2nd place!


April 29, 2004

Harewood Hillclimb School

Just got back from a very long and exhausting day at the Harewood Hillclimb School.

I can thoroughly recommend the Harewood Arms Hotel - very nice, and beer at ?1.32 a pint.....

Harewood is scary. If I had come here on an event and never driven it I would be shitting myself. The tarmac is barely wider than a single carriageway and it takes quite a few laps to start to get comfortable (well, it did me anyway). There's also a hell of a lot to learn and a lot of corners in a short space. You can see a map of the climb here. There were five Academy cars there, and apparently there are 24 booked on the next one (which is closer to the event) but that still leaves just under half the field never having seen the circuit before. It will be interesting to compare the times!!

I was pleased with the day, despite the wind and drizzle. There's still a lot of time for me to gain by improving lines, so let's hope I can put together a good lap on the day.

I had more problems with the rear locking up to day, so I need to fit those Mintex 1144s to the front as soon as possible to try and help the situation!

Posted by charles at 10:25 PM