Part 1

So it’s around July time and I am already thinking of what to do next year. I have always wanted to get back into circuit racing but never had the funds to do it. With this years sprinting going so well I was looking for a new challenge for 2006. I started looking around at what I could do on a limited budget. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a limited budget in motorsport but I am forever the optimist. I took a look at single-seaters in the form of Formula Vauxhall Juniors and running them in the Mono-Posto championship, and also I looked at Formula Jedi, but both these championships involve a lot of travel which would work out expensive. The Jedi entry fees made me rule this one out pretty quickly although it does look a lot of fun.

I then had a look at my local track, Castle Combe, and their championships. The Formula Ford looked cheap enough to get into but the likelihood of damage was high with the open wheeled cars. So I turned to either the GTs or Saloons. The only thing that put me off the saloons was having to develop a car over the season. This wasn’t something I wanted to do again after the Elise, so I was left with the GT’s. I looked at a few cars that were eligible for the GTs like the Global GT Light, Mission T5 and the Radical Pro and Club sports. As luck would have it, when I was walking around the paddock on a Combe race day I noticed a Radical owner having a few problems. I spent a few hours with this chap helping him out and getting some background on the car. This made up my mind to buy a Radical; it was a proper race car that I could get in and race without having to develop it. This would mean I could concentrate on racing rather than machine development. In this same vein I decided that I would do my first year’s racing at Castle Combe in the Special GT Championship. This had two big advantages; one: it is very local so travelling costs are minimal and two: I know the track very well so I can spend time learning to drive the car and understand how it works. Ideally I would like a ProSport which comes with either a 205bhp or 250bhp Suzuki motorcycle engine, but again budget gets in the way (must do the lottery this week). So I decided on the Clubsport, which has the 1100cc/160bhp engine but isn’t that much slower due to lower weight and no high-drag aerodynamics.

With the sprint season finished it is time to go shopping, and this is where I hit my first obstacle. Secondhand Radicals don’t come up for sale very often, and when they do they don’t stay on the market for very long. On my daily search of the internet competition car sales I see a new advert for a Clubsport, I give the chap a call straight away and arrange for a visit. Like when buying any secondhand car, the history is the most important thing. The seller in this case was very honest with the car’s history, plus he has been the owner for the last four years which bodes well. The car has all the right modifications to it, including a complete engine rebuild three races ago. The engines should be good for about 25 hours running so this engine was perfect as I should be able to do a season without touching it, other than routine maintenance. The rest of the car was good condition and it has a good spares package, which is all-important.

So now it’s October and the car is in its new home. In only a short space of time the car is already undergoing some modifications. I’ve replaced the seat with a large type; yes, I’m big boned! I’ve removed the ballast weight that is used in the Radical championship. I’ve added a new gear selection linkage; this reverses the gear selection which means now to change up you pull the lever back and to change down you push forward. Don’t you just love sequential gearboxes!

I have a long list of things I want to do before the racing season kicks off but I’ve got about 5 months to work on it. The car is currently very yellow but this will be changed to team colours over the winter. I’ve got my first outing in it at the end of November at Brands Hatch, it’s only a trackday but I need as much driving time as I can get before the season starts. I can’t wait to see how this car goes but I just hope it’s dry! I’ll report back with my first impressions on driving the Radical in part 2.

Part 2

Its already November, time seems to be flying past and I am rushing around trying to get things organised for the first outing of the car at the end of the month. After a lot of searching of the classifieds I’ve finally tracked down a suitable trailer, the only downside was the 300 mile round trip to collect it, things we do for motorsport! The long list of jobs just seems to get bigger with each day I spend working on the car, a few of the items are essential and others are on the “nice to have” part of the list. One of these items is to replace the aging AVO shocks with something a bit more modern, lightweight and of course better. I have been running Nitron shocks on the Elise and have been very happy with these so I drop them a mail asking if they do anything for the Radical. As it turns out they don’t but being a very flexible company they offered to make a set of shocks to my specification. Now I might know how to set up camber and toe but the in’s and out’s of suspension shock absorbers is a black art to me. With this in mind I make sure that Nitron do the design based on their extensive knowledge. So one miserable November day I load the Radical up on the trailer and cart it over to Whitney in Oxfordshire for Nitron to have a look at. The meeting goes well, I get to see an example finished product which is fantastically made and about a 1/3 of the weight of the current dampers. I leave Nitron with yet another list! but this time its to take measurements of the current suspension, another job for the weekend.

With the trackday looming I am also going through the “what tyres to run” quandary. As standard the Clubsport runs Avon cross-ply tyres, these were a control tyres for the Radical championship or at least they were before Radical moved to Matador back in 2003. The Matador’s are radial tyres but this would mean having to change a lot of the current suspension to allow for the large amounts of camber that radial tyres need to work. While talking to Radical about the options I also fired off a email to Avon to ask if there was anything they could do for me. The following morning I had a phone call from Avon and a very helpful chap called Brian Davies who took me through all the options available. Just from this phone call I knew that sticking with Avon and their cross-ply’s was going to be the right move. Brian recommends a different size and compound to the standard Radical tyres which he believes will give better grip and balance over a race distance. I arrange to collect 2 sets of tyres from their Melksham factory, the advantage of collecting them was they would fit them FOC and I get a little tour of the factory.

Next job before the trackday was to change the gearing on the rear differential. On the Radical the differential is driven by a chain, much like a motorcycle, so to change the gearing you basically change the number of teeth on the rear sprocket. I was told this takes about 20mins to do….so an hour and a half later I’ve finally changed the gearing ready for the Brands Indy circuit. I am sure some peoples minutes are longer than mine! It’s the weekend before the trackday and one final job is left, oil change…sounds simple eh! yeah ok it wasn’t to bad but the access to the drain plugs (yes there are two!) isn’t the easiest and lock wiring them afterwards ended up with some pierced fingers!. With all the immediate jobs done I am ready for Brands.

I don’t know if I was very excited or very nervous or maybe a bit of both but I was already awake when the alarm went off at 5am and on the road by 5.30am, arriving at Brands just after 8am. The weather gods were obviously on our side today as the sky was blue and the track dry…ok it was only just above freezing but you can’t have it all! With the briefing out of the way and it was time to finally drive the Radical. After trying to master the very short throw clutch, lost count how many times I stalled it) I’m finally off down the pit lane. On the first session I took it very easy, so easy in fact I was overtaken by almost everybody on track. I was expecting this car to feel different to the Elise but not this different, everything is so direct. The throttle is light and very responsive the car turns in very quickly and the brakes stop you quicker than a unlit skip! In all a complete culture shock for me but I was slowly getting the hang of it. After about 12 laps I pitted to check the car. Everything is look good, the tyres are upto working temperature and the driver isn’t far behind. Second session and I am getting a bit braver with the throttle, good god this thing accelerates! I don’t know if was the nerves or the cold but I kept chuckling to myself every time I pressed the loud pedal. My confidence in the car was increasing and I was getting to grips with the controls quite nicely now, I was still making the odd mistake with the gear selection but it was improving. Best of all I was starting to overtake all the cars that had overtaken me in the last session. On returning to the pits feeling a lot better about the car and myself. It was approaching lunchtime so I decide to get a quick ten minutes in before the circuit closes for lunch. This session I am feeling a lot more confident with the car and this confidence kept increasing with every lap, The new Avon tyres are awesome allowing me to apply the power where if I was in the Elise would have cause big oversteer moments. By the end of the ten minutes I was one of the quickest cars out there…..and also one of the loudest, 112Db drive by .. oops! (another job for the list otherwise I am going to have problems at Combe).

After lunch I get back out on track but something doesn’t feel right with the car, the steer wheel has gone off center so I return to the pits to check it out. On closer inspection we find that one of the track rod ends has developed some play and there is also some detectable play in the front wheel bearings. More things to add to the list but this was the mission of today, to find any weaknesses in the car and sort them out before the season starts. So with these broken bits we decide to call it a day and pack up. I am very happy with the car so far and happy with myself as well. My hunch about Avon was confirmed the day after the trackday when Brain gave me a call to see how I got on, a nice touch I thought. I still need a lot more time in the car but I’m improving which is the important thing. So now the list is 3 times the size it was before the day started but that’s all part of this thing they call motorsport I guess. Until next month ……

Part 3

It’s now December, the temperatures have dropped through the floor and working in the garage requires at least 4 layers of clothes to avoid getting hypothermia! The list that I mentioned last month has continued to grow so I’ve decided its about time I started knocking things off it. Now, if you own shares in Merlin Motorsport I am probably the reason that their stock rose in December. First on the list was to fix the problems that we had at Brands, I’ve decided to replace all the spherical bearings on the car not just the one that failed. This way I know that everything is new from the off so I won’t be worrying about old items failing on me while out on track. Merlin were able to match the bearings and supply me with 8 new shiny ones, I won’t mention the total cost because I feel faint everything I do. The wheel bearings had also shown signs of wear at Brands so with some research on the internet and a lot of help from my local motorfactor I was able to locate the exact wheel bearing for a very reasonable price. Fitting the spherical bearings was a breeze which makes a pleasant change, I also discovered another worn one on the rear suspension so my decision of replacing all of them was paying off. Luckily I had purchased a hydraulic press for doing the Elise wheel bearings some time ago and this came in very handy when doing the bearings on the Radical. But like every other job I’ve done on the Radical it required at least one visit to the tool shop, on the flip side I think I have enough tools now to start my own shop. The fronts had been the issue at Brands so imagine my surprise when I released the driveshafts on the rear to discover two badly worn bearings. In fact one was so bad the hub practically fell out of the old bearing when I released the drive shaft CV joint. With these bits done I turned my attention to the dashboard. The Radical has one of these “all in one” type dash boards that are very trick but going around Brands I was having problems reading it. It also doesn’t have a traditional rev counter, just a handful of lights which I am not a great fan of. So back I go to Merlin to buy some proper dials and I set about creating a new dash. I need a new backing sheet to mount all the dials and switches on and a quick search on Ebay found me a nice piece of carbon fibre sheet. Because space was limited I had to be careful where I put the dials, but with a couple of templates made up I set about cutting the carbon sheet to house the dials. With some small modifications I had the dials mounted and fitted into the car, even my wiring skills worked as all the dials lit up with I switched the ignition on, phew!

I am finally starting to think I am making progress on that list and car is starting to come together. About halfway through December I get a phone call from a friend that owns a bodyshop letting me know that he has spare time just before Christmas to do the Radical. I spend a day stripping all the body work and get it transported over to the bodyshop for its new paint. With the just the bare chassis left it is a lot easier to work on and I was able to do a lot more of the little jobs that needed doing. Such as moving the transponder to the near-side of the car, moving the seat up a notch, installing a new set of harnesses and getting the fire extinguisher out and sent off to be refilled.

One of the last major jobs that I wanted to do was to replace the oil cooler lines. The OEM ones are held on to the unions with nothing more than jubilee clips, not great considering the pressure they have to hold. After getting them off the car I set about trying to find ends that will fit, problem being that the engine end uses banjo connectors but a non-standard size. After a lot of phone calls and a troll around the stands at the Autosport show it starts to be come clear why they were jubilee clipped on and don’t have proper screw fittings because no one does then. In a last resort attempt I take them over to Merlin to see if they can help. Another good move because they can, we reuse the current banjos but this time they are swaged onto the oil lines, result I now have a set of lines I can trust.

In the mean time I get a phone call letting me know the body work is ready for collection. I make arrangements to collect it and Justin gives me a hand fitting it back on the chassis, first impression it is was very black however once on the car the red roll bar and yellow splitters help break it up. With the stickers I think it will look smart and a bit different from all the brightly colour Radicals out there.

We are into January now and the provisional race calendar has just been released. The first race is on the 25th March so not a lot of time left. I take a day off work and travel up to the Autosport show with the intention of buying a new helmet, suit, boots etc ready for the new season. More expense but I don’t mind spending this as it might save my life on day. The trip was successful and I managed to get everything I wanted with a bit of discount as well which was nice.

The following weekend we are back in the garage, new oil cooler lines are fitted. New brake discs and pads and fluid changed. I think I can see light at the end of this list. In fact the only items to do are fitting new dampers, fit fire extinguisher and get the suspension setup. I have a trackday at Silverstone on the 10th February so I am looking forward to seeing how the car feels after all the improvements I’ve done on it since Brands back in November.

Out of the garage I am getting the admin stuff organised. I’ve got my “Go Racing” pack from the MSA and booked my ARDS test at Combe and even passed my medical. I’ve also joined the new Castle Combe Racing Club and entered the first race. Its all getting very exciting now and I’m looking forward to March. However there is also a part of me that is a bit nervous at the prospect of being on a track with another 30 odd cars all fighting for the same bit of tarmac, I didn’t have that problem at Colerne!

So all being well next month we’ll be ready for the first race of the season.

Part 4

The goal is to get the car ready for the Silverstone trackday on the 10th of February and I still have a number of items on my now famous list that need doing. On the plus side the car is starting to look like a race car but it is still missing some vital parts. One of which being the shocks, luckily Nitron call just before the end of January to let me know that my shocks are ready for collection. A quick trip to Whitney and I’m the proud owner of nice set of very posh looking shocks, it’s almost a shame to fit them to the car. Alas that is what I bought them for so I set about putting them on the car which went reasonably smoothly for a change. With the shocks on we put the body work on and roll it out of the garage for the first time in almost 3 months. It was a bit of a special occasion to see it in the daylight again after all our hard work.

With all the fluids back in the car I am keen to make sure all the new dials work on the new dashboard. I start the car and the rev counter refuses to move, darn! however all the others are working perfectly so I guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad. I give Elliot Design a call and explain the problem, they are pretty sure they know what the problem is and ask me to send it back. Fair play to Elliot as I had had the new tacho back within 2 days and back on the car. I push the starter button and the rev counter….well at this point I want to say it bursts into life…however although it does move it only goes upto 3000rpm then it stops. Back on the phone to Elliot who are very apologetic, more discussion we discover that the coils on my engine might be the problem as they are a high power version. Elliot despatch a brand new tacho to me that will hopefully work with my coils. It arrives on Saturday morning and I am crossing everything in anticipation that this one will work. I get it fitted into the car and this time run a dedicated wire from the coil to it instead of using the ECU triggers just to be sure. I punch the starter …. what happens? the engine refuses to start! Argh!!! I must have upset someone in a past life. I take the plugs out which are soaked, I gamble that it could be plugs and pop down to my local bike shop to find they have just sold the last of the plugs I need….I am sure you’ve had one of these days as well. I order a new set plugs so I can get the engine started and test this tacho before Silverstone, which is now less that 5 days away.

One of the last things to do is to setup the car’s suspension. As luck would have it there is a small motorsport company based less than 2 miles from my door step. With a quick phone call to Neil Cox at Corinium Motorsport I was booked in. Justin and I get the car loaded up on the trailer and I cart it to the other side of town to Neil’s. Neil runs a couple of Radical SR3’s so is no stranger to Radicals and their quirks. The car is booked in for the day and I hang around to help out and learn what I can from Neil. Neil starts by doing a complete check of the car, while doing this he discovers a ¼” hair line crack in one of the rear shock mounts, probably the result of a off in the cars previous life. A good catch by Neil, I hate to think what would have happened if that had let go on track! Neil sets about repairing the mount and also reinforcing the other side “just in case” this of course delays the setup of the car. We run into a second day working on the car but things are starting to come together, by lunchtime the car is done! I am able to notice a difference just by pushing the car around, I can’t wait to try it on track.
The new plugs arrive on the Tuesday and I get them fitted. Crossing my fingers as I press the starter button. The engine exploded into life, in my excitement I fail to notice the tacho also bursting into life. I get some heat into the engine and give it a couple of blips to make sure the tacho goes over 3k rpm and it does…result! Thanks to Elliot for some great customer service!! Ok, we are ready for Silverstone….I can’t wait.

Friday the 10th and we are at Silverstone, the weather is very cold but dry which is perfect. We get the car unloaded and set ourselves up in the garage with BMC members Simon & Martin Clemow driving their Lotus Seven and Dave Edwards in his Elise. Justin and Barry also came up to help in the pit and generally give me abuse. Soon after we are unpacked we are informed that we are in McLaren’s garage…it was very nice with its marble floor…wonder if it’ll help my laptimes though. The first session of the day is run at max speed of 50mph to allow everyone to see where the track goes and this is my first trip to the Silverstone GP track. We are a bit slow getting the car ready so I just manage to get out in the last couple of minutes of the sighting laps. As soon as I leave the pits the car feels completely different to how it did at Brands back in November. There were no vibrations, knocks or bangs from the wheels and suspension…in fact it was spookily quiet. After two laps the chequered flag comes out to signify the end of sighting laps. I did notice that both the oil and water temps were very low so I set about taping up both radiators in an attempt to the engine up to working temp. The rest of the day is run “open pit lane” so we can come and go as we please, perfect for testing. I take the car out of the pits for the first proper run, I take it nice and easy on the first lap just finding my feet and working out the track. First thing that struck me is how good these Avons work even when cold. They were direct and positive and inspired confidence. Second lap and I start to wind the old girl up a bit, both water and oil temps are coming up and oil pressure is spot on. The car is handling really well, going through Maggots and Becketts is like roller-coaster ride, I just have to think of changing direction and it’s done it. Unlike at Brands I feel a lot happier with the car and what it was doing. I pulled into the pits to adjust the suspension, I went a bit softer all round to see what that did. The car was still handling well but you could feel is was a bit soft now, which is a good sign the suspension is doing it’s job I guess. 4 laps in and I am really enjoying myself now, I come out of Becketts and accelerate down hangar straight, just as I am thinking on braking for Stowe corner the oil pressure light comes on! Oh no!! I scrub off as much speed as possible, dip the clutch and kill the engine at the same time trying to warn the people behind me and getting off the track! That was a fun 10 seconds. I pull onto the slip road and sit and wait for the break down crew. When the breakdown chap arrived we removed the rear body section noticed that the sensor plug had jumped off…phew! Plugged it back on fired it up and trundled back to the pits to a very unconcerned pit crew who asked if I had stopped for a burger half way around. The rest of the day I played with suspension settings and having some fun with the other cars out on track. We packed up around 4pm and I was very happy with the day, the car had stayed together, it was handling really well and I was getting to grips with it. I continued to be impressed with the Avons and their grip in even really cold conditions. I am looking forward to seeing what they are like in the summer.

One last major obstacle I needed to get over before lining up on the grid in March, I need to pass my ARDS test. February 23rd is the date, the day starts well with the sun in the sky, but no sooner as I finished my coffee in the Tavern Café at Combe than the sky turned grey and it started to sleet. Oh goody, if Combe wasn’t bad enough in the rain! The driving part of the test was about 20mins on track with a instructor, the snow was falling harder now and conditions weren’t great. The idea of the test is to show that you are capable of driving safely on a racing circuit. You are marked on use of line, cornering, braking, gear changes, observation etc. To my amazement I passed this! The second part was a written exam, the exam paper was split into three parts. The first part was flags and their meanings, you had to score 100% in this otherwise it was a instant fail. The second part was on safety, again 100% was needed. The last section was to test you on how you’d react to a given situation on track i.e. what would you do if the throttle jammed open. This part of the test was multiple choice which made it slightly easier. You were allowed to get two questions wrong on this part but somehow I got them all right…it must have been that extra wheatabix I had for breakfast. So that’s it, I now have a Nation Race B license and zero excuses for not turning up for the first race.
I’ve got a bit of a wait until March 23rd for the official test day at Castle Combe, Neil is also going to be there to help me set the car up for Combe “undulations”. Then on the 25th it’s the real thing……*gulp*

Part 5

I can’t believe that we are in March already, the first race of the season is only 3 weeks away. After the successful run at Silverstone last month I am very happy with the car but before the first race I decide to do a complete spanner check on it and also get the engine serviced. A friend, Joe, from Peter Hammond Motorcycles in Cirencester is doing the engine prep for me this season. At the moment the engine is running well so it’s just a tappet and carb balancing session needed. Joe sets about checking all the timing and discovers that 3 out of the 4 exhaust valves are very tight. Its times like these you are happy you “just checked”. It took a few days for the new shims to arrive so the engine didn’t go back together until the weekend before the race. That Sunday the engine was finished off, the carbs balanced and everything else on the car was checked through. On the Thursday before the race I had a afternoon test session booked at the track. To help me get the car setup I’ve asked Neil from Corinium Motorsport to come along and give a hand.

Thursday before race day and Justin and I set off to Combe with the Radical. Neil meets us there and we set about setting up for the afternoons testing. This will be the first time I’ve been at Combe with the Radical so I am feeling a little apprehensive about it. The first session out we leave the car as it was from Silverstone, however just pulling out of the pits I realise that the car is a very nervous on the famous bumps of Castle Combe. I always knew that Combe was a bumpy circuit but in the Elise it wasn’t never a problem, with the lightweight Radical they were very much a problem. After about 10 laps I come in, lap times started around 1.22 and slowly came down to 1.18’s. However I was working really hard just to keep the car on the track. Tyre temps and pressures were all checked and they were working well so we turning to the adjustable Nitron shock absorbers to gain some control of the car. For the next couple of session we softened the car up…a lot! Soon the car was riding the bumps properly and I wasn’t having to hang on as much. However one thing did become apparent, Combe is a very physical track, the amount of energy I needed to get the car around the track seemed to a lot more than either Brands or Silverstone. This was starting to take it out of me a little bit now and I was having to do less laps. I am sure the strong winds that day weren’t helping as I my head was having to fight that and the g-force at the same time. The only last thing to do was stop the car getting nervous on the brakes, this turned out to be a brake bias problem and a few clicks to the front had that sorted a treat. The last session I went out and the times came down to 1.14 dead which I was happy with. There is still a lot of time to be made up but I was exhausted now and continuing today probably wouldn’t do me any favours.

So that’s it, the car is ready to run on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it. The car is running very well and its handling like I want it to so I am confident that we can get a good result.

Part 6

So with the first race out of the way and what a wet one it was the Radical was back in the garage. The next race is only 3 weeks away but we don’t have a lot to do with the car. One of the issues in the race was not knowing what gear I was in, being a sequential gearbox it was very easy to get lost in. In the wet where you are using more of the torque than outright power it was easy to loose count of the gears. With this in mind I made a trip to my local motorbike shop, Peter Hammonds, and had look through their catalogues to see what I could find that would do my job. I found a small device that used the speed vs rpm to tell what gear you are in on a motorbike. This looked like it would do the trick on the Radical so I ordered it up, from the past experience with getting the tacho working I also ordered a shift light to help me confirm that we are getting a good tacho trigger. The kit arrived and Justin and I set about fitting it. It did evolve taking the side pods off the car which is a bit of a task but we are becoming well practised at doing it now. As suspected the tacho signal from the coils didn’t work and the shift light didn’t work at all.

Next step was out with a engine diagnostic meter and find the right wire that give a decent trigger signal. With this found we spliced a new wire into the loom and fed this to the dash. The shift-light were setup, funny how the neighbours loose their sense of humour when you are revving a bike engine to 11000rpm on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say we did the setup quickly so not to upset to many people. The Radical doesn’t have speedo drive so we fitted a speed sensor to the front wheel. With this all wired into the gear indicator we would have to wait until Combe before we can test it because you need to run the on the track to get a speed. So with this job done the next little job was to try and reduce the wind buffeting that I was experiencing on the high speed parts of the track. I cheated a bit hear and purchased a new screen from Radical, this one is slightly taller and has a lip on the leading edge which I am hoping will deflect the air over me. The weekend before the meeting I set about converting the car back to dry settings, optimistic I know but it can’t rain again, can it! When running the car in the wet we had everything softened up so with this in mind I take a gamble and soften the suspension up more than we have done before. The idea is to get the car riding the bumps at Combe properly and not shake the car around.

Last job is to bleed the brake system so ensure that there is no air in there. In doing so I manage to shear off one of the nipples, I knew it was only a matter of time before this would happen! Luckily I had pre-empted this and recently bought a new set of nipples “just in case”. Once nice feature of the Wilwood calipers is that the nipples are housed in a brass holder which can be removed from the caliper so there is no drilling out required, just a quick unbolt old holder and fit new one…job done! With all the jobs done we are ready for the meeting on Monday, read the race report to see how it went!

Part 7

After a rough last meeting we are back in the garage working on the car to get it ready for the August 5th meeting. I came away with 2 major problems with the car from the June 24th meeting. The first was the engine and the second was the general handling of the car.

The engine problem was basically a lack of power when changing gear. After some consultation with my local bike shop we decided that the problem was probably caused by excessive heat in the engine bay. The Radicals engine bay is completely enclosed apart from the airbox tunnel. Add the hot air that is being passed through both radiators we have one very hot engine bay area. Theory is that the hot air was causing the fuel to evaporate between gear changes thus causing the engine hesitate when applying the throttle after the gear change. To combat this problem we are doing a few things. The fist is to strip down the carburettors completely and give them a good service and clean to make sure there is no old fuel residue in the jets etc that could lead to fuelling problems. Joe at Hammonds Motorcycles has been given this exciting task. The next thing to do is to try and vent some of the hot air out of the engine bay. The newer Radical rear sections have vents around the air intake tunnel but my older car doesn’t have this. So out with the hole cutters and I perform some surgery on the fibreglass creating some holes directly above the engine. The faster air travelling over the bodywork should draw the warm air out of the engine bay – well that’s the theory. On the race day we did notice that the fibreglass was starting to bubble, bubbles the size of a golf ball, above the exhaust. To help with airflow around this area I have added holes above the exhaust on the back of the air intake tunnel and at the back of the car where the gurney flap used to be. Last but not least there is a water pipe that runs between the block and the carburettors, I’ve wrapped this in insulating material to try and reduce heat soak from this pipe into the carbs. Fingers crossed all these mods will work when we are next out, a lot of this is pure theory so we won’t know if it works until we are back on track. Last job on the engine is to give it a full service, oil, tappets and carbs balanced so it’ll be fighting fit.

The handling problem is a strange one as we hadn’t made any changes to the car since the last dry meeting yet the car just wasn’t working properly over the bumps. It looks like a lot of this was down to us making a mistake with tyre pressures. We’ve not tested in the type of heat that we experienced on the race day so we had to rely on past experience, which in this instance wasn’t accurate enough. I had a chat with Brian Davies from Avon it looks like we were running the tyres to hot which would have reduced grip and caused the tyres to skip rather than grip. With the car in the garage I went over the car’s suspension to see if there was anything obvious. The first thing that stood out was my old hubs had given up again so the OSF and NSR wheels had about a millimetre of play in them, this wouldn’t have helped. After a lot of hunting around for an alternative supplier for the hubs I’ve turned up blanks everywhere, so I have bought a new set from Radical. Not cheap but they needed doing and hopefully these will last a few seasons now. Another odd thing was the spring seat on the shocks had moved, I am still a bit puzzled how this has happen but I am now going to add this as a item to check for the pre-race check list. When I running the Elise I was using is everyday so problems like moving suspension, bad handling etc would have made themselves know before the even. With these race cars we have to get into the habbit of checking everything before each outing, all part of the learning curve.

At the start of the season I set a target lap time of 1:11 before I was allowed to make any aerodynamic modifications to the car. That way I know I have got the best I can from the car before I start making dramatic changes to it. Last meeting I got my time down to a 1:12.06 and that is pretty dam close to a 1:11 lap so we are going to make the changes before the next meeting. There are three major elements to increasing the aerodynamics to the car. The first is installing a rear wing, the second is installing dive plans on the front of the car and the thirds is increasing the spring rates. I’ve found a small company in Wales that supplies all sorts of carbon fibre and glass fibre parts for the Radical which has made things a bit cheaper. I purchased one of their carbon rear wings and a larger front splitter (partly because the last splitter was broken at the last meeting). The rear wing sits on a wing frame that bolts to the underside of the bodywork which inturn sits on a new rear subframe. The wing frame and subframe I had to purchase from Radical. Fitting the wing frame was a nerve racking experience as we had to take a jigsaw to the bodywork. With lots of careful measuring and a little bit of luck we got the holes in the right place and the frame was bolted to the rear bodywork. However in true handmade style we had to fettle it to get it all to fit properly. The subframe was a direct swap for the existing one so that only took a matter of minutes to fit. The rear wing had generic mounts on it so these had to be drilled to suit the Radical wing frame. Neil Cox from Corium Motorsport did this for me as the risk of cocking it up was way to high for me to do. With everything in place the wing was fitted to the car and it looks great. Of course adding downforce to the back of the car is great but what about the front? at the moment the car will wheelie everywhere, not great for cornering it has to be said. This is where the dive planes come in, these are fitted above the front splitter and increase the front surface area of the car and thus help push the front of the car into the tarmac. This are simply bolted to the front so that was a relatively simple job. The final thing is to change the spring rates. Looking at what we are currently running on the car and what Radical recommend we take a educated guess on the new springs. We bought the new springs from Merlin and they are happy for us to swap them if they don’t work, a nice touch I thought. While working out the spring rates I was reading a Radical internet forums is based in the USA, these guys are pretty handy for bouncing ideas off as most of them have been there/done that. I’ve never been a great fan of the Nik-Link suspension on the front of my car and as luck would have it one of the American guys mentioned that he removed his and upped the front spring rate to compensate. I thought this sounded like a great idea, it would hopefully remove the odd preloading feeling you get with the Nik-Link which would make me a lot happier. Of course if I am removing a ARB I need to up the springs again to compensate for the missing bar. This calculation was also thrown into the mix when selecting the springs. Until we get the car out on track we are not going to know if we have made the right decision, but with Merlin on site we can swap springs around until we find the right ones.

So now the car is ready to go, it looks quite smart with its new wings and dive planes, there is still a list of “nice to do” things but I think we have enough to keep up busy just at the moment. I have to say a special thanks to Justin again for his help over the past month, I don’t think I would have got it done with out his help. The test day is on the 3rd August so fingers crossed the weather holds and we have a productive day.

Part 8

Well where do I start with this one, it’s been a very interesting couple of weeks. Lets start back at the last meeting, as you know my race was cut short by some kind of failure in the transmission. The day after the race I had the car back in the garage and the diagnosis started. The suspicion is that the clutch has failed in some way, this is good news as this can be removed with out having to extract the engine from the chassis. I start by removing the clutch cover, remove the clutch plates looking for any form of damage but there was nothing obvious. Once the plates were out of the clutch basket I noticed that the basket had some play in it. Looked like the main bearing on the clutch basket was worn, this was a problem but it’s not the major problem. So next move is to remove the engine from the chassis and drop the sump of the engine to see what is going on. Justin and I had the engine out of the chassis within a couple of hours and on the floor of the garage. Once I removed the sump it was obvious what the problem was as I was greeted with a pile of swarf and 3 parts of a gear in the bottom of it. Further inspection of the gears revealed that 4th gear had broken and also damaged one other cog. Gutted wasn’t the word, knowing how much gears cost I knew this was going to cost a few quid to fix. I figured the easiest way to fix this would be to source a second hand bottom end and swap the parts over. This is when Ebay came to the rescue, as luck would have it someone was selling a freshly rebuilt bottom end. It was however from an earlier model Kawasaki but as far as we knew there wasn’t any major changes between this one and my engine. A quick trip to Colchester and I had a spare engine. I dropped both engines off to Joe at Peter Hammonds Motorcycles to get the gearbox swapped over. At this stage we have 14 days until the next meeting. As Joe was doing this in his spare time he managed to get it back together by the weekend. Less than seven days to go and we hit a problem, it turns out there is one small difference between the two revisions of engines, this is the length of the output shafts which the sprocket bolts to. The older engine is about an inch shorter thus my sprocket won’t fit anymore. Some frantic hunting through parts books at Hammonds and we manage to find a sprocket that’ll fit the engine and has the same number of teeth. The downside is that it’ll take a couple of days to arrive, add to this that I forgot to order a gasket means we have to wait until after the weekend to get the engine back into the chassis. With 3 days to go Justin and I lift the engine back into the chassis and get it bolted in. I spend the next couple of hours fitting all the hoses etc. Just as things were starting to look positive I manage to sheer off a cam cover bolt. Completely my fault and you could hear me swear several towns away! The only good thing is the bolt is in a cam bracket so it can be replaced, assuming I can get a new one. With 2 days to go this is going to be a real challenge. As suspected no one had a new one in stock. I turn to Powertec (Radical engine builders) and ask if they have one, same story, they don’t have stock. However they do have a second hand one, this was purchased and they sent it out that day. Friday 15th and we have one day left. I am working all day so I don’t get a chance to fit the new bracket until the evening. Which also means that if I break anything else we are in the poo. I get everything back together and ready for starting. I prime the oil pressure first by disconnecting the coil packs, once the pressure was upto around 20psi I reconnected them and touched the starter button. The engine barks into life, excellent. I run the engine for a couple of mins then recheck all fluids to make sure they are ok. I start the engine again and I notice a potential problem, the oil pressure is around 60psi at tickover. Usually this is around 25-30psi, I hope it is down to the oil not being upto temp so I let the engine tick over. The pressure remains at 60psi even when the oil starts to get warmer. A couple of small blips of the throttle saw the pressure rise to 110psi! This isn’t good…its 8pm now on the Friday evening and being the car is kept in a residential estate I have to stop before the neighbours lynch me! Not really knowing what to do now I give Neil Cox a call to see if he has any suggestions. After a long chat with Neil I decide to risk it and run the engine in qualifying to see what happens. At this point I was feeling pretty low knowing that we could be on the way home again before lunch on the Saturday.

Continued in the race report…….