| MY OCCASIONAL MOTORSPORT DIARY
Gurson Down 29 & 30 April
The end of April and the hope of warmer dry weather for our chosen sport although when we hear of droughts in Europe and reservoirs less than a quarter full, our occasionally wet and green environment perched to the west of Europe is more inviting. The weather forecast said dry and mild, pleasant enough as I drove to Gurston on Friday with little traffic, which was curious as the forthcoming weekend was a Bank Holiday. On arrival the ‘farmyard’ part of the paddock had a section of new concrete, long overdue but consequently lots of cement dust, the road sweeper on Friday having been unable to vacuum this as the area was wet – the dust becoming a cement slurry although officials did their best with brooms. A week or two and it will be perfect after some rain, or high winds. Soon everything was unpacked and the Ensign parked beneath the gazebo ready to go – so I thought.
Saturday dawned misty, a good sign and as I drove to the hill it started to clear, a blue and sunny sky to welcome the day’s sport. All was looking good until I pressed the starter button to warm the engine – answered by an unwelcome silence. It took very little time to work out that the solenoid in the starter had failed but all was not lost – a spare at home and the day was young. I returned to Bristol to collect the replacement, a tiresome journey but it was a fine day, the job simple enough and would need doing anyway. Returning at the end of the lunch break, the day had been going quickly and well for competitors but I decided that even if I had the Ensign repaired, I wouldn't attempt any runs today. To change the starter the four exhaust pipes and silencer had to be removed for access, simple enough, the starter mounted low and awkward to access but I was familiar with the job, normally 10 minutes. Stupidly I inserted the starter upside down and after the Allen screws were located realised my error – HT and LT cables could not be fitted. No particular problem other than one of the two locating bolts is unseen behind the starter, access difficult with the cable connecting block in the way. Removing this screw took ages but it had to be done, now or later, the day was dry and sunny albeit the location not as comfortable as my workshop. Once done and the starter rotated 180 degrees reassembly was straight forward although fitting the exhaust pipes is always difficult – they are marked but are convoluted when assembled and this need patience! Silencer on and the job done, the twin cam spun and started immediately and I felt virtuous, if that’s the word – I normally don't do 'paddock rebuilds’. Tools strewn everywhere had to be sorted and packed but a glass of cider outside the canteen in the warm evening sunshine restored my enthusiasm for Sunday.
The morning dawned much the same as Saturday but a cloudy day was forecast, which was correct. Saturday our class comprised Mike in his Alexis twin cam and the Tearle family ‘pere et fils’ in their historic Ginetta G12, fitted with a modernish 1137cc bike engine where a twin cam would have lived. James took the class although Mike ran out of petrol on T2 so the results could have well been different.
They only stayed for Saurday. On Sunday we were joined by Ian in his scrumptious Brabham BT16 twin cam and James making his first track outing in his completely restored Rudeani. Resplendent with its red Roach crafted body, this car has a transverse Ford engine driving through a Norton gearbox to a ‘solid’ differential, 5” section 10” diameter original J.A Pearce wheels. A veritable plumber’s nightmare of chains, superb workmanship and today a landmark in a very long project, the car having originally been built by James’s father and Jack Heaton Rudd in the 1960s, subsequently lengthened twice but still with a very short wheelbase! A regular and successful competitor back in the day and a competitor at early Gurston hill climbs. The scrutineer was very interested and helpful, careful examination and it was noticed that a wheel bearing was rubbing, soon solved with a spacer. Through the morning the car had a complete spanner check as a precaution whilst the sound test met regulations, always a concern at a first outing.
Competition proceeded, occasional spots of rain which continued intermittently but did not cause problems although there was a noticeable chill in the air which did not help times. After Saturday’s personal chaos I was surprisingly relaxed and the Ensign behaving well, surprisingly over 100mph across the finish line on all four runs, even if the preceding bits had been disappointing. Typically, T2 was the best time and I was unlikely to improve that 34.49s, 35.35s on P1 with Ian just 0.01s quicker to take the class. On T2 he missed third gear off the start which I could see on the start line display and I thought this was my opportunity. However, a second slower due to my untidy driving. Mike improved steadily after an untypical spin through Hollow bend – no harm done to car or driver. James sensibly ran quietly but I thought 70mph across the finish line on T4 impressive for this first outing, James obviously gaining confidence in his 'new' car.
Another weekend playing with cars finished in good time, no incidents of significance other than a mature lady falling in the paddock opposite the Ensign. I rushed to help, not that I could do anything, but medics were quickly on the scene and I hope there were no serious issues. With over 100 cars there are always stories to tell, mechanical failures, whatever. After having clutch trouble at the April meeting here one competitor completely replaced the whole assembly with new, only to loose third gear on Saturday morning. All of which put my starter motor woes into perspective. As a post script, I contacted the now-suppliers of the starter, Brise having sold the business on retirement to an outfit based in Yeovil. I was quoted 4 week delay to repairs, no spares available for my starter but I could buy a new replacement for £699! A reason to take mine apart on the bench and I discovered the problem and it's working again!
I had been planning a weekend at Wiscombe later in April, but such is the lust for hill climb success their entry list overflowed as I had entered a few days later than ‘first entries’. I was in fact overflow No 31 when the efficient Entry Sec mailed me, saying I’d possibly get in as their ‘fall out’ was vast – anyway they took no money. I therefore entered the early Shelsley Walsh – Saturday 15th April was a ‘test day’ whatever that means, Sunday 16th a clubby which suited me whilst my b & b could accommodate me on Saturday. If fairness to that excellent club Woolbridge MC where my Wiscombe entry stalled, I was offered both days 5 days before the event but by then had other plans. I hope their entry was filled on what turned out to be a wet and miserable weekend.
That’s outdoor sport in April and I was expecting to quietly unload, wander the paddock and then depart for relaxation. Arriving in ‘The Valley’ I turned into the trailer park to be confronted with mud of Somme proportions about which nobody had advised. Being slightly competitive I decided my 4wb Audi would drive through this with the transporter, only to be disillusioned and bogged down. Knowing that the Audi is rarely thwarted I relaxed and after 5 minutes of ‘to & throw’ the Audi drove out, the 4WD system designed for the German military proving it’s worth - it’s just road tyres in mud are useless. Along the way I was also able to help and push others less fortunate. After this the gate keeper kindly gave me access to the hallowed paddock and I unloaded the Ensign in a hidden corner, the transporter later dumped in the member car park.
We are all grown up and used to sorting our own issues but I was unimpressed with the lack of warning from the MAC office, compared with Gurston Down a fortnight previously, who had kept everyone ‘in the loop’. I hope the local farmers ‘made hay’ pulling out campers and trailers from the mud. I chatted to a few people in the paddock and later signed in at the b & b. Some ale and a meal finished the evening and the following morning I was in the paddock bright and early, my plan for loading at the end of the day already formulated as the weather was damp and I was expecting the worst.
The Ensign was alone in the class for 1972-1990 racing cars, running in the second to last batch but as quite a few cars had scratched the programme ran quickly with no delays. The light overnight rain made the track slippery and I approached P1 with caution, the Ensign perhaps sensing this with a tiresome mid-range miss fire which, in the circumstances, hardly mattered, just making a slow controlled start difficult. The pretty red Elva Mk7 in the next shed had been having starter motor woes on Saturday but these seemed to have disappeared, which seemed odd as not something that normally cures itself. My time of 43.24s was best forgotten, much the same with a P2 time of 37.33s, the track drier but I expect I was settling into the routine. A major improvement had been made to the finish paddock with tarmac now covering a large area previously grassed, keeping tyres cleaner although I’d never found this much of a problem. That was the morning over and plenty of people to chat with, many drivers taking the day to spectate and catch up on the news. Again the threatened closure of the Avon factory was the top topic for gossip. The rain stayed away and we were soon into the competitive runs. I had a perfunctory look at the Weber carbs as I suspected the miss fire was due to fuel mixture, no improvement on T1 but curiously on T2 the twin cam chimed in cleanly on 4 cylinders and a much improved 32.98s for the final run. Returning to the paddock I sneaked the Ensign into the members car park and loaded the transporter in a peaceful corner, quite a few other cars adopting the same idea as car parks quickly empty at the end of an event. A pleasant enough outing gave me a chance to refresh my memory of the hill and decide on entries later in the season.
The start of my 2023 season of hill climbs and sprints was south to Gurston Down. Conveniently close to home and a decent local b&b, this year I’ve decided to make relaxing weekends here, no driving back and forth from home each day, minimal stress and certainly very little more expensive with current fuel costs.
As it transpired it was a miserable weekend weatherwise, Friday afternoon heavy rain driven by hard winds across the downlands making unloading a penance, difficult to even get the gazebo safely secured. Officials had been aware of potential problems, the grass trailer park soaked so we had instructions to park trailers, tow-cars and campers elsewhere on site and in the farmyard. A smaller entry at this first event was as well – no advertising was in place as spectator’s cars would just add to the parking problems, although cars were parked outside the farm on the main road, which might have annoyed some of the local residents.
As usual imy Ensign F3 was in the pre-1972 class with Mike’s Alexis Mk17 twin cam, a regularly used early Morgan 4/4 and a V4 1600cc Lancia Fulvia that we also see quite regularly. I have always liked the Fulvia, either as they left the factory or the modestly exotic Zagato bodied versions. I always thought of them as small cars but now they appear much larger to me, odd as most cars are now much larger than in the 1970s. Early morning it was still raining, less than Friday afternoon but small streams of water crossing the track as we all headed out for our first practice run. These days there are few official formalities as we digitally sign-on, scrutineers just checking overalls, gloves and helmet before heading for somewhere drier.
As I have already mentioned P1 was wet with a stream crossing the track at the bottom of the hill iheading towards Hollow, where there was also standing water. As the track climbed the water was clearing better although small streams down the sides of the track, 47.04s my first time and most quicker cars were in the 40s although Andy Forsyth was showing off with a 37.45s in his 1600cc OMS with a brave 96mph over the finish! Ed Hollier, Murray Wakeham and Tim Pitfield had offs, Murray tearing the OMS’s underside as the forward aero dug into the mud before Hollow. Conditions improved for P2, in other words less rain. Mike had sensibly declined P1 as indeed he could after attending the recent test day here. Times improved, my 42.95s quicker in line with most other cars. I had the benefit of new tyres, these wet conditions ideal for lightly scrubbing them, the improvement in grip and handling compared with last season becoming more apparent. Current news suggests that production of Avon cross ply race tyres at Melksham will cease at the end of this year – could be a bit of a problem there? With the smaller entry there was time for a third practice run, a bit of a treat normally, but today....?The rain continued and many took this opportunity, times generally a little faster although I produced a slower 45.11s which was a disappointment. By this time Andy Forsyth was down to 35.46s, clearly relishing the conditions.
Lunchtime came and went, many crowding into the canteen for warmth and sustenance as it was chilly in the paddock. Drivers had the advantage of their thick fireproof overalls, plus extra layers beneath whilst on a day like this a closed car with a heater was the place to be. Starting on the competitive runs the rain had stopped and there was a hint of a dry line in places, improving through the afternoon. This was generally reflected with many best times on T2, myself included with 39.19s on T2 whilst Mike improved by a whopping 4.1s between T1 and T2 in his Alexis. Overall, Andy Forsyth took BTD on 34.60s closely followed by Ed Hollier on 34.97s. With many events these days there is a Top 12 runoff, something I hitherto have manage to avoid, so my confusion was complete when advised that I had qualified in 12th place! Overcome with the excitement and starting quite well, I arrived at Karousel rather early and climbed the grass bank at the top, spoiling the run although no harm was done to the Ensign and I was quickly back on the track. With 4 wheels 'off' the run should have been void but I was given a time! Despite the conditions there were few incidents although I expect everyone were glad when the day finished and cars, in the main, ready for Sunday. Just like Friday evening, much of my clothing was saturated and needed the overnight warmth of the b & B to become wearable again.
Sunday dawned grey with a breeze but happily just occasional drops of rain that cleared as the day progressed, the breeze drying the exposed track and Gurston was surprisingly quick for the afternoon competitive runs. The Morgan left our class to join one dedicated to Morgans, whilst making his first competitive appearance here was VSCC stalwart Ian Baxter with an exquisite Brabham BT16 twin cam. The car had been in the USA and had now returned to its original and competitive condition, already obvious as Ian was quick on the test day some weeks previously. Built by Ron Tauranac in 1965-1966 they were used in F2 and F3, F2 using Cosworth SCA or BRM engines whilst in 1966 the car annexed F2 with their very special Honda dohc engine. Mike had his Alexis and Jago Keen’s Lancia Fulvia reappeared. Driving was much more pleasant and in our class Ian emphatically set the pace on P1 with 37.90s to my 41.07s and Mike’s 41.58. Clearly conditions were improving on P2 with the Ensign was 35.72s, Ian 36.11s and Mike’s Alexis 38.45s with speeds approaching 100mph over the finish line. We stopped for lunch - not quite so cold today!
Now dry and even the occasional blue sky peeping through, drivers were looking forward to their competitive runs. In our class, P1 and Ian showed his form with 35.30s and 108mph across the finish, the Ensign 35.60s and 110mph with Mike 38.26s and 80mph. The Alexis goes well otherwise and perhaps it’s a gearing issue that reduces its finish speed and time. Into T2 and the Brabham and Ensign matched each other with 34.41s although interestingly Ian’s finish speed was 100mph and the Ensign’s 110mph, or 7800rpm according to my Hewland chart. Mike improved to 37.99s and being the first runner Ian won the class – just! Competition was fierce elsewhere with Ed Hollier taking BTD on 30.65s from Andy Forsythe on 31.02s, Tony Wiltshire and Ben Bonfield following closely. I was once again ambushed and in the Top 12 although sadly the Brabham wasn't, due to the vagaries of competition regulations. This time I kept my cool and finished 7th with a slightly improved 34.33s and a launch 64ft time split of 2.23s, only beaten by a Mitsubishi 4wd. Clearly the new tyres were starting to perform.
The conclusion to my quiet season of speed events, close to home and again enjoying perfect weather for the time of year. Bristol Motor Club runs this sprint, in the past held early in the season but now at the end, both being cheaper times to rent a track. Apart from local entries this the last round of the Bristish Sprint Championship so the ‘big hitters’ were present, this championship coming to a competitive end with the final result dependent on today’s results. Apart from being conveniently located Combe enjoys a spacious, level and smooth paddock – even Merlin Motorsport onsite if any oddment is required. I needed spare dzuz fasteners and a replacement dual oil pressure/temperature gauge. The original looking ‘Smiths’ replica is available only with ‘water temperature’ printed on the face, so I shall need to remove the glass and overpaint if I wish to retain the same appearance.
The Ensign‘s paddock location was with the other single seaters and conveniently opposite the pre-start marshalling area. The sun had risen and the sky was clear, like many autumn days this year the intense sun low in the sky, glaring but a good problem. The track was damp from Friday’s rain but drying, a vast ribbon of tarmac a contrast to Shelsley’s narrow track a fortnight ago! There was plenty of activity and a casual onlooker might have thought cars were being dismantled and rebuilt, although there was plenty of time as the practice runs did not start until well after 9.00am. Apart from the usual jobs getting set up I’d nothing to do, having already changed the gear ratios to suit the wide-open spaces of Combe. The start was at the end of the marshalling area and we had about 1.6 laps, the finish at the end of the 2nd chicane – Bobbies, then the paddock return road and beneath the pedestrian footbridge. Lazily I did not walk the track although did check out the final return into the paddock – just as well for the road was closed outside the canteen, now a customer seating area.
Plenty of saloon cars, Mazda MX5s, Caterhams and Westfields, a smart lhd 911 and various Radicals caught my eye – also an electric Tesla. Single seaters included OMS, an unexpected 750 formula car with a 850cc Reliant engine, Marengo 2 built by Tony Pashley in Cornwall, revised graphics and nice to see out again having lain fallow for 6 years. As at Llandow I was parked beside Steve Miles, benefitting from his electronically inspired transporter with a musical soundtrack and for all I know a connection to the Space Station! He was 2021 Sprint Champion but this was due to end at Combe, Matt Hillam looking favorite and this was confirmed at the end of the day. Matt sharing the SBD Dallara with Steve Broughton. The Ensign was in the 1600cc single seater class with Carole Torkington in the SBD OMS CF8, which duly disappeared and hid! With few delays the single seaters were called for their practice run, the track now only showing an odd damp patch. My run was slow, emphasising that I should have walked the track for whilst knowing the general layout I had forgotten the detail. After running perfectly at Shelsley the Ensign’s carburetion was poor, choking at high revs, so I made a small adjustment.
The track remained busy and there were a few short delays although nothing major. Sadly the 750 single seater packed up without a run, whether a mechanical or falling foul of the scrutineers I don’t know. Their checks happen as normal now but perfunctory, checking mainly safety equipment, harness and their date tags. I had the same scrute at the last Gurston where he said I should not use small elastic cords and hooks to hold my lap harness belts to the side of the cockpit – assisting entry as there's little space. The chief scrute confirmed they were ok and we had a joke about it today. I was also approached by observant scrute whilst awaiting P1, querying that I was not wearing the obligatory FHR device, which it is not required in the case of older cars. The first timed run commenced immediately after practice and my small adjustments to the Webers improved the engine response and a much quicker run, helped by the fact I had confidence about where to place the Ensign. In the sunshine the tyres were already warm, an older set due for replacement, their grip good enough for my pace.
After lunch the plan was for two further timed runs, conditions remaining perfect with sunshine continuing and little breeze. I took the first, no issues but a little slower than T1 following which I packed up early feeling happy enough with the day and the way the Ensign ran. So, the end of another season where events had returned to what passes as normality in these post covid times. There appear to have been sufficient officials to organise and support events which is a potential problem, whilst event entries have been adequate although the usual extremes have been apparent – some event entry lists quickly filled whilst others so low the event was cancelled, or run at a loss. Entry costs have risen, but not significantly, travel and fuel costs significantly more expensive and where necessary accommodation too increasing with the current ‘staycation’ boom. Not so different to many other leisure activities. Autumn has arrived and the Ensign now tucked away in the workshop where it will doubtless provide hours of activity, taking things apart, cleaning and checking, putting them together again!
Shelsley Walsh 17-18.9.22
Always good to be in the Teme Valley with the hill rising steeply through the woods, a beautiful location to indulge my pleasure in race cars and hill climbs. This was the last meeting of Shelsley's 2022 season comprising of two events on Saturday and Sunday, most of the usual classes and several championships to bolster their entry which including the ‘Autocar’ supported Young Driver Championship, a worthy attempt to encourage new and young drivers into a sport now dominated by drivers of pensionable age. I had entered the Ensign for both days and also arranged accommodation locally to simplify the weekend.
The entry was varied as might be expected. The pre-1971 Classic class on Saturday included such gems at the George family’s delicious Chevron B19 FVA, the Serrell Elva Mk7, Mike’s Alexis Mk17 1840cc twin cam, 2.4litre of Spider 2 and the Ginetta G16 BMW of Ed Tyack, which probably knows its own way up the hill with or without a driver and duly won their class on Saturday. The Bugatti Owners Club championship class surprisingly had only one single seater, Carole Nicholls Nike Formula Ford; plenty of nice sports cars but few single seaters this year. The Matty Lotus championship were early runners with their range of 60s and 70s sports and racing cars seen here many times before this year. Plenty of modern sports and saloon cars and a sprinkling of fast single seaters including Gould, Pilbeam, DJ, OMS and Force. Curiously, class arrangements placed the Ensign with the modern 1600cc single seaters but it made a change to be surrounded by them in Top Paddock, someone remarking how, like modern road cars, single seat race cars too looked so much larger today with their exotic aero bodywork, albeit significantly lighter with modern composite materials compared with steel tube and GRP. As I’d not driven here since 2019 I walked the track on Friday afternoon, much as expected although more impenetrable trackside barriers, sensible in view of the high speeds cars now achieve although doing nothing for the historical charm of the place. The track was clean as there had been no rain for a while – just dusty but that would disappear with use as I don't think a road sweeper was employed, unlike other clubs. Otherwise, all looked smart and well cared for. Refreshing my memory, I decided on a couple of changes to my usual approach to driving the hill, one to delay further my 'turn-in' at Top Ess, which over the weekend made little difference to my times although the Ensign accepted full power sooner.
My accommodation was only 10 minutes from the hill so I was bright and early arriving on Saturday, perhaps one of the nicest parts of a day at Shelsley on a sunny morning. Following a 2-minute commemorating the recent royal death there was little to do with the Ensign other than start the twin cam, this time rather unenthusiastic in the morning chill despite using the booster battery. Eventually 4 cylinders chimed and the engine idled and warmed itself for a few minutes. I have never found the sheds in the Shelsley paddock a problem but other single seaters seem to have trouble squeezing in their paraphernalia, spare tyres, seats and what have you. Built for a different era, of course – smaller cars and less junk! Once again, part of the historical charm of the place although I wonder how long before 'progress' has them dismantled?
The day’s program started promptly and ran smoothly with very few delays despite there seeming fewer marshals than I recall and the 2 in Top Paddock were kept busy. The day was warm and sunny - perfect! After the long absence I was slightly nervous starting P1 but the track opened out before me, a quiet and uneventful run, a little quicker than I expected. More relaxed but concentrated for P2 I managed my fastest climb of the weekend having taken note of Friday’s walk up the hill. The Ensign’s twin cam was running perfectly but slightly slow on the final straight, perhaps the exit through Top Ess too cautious despite my different line. After lunch P1 was rubbish, not concentrating and missing gears whilst T2 was better although I was finding hard exiting the start, the tyres dating from early 2018 and tired. Everything went easily and a stress-free day and I was able to occasionally wander the paddock which is always part of the pleasure of Shelsley, also time in the courtyard afterwards when the awards were presented.
On Sunday morning there was a stronger breeze and the weather cool although dry and pleasant. Arriving earlier than necessary again we had another 2-minute silence and following yesterday's exercise the twin cam started instantly. There was space on the other side of the paddock and I arranged to move there after P1 for the company. Track conditions were similar to Saturday and it was still difficult getting traction off the start although I had tried my Gurston method of short shifting into 2nd gear. This produced slower 64ft times so there was little I could do. The run was smooth enough but I was red flagged approaching Bot Ess, which I saw immediately Having stopped, a marshal waved me forward to reverse into the ‘slot’ to return to the start for a rerun. I did not rush, as apart from anything else steep hill starts are not so easy with the Hewland clutch mechanism. As I was about to move forward the following car, 112 went past me on the right at a fair pelt, obviously released from the start before my arrival at Bot Ess and unable, or unwilling, to stop. I eventually returned to the start for a rerun, upset by the incompetence of start and hill control and relieved that neither the Ensign or I were damaged. Back in July 2016 I had an incident when my Mallock topped the brow after the start. I met the Course Car and Clerk coming down the hill. In both cases I was advised that no one had done anything wrong. I think the people in track control are too old and too complacent, but what do I know! What I do know is that this has never happened to me anywhere else and whilst I love Shelsley perhaps it’s too dangerous?
I ran P1 again and my time was slightly faster than Saturday morning which, in the circumstance was ok. Now lodged in my new shed the company was perfect as I was parked beside the George’s red Chevron B19, one of my favorite cars, beside Mike and his Alexis, whom I regularly meet at Gurston Down. We were then informed that Richard Hammond and his film crew would occupy the next spaces, messing around with a vintage Riley sports car which was occasionally driven up the hill by another driver. I suppose they needed the atmosphere of a real event to enhance their story line although having paid an entry fee to MAC I did not relish my day interrupted by their capers Soon we were into P2, a modest improvement in my time and incident free. After that I did a bit of moving – bits and pieces to the Audi which was parked in front of the transporter in the trailer park. The Shelsley trailer park is excellent and whilst uneven grass is vast, so it is rare to be blocked by the thoughtless. Opposite the exit is the entry to the Member’s Car Park, a delightful orchard with access to the paddock, introduced by a past competition secretary and appreciated by members today. Very civilised.
The afternoon was a cooler but not enough to affect the climbs. T1 was unexciting with slow intermediates but 99 over the finish whilst T2 was neat and the fastest of the day on 32.16s, slow but the Ensign was running easily and tidily – there is always another day! So, it was packing up, loading the transporter and homewards. A delightful weekend apart from incompetent management on the hill. A week or two and it will be Castle Combe, run by the Bristol Motor Club – a club with a history and continuity few can match and I’ll feel tons safer there. As an afterthought I've just receive the reports and accounts from MAC. It's interesting to compare the Chairman and Treasurer reports, in my opinion the latter appearing to be much more in tune with the reason for Shelsley Walsh in the 21st Century rather than viewing it as just one revenue stream amongst others. The National Trust, with their success in conservation and preservation whilst also generating revenue, might provide some ideas?
Gurston Down August Bank Holiday 27-28.8.22
This weekend was always Gurston's contribution to the British Hillclimb Championship but things change and this year it was a normal ‘clubby’ with several invited championships and the final round of Gurston’s own championship, with the treat of double points on Sunday to bolster the entry. Briefly browsing the numbers I suspect most of the championship class results were already settled before this weekend, but who cares? More to the point, we had two days of hot dry weather, plenty of sunshine and a perfect track surface, swept by mechanical road sweeper on Friday so no stones or gravel - even the paddock was clean.
For a change I delivered the Ensign on Friday and had arranged to stay the weekend at a local b&b at Dinton, a village not far from the hill, avoiding the stress of driving back and forth which is no longer so economical with today’s petrol costs. I walked the track late in the afternoon, a useful refresher and in this case spilt paint on the track usefully marking a braking point! Single seaters were parked as usual in the farm yard, this weekend clean and civilised and not crowded. Our Classic Class 13 had the usual suspects entered - my Ensign, Mike’s Alexis Mk 17 Lotus twin cam and Sue’s Palliser, also powered by twin cam. Other cars were mainly familiar although the 2100cc Norma M20FC sports libre of Duncan Barnes and Tom New was something new, sharing the large capacity libre class with Nick Mann’s familiar yet still impressive 1700cc T Mannic-Beattie. At the other end of the scale Denis Bissell’s 600cc Nemesis HC92 single seater, its new owners first outing in this ex-Rob Capper/Tracy Cameron car, smartly resplendent in bright green. A late 1920s Bugatti Type 40 was a delightful stray from the VSCC on Saturday. Competitors in the HSA Championship had rounds on both days, drivers either running in the HSA classes or, if members of the organising club BARC as well, spread around classes according to their category. If you can understand?
As usual practice started promptly Saturday morning with the Austin Sevens, proceeding smoothly although Steve Luscombe had a ‘mechanical’ so had to withdraw his familiar MG Midget. Track conditions supported fast driving so no significant ‘offs’ although I expect the grass edges saw the odd visitor. My Ensign was behaving perfectly although tired tyres not helping off the start until I adopted the rather odd approach of leaving the line at 4000rpm and immediately changing into 2nd gear for otherwise the tyres were spinning up to 7000rpm. The downhill start here is always fun with my objective of 100mph at the bottom, modest by other standards but quick enough for me. The finish paddock had been reorganised with new white lines which I had fortunately noticed during my walk up the hill - slightly confusing but the marshals had matters well in hand. Smoothly we moved into the afternoon official runs with little ado. T1 actually my best of the weekend on 34.94s, the start slowish at 91mph but a satisfactory 103mph over the finish and more to the point, I kept all 4 wheels on the track. There is a hill climb rule to this effect and I have dropped a wheel off the defined track limits in the past – just too much excitement! Meeting Mike and Millie later we had a meal at the Royal Oak in Swallowcliffe, a delightful pub that has recently received a major refurbishment. Being unused to country life the darkness was overwhelming driving back to the B&B – the clear sky solid with stars, even the unusually bright space station almost hidden.
The B&B was different, as Fiona had no empty rooms I opted for one of her ‘huts’ - something road workers used to occupy with large iron wheels. Comfortable and something different, not perhaps recommended for cold windy weather but complete with outside shower hut and compost toilet. I opted for breakfast at the farm and it all worked rather well. Sunday again dawned fine, a smaller entry so practice went quickly with no issues, following which the word was that there would be another practice run before lunch, which seemed sensible. Slightly concerned about fuel I decided to opt out and wandered up the hill to watch cars through the twisty Karousel and Ashes on this practice run. After sitting for 40 minutes, I spoke to a marshal who said that plans had changed - a very early lunch followed with the timed runs starting at 12.15 - clearly either the PA was not working or no one thought fit to advise spectators. I walked back to the paddock, slightly bemused by the apparent indecision but perhaps better for the exercise!
So the timed runs commenced early, to be followed by a timed ‘fun run’ of such little relevance that only 21 cars bothered, to be followed by the Top 12 runoff. Although having got to grips with the start the Ensign’s runs were slower than Saturday but a final 35.16sec was ok, 101 over the finish line and the start sector quickest of the weekend, my driving unadventurous but at least tidy. This sport is about putting everything together right on the same run, harder than it sounds for many of us! The joke is that we measure in seconds and fractions thereof, so a slow run is not that much slower than a fast run. Saturday BTD was taken by Tony Wiltshire in his 2litre Ralt RT34 Peugeot on 30.00sec and Sunday by Tim Elmer in his 2 litre Dallara 399 on 29.59sec. A nice weekend of club motorsport in delightful surroundings.
Classic Shelsley 16.7.22
This a weekend I look forward to and enter the Ensign, whenever possible. This year MAC planned to feature a large BRM display together with a number of their past drivers, including Milke Wilds who cut his teeth driving my Ensign in 1972/3. I was disappointed when told that I could only compete on Saturday due to the large number of entries, the fact that I was a member and had entered this event many times cutting no ice here! I had no enthusiasm for the rush and pressure of a single day as I like time to wander, climb the hill, savor the day. I cancelled Saturday having already advised entry sec Annie Goodyear that I preferred 2 days or nothing when entering. I think others felt as I did but there was a new entry policy in place.
However, bright and early I headed north to Worcester on a very hot Saturday morning, the middle of a prolonged heat wave and for competitors a track in perfect condition. Driving along the valley road there was suddenly traffic, spectators perhaps confused by the alternative entries to the venue although I was soon inside the crowded members car park, underwhelmed by the surly youth masquerading as ‘security’ brusquely demanding my membership card. I gather this was the same elsewhere, the competitors trailer park suffering a similar fate and being ‘organised’, where for decades competitors have parked tidily without amateur supervision. Escaping the Audi, it was good to walk into the paddock, every space filled with competitors and plenty of spectators although only 9.45am. I wandered over to where my erstwhile class was located and was soon up-dated on activities and other competitors. In the class a rare appearance of Ewan Cameron's Harrier F5000, a one-off car built in period by Terry Sanger. The program was dominated by large classes of particular championships – 22 in the BOC Classic, 20 in the Austin Healey, 15 in the 500cc, 25 in the Matty Lotus and 21 in the unbelievably noisy Rally 22 class. The remaining age defined classes were small, some with only one car, presumably MAC had opted for volume in order to ensure a full paddock and entry revenue.. I understand a Shelsley event was cancelled early in the season due to few entries so their approach was understandable, if flawed, depending on ones view. There again, I expect most of the spectators would not know the difference and would relish the sight of anything with 4 wheels and making a loud noise. Whilst not attending I see from the results that Sunday was dominated again by the championships of Matty Lotus, 500OA, Austin Healey, Ralli 22 with additional Morgans and Classic Marques on the day. Again the remaining classes mainly had but one car entered which was rather pointless but as with Saturday it saved MAC money as awards only given where there are 3 or more competitors!
Apart from my disappointment in the lack of interesting or rarely seen cars in the paddock, the specially arranged and heavily promoted BRM display was worth the journey. An original V16, the 1965 Rover BRM turbine Le Mans car, not so posh but nevertheless lovely was the Willment BRM 2 lit V8 sports racer and a red Cooper BRM F2 , Also there an F1 V8, two F1 4cyl, one with the exposed rear disc brake and others, including a brand new V16 that was running – if you have a budget anything can be fabricated these days! Two early 70s V12s looked magnificent, a P153 and P201 and I spent a long time looking at their workings although with the bodywork firmly in place too much was hidden. There were also the 1971 Brabham based Hepworth 4wd and their 1970 P154 BRM CanAm sports racer in the display, cars that appear quite regularly but none the worse for that. Apparently, a plaque was to be fixed near the start line on Sunday, commemorating the single appearance by the V16 at Shelsley and BRM in general.
The hot day was not entirely suited for climbing the hill on foot. The spectator encloses were busy, although judging by those close to me it was more of a family outing than an overwhelming enthusiasm for Shelsley or the competition that had drawn people here. The hill itself looked in perfect condition, although armco had arrived on the right, between Crossing and the sleepers at Bottom S. Inevitable, I suppose, as concern had been expressed for some time about faster cars leaving the track to the right and climbing the bank - out of control. I hope it's eventually painted green as the uncoated shiny metal makes it too 2022. The car park was filled with club areas, trade stands and food outlets and I was interested to see an immaculate Auston A90 Atlantic convertible made in the late 1940s and early 1950s, produced with export in mind but not a great success in the large US market. I remember travelling in one to the British GP at Aintree in 1955 with my family, great fun being had with its then revolutionary powered soft top. We travelled to and from London with ease, the 2.6 lit 4 cylinder engine giving a top speed of around 90mph, quick for those pre-motorway days. The survival of this example in the Shelsley car park was a truly a ‘tour de force’!
This sprint is organised by the two Bristol clubs and very popular on both sides of the Bristol Channel. Llandow is mainly used for testing and track days and I too find it convenient for testing. Today there was a large entry and when I arrived about 7.30am the paddock was almost full. Unable to find my number I parked the car and transporter in the remaining gap and fortunately the car there numbered was a 'no show'. Actually a good place, close to the start line with plenty going on, parked next to Steve Miles who unsurprisingly took BTD in his 2 litre Van Dieman RF96, Steve having been National Sprint Champion in 2020 in his self developed and prepared car.The Ensign was in the 1600cc racing car class, unfairly, for them, opposed by three Formula Fords. There was a chill breeze blowing across the Severn Estuary and we could see as the weather approached - black clouds meaning light showers for us although other parts of South Wales had a real soaking. Our class was lucky and missed most of the rain - I certainly expected a soaking in P2 but started a minute or so before the rain arrived. Arriving back in the paddock the C of C rushed towards me saying that my run was untimed and I coould have another. The rains had started and I made my excuses and ran for cover.
The Ensign went well using the old tyres as Llandow can quickly wreck a set when the driver is trying. Times were disappointing although the Ensign ran well and I slightly richened the mixture with cooler temperatures. All runs were in the 85sec area and should have been quicker, although Steve remarked that he was well off his PB - perhaps it was one of those days. After testing in February I certanly knew my way round the track. One the way home rain was torrential on the M4 so we had been very lucky.
Gurston again and on Saturday only Mike and myself in our classic class, which at this rate will soon disappear. Conditions were dry with mild temperatures so good enough for what we were doing. There was an entry of bikes on both days. I was running the Ensign with hard suspension settings which seem to suit me best at the moment, the car reacting well to steering input, particularly sharp corners. On P2 all seemed well with 98mph off the start and 102 over the finish although the Ensign was unstable. A link had disconnected from the rear anti-roll bar and over the finish I had a wheel off the track so the run of 34.70s was disallowed. This was easily fixed and perhaps the anti-roll bar does do something. T1 was not quite as good although I kept the wheels on the track this time. Unfortunately, when the bikes were taking T1 one of their riders had a medical problem when he arrived in the top paddock. After a prolonged delay and intense medical activity, the rest of the meeting was cancelled.
Weather conditions on Sunday were similar with occasional light rain showers, which didn't last long and soon dried in the breeze. Our class was joined by Anthony Norton who comes out occasionally in his Alvis 12/50 tourer, hill climbing in the grand manner and space for 3 passengers! Unable to resist fiddling I changed to B9 spark plugs once again and with a slight mixture adjustment on the Webers the Ensign ran faultlessly, back in the 34s on T1, the engine pulling seamlessly up the final hill to the finish.
Harewood is north of Leeds although close to the M1, a long way but easy simple to access. Another of those dreaded Friday journeys although this time traffic was flowng freely and no delays. For Wiscombe I had changed to a lower set of gear ratios which also suited Prescott and Harewood, the engine was now running well so one of my excuses for a poor showing had been eliminated! The weekend weather forecast was mixed, Saturday looking fine but probably wet on Sunday. The Ensign was parked on the lower section of the paddock and as luck would have it on the grass sloped area, the only part of the paddock not level, which was awkward, Unloaded and sorted several Lotus single seaters arrived, getting some Saturday practice before their championshhip classes on Sunday. There was a large vintage entry together with plenty of Austin Healeys, 60s saloons and sports cars, the Ensign probably the most modern car entered which made a change. My regular accomodation was close and I was surprised on arrival to see a 'for sale' sign, Jill was selling up and moving after many years. This has also happened at my regular farm b&b close to Loton Park in Shropshire, so more unexpected effects of covid or perhaps people getting older and wanting some peace and quiet!
dawned dry and overcast. I had walked the track on Friday afternoon and there were
no changes to what I remembered. Like most venues wheel spinning to
clean and warm the rear tyres is no longer allowed in the interests of
the environment, not that I bothered one way or the other. The entry was large but Harewood operates continuously as the finish exits straight into the paddock. Our class ran late in the program and comprised of three Lotus 69s - Malcolm Thorne's F2 BDA, Tony Wallen's F3 BDA and David Hampton's Atlantic BDA, David Gidden's 23 twincam, James Baxter's Cooper T90 F5000 and Joclyn Harrisons's Surtees TS8 F5000. Tony won the class, now using a BDA in his erstwhile F3 car whilst Malcolm seemed to have Ensign problems, delving deeply into his Webers. The Ensign was very slow, 4s of the PB and even one happily harmless 'off' into the deep grass. A car I really wanted to have a close look at was James Baxter's Cooper, one of two F5000 monocoques built by Tony Robinson for the racing car show in 1968, this one having spent much of its life in the USA. Originally finished in yellow James thought green more appropriate, also attaching spun aluminum discs to the wheel centres so that they looked like the original magnesium wheels. Still work in progress but lovely to see.
I did not get to grips driving the Ensign competatively despite the engine running perfectly and the gearing correct. My frame of mind was not improved with the Audi's alternator failing - at 210k miles these things happen. I was concerned about driving home avoiding a rescue. Enjoying a beer in the evening I decided to scratch Sunday, for which the weather forecast was nasty, loading the Ensign Sunday morning and heading quietly home. As it transpired a dry practice and the rains arrived for the competative runs. Travelling south I had most types of weather, from sunshine to thunder storms and the battery survived to Bristol!
Crystal Palace 2022
Sadly an event that did not happen during Covid and will not happen this year. Always well organised by 7Oaks MC and something completely different, a large budget is involved, too large for a club on its own. However, with sponsorship in the past the event has happened and for it to continue it needs something like a 5 year deal from an organisation who can make the most of a golden opportunity, name supporting a bank holiday motor sport event in South London with over 5000 through the gate each day. Just a plug in support of 7 Oaks as I would like to race at Crystal Palace one more time!
Prescott Historic 28.5.22
Prescott is a convenient venue for me, an easy journey north on the M5. As there had been some reorganisation and the rented trailer park adjacent to be paddock had sold I delivered the Ensign on Friday to avoid the Saturday morning rush. Friday traffic was true to form, long delays exiting the M5 at Tewkesbury Ashchurch with the road dug up! However, peace reigned at Prescott as I arrived just after lunch and simplicity itself to unload and organise the Ensign. Trailer parking's now along the highway edge of the main spectator car park, adequate space and level grass, more than could be said for the previous trailer park with its steep slope and mud. Saturday morning I arrived in good time and the paddock was quiet without the frenzy I remember from the past. An opportunity to walk the hill, the track clean and much as I remembered, the only obvious change was resurfacing before semi-circle, where the track had been splitting in the past.
The event was entitled Historic and most of the cars entered were built pre-1975 although the class structure was confusing, our class including sports cars, sports racers and single seat open wheel race cars. There were vintage cars and a few Bugatti as would be expected, a class for 500s fresh from last week's Wiscombe and a large Classic Marques sports car class vying with an Austin Healey class plus, of course, BOCs own classic championship. It seemed a similar idea to the Classic weekend at Shelsley Walsh although they are now including even more modern cars, presumably to swell the entry.
The classes and car numbering also confused, the program not running in numerical order although the efficient paddock lady understood what was happening which was all that mattered. Plenty of interesting cars to examine, two ERAs including R4D making the right sounds and smells. No less than three early Mallocks, two powered by Ford twin cams and a Mk 11 with a Ford pushrod. Our class also included a Porsche 911 3.0 RS owned by Chris Stone from Bristol, sharing with David Franklin, successful in my Ensign during the 1970s. Such was the confusion he won our class and I was second which must have amused him, Prescott having their quaint way of handicapping cars for their final results. As it was Peter Thurston took BTD in his Mallock with 46.45s and I should have tried harder with 46.81s, BTD judged on the actual time, not handicap - what's that all about? However, I had an enjoyable day, not finishing late, no big or time-consuming incidents, the trailer park and paddock flowing freely at the end.
Wiscombe 500 Owners Club 7.5.22
Off south on the M5 again, this time exiting at Cullompton and south through Honiton to another country house drive at the picturesque Wiscombe Park. An active venue since the late 1950s when owner Richard Chichester and wife Bunny, aided by Charles Lampton decided there was nothing more natural than using the main drive of their home as a hillclimb course! Today the family remain in residence and hillclimbs are run by a separate company directed by enthusiasts, who do an excellent job. One of the charms of Wiscombe is that officialdom is so low key it's almost impossible to work out who is in charge of an event! This particular event has been run by the 500 Owners Club' Carol Foster being Secretary for many years until she died a year or two ago. The entry is mainly older cars, bike engined 500s from the 1950s of course, vintage car as the VSCC have their own event the following day, a large bike class and later sports, saloon and race cars, few of whom are later than 1980. An early start for me on Saturday morning but a quick journey without delays, accidents or road works! There was space to park leaving the trailer connected to the Audi so I was soon organised, time enough to walk the course with which I'm reasonably familiar. The only change since I was last here were in the esses where a number of immovable tree stumps had been removed on the left, a ditch dug and an earth wall behind. It looked safer and felt better when driving the track. The track itself was dry and as clean one might expect considering the venue, otherwise the weather was dry and hot, about perfect.
Of note was Reg Broome's ex-Stirling Moss Cooper Bobtail, Reg allowing Pete Hannan to prepare and drive the car. He no longer drives competition cars and was sadly unable to attend. Andy Forsyth was here again in his OMS and like last week at Werrington annexed BTD although the Ensign was going better, 3rd overall behind Steve Hill's 1800cc Caterham, the Ensign's time 44.18s again far short of a PB although the engine now running cleanly and the plugs the correct shade. Any event with plenty of 500's is bound to be interesting for spectators as these eccentric little cars make the right sort of noises with their 500c single cylinder engines, mainly JAP or Manx Nortons for those so blessed. They always needed push starting which is why Wiscombe is so suitable with its steeply sloping paddock, although these days owners have powered slave wheels which when placed against a rear wheel rotate that and indirectly the engine, for starting. Here Mark Dent's Cooper No 72 gets the treatment, Hamish Cameron supervising at the rear. Another interesting car was Andrew McDonalds Beck Special, powered by an 1800cc MG engine and built by him utilising the chassis from an American dirt track car. An interesting project and a car that seemed totally suited to the surroundings. Too
soon the day was over although the vintage cars were staying on for
Sunday and as I began to leave after the awards the paddock was swamped with large SUVs
and even larger trailers - the VSCC now clearly more fashionable than in the days
of my youth!
This is one of my favourite venues, using the main drive of a country estate near Launceston and efficiently run for many years by Plymouth Motor Club. With 130 miles to travel it was a Friday journey, the M5 busy with only one 10-minute delay with a car embedded in the armco beside Exeter. Werrington has a sloping grass paddock, beside the start line and track, seaters parked closest with a narrow spectator enclosure between them and the track. The long grass of this meadow can make locating cars and trailers difficult, although a dry spring had kept the grass short. There was some pruning of the lower boughs of several mature trees as last year the roof of a mobile home was pierced by one which must have been unexpected for the driver. Undoubtably covid has had an effect on event organisation, all entries now online together with signing on, although scrutineering has returned. This is generally brief, checking our overalls, gloves and helmet are 'in date' whilst tugging at the harness. Then presenting the driver with his approved sticker to go on the car. Not much interest in my smart new MUK vehicle identification folders! I was pleased that the accommodation I regularly use was open, as was the 'local' in the next village with good food and Dartmoor ale.
Saturday dawned cool and misty although the concensus was that a fine day would appear, which it did. The track dried quickly and here, for a change, we had to sign on at the secretary's tent beside the start. In the 1600cc single seater class there was only Andy Forsyth with his 1400cc OMS and me so the result something of a forgone conclusion as Andy took BTD on both days! The track was clean although the approach to the notorious cattle grid gateway was more difficult than I remembered as in the past a large banner defined the outside of this challenging and narrow gap. Still, these challenges sort the slow from the quick and I was certainly in the former category. The Ensign's starts were poor, even my 'newer' tyres clearly old whilst the gearing was still high, not getting out of 3rd before the finish. Carburetion remained an issue and I reverted to softer B8 spark plugs showing a slight improvement. The paddock was busy with spectators which was good for the club's coffers whilst at Werrington I've alwys found those who stop and chat both knowledgeable and courteous, many remembering the car from the distant past with other drivers. During the day my times improved, although well short of a PB which I was not expecting.
Sunday was a contrast, dawning damp and settling into steady light rain which was enough to wash the track but not drying to let it become slippery. Rain is always a problem at Werrington for apart from the track and slippery grass paddock mud gets onto tyres and is carried onto the start line. I took a single practice run and the grip was reasonable although it's easy to be wise after the event. Past hillclimb commentator and reporter Pat Jennings chose the morning to launch his new book 'A View from the Commentary Box' about our sport in the South West, many drivers getting name checks thus ensuring plenty of customers! That said, an interesting book of historical significance. In a similar vein Roger Jordan appeared and took a run in his Chevron B42 4litre V8 which had just been completely rebuilt and looked immaculate. This was a well-known car in the South West and I hope he enters some events in the future for everyone to enjoy the car. In the afternoon I took a single run which was much better and the engine ran well in the cooler conditions, which told me something. After that I packed up and sneaked away before the end, only to encounter heavy rain on the A30 northwards. We had clearly been fortunate with the weather.
I've not been rushing to enter events this season and therefore waited for the second
Gurston weekend, familiar territory so to speak. This time
a Saturday morning arrival, too early by far but the roads were
deserted and a swift journey without rushing. Our class was again parked
in the 'farmyard' which was clean underfoot after the road sweeper's visit on
Friday, although piles of old farming detritus still haunt the
dilapidated sheds. Even a visually tidy Unimog was parked to the rear of the large capacity single seaters, which made me ponder. I sometimes think I should get a larger transporter as changing
two wheels on one side of the car enabling it to fit the transporter
width is tiresome. For some reason I timed this operation and it's
actually so quick it's hardly worth the inconvenience and expense of
buying something larger. Fine weather again, sunshine although a chilly
northerly breeze blowing up the hill against the traffic, light rain
threatened with the odd short shower that did not affect proceedings.
class was again small, the Ensign and Mike's Alexis F3, Sue Hayes in her Palliser
FF which runs a twin cam, F3 size wheels and other tweaks. Mike was not running his Alexis on Sunday. Times gone
there used also to be Geoff's ex-Spencer Elton Lotus 22 twincam and
Sue's Palliser was run by Hugh, whilst the unique and fast St Bruno
Roughcutter clubmans car was quickly driven by Chris Cannell.
Occasionally even Reg's Cooper Bobtail - ex Stirling Moss and winner of
the Empire Trohy Race back in the day - this car completely original and un-messed about. However, times change and people move on, Chris recently deciding that he is no longer interested and is now selling all his hill,climb machinery. The track was in good condition and the occasional light shower soon dried in the sharp breeze.
The Ensign was getting quicker, speeds through the two traps, one on the starting downhill rush off the line and the other at the finish, both showed improvement, over 100mph at the finish on a couple of occasions which felt a bit quick. Fortunately, there is plenty of road in which to slow before the top paddock, as well because the perceived wisdom is to remain on the throttle over the finish. As an aside, Gurston's top paddock is always well managed, positive directions when one arrives indicating exactly where the car should be parked. Lessons could be learnt by other well-known events where instructions are vague making it too easy to do the wrong thing and then get reported to the C of C for insubordination!
Gurston Down 26-27.3.22
on a hillclimb for serious felt rather strange, my first event in 2
years and trying to remember everything that I needed to take with me.
Consequently, I took the car towards Salisbury on Friday morning in case
something was forgotten, settling into the routine although the Friday
traffic was as bad as I remembered from the past. Once again in
Gurston’s quaintly titled Historically Interesting class, shared with
Mike Broome’s Alexis Mk17 F3 and Mike Berry’s Austin Healey 100M. The
Healy was here to get in some practice for further AH exclusive classes
at Gurston. Conditions were hot and dry for both days, surprising for
the time of year. A small entry of 73 meant that we had 3 practice runs
on Saturday with 2 official runs after lunch, Sunday the usual 2 + 2.
Being familiar with Gurston helped as I was not particularly relaxed,
even something silly like clipping into the nasty new harness proving an
obstacle. I’d even inadvertently fitted the older set of tyres although quite
what difference tyres would make is open to conjecture. Despite my
reticence the Ensign ran reasonably well with my cautious approach.
I'd fitted slightly higher gear ratios than normal for Gurston, thinking this might protect the engine from excess revs. It hardly mattered as my times were slow compared with past efforts but at least I had some seat time, which I needed. I started on a process that has extended for several months, to correctly adjust the Weber fuel/air mixtures so that low engine speed pickup was good and no choking at high revs. Leaving the main jet alone the Weber idle mixture screws have become a source of too much of my attention, even fitting new screws in case their seats were damaged. Whilst powerful off the line the engine would not 'pull' well up the final straight, tending to choke unless I liffted slightly. The spark plugs were sooty, the mixture clearly too rich so adjustment necessary. On a quiet day I find fiddling with engine adjustment quite relaxing if the problem is annoying rather than major.
Catching Up – 2019 to 2022
During the break much has happened in the world, about which we are all so familiar that no extra comment is necessary. From my Motorsport perspective 2019 was quiet, just 9 events culminating with a broken con rod through the sump and side of the Ensign’s crankcase, just before the finish at Shelsley Walsh. The rods had been in the engine since 1972 so I suppose they did quite well really!Following this failure repairs were a prolonged saga, much of which no one would believe and I’ll say nothing!
A long gap since my comments at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 and much has happened along the way, most of which has nothing to do with motor sport. I decided that whilst continuing to enjoy the sport, I was fed up writing about it and would take a break, maintaining the web site for perhaps the future. Covid then made a big dent in motorsport as with everythng else, some competition in 2020 and a more in 2021, all of which I left alone apart from spectating at a few events when restricttions became less arduois. Since starting driving again in 2022 people have made polite comments about this blog so I thought I might start again, having forgotten, of course, how to upload text and images and also just how time consuming it is!
Late in 2021 I took my camping trailer to Paul Dunnell’s Stowmarket workshop to collect the rebuilt engine. Briefly, Paul was one of the Dunnell/Reid family who were Holbay back in the day, based at Martlesham Heath near Felixstowe. Paul made a fine job of the repair and along the way a providing a wealth of interesting information. Amongst other things the engine now has a new crank and con rods, rebuilt dry sump and the crankcase is in the original Holbay green. I've fashioned an original looking stone guard to keep dirt and grit out of the plug recesses, always a problem with twin cams. Back home the engine was quickly fitted into the chassis and started up in the workshop. Paul had dynoed the engine on his Ford spec dyno as that is his main work, settling with 160 main jets and B9 spark plugs, larger and harder than I used on the hills and I changed to slightly softer B8 plugs for workshop running, feeling they might be less tempermental with the shorter runs we have with sprints and hills.
Late in February 2022 I visited Llandow sprint track, close enough over the Severn Bridge near Cowbridge, for a morning's testing, the track in Wales having only just reopened after a prolonged Covid closure. Conditions were dry if a bit cold cold and a few other cars and people I knew were also testing. One other open wheeler to share my sessions, an ‘off’ on his first session leaving me to myself for the rest of the morning, driving quiely to run in the engine. It was rather peaceful and just what the Ensign and I needed!
Initially the engine was diabolical but after a couple of laps the cobwebs were blown away and thereafter it ran smoothly for several sessions, until I ran out of petrol! After rescuing by resident factotum ‘China John’ it seemed a good time to stop, checking that petrol was indeed the problem for my peace of mind. When hot the engine ran smoothly to 6500rpm briefly, all the liquids stayed inside the engine, oil and water settled at 70C. A satisfactory morning.
Several jobs needed doing before the new season. Our governing body, having changed their title to Motorsport UK felt they must justify their existance. In my case the quaintly title PDVIF vehicle description for my 1960 Mallock and 1972 Ensign to confirm they were what everyone know they are, plus new hillclimb Log Books now referred to as Vehicle Passports. All of which cost, of course, although I do the details and images - why should it be otherwise! Plus a new harness which looks of poorer quality than the 'out of date' one I removed, but it has the correct holorgram.
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