Castle Combe and Silverstone race reports

The main feature of the Castle Combe event was brake problems. The brakes
were completely unpredictable – sometimes the car would stand on its nose,
and on other occasions the pedal would go long. And Castle Combe is *not* a
circuit where you want to have a lack of confidence in the brakes (it’s very
fast, and there’s very little runoff)! In retrospect, this problem might
well be the reason why I ended up in the kitty litter at Brands in the
previous event 😦

The net result was that I qualified 8th and finished 5th. Not a bad result
(and I did at least finish!) but I inherited the positions I gained as a
result of people dropping out for various reasons and wasn’t able to drive
the car as I would have liked.

It turns out that I’m not the only person who’s been having these kinds of
problems with the new 6-pot front brakes. John Corbyn of Jedi has been
trying to diagnose the cause, and came up with a theory. The 6-pot callipers
need more brake fluid movement to work properly than the 2-pot callipers on
the rear. This meant that the front and rear brakes were acting in very
different ways (the rears were engaging before the fronts even started

So before Silverstone, I fitted a larger bore master cylinder for the front
brakes. It was a bit of a “punt” as we wouldn’t have time to test them
before qualifying, but worth a go.

I’d been looking forward to the Silverstone event ever since I heard about
it. It’s extremely rare for club racers to get a chance to race on the full
GP circuit (exactly the same circuit as is used for the British GP).

Qualifying was always going to be interesting, given that I would be
learning the circuit and testing the brakes at the same time! As it happened
though, it was much more difficult than I expected. Firstly, the traffic was
awful – we were sharing the grid with much slower Mono1600 and Mono1800
cars, and it wasn’t at all unusual to come across three cars across the
track, all trying to overtake each other, and find nowhere to go. And then
with just a few laps gone, I spotted clouds of smoke pouring out of my car
in my mirrors, so pulled into the pits 😦

It turned out that the oil filler cap had vibrated loose, spraying oil all
over the rear of the car and the exhaust (hence the smoke!). Luckily I’d
spotted the problem before the engine spat all of its oil out, so no
permanent damage done (although there was *lots* of mess to clear up!).

I’d managed to get one half-decent lap in before pulling into the pits, so
ended up 9th on the grid (not as bad as it might have been!).

We were scheduled to be the 2nd to last race of the day. The race was
supposed to have been 15 minutes (which is only 8 laps because the circuit
is so long!), but as the day went on it became increasingly clear that we
were running out of time. Sure enough, while we were sitting in the holding
area, we were told that the race had been reduced to 10 minutes 😦

In the race, I got my trademark terrible start (I just can’t train myself to
be as brutal with the clutch as you need to be with flatslides), but quickly
started making up places. At the end of the first lap, I was lying 5th, a
few seconds behind the lead group of 4 cars. Over the next couple of laps, I
gradually gained on them, but then all of a sudden the chequered flag was
waving. Three laps and the race was over 😦 There were some very unhappy
people after the race – it’s a lot of money and time for 3 laps!

On the plus side, the brakes were much better (still not perfect – they’re
suffering from pad knock back, the pedal goes long if I run over the kerbs)
and the handling was much better than last year – I was able to “play” with
the attitude of the car with much more confidence in how it would behave.

And then when I got the results sheet, I had a very nice surprise. I’d set
the fastest lap of the race, and as it was the first time that Mono had run
at the GP circuit, that meant that I was the lap record holder 🙂 Which is
a nice consolation!

The next race is a Formula Jedi race at Pembrey on the 14th and 15th of May.

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