Archive for April, 2010

Modified Live

April 26, 2010

Another weekend, another event. This weekend was Modified Live at Oulton Park, no wait, come back, don’t let the ‘modified’ bit put you off.

My brother's Touge style MX5, our chariot for the trip. Appropriate I thought.

When you go to a car modification/tuning show for the first time you run the gauntlet from really great to really shit, and it’s not always easy to predict which way it’ll go beforehand. Fortunately, Modified Live is more about tuning than styling, which makes it a Good Show. Personal taste blah, blah, blah but I can’t stand lurid, scissor-doored, 5 door Puntos with more power in their bass amp than the engine. Piss off back to McDonald’s car park you tit and stop drowning out wonderfully tuned V-Tec units with that shite spewing from your subwoofer.

Awe inspiring R34 Skyline, check out those rear wheels.

It wasn’t the biggest show in the world, but thankfully the Ripspeed crew only accounted for, at most 10% of the metal on display. There was a strong presence from Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Honda and Subaru as well as a host of others dotted around. The overall standard was very high, with a few personal highlights that will stick in my mind. (This is going to get pretty photo heavy)

Re Amemiya RX7

This Wangan Warrior flew past us on the M6, potent.

There was loads of Scoobies around, but only one RB320

New bumpers are for suckers.

I love a good Saff'

Ironically, I wasn’t really there for the static displays, the main attractions for me were the European Drift Championship (EDC) and the 1st round of the UK Time Attack (UK:TA) series. I first noticed UK:TA about a year ago and it really captured my imagination. It’s a very simple sport, fastest time around a circuit in the final session wins. Like drifting it originated in Japan and is growing rapidly over here. It was the cars (there’s a shock) that piqued my interest. It’s like Forza Motorsport come to life, great variety of cars, silly wings, enormous horsepower figures, oh and road legal tyres. What’s not to like?

Now, is that wing really big enough?

We spectated at the Knickerbrook corner, a medium speed right hander after a chicane, that opens on the exit, encouraging the drivers to get on the power early. The top 4wd guys were generating some slip under power out of here but it looked very controllable, sign of a good setup. The top class was dominated by Skylines, RX7s, Imprezas and Evos. Turns out running it at about 700bhp, it finally makes an Evo entertaining to watch, who knew?!

Ear splitting rotary soundtrack

Old school performance that still cuts it.

The eventual winner was Gareth Lloyd in his black & orange Evo with a lap time of 1:25.493secs in the final. That’s an average speed of 93.73mph, seriously, seriously quick.

First blood to Gareth Lloyd

All in all it was a good event. The Time Attack series has a big entry this year so should provide some great action as it tours the country (I bet Knockhill will be ridiculous). Well worth the trip to Cheshire and watching at Outlon Park is always really good fun. I am now lusting after a well sorted R32 Skyline though…

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Single Venue, Mixed Fortunes

April 20, 2010

This weekend I helped out a mate who was doing a rally at the MIRA test facility in Warwickshire. It was a single venue event, the stages made up of differing combinations of the test track and its access roads. It’s a popular one with the crews as it has lots of silky smooth tarmac that they can really attack on and bar the Armco, there’s not that much to hit.

My day started relatively early, Marcus’s (driver) co-driver Colin picked me up on the A5 at about 6.30am, just 10 mins down the road from MIRA. He’d come from the northeast, having left at about 3am, so my 6am start didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden.

The gate staff let us in to the venue at around 7am. We went off to the service park to set up while Marcus and Colin took the car and thier kit off to be scrutineered. The car in question was an all singing, all dancing 1400 Peugeot 205 Rallye with a specially built 1400cc engine running on Yamaha R1 bike carbs. It was only the second event with the car (but we knew how quick it was from competing against the previous owner). Event 1 ended badly with a bottom arm failure resulting in an unexpected meeting of 205 and tree, with the Pug coming off worst. In the weeks before MIRA, by some miracle the car was straightened up, re-prepped and made ready for the event.

We had high hopes as Marcus and Colin set off for stage 1, as Marcus had finished 2nd in class on this event last year in a car that wasn’t nearly as quick as the 205. The stage 1 result was mixed. The car was running well but Marcus had accidentally hit the engine kill switch a couple of times when going for first gear. It was decided that 1st wouldn’t be used from this point on!

Stage 2 is where things began to get interesting. Once we’d sent the guys back out, I wandered down to have a quick watch. I saw a few crews through before Marcus arrived. The corner was a 90 left round a straw bale leading to a short straight with a small bump on the exit of the corner. Marcus turned in, booted it and exited the corner. As they hit this small bump (with a bit of lock still on) I heard a loud CRACK. The 205 then began to coast, with Marcus revving the car but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Instantly I thought either clutch or gearbox, I didn’t know if he’d even make the end of the stage. I legged it to the stop control where they’d just managed to arrive. Turns out it was the CV joint on the driver’s side driveshaft that had broken and they’d crawled through the last 1/2 mile of the stage with 1 wheel drive. We pushed the car back in to service and got to work. We had about 50 mins before stage 3 started so we were in a bit of a rush. Trying to change a drive shaft when there’s a red-hot brake disc on the end of it isn’t easy, or much fun. However it was swapped out with a couple of minutes to spare and we sent the car on its way.

Despite the dramas we were sitting about 7th in class at this point, within striking distance of the top 3. The middle stages of the day went very well. Marcus steadily recovered the time lost on stages 1&2 and was setting times good enough for 2nd in class. The leader in class A was a Vauxhall Nova driven by Andrew Egger. We had no chance of catching him, he was on a mission and actually finished 10th overall, in amongst the Imprezas and Mk2 Escorts. A heroic performance.

No, we ignore Mr Egger, our fight was for 2nd and Marcus continued plugging away, setting good times. It was a very hot day for an April and the car was feeling it. To draw the heat away from the engine we had the heaters on max, lovely when it’s 18C ambient and you’re working hard behind the wheel in 3 layers of Nomex. Rather them than me! The thermostat read fine though and we just made sure we bled off any air that was in the system after each stage (there may have been a small airlock in the system) but it was fine.

2 stages, about 18 miles to go. While refueling, torquing up the wheels etc, a media type, we think from Motorpsort News, wandered over. The fact that we have been in the exact same position the previous year (2nd to Mr Egger by a huge margin) seemed to amuse him. However, after Marcus told him of our strife throughout the day, this appeared to pique the journo’s interest and he started scribbling in his notepad. Yay, it looked like we might get a mention in that week’s comic. Then came stage 8, the last one of the rally.

We sent Marcus & Colin off with simply holding station in mind. We were 2nd, about 1 minute ahead of 3rd place; a comfortable gap with only 9 or so miles to go. The service park was within sight of the middle of the stage so once we got packed up we stood watching for Marcus. The Metro 6r4 that he’d been behind on the road all day came through, so we knew Marcus would be 30 seconds or so behind it. Then we saw a white Nova. Where was our guy? Then a Mk2 Escort came through. Seriously, where was Marcus?  We shared some pensive looks, surely he hasn’t gone off, he had a massive lead? At that point the ambulance and recovery vehicles sped out of the service park. Shit. Were they for our car?

Then, the phone call. We instantly thought the worse, if they’ve gone off, God I hope they’re ok. They weren’t off, the engine had gone with only 2 miles to go. And when I say gone, I mean GONE. While cruising, simply to hold position, one of the connecting rods decided that it was no longer content with moving up and down and decided to follow a path of it’s own choosing. It fired itself through the engine block which instantly showered the exhaust manifold in oil. This immediately caught light, the car was on fire. It took both the handheld and the plumbed in extinguishers to kill the fire, brave work by Marcus but I guess the adrenaline was pumping and rally cars are expensive. The fire damage wasn’t too bad, but the bigger story was the extra holes now in the engine block.

Note the new holes, gulp.

We were gutted. Instead of waiting round to pick up a trophy for 2nd in class we waited for every car to go through the stage so the trucks could recover the 205. Pissing oil out of the bottom, the engine bay looked a mess, everyone was crestfallen.

The engine is off to the builders, they can expect quite a bill, but we had such a good day up to that point. Such is life I guess, but fate can be very cruel sometimes.

Quick mention for our sponsors, without which we couldn’t even go rallying:

Tinsley Joiners

Rodgers Plant Hire

Taylor Signs

Samson Fire Protection

*All photos kindly provided by www.rally-media.co.uk

An unfortunate question of timing

April 1, 2010

The news broke this morning from the New York International Auto Show, finally a new four-door, big winged Scooby is on the horizon. As a long time Subaru fan (family Prodrive connection) this is wonderous news, Evos just don’t do it for me I’m afraid. That said neither did the current gen WRX, only with the full fat STI did Subaru dig themselves out a hole that was entirely of thier own making. Quite why they tried to make a softer, more palatable car out of the Impreza when they had the Legacy sat there I’ll never know. But hey ho, that’s all in the past now.

Get out, you bloater

A new Impreza that looks far better then when the first shots were leaked last week, not that looks are really important in a rally replica but from the press renderings it looks right. It looks muscular, slightly awkward but purposful, everything an Impreza has historically been about.  No specs yet but you’ve got to expect a very similar set up to the current models. So hooray for the road car, but what does this mean for the competition side?

Is the Impreza back?

Since Subaru limped out of the WRC a couple of years ago, the rallying world has moved on. The WRC from 2011 will use 1.6 litre turbo engines as opposed to the current 2.0 litre units. The cars that contain these engines are much smaller than the Impreza (next year expect a titanic struggle between Citroen’s new DS3 and Ford’s scarily quick looking Fiesta). These cars, built on the current S2000 regs are significantly cheaper to run than the current WRC machines and are growing in popularity. They’re a match for the current group N Production WRC machinery from Mitsubishi and Subaru on both sealed and loose surfaces and cost roughly the same. The only real difference is that turbo group N cars are easier to drive but aren’t as spectacular as the high revving NA S2000s.

Add to this scene a wailing engine note and rejoice that rally's future might have been secured.

I can’t see Subaru (ok, Prodrive)  dropping a 1.6 into an Impreza, which means that the forseable future, Subaru still won’t be in the top flight of international rallying. The only way this could happen is if the regs went back to 2L turbos, which I don’t think will ever happen. The automotive world is committed on the path to small displacement turbo engines before we all have to run sodding diesel-hybrid-tofu-mobiles. I’m completely in favour of the small, turbo petrol engine, it’s the right thing to do for the industry, I’d like to see 1L turbo engines in F1 too, but I digress.

I hope my scepticism is unfounded and Subaru decide that it’ll be a great idea to  put a smaller engine in their WRC car (assuming they come back at all). However until such a thing happens my joy at a new Scoob will be tempered by the fact that, we probably wont see a blue and yellow one being flung down the road by one of the world’s top WRC crews, ever.

Will we ever see it's like again?