2007 Preparation

Its been a while since I gave an update on what has been going on since the season finished back in October. After a very successful season with the Radical and its little 1100cc engine, which was the smallest on the grid, I am aiming to go back next year but with the same car but with bit more of a sting in the tail.

The plan

At the end of the season we were running the Kawasaki 1100cc engine in the Radical which gives around 150-160bhp and 70ft/lbs of torque. With this modest setup I was able to get the car to lap Castle Combe in 1:09’s. A lot of this time was gained with setup of the chassis/suspension over the season.. So with that in mind for the 2007 I am going to leave the chassis setup as is and turn my attention to the power-plant. The main thing I need is a engine that is going to be reliable, this means that I am not looking to run stupid power that will require frequent rebuilds and cause lots of stress on the engine. As I’m concentrating on the Castle Combe GT’s again next season I am going to tailor the car to suit this championship.

And so it starts

This is where the fun beings, the plan is to replace the Kawasaki engine with a Suzuki GSX1300R(Hayabusa) engine. Of course in an ideal world I would be able to slot a new engine in and off we go. Alas it isn’t as simple as that, in fact the easy part is slotting the engine into the chassis as the mounts can be bought from Radical to do this. So half the job done then? Well not quite.

First of all I need to purchase a engine, after watching the classifieds it seemed that good stock engines were changing hands for around £2000 and upto £2500 with ECU, wiring loom and throttle bodies attached. As usual ebay came to the rescue and I located a complete bike for £3000 which I purchased and proceeded to strip down to its component parts. With the help of ebay I managed to sell on 95% of all the parts on the bike and in doing so generated a shade under £2000. This meant I had a engine, throttle bodies and wiring loom that owed me £1000.

So I am off to a good start here……the next thing to do is decide what specification engine I need. To decide this I looked at the performance of the car over the season to see where it was strong and where it could be improved. The biggest problem I had last season was punch out of the corners. In a number of races I was were able to match larger capacity cars through the corners but lost out on initial acceleration out of them. So first thing on the list is to improve the torque of the engine to provide enough thrust to push the car out of the corner and down the straight. Of course with more torque you get more horse power which is needed for top speed. The old engine ran carburetors, which did performed very well but fuel injection has come a long way in the last 10 years and this was something I wanted to employ on the new engine. The Suzuki GSX1300R comes with fuel injection as standard so the plan is to use the oem injection system on the new engine. Along with the oem fuel injection I are going to stick with the oem coil-on-plug ignition system. I have the option of running the oem Hayabusa ecu on the engine and retro fit a power commander, which is basically a piggy back ecu which allows alterations to the fuel and ignition map. I looked at doing this but decided to run a proper dedicated ECU to control the engine, I turned to the company that I used on the Elise for this called Emerald. Emerald’s support is second to none, they are always happy to answer any silly questions I might have and are always on the end of the phone/email. I contacted them and explained what we are doing, they made some useful suggestions with regard to running the engine. I had already purchased a ECU second hand but this had to be returned to Emerald to be upgraded to support the Hayabusa ignition system, this was done FOC which is a testament to their customer service.

So to recap I have a engine from a motorcycle with the stock injection and ignition system fitted. To drive the engine we have the Emerald ecu. Next step is wiring. I had a design of the wiring loom that included the ecu plugs, all the sensors required and the dash board layout. I thought finding a company to make the loom would be a simple task. How wrong, the initial companies I contacted considered the project to complicated and turned down the work. Running out of options I put a plea out on the internet forums and got a couple of recommendations. One of the recommendations was from a chap that I helped to purchase a Radical back in the summer, his uncle ran a motorsport wiring company. A email was sent off to Tim Mason Motorsport explaining what I wanted, almost by return mail I got an answer and he got the job. Basically I was ripping out all the old wiring and installing a new loom to support both the dash and the engine. There were some quirks with the Radical like the electronic reverse that had to be incorporated. I arranged to take the car up to Tim, once in his workshop we set about confirming the details. One idea was to remove the old mechanical cut out switch for something more reliable. Tim was already on the case and had designed a system using a relay. This system would give me a master cutout on the dash and the rear bulkhead for the marshals to pull. A number of other enhancements were added to the loom design and Tim set about working on it. About a week later I get a call saying the loom is ready and the car can be collected. Back at Tim’s workshop the loom is loosely laid on the car and it looks amazing (yes I know getting excited about a bunch of cables is a bit sad). Tim had also installed a proper gear indication device from Geartech that runs off the gearbox on the Hayabusa engine. The whole loom was a work of art, almost a shame to fit it to a car.

I am making progress, I now have an engine, ignition, injection and a wiring loom. Next step is the fuel tank, why change the fuel tank you ask? Well firstly I need to make some room so I can install the new ECU away from the engine bay. The standard Radical tank takes up the whole width of the car and holds about 45litres. As I am only running at Combe I decide to reduce the tank size down to 20 litres. I spoke to Spec-R based just south of Bath to do this work, I dropped off the old tank as a pattern and explained the new size required. With in no time I had a call from Spec-R saying the tank was ready for collection. I return to Spec-R and I’m greeted by this fuel tank that is about a 1/3rd of the size of the original one. I ask a number of times if it is 20 litres and they say yes…..being the suspicious type when I get home I try filling the tank with petrol, and sure enough its 19.5L (half a litre taken up by the baffle foam). This new tank saves me a few Kg over the old one and also provides loads of room on the bulk head for the ecu and also space to install the new high pressure fuel pump.

Ok so I have now got a engine, injection/ignition, ecu, wiring loom and fuel tank. Things are starting to take shape.

With the new loom, additional switches etc I need to redesign the dash board on the car. I spoke with MVS Racing who provide all my carbon bits and they supplied me with a couple carbon sheets to use as the dash board. With the fuel injected engine I’ve added an additional switch for the fuel pump and also I need to accommodate a master cut off on the dash as well. I have also purchased a gauge for water temp as the old “needle type” had a real problem with the revs of the engine went over 7000rpm. I decided on a SPA dual LCD one like I’ve got for oil pressure/temp as this has been ultra reliable this season. I took the advantage of the redesign to move the gauges around so they are easier to read when on track. There are a few things I can’t do until it is back on the car and the engine in position but the dash is 90% complete now.

The final trip for the rolling chassis was up to GH Racing up near Rockingham Speedway for a new exhaust manifold. I had to change the manifold as the Kawasaki one won’t fit the Hayabusa engine. Radical wanted silly money for their mild-steal manifold and GH Racing was recommended to me. They set about preparing an exhaust that would provide good torque as well as out and out horse power. The finished article is again a work of art, all made from stainless steal and incorporating some excellent welding. The design is a 4-2-1 for torque and looks like it should produce the goods.

Now I am sure you’ve got to this point and thought….but what about the engine? Ok did you really expect me to install a completely stock engine? Really? Well you’d be right I am going to play with the engine. The idea is to build an engine that matches the characteristics outlined at the start of this project i.e. reliable power with a ample dollop of torque. How am I going to do this? Well you’re gonna have to wait for part 2 to find out.

Part 2

In the last month or so I’ve been working on the chassis to get it ready for the installation of the engine. All the brake discs have been replaced, again for the rears I’ve used “motorfactor specials” as I did last year…can’t complain about £20 for a pair of discs. The fronts I’ve splashed out on a pair of grooved discs this year. Main reason for doing this is just to aid de-glazing of the pads, last year it took a lap or two for the pads to “clear” at the start of a session so I am hoping the grooves will speed this process up. Time will tell I guess. Along with the discs I’ve completely rebuilt all the calipers with new pistons and seals so I am hoping this will improve the pedal feel from last year.

The new wiring loom is now fitted to the car, all the additional electrical bits have also been installed like the fuel pump, rectifier, reverse control box, gear indicator control box, transponder etc. The new dash is complete and is fitted to the car, the old master cut off switch has been replaced with a relay based system. To ensure I keep within regulations I have a master switch on the dash that also has a pull cord attached. The handle of which is on the rear bulkhead next to the extinguisher pull cord, which gives easy access for the marshals should I find myself needing their assistance.

Next on the list of things to do was the fuel system, because I am moving from carburetors to fuel injection I had to junk all the old fuel piping, pumps, filters and regulators. Also unlike carburetors I have to install a return fuel line into the fuel tank. After talking to TTS Performance who have vast experience in tuning motorcycle engines we settled on a “dead stop” fuel system. This basically means the fuel comes out of the tank into a filter and onto the pump. From the pump it goes out to a T-piece, one end goes to the fuel rail on the throttle bodies. The other end goes into the regulator, from the regulator it goes back into the tank via the fuel return. Sounds straight forward on paper but took some figuring out on the chassis.

As usual Merlin Motorsport have been my life line to getting the chassis ready, always seem to have everything I need in stock along with some great advice.

With the electrical and fuel systems now in place we are ready for the engine installation.

The Engine

When I first thought of the idea of upgrading the engine in the Clubsport the initial plan was to have a standard Hayabusa engine with a few tweaks. However as the idea developed it was apparent that I could improve on the standard engine but not compromise the reliability to much. As discussed in Part 1 of the diary the plan is to design a engine that produces good horse power and a ample dollop of torque but maintain the reliability of the engine as much as possible to avoid unnecessary breakdowns and rebuilds. We are aiming for an engine that will produce a modest 200bhp with around 115ft/lbs of torque. At the start of the project I set the budget of £5000 to cover the engine purchase/development and all the additional changes to the car needed to support the new engine. .

Before the last meeting of the year I was planning the engine for next year and already talking to TTS Performance who are based near Silverstone. I used TTS many years ago when I was racing bikes still so I knew they had a vast experience of tuning motorcycle engines. After a number of emails were bounced between them and myself the plan started to take shape. The main criteria is to have a engine with a lot of torque, I remember the old saying “there is no substitute for cubes” when it comes to engine power. There are loads of options to increase the cubic capacity of the Hayabusa engine from the “cheap” to £14k for a 1.9 version. Now there is no way on this earth I’ll be able to afford a 1.9 so I took the “cheap” alternative and decided on the 1400cc, this is basically a big-bore kit. With TTS’s advice we decided on a set of mild cams which are more bias to torque rather than peak power. There is a disadvantage of wild cams in the Hayabusa engine in that it stresses the cam chain which can cause premature failure. Not something I want happening. The next week point of the Hayabusa engine is the clutch, well its fine for a motorbike but when you double the weight and increase the grip tenfold it shows up its weakness. Again TTS came to the rescue with a number of revised clutch parts. So with all this advice in mind we take a trip to TTS and fill up the boot with loads of performance parts…..shopping for men!! So we have the bottom end of the engine covered and the cams but what about the head, well bike engines are very efficient to start with so improving on them is a challenge. For this challenge I used a small company called Sabre Heads, based is Wisbech, Cambridge. I’ve known Rog, the company owner, for a while via the Lotus forums and he constantly got good results from his work. When I asked him about doing the Hayabusa engine he was more than up for the challenge. As mentioned above the motorcycle heads are hard to improve on. The inlet is pretty much perfection, however the exhaust can be improved. As I understand it the exhaust isn’t as good to enable the manufactures to get through the strict emission tests. Anyway Rog worked his magic and made a good improvement on the flow of the head. When I went up to collect the head he was just finishing off the additional breather, the time are care he takes over his work is second to none, he makes a good cup of coffee as well! Rog has a whole host of ideas for improving the head further but with my modest power requirements we decided that this is something to do next season maybe?

The last part of the jigsaw was all the additional bits needed to rebuild the engine i.e. gaskets, bearing shells, clutch plates, replacement oil lines and everything else in-between. As usual my local bike shop – Peter Hammonds Motorcycles – supplied all the extra bits to enable the engine to go back together. Joe, from Hammonds, also has the job of putting the engine back together for me and as I type he is just finishing it off.

On the 23rd February the car is going upto Emerald in Norfolk to be run in on the rolling road then map the engine. So I guess that is dooms day for me and the engine, will it produce the goods or fall short? we’ll have to wait and see……

Part 3

Picking up where I left off in part 2 of the diary the engine was still in its many component parts with the rolling road session looming large on the horizon. Joe from Hammonds is working on the engine in his spare time so progress can be a bit spasmodic but he assures me that it’ll be ready in time. 2 weeks before the rolling road session and the engine is in it’s final stages of build. This is the kind of time you don’t want to find out something that might be a show stopper. I had to speak to TTS to confirm the measurements of the oil pick up on the engine and it was during this conversation we realised we were missing something. The part in question was an engine baffle, when the engine is installed in a bike it is designed to lean. Of course in a car it doesn’t lean (unless I got a corner really wrong) and the g-force generated in cornering can push the oil to one side of the engine. The baffle is in two parts, one is around the crank and the other blocks a passageway between the gearbox and clutch. Luckily TTS had this part in stock and shipped it out next day. This was the last big item to be done, the rest of the engine was completed and it was ready for fitting. It is now the Saturday 17th February and we have 6 days to get the engine installed and ready for the trip to Norfolk to be mapped. I call on Justin’s services to get the engine mounted into the chassis. First job once the engine is in place is to measure up all the hoses required i.e. water and oil and jump in the car for my weekly trip to Merlin Motorsport. They make my oil hoses and put all the fitments on for me. With hoses in hand we set off back to the car to start putting it all back together. By the end of the Saturday we had the oil cooler fitted, the exhaust system, most of the wiring installed and some of the water cooling circuit. Sunday Justin was replaced by Barry each working on different parts of the car by the time Barry left around 2pm most of the engine compartment was 90% complete. After Barry had left I turned my attention to putting the cockpit back together, installing the bulkhead, seat, harnesses and fire extinguisher. On fitting the old gear linkage I discovered that it wouldn’t fit on the Suzuki engine, this would mean a early call to Radical on Monday to order the right bits. On the Radical Suzuki engines the water pump is modified so the exit is at right angles to the engine. When I first looked at it I assumed I could just use a 90degree hose to negate the need for modifying the pump. This was a great plan until I realised that the gear selector was in the way….ah that’ll be why Radical modify the water pump. I haven’t got time to get the pump changed now so I bodged it for the rolling road session and added it to the list of things to do afterwards. A few more jobs that needed doing like bleeding the brakes/clutch and we are ready for the rolling road.

However at this point I haven’t tried to start the engine….something I’ve been avoiding if I am being honest. However I only have one day left before the rolling road and I need to see if it will fire. This is it then, I turn on the master switch and then the ignition switch. I’ve removed the plugs to enable the engine to spin quickly and get the oil pressure up. After about 3 x10second bursts of the starter motor the oil pressure hasn’t moved. A little bit concerned so a quick phone call to Joe and he comes up to help. I remove one of the main oil gallery plugs and turn the engine over again, nothing, not even a drip from the gallery. Ok we have a problem, the first suspect is the oil pump. The only way to prove this would be to remove the water pump as you can see the oil pump drive from here. That will show the oil pump is at least moving, however before we start taking the engine apart again out comes the Hayabusa manual. One thing I will say for Suzuki is their manuals are excellent, particularly for troubleshooting problems like this. On this engine the oil comes out of the pump and through the oil cooler before going into the filter and into the engine. With this in mind could the problem be the new oil hoses? Or maybe the oil cooler itself? In a flash of desperation I removed the oil filter (which was dry!) and turned the engine over again…after a few seconds the oil started to appear, this is looking better. Just to check the oil cooler I release the “in” hose and suddenly all the oil flows out of the filter housing. A look like the union on the oil radiator caused the problem as it wasn’t sat right and was blocking off the oil. A quick tweak, filter back on and I turn the engine over again, this time the oil starts coming out of the gallery plug. Result! I put the plug back in and turn the engine over again, soon I have around 20psi on the gauge. Excellent….well that was until I look down on the floor and saw a huge puddle of oil. Oh now what I thought, the leak was on the left hand side of the engine and it looked like one of the external oil hoses was leaking. I span the engine over again to see where the leak was….at that point I was covered in oil! There appears to be a hole at the end of the oil gallery in the head and the plug was missing, soon sorted that with a new bolt and copper washer….at last we are ready to see this will start. I fit the plugs again and get ready to start. The fuel pump fires up and is reading a healthy 45psi the ignition is on and we are ready to go! A push of the starter is meeting with zilch, nowt, nothing … bugger! A few more punches is greeted by a big back fire and the engine kicking back on the starter. I’ve heard of stories where starters get sheared off by engine kick back so I was very weary. A couple more tries and it almost starts then back fires again but this time it blows the throttle bodies off the engine! Ok….think I better give up with this and ask the experts. I speak to Emerald, who manufacture the ECU and where I am taking the car to be mapped and they just say bring it up and we’ll get it started. To say I am nervous about this would be an understatement as the thought of travelling 200miles to find the engine won’t start isn’t a good one. Well I take their advice and strap the car onto the trailer ready for the trip to Norfolk the following day.

Friday, the day starts at 5am when the alarm clock goes off, I am on the road by 5.30am and soon plodding down the M4 towards the M25. I arrive at Watton in Norfolk just after 9am and greeted by Dave Walker. We soon had the car on the rollers and looking at the starting problem. This little problem took the best part of 3 hours to sort. The fault was the crank sensor not enabling the ECU to lock on when the engine is turned over. This was because when I changed the trigger wheel I didn’t change the sensor. Sometimes what you think is saving money ends up costing more in the long run. Anyway the problem was resolved on the day by using a big booster battery to spin the engine quick enough for the ECU to lock on. Once the engine was running it was fine, the engine sounded good and Dave set about running the engine in and then doing the mapping. 6:30pm and the job was finally done and I couldn’t have asked for a better result, the engine produced 200.9bhp at 9900rpm which was smack on target. However the torque was better than expected, over 105ft/lbs at 4500rpm, peaking at 116ft/lbs at 7500rpm and still over 104ft/lbs at the limiter….perfect! All the hard work over the past 4 months has been worth it.

A few thank yous to the people/suppliers that go me to this point –

  • Joe at Peter Hammonds for doing all disassembly and re-assembly work and putting up with my constant nagging
  • Rog at Sabre Heads for the excellent work on the head
  • The guys at Merlin Motorsport for their help and advice
  • Richard at TTS Engineering for the parts and advice
  • Mark at Green Hill Racing for the exhaust system
  • Emerald for all the advice and mapping of the engine
  • Tim Mason for the wiring loom
  • Pete (aka NASA Racer) from the Radical forum for lots of advice

So after the successful rolling road session I have a few more jobs to do before we are ready for the track. The car will go off to Neil Cox for the suspension to be setup and on Monday 12th we are at Silverstone for the first drive, half of me can’t wait the other half is a little bit nervous! Just as I finish writing this I’ve received a message inviting me to a open race at Brands Hatch on the 24th March. The meeting is the first round of the new Lotus Trophy series so should be a good meeting to watch. Well I couldn’t say no and my entry has been posted, should be a good experience as I’ll be the only Radical on the grid but surrounded by Elise ranging from 120bhp to 300+bhp, Nobles, BMW’s and Caterhams.

Diary 4

This is it then, it’s a cold March morning and we are just arriving at Silverstone. The plan of the day is to do a few sessions, check the engine out and make sure the car is working properly before the race meeting on the 24th March at Brands Hatch. One of the first jobs to do before we can get on track is to bleed the newly rebuilt brakes. Normally this is a straight forward process that takes about 20 minutes to complete. The nice thing about the Willwood caliper is the bleed nipples are mounted in a brass adapter. So if you do snap a nipple you just remove the adapter and fit a new one. Easy….well…..that is unless the adapter shears off and leaves part of it in the caliper. Just want I needed and of course I hadn’t brought anything to get the sheared off part of adapter out of the caliper. After trying a few ideas that failed I was starting to think about packing up and going home. Then I had a flash of inspiration of using a torx socket to pull it out. Luckily for me Dave Edwards was more prepared than me and had a set in his tool box. A few tense minutes later and the broken part was out of the caliper. A quick clean and a new adapter fitted and we were in business. The brakes were bled but they didn’t feel great. I thought we’d do a couple of laps and see if they improve. So at last we were ready for the track, this was the last session before the lunch break. Out of the pits I gently accelerated up towards Maggots and got a feel of the car. It was apparent the brakes weren’t good at all. After coming into Priory the pedal went to the floor….I’ve never pumped a pedal so quickly in my life. I pull straight into the pits and we set about bleed the brakes through again. Soon we had a decent pedal, we topped up the fuel and got the car ready for the first session after lunch. Finally I get out on track with a car that both goes and stops…..a nice feeling. I started playing with the engine and seeing how it goes…and it does go! The engine is very smooth and doesn’t give the impression of accelerating but the limter in 6th gear comes up so quickly its frightening. Another give away is when you overtake something then look in the mirror to pull back on line and it’s a mere dot in the mirrors. After about 5 laps I came out of Copse and the engine missed. My stomach sank at the thought there was a problem. However the engine carried on pulling so I hoped it was just a blip. However the blip came back and the engine died coming out of Chapel. I was looking down at the gauges for some pointers on what the problem was and I spotted the fuel pressure had dropped off a cliff. Fuel starvation was the problem! well at least I know what the problem is now what is the cause. I call in the pits and we have a look around the car to make sure there is nothing obvious causing starvation. After a good check around I turn my attention to the tank design. The built-in swirl pot is on the left hand side of the tank so this might be an issue. To prove this we top the tank up and set out again on track. Sure enough with in 5 laps the surging started again. But it was only happening on left hand bends so the pick up was the most obvious culprit. This wasn’t something we could fix at the track so we packed up for the day and set off home.

The biggest problem with the tank was the size of the swirl pot and pick being on the left and not central. When I designed the tank I was unable to put the swirl pot central because of the chassis members. Also I under estimated the amount of fuel the pump would circulate. So I was one the phone Monday morning to Spec-R to redesign the fuel tank. Unfortunately Peter, from Spec-R, was in the middle of a workshop move and couldn’t do anything for a week. This was ok but I was planning to be at Brands Hatch in 2 weeks time so this was going to be a tight time-scale. However the extra week did give me a chance to go through the various different designs of fuel systems. Ironically a chat with Justin saw the foundation of a new design form. I didn’t have room for a traditional swirl pot so the plan was to add a 4″ section to the existing tank that would act as a big swirl pot. An additional low pressure pump (thanks Merlin again!) was added that took fuel from the main tank to the new one. Half way down the swirl pot was a horizontal baffle plate that ensure the fuel injection pump always had 2litres of fuel available to it. At the top of the tank there is a breather between it and the main tank which acts as a return for the low pressure pump. So we have a design, now all I need is Peter to make it for me. As with most things with this project time was slipping by and I was getting to the point of canceling my entry for Brands. On the Thursday before Brands I get a call from Peter saying that he’s up and running. I shoot over with the old tank and the new design and he starts work. Friday lunchtime I pick up the new tank, special thanks to Peter for turning this around so quickly. I start working on the car at 4.30ish, Justin arrives a few hours later and we finally finish at 9.30pm. We get the car loaded up on the trailer ready for the trip to Brands in the morning……still not knowing if the tank will work or if I have enough capacity for 24 laps of the Indy circuit hangs over us but we won’t know until we try. Check out the race diary to see what happens.