Race prep of car

I’ve spent a couple of days in the garage getting the car race prepped ahead of the new year. I haven’t quite managed to finish everything, but I made some good progress and feel that the worst of it is now over!

Fuel sample valve

As part of the race regulations, you need to have a fuel sample valve attached to the car so that the scrutineers can check that you’re not using some exotic concoction. The parts are all supplied by Caterham in the kit, but there aren’t instructions on how to fit it.

It come supplied in 3 bits. There’s an S shaped dog-leg piece, a barrel shaped piece and a threaded valve and protective cap. The valve simply screws into the barrel. However, it doesn’t make a perfect fit, and so Caterham advise that you use some PTFE tape (plumbers tape) to ensure a tight seal.

In order to fit the dog leg piece, you need to release the fuel hose from the engine inlet. The manual says that a special tool is required to achieve this, but I found a screw driver was sufficient! One side of the black fuel hose connector presses inwards to release the hose. Gently pushing against the connector on this side should allow the hose to pull away from the inlet easily. If it doesn’t want to come of easily, chances are, you’re not pressing the right bit of the connector! Obviously, be careful as the hose is full of fuel so be ready to mop up any spills and keep the garage ventilated!

The dog leg then clips into the engine inlet and into the top of the barrel piece, and the now vacant fuel hose needs to be re-routed to attach into the botto of the barrel piece.

Check that all the connectors have seated properly and then activate the fuel pump using the ignition and check that there are no signs of any fuel seepage.

Leg strap adjustment

My leg straps were hopelessly long and needed shortening to get them to sit correctly. The folder handed out at the seminar shows how they should look when adjusted properly. It is, of course, a pig of a job to adjust these. I pulled the straps out at the back of the seat and spent ages fumbling around blindly. Eventually, I found the right combination of pulls and tugs to get them shorter. It’s made more difficult again as you have to make sure you thread the webbing back on itself through the buckle to for a ‘lock’ so it can’t slip.

It’s then just a simple (hahahahaha) job of poking the adjusted strap back under the seat towards the leg strap hole. A bit of luck and perseverance does eventually get it into the right place so you can grab it with your finger tips through the hole.

Roll cage padding

I looked at a number of different cars from the 2012 Caterham Academy to see where the padding should be applied. It’s not difficult to get it into position but if you have a hood/half hood, you need to take care to ensure that your padding doesn’t make these impossible to fit. This is tricker with a full hood, but warming up the hood ahead of attaching apparently makes it easier.

Once the padding is cut to length and tacked in place, you just use duct tape to make the attachment solid. I used duct tape all along the length of the tubing, this is probably overkill, but as I was using coloured tape, it was the look I was after.

With the rear padding just above the seat, you need to cut a slot in the padding to enable it to go around the rear leg of the roll cage.

Rain light

In the ‘roll cage’ bag supplied with the kit is a large P clip. The recommended placement of the light is on the central ‘cross’ at the rear of the roll cage, with the metal attachment holes pointing downwards.

However, the supplied clip isn’t quite big enough to achieve this. Or at least, I couldn’t do it! I have seen it done, so it must be possible. Steve Grubb used a pair of mole grips to achieve it and left of the washers that are supplied in the kit.

I copped out a little and put the light slightly to the right of centre on one of the diagonals. I’m not sure whether this is allowed in the regs – but it’s on now!

The wire needs to route down to the rear right of the car. People tend to remove the fuel filler cover and pop the wire down there. You will need to cut a small grove into the cover to allow the wire to pass through when the cover is back in place.

Apparently, it is possible to route the wire down the roll cage diagonal and into the boot to keep things neet any tidy, but the wire isn’t quite long enough to do this comfortably. I just opted to trail the wire straight down under the boot cover and across the bottom of the boot. It’s not pretty and makes the boot even less use but that’s no real loss.

The light plugs into the fog light socket. If you follow the wire from the fog light, you’ll find the socket you need to unplug and then you need to use patience and a good deal of luck to blindly fumble the two plugs together.

Head restraint

This is supplied in the kit. Mine was wrapped in cling film! Amazingly, the main build manual actually does a good job of explaining what needs to be done to fit it! Essentially, stick the foam padding onto the square part. Attach the bracket, long leg downwards, to the two holes in the roll cage just behind the drivers seat (using washers under bolt and nut). Use the remaining plain nuts to position the headrest around 10mm behind the headrest.

If you have the seat a long way forward, you’ll need to add padding to the square section and then gaffer tape it in place. Apparently expanding foam will do the job.

Nosecone 7 decal

An easy job at last! The nose cone needs to come off. Inside, there are two small black clips that hold the top of the grill/decal in place. Simply remove these clips, reverse the order of the decal and grill and put the clips back in place! Why can’t all the jobs be this easy!

Mind you, you’ve still got to get the nosecone back on the car, and if you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know that’s not the easiest thing in the world! I find it’s better to attach the bottom two points first, then finish on the upper points.

Boot floor sealing

I didn’t consider that this was going to be a tricky job when I started it. But I never completed it and will have to return to it at a future date. The boot needs sealing all around its outer edge. A continuous, fireproof, seal needs to be created between the fuel tank and the boot.

The method described is to use fire proof sealant on the gaps, followed by aluminium tape. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if some of the gaps were over 1cm wide and there were generally straight edges to deal with…

A sealed the edges as best I could with the sealant. I’d recommend spending a bit or time trying to tidy up the seals as it will make the taping job easier. I didn’t and I regretted it.

I taped everywhere I could get to but didn’t complete either behind the fire extinguisher, which needs to be removed to allow you to get into the far left corner. I also didn’t complete the rear-most edge of the boot as there is a metal bracket with lots of holes that rises up from the fuel tank area, which has gaps everywhere. It’s not clear what needs to be sealed and where!

I shall try and get some answers from others/Caterham to see how they tackled this area. I have to say, I’ve made a right pigs dinner of this process. It’s far from neat and tidy and I found I was having to use short sections of overlapped tape in order to get it anywhere near properly stuck. The curves and contours of the boot make it almost impossible to use long pieces of tape and get them to sit correctly.

Cycle wing washers

It was recommended to me at the Donington track day that I should fit larger washers to the cycle wings as the small bolt heads have a tendency to pull though. This could be a race ending black flag if the clerk of the course deems it so.

Unfortunately, the only washers I had 8 of that were in any way more sensible than the existing rubber washer were great big disc washers. I therefore used these and will no doubt find out pretty quickly whether I’ve made more or a problem for myself than I have solved!

Transponder

When the car went in for its post build check, I asked the factory to attach the transponder for me. The factory supply the car with the transponder attached to the front of the car and it’s wire tracking back to the rear of the bonnet along with the wiring loom. Beyond that, there aren’t any clear instructions available.

However, the factory method is to split the two individual wires out of the sheath. The positive wire is sent along the bulkhead to the pedal box where it enters through the hole in the rear and tracks around to the brake light switch. They then use a ‘piggy-back’ spade connector to give two electrical connections on the brake light switch, and attach a suitable blade terminal on the transponder wire. The earth wire for the transponder is made a lot shorter and is connected to the fire extinguisher mounting point using a ring terminal.

You know you’ve got it right when the green LED on the front of the transponder turns on (bottom right of transponder) when the ignition is on.

Side impact bar

The last big bit of the kit left in my lounge! Now safely stowed on the car. The bar has 3 attachment points. The front right roll cage saddle bracket; The rear right A-Frame mount and a circular mount just in front of the hoop mount behind the drivers head.

There is also an fixing kit supplied, containing some bolts and washers. There are, however, no instructions for fitting!

It’s actually relatively straight forward to do. Remove the existing rear A-Frame bolt. Make sure you retain all the washers and spacers you so carefully put in place! Remove the front outer roll cage bolt. You can disgard both these bolts as the fixing kit contains to longer versions to use in their place.

I loosely attached the front attachment, with a washer in between the two metal brackets. I then loosely attached the rear A-Frame bolt back in place, putting back all the spacers / washers. I then went to loosely attach the top most attachment point only to find that a) the kit doesn’t contain a cap head bolt, which would make the job a hole lot easier and b) it didn’t quite line up with the hole.  I got the trusty file out to shave off a smidgeon of the sleeve just where it was contacting the roll hoop and eventually the bolt started making its way home.

Then it was a matter of tightening everything. The top attachment gets harder the further down into the sleeve the bolt goes. However, it is just about possible to get it tight using s standard spanner. Once it’s far enough in, you can then squeeze a socket on to finally tighten it down. The front attachment point bolt is just slightly too long and makes contact with the opposing bolt that goes in from the drivers cabin. I took the drivers side bolt out, tightened the outer bolt and then use a washer to pad out the drivers side bolt just slightly. This was enough to allow the bolt to tighten without hitting the opposing bolt.

V-Box plumbing

I also used the opportunity to plum in my Video V-Box whilst the car was in the relative warm and dry of the garage.

I used some brake cleaner to clean the central console material just behind the gear stick and also down onto the tunnel cover metal. I then used 2 strips of velcro reaching from the metal of the passenger side of tunnel, all the way over to the drivers side of the tunnel. This left a nice neat fuzzy carpet for the V Box unit to sit on. I then stuck a corresponding strip of hooks onto the bottom of the V Box (making sure to take a note of the unit’s serial number before covering it up!). This offers a really good attachment point, out of the weather and within reach to force start a recording or to reset the box if it doesn’t boot properly.

It was then a matter of making a decision on positioning of the two cameras and the GPS receiver. In the end, I put the GPS receiver on the top left of the roll cage and the secondary camera mounting point next to it, pointing towards the drivers seat.

The professional fitted kits tent to put the GPS unit in front of the windscreen, as this offers more of a metal base to help receive the satellite signalIs, but I found on the last two track days that the roll cage seemed to work OK.

I plumbed in the GPS wire and the main camera extension lead from the V Box Unit, under the dashboard, down next to the left knee trim pannel and then back up the front roll cage leg. It looks neat and was happy with how it ended up.

I made use of the wiring loom that comes into the cabin right at the front edge of the runnel cover to stow the excess wires, making sure to leave enough slack to allow the box to be moved forward in front of the gear stick so that attaching/removing the wires is a relatively simple and quick process.

The last piece of the puzzle was the LED display. I used some ‘click tape’ for this. A strip applied to the dashboard just behind the steering wheel and then two small squares attached to the bottom of the LED unit. This gives a nice solid ‘clunk’ when attaching and won’t be going anywhere! I didn’t cable tie this wire in place to allow me to remove the LED from the dashboard for safe storage away from prying eyes!

The secondary camera has a solid wire all the way to the V Box, therefore, there was no way to plumb this in without having to leave it permanently in place. I didn’t want to do that for obvious reasons so this will have to be added/removed when at the tracks. This does have the advantage of being easy to move from pointing at the driver for training purposes, and then being used as a rear view camera when the racing begins!

This now leaves my current to-do list as:

  • Buy and fit Red front ARB
  • Buy and fit uprated front pads
  • Move inertia switch into cabin
  • Finish off boot sealing
  • Move rear light? (if where I’ve put it isn’t acceptable.)
  • Fit doors (buy hinges, one attachment strap)
  • Buy and fit long acre rear view mirror
  • Buy and fit compact race wing mirror

Rockingham replacing Mallory Park for round 3

Just had a pleasant surprise in the December newsletter! Mallory Park has been removed from the race calendar and has been replaced by a round at Rockingham on 7th September!

This years Caterham Academy calendar is really looking spectacular now! If you were to list the top 4 circuits in the country, then Silverstone, Brands, Donington and Rockingham would likely be those tracks!

Add into the mix a visit to Castle Combe and Snetterton and that’s a couple more. Blyton as a sprint venue also looks involved and interesting – more track like than the tight and twisty Curborough that’s been on the previous few years events.

Email distribution list…

There are a fair few people that aren’t signed up to Facebook (where most of this years banter and organisation of track days/socials appears to be taking place). If you don’t fancy joining Facebook (I understand completely!) then you could miss out on some great nugget of information or not know where people are going on track days/testing or perhaps having an impromptu social.

However, fear not, as there is an email list that is being set up by some of the 2013 Academites so that people can ask questions and generally get to find out what’s going on even if they aren’t on Facebook.

If you’d like to get your email address added to this mailing list, the please just use my contact form (on the sponsorship page) to let me know your name and email address and I’ll make sure you are added.

What’s left to do?

I am completely under the weather at the moment. I’m coughing and spluttering more than Renaults blown diffuser and I have more mucus than I know what reasonably to do with.

Sadly, that means I’m in no condition to drive the car or do anything car related, so, I thought I’d make a note of all the things that are still left to do on or around the car before the season starts.

Purchases

  • Full doors (looking for a good second hand set ideally).
  • Wheels (I’ve got spare tyres, but I need the wheels to go with them now.) They are like gold dust second hand.
  • Race mirrors (Longacre 14″ rear view and Racetech/Spa wing mirror).
  • Race gear (Helmet, suit, underwear, boots, gloves, HANS).

Car tweaks

  • Basic flat floor and geometry setup.
  • Car race preparation (side impact bars, 7 grill, rain light, rollover padding).
  • Bag seat/HANS adjustment.
  • Fix boot cover poppers.

Guess that’s enough to be getting on with!

Donington Track Day, 8th Dec 12

I had the luxury of trailering the Caterham up to Donington Park early on Saturday morning. Alarm was set for 5am and I can assure you, it wasn’t appreciated.

I’m new to this towing lark as well and at that time in the morning, my eyes were on stalks to begin with. I did make it in one piece, although my average fuel consumption wouldn’t have been out of place on a big block American car.

The track was damp and cold early in the day and was therefore slippier than a vets arm just ahead of foetal checks. That’s not exactly confidence inspiring on a fast track, in a car that you’ve very little experience of, on tyres that don’t heat up!

It was more a case of survival early doors. However, it did dry up and as the drying line appeared, things started getting a lot more fun! It was a day of learning and chatting to fellow group 1 driver, Henry and Group 2 driver Dan. The class of 2012 were also in attendance with their newly upgraded Caterham Roadsports. Had some great banter with them and appreciated the advice.

As for the car, it behaved impeccably. It’s not put any more oil into the catch tank and it never missed a beat all day. I’m now using full revs and chucking it about a lot more. I’ve still got a fair chunk of time to find – Henry was around 4-5 seconds clear of my times but looking back at the footage from the end of the day, where the track was a lot drier, I never got a clean lap in. I’m therefore working to around 4 seconds to find and I feel like this is achievable…

Found a heal-toe technique that seems to work OK – although I’m not good at it! I had one full lock correction down at the hairpin and a couple of run wides – but no totally off track excursions!

Can’t wait for more of the same… would say it might be new year before I get out on track again, but never say never!

Do you want to race in this years Academy!!!

PistonHeads Academy CompetitionPistonHeads and Caterham have announced that this years Media Partner will in fact be a competition winner! That competition is open to anyone who buys a ticket to Autosport International Show.

If you win, you get the car, ready built, and entry into the Academy in Group 1. So, you save £25,000 and I promise that we won’t hold that against you… (much).

You do have to give the car back at the end of the year though, and I think it’s only fair to point out that there are still a fair few expenses that you need to cover (transportation, insurance, fixing the car if you break it) but why not give it a go!

All the details on how to enter are on the PistonHeads website.

Perhaps see you on the grid in 2013!

First Track Action, Keevil Airfield

So, having picked up the car on Thursday evening, and having had an induction of fire into just how cold it is to drive a Caterham in winter, with no heater, no roof and no doors, I felt it was only right and proper to get out there and get going on track!

I chose Keevil Airfield as my first track day for a number of reasons. 1. It was far enough away that I could get some more running in miles on the clock ahead of raising revs and using brakes more fully on track. 2. It’s a great track as far as run-offs are concerned should anything decide to not function properly (including myself). 3. Grubby, James H and Pete B were all booked onto the track day as well – and this social side of things was probably the most important of the lot for me!

So, firstly, the drive up to the circuit. It was a beautiful Christmas scene as I travelled from Reading to the track. Idilic vistas of frost bitten trees and grass. Mist and fog caressing the hills and dales…. and me freezing my butt off in a car that couldn’t give a shit how cold its owner is! Dad chose the only sensible course and decided to travel up in convoy in his nice heated and insulated car…

Sign on, obligatory safety briefing and sighting laps out the way, and it was onto the first forays out on track.

Tentative to begin with – not knowing how the brakes and engine were going to take to being more robustly used – but then gradually gaining the confidence and starting to push on a little more.

I didn’t use more than 6000 revs through the whole day to try and bed things in but everything felt nice and solid. The brake pedal did get longer through the day as things settled in and I never found a good technique for heal-toe with the pedals, so gave up for the day and concentrated on having fun.

Initial impressions of the car are great. It’s spritely, eager and is progressive and communicative. The tyres let you know what they are doing, or about to do and give you ample warning if they don’t like a decision you just made. Kind of a conversation ‘Errm, Cheesy, I think that you might want to think about not trying to get to that apex right now, I’m having a few difficulties…. no really, I think you should stop that now…. you’re still going, I’ve told you a couple of times, I’m not going to tell you again… I warned you…’ and all in the delightful screeches and squeals coming from the tyres. Sure, they don’t have oodles of grip, but they have enough (for now!).

The only two slightly worrying aspects of the day were a catch tank rapidly filling itself (although this seemed to calm through the day, but it never stopped fully) and the oil pressure gauge reading low when the engine was hot but just at idle (on throttle, and cold engine, it’s a very steady 4 bar.)

Speaking to James and Pete lowered some of my concerns as James initially had a catch tank fill itself a bit and Pete had been told by his instructor that any overfill of the engine will end up in the tank… Dad did warn me that we may have overfilled a bit during the build, so that may well explain things.

The oil pressure I will confirm with Caterham that this is expected on a hot engine at idol but again, speaking to James, he had lower pressure once the engine was hot and only idling.

Massive thanks to Steve for sorting me out a temporary in-line solution to getting a ligher socket into the car for my VBox. The box itself seemed to work great through the day. It captured all its data, which I’ll have to start to learn how to assess.

I only attached one camera for the day and hadn’t set up the box to show timing or map overlays. Again, more learning so I can prep this properly going forward.

Now, I just need to make a decision about Donington next weekend. I’ve very tempted and now I’ve got the car fairly run in, I can even trailer it! Luxury.