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Thruxton Report

posted 18 Aug 2011, 07:32 by Kieren McDonald
The weekend's racing never gets boring, that's for sure - the double header at Thruxton was certainly full of events...

Immediately upon arrival to the circuit on Friday evening, we were met with a warm reception from standers-by, waving and saying hello - fantastic!! Plenty of people were milling about and then we saw the trucks - WOW! So many different types of trucks, in every colour combination imaginable - these guys really know how to keep a clean vehicle...and the paint jobs were out of this world - incredible artists out there!

We just about got the car ready in time for the weekend, having had no time testing at Thruxton, it would be my 1st time on the circuit when out for qualifying.  2.35 miles of pretty much foot to the floor high speed slip-streaming just 2 technical sections!

During qualifying I gradually got into the flow, making sure I slowed down (too much if anything) enough for the complex and chicane to ensure maximum out speed onto the long fast section.  I had an issue with revving the engine a few laps in - revs would suddenly drop off and pick up unexpectedly.  Even with this issue I managed to qualify 13th for both races of the double header, showing good consistency.  Later the revving issue was thought to be icing up of the carb so a shield was made to avoid this happening again.

I was selected for post-qualifying scrutineering - 1st time is a bit daunting! Unfortunately the scales suggested I was 4kg below the 650kg minimum as per the Mini7 regs, which led to my qualifying times being quashed and was served a penalty as per MSA regs - I would have to start both races from the back of the grid with a 10 second penalty :-(

Off we went to find additional ballast to add to my existing 15kg lump, which we had thought was more than enough!  We had 3kg extra lead remaining from my original purchase and Julian Proctor thankfully offered 5kg extra that he had - thanks Julian! We added the ballast and decided to brim the fuel tank too to make sure no further weight problems. Before the 1st race, we decided to weigh the car again with the extra lead and fuel but this time, the scales suggested we were well over - the numbers did not add up?!  We weighed a couple more times and sure enough it kept reading a far greater weight than we had anticipated from what we had added - it suggested the previous reading was incorrect!

By then the decision had been made to impose a penalty and we had taken the car away to add ballast so there was no going back - we couldn't prove nothing else had been done to the car whilst taken away and of course the original weigh-in figure had to be taken as valid, as it wasn't questioned at the time.  Unfortunately for us, the scales must have given the wrong figure in the 1st weigh in - no error from the scrutineer - Steve just went by what the scales were saying, as did we.  With all the confusion, we decided to race with the extra ballast and full tank of fuel to avoid any further penalty chances and weigh in again after the race to see what it was then to gauge what to do for the 2nd race.

Lining up at the back of the grid, knowing I'd have to wait for 10 seconds was awful.  Everyone raced off and disappeared around the corner whilst I awaited the union flag to let me go...but it didn't...17 seconds gone, marshalls had realised I was waiting to go and waved me off!!! The other cars were nowhere in I just knuckled down and did the best I could.  I was clearly gaining very quickly on the back of the pack and even managed to pass Gillibrand when he had a grassy moment...and then my sights were set on the next couple that I was quickly catching. Disaster struck...the revving issue I experienced in qualifying returned...but much, much worse!! it was backfiring constantly and I thought I'd have to retire but luckily plodded around the last lap to finish in last place (although there was one DNF so moved up one place ha!).  If anyone has any pics of the flames that were launching out of my exhaust, please email them to me!! :-)

Post race scrutineering showed us to be well over the minimum weight limit so decided to remove the extra 8kg of ballast that was added, thinking we were underweight, and re-weigh to make sure - we were 6kg over with the post-race fuel left as it was.  We decided to keep like that but still brim the fuel tank just in case so in effect, exactly how we were at the start of the day.

I received an apology from the official that failed to wave me off the grid and the decision was made to reduce my 2nd race penalty to 5 seconds to compensate.  Well if I had managed to catch the back of the pack with a 17 second delay and extra ballast, then what could I do with a reduced delay and less weight?!?!

Investigations started to find out what was causing my revving issues - fueling and electrics being the focus.  We replaced the coil, spark plugs, cleaned out loads of crap from the fuel pump filter and then found a big issue with the cables going into the distributor - when wiggled, the engine would cut out...well, that's a good find and hopefully the cause of earlier problems! It looked as though the contributing factor was the heating of the connector after a few laps racing lead to the wires coming loose! We also had to borrow Leon's spare dry tyres to replace my fronts, as one of mine looked very dodgy! Many thanks to Leon's team (Leon, Brian & John) for their help and parts!!

On Sunday, there were tons of people lining up the banks - if only I could say they all came to watch me lol !! The second race went much better, shorter delay but still from the back of the grid...and then I was off for what was going to be my most memorable race so far! I made 2 places up by the end of the 1st lap and felt as though I was going really well! I took it easy again through the complex and chicane (in fact braking too early) to make sure I got max out speed onto the long foot down section.  No issues experienced when revving and I came in an absolutely fantastic 9th position after some more overtakes!!! A few DNF's helped me out but incidents happen every race meet so there are always people that gain.  We have been showing the pace for a top 10 for a few rounds now...and we finally make it after finishing only 4 races so far this season! Where would we have ended up if we started from the 13th position?? I felt on top of the world...and must have exerted so much that I felt extremely dizzy when I got out of the car!! :-)  Post race scrutineering weigh in showed I was 7kg overweight so certainly no need for any more long as I don't loose any weight that is :-)

In summary, the scrutineers and clerk of the course do a great job and does not reflect on them (correct decisions were made - they, as were we at the time, were going by what the scales were saying) - more so, it was our lack of experience/knowledge - we should have left the car where it was and returned with the ballast to weigh in again with the extra and ensured the car positioning was correct and that each scale was reading correctly before placing the car on - this would have shown any discrepancy with the readings. Also, going forward, we need to ensure we know the weight of the car (dry weight + weight of fuel added) so that if the scales display something other than what we are expecting, we know something is not right.  Lesson learned...and hopefully others learn by this too.  Thanks to everyone for their advise in this area over the weekend!

We had an excellent weekend overall with plenty of supporters coming to watch and also new support coming from the spectators! Simon had a really good 30th birthday (well, he said he did :-) )  Big thanks to everyone and hopefully things will continue to get better and results will continue to pile through! Aside from the racing...the social side is great :-D

Bring on Brands - 28th & 29th August - great place for racers and spectators alike (not raced here myself yet though!!)...where else would you want to spend you Bank Holiday?!?! Hope to see you there :-)

All pictures and in-car footage can be found on the Gallery - 2011 page.