Words by Andy Forrest
Pics by John Stewart
The first competitive outing for the new car was at Superlap Scotland rounds 3 and 4. Having only done minimal shakedown of the car it was a nervous experience, very little sleep was had on the Friday night, going through in my head all the unproven design aspects of the car. It was no longer simply a big power bolt-on to a proven platform, in fact quite the reverse, due to a mismatched turbo we were down on power (600bhp) built into a completely unproven, self designed and built platform.
Anti-clockwise Knockhill takes no prisoners if you over cook it, so restraint was the order of the day, at least the weather looked great!
Scrutineering was our first hurdle, and not just fitting in the shed doors! Meeting the required MSA safety standards, all was good and the only recommendation was further padding on the roll cage.
Time to get out on track, as soon as the lights went green the nerves were gone, first realisation, mirrors are rubbish. So I let all the other cars by and then have a clear bit track to run on without getting in the way. Second realisation, electric power steering is rubbish, the feel going heavy/light/ heavy mid bend. I get round to the main straight, give it some power and I’m completely underwhelmed, the combination of 1 bar boost and aero drag results in a 125mph trap speed (2015 we were doing 168mph!) Not even half a lap in and I’m thinking “What a piece of junk this is, can I go home now?”
I head back in and check some data logs, turn the boost up to max – the 1.3 bar maximum it can achieve wasn’t exactly going to be scary.
I head out a few hours later for the practice session, this time we can actually see the cars queueing up behind us on the straight as the car gets slower and slower, noisier and noisier, so we pull back in to find a boost pipe that looks like it is on, has actually come off at the part you can’t see. Top man Graeme gets stuck in getting his fingers lightly singed on the nearby turbo but fixes it back on.
Qualifying time comes and we head out, the pack are ‘on it’ from flying lap 1, I’m still getting a feel for the car but when I see a decent gap in front, I push it on a bit, feeling painfully slow on the straights but able to maintain momentum on the turns not too bad as I almost run into the back of Paul Rankin on the run up through Duffus but he pulls away as soon as it straightens out. Then the next bit bad news comes as the radiator expansion tank spews out water, quite often a sign of head gasket failure, well, I think, this is still the same engine that I built in 2014 and it raced all of 2015 season plus the 20 odd laps of WTAC testing we done, so it’s not due me anything! I circulate slowly back round and pull into the pits with water all over the windscreen and the car misfiring badly. I see the commentator wave me down and I think “How embarrasing, he is going to ask if thats it broken now” To my surprise he tells me I was fastest car in qualifying with a 52.3, the smiles on my pit crew faces back that up, I find it hard to believe that on the cars first ever hotlap we are less than a second off our record time from 2015 with a 130mph trap vs 168mph in 2015, really looking forward to finding that missing 500bhp now!
The post mortem in the pits shows that we just need a catch can for our overflow pipe and the misfire was it running out of fuel…Oops!
The final comes and the plan is just prove the 2 issues are fixed and don’t do anything silly, we are not even in the points as we entered as a guest, this car has its holidays to go on soon and we don’t have time to fix it! I take a canny drive round and do a similar time of 52.5 and P1, I’ll take that! The misfire came back but it turned out this car just likes a drink and was out of fuel yet again!
We load up and head back to the workshop for a check over of the car, home for midnight and check the weather forecast for the Sunday. Much as I need seat time, I don’t have wets, I don’t have wipers, ventilation or a heated screen, is there any point going to splash around in the puddles on semi slicks?
Sunday 6am comes. Forecast says rain all day, I just want to stay in bed, Lisa kicks me out, “We are going” Wait a minute, who’s the boss here? Rigby and Rankin text me to say it’s sunny up there. Aye right! Reluctantly I fuel up the car and we load up and set off, as we pull into the track, the drizzle starts just as we arrive, braw!
We start to unload the car and soon realise it was the right decision to come, lots and I mean LOTS of people had come to see the car, very encouraging but also a bit unnerving as we are so down on power and on semi slicks, it’s going to look really slow.
We had missed warm up session (the only dry one of the day) as I had spent so long trying to convince Lisa that rain is bad.
So we headed out onto a greasy track for practice. I think everyone was just slithering round, keeping out of trouble but we ended up on P2 which was a surprise, however the misfire had returned and this time it wasn’t just fuel level, it was dropping a cylinder randomly. It took some time to find this but the Syvecs ECU is a great bit of kit that allows you manually drop cylinders indivdually, the issue was traced to No1, when I cut the fuel to 0 it made no difference…..dam, no loose wires etc. Then I had a thought, what happens if I add more instead of cutting it, Bingo! doubling the fuel pulse to cyl 1 had it working again. We run 2 injectors per cylinder (thats 12x 1200cc injectors in total) so it appeared one had failed. I unplugged them individually, one made a difference, one didn’t. Sorted, I just set no1 injector to deliver 2x the fuel that the remaining 10 deliver and it ran sweet. Normally I would run both injectors per cylinder but as we were on low boost/power, it was fine with just 1, despite the increased demands of running an Ethanol based fuel.
Qualifying comes, track is still wet but not splashing, so the semi slicks should be ‘ok’ ish. I head out and the car feels grippy but lacking traction in a big way at low speed, even the traction control system is saying ‘what the?’ and gets a bit of a work out trying to reign it in as it kicks sideways. Then the misfire is back, low fuel pressure alarm on the screen. You gotta be kidding me, how much does this thing drink? I head back in after 2 laps, hide up the back of the pitlane (no refuelling allowed in pitlane) Lisa and the RJM team run around and quickly dump a few litres into it and I head back out with 3 mins left to run. I keep telling myself, DON’T push it, there is no time to mend it. So I push it a bit and with the aero the car feels better the faster I go, the wet surface allows the dodgy electric steering to work better and I can feel the grip, right up until I accelerate and it fishtails like mad. Session over and a 56 second lap, not bad for the conditions and a comfortable P1 again.
I check through the datalogs to work out why I’m having traction issues, kind of assuming I’m just on the wrong tyres. I notice it is only ever the rear wheels spinning on all the wet sessions, I check the chains are still in place, yep! I use a Syvecs PDU (power distribution unit) instead of a conventional fuse/relay set up, the good thing about this you can monitor the current to all electrical systems. There was zero current to the FWD clutch on the GTR transmission, so the car was running only as RWD. Well that would do it for sure! The GTR box is not like an Impreza box, it goes proper RWD if the clutch is not powered up. I checked back the data and it had been running only as RWD since midday Saturday! On the low power I had not even noticed that in the dry but in the rain it was a real issue.
With only the final single lap remaining to be done and the rain getting heavier, I decided not to start opening up electric systems to fault find, I would just run it as-is RWD and find the open circuit at the workshop later.
And the rest is history as they say, I went out for a play in the final, ran round at a safe speed, a few seconds off our qualifying pace and got some great videos of the effects of the aero at speed with the ‘rooster tail’ standing fairly tall!
Overall it was a great shakedown for the car, we sorted a number of small issues, all the big bits like transmission, suspension, aero etc that I was worried about, all worked great. Now time to fit a decent turbo on there to get the power back and then make some spares before packing the car into the container early August bound for the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge Sydney! Bring it on!