What’s on the to do list now?

A while back, I posted up what I still had to do on the car. Here’s a breakdown:


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

Car tweaks

  • Basic flat floor and geometry setup. – Done
  • Car race preparation (side impact bars, 7 grill, rain light, rollover padding). – Done

So, that just leaves two outstanding items on the original list:

  • Bag seat/HANS adjustment.
  • Fix boot cover poppers.

I did go through and fix the majority of the poppers. However, since then, a lot of them have broken again. I really need to get hold of the correct crimping tool for the poppers, rather than persevere with the hammer method.

I’m still undecided whether to get a bag seat done ahead of the sprints. There are a few  factors that likely mean I should. 1. I can’t get the HANS adjustment correctly made until I have the bag seat in place. 2. It’s lighter to have the bag seat in place and I’m way over weight with the car at present. 3. I do bump my helmet on the roll cage padding and I’ve not checked whether I’m inside the regulations on height in the car.

To this small list of outstanding items, I should add on a few others:

  • Race stickers/livery
  • Final setup check
  • Pre-season bolt and condition check
  • Pick up spare pads for front and rear brakes


Basic setup and tweaks done

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 08.47.45

At Snetterton, I confirmed to myself that my brake pedal was too long for me to be able to heal toe successfully and at Brands, it became clear that the car picks up a lot of understeer, especially on power and with 2 people on board. Obviously, the car isn’t going to have 2 people on board! (Although I do weigh twice what some other guys I’m racing do!)

Just as well then that the car was booked in for a setup session with DPR Motorsport. David at DPR talked me through what they would be doing on the car and took my driving weight. I asked them to take look at the braking system to see if there was anything that could be done to firm it up before I handed over the keys and left them too it.

Through the day, I had several calls to explain the things they were finding on the car that could do with some attention and to clear any work required.

I was back in the workshop the following morning and took the opportunity to have a pedal setup done. Jumping in and out the car with David adjusting, bending, drilling and tightening. Obviously, it’s yet to be track tested but in the workshop, it certainly feels the business now.

I’ve been given a couple of sheets of paper showing the starting geometry and weights that I delivered the car with, and another showing the end results after the setup. Included was the race start fuel level required.

It’s great to know that the cheesemobile is now ready for the season ahead. There was nothing spectacularly wrong with the car but everything is now far more balanced and symmetrical. She got an oil change at the same time and some attention was paid to the brakes – with a bleed and system check. There is a bit of play in my right rear caliper that could be causing some of the soft pedal. There was also some play in the front left bearing that could have been causing pad knock off. That’s now been dialed out and if the pedal is still too soft, I may have to replace one or both of the rear calipers.

That’s all for another day though – right now it’s great to have the car back and have a relatively good bill of health.

Brands Hatch Indy, Fun Times

A busy MSVT day at Brands Hatch Indy yesterday. Brands is still my ‘local’ track but at 1.5 hours away, it’s still means an early morning! I had been round the track in damp conditions the previous year in the Elise, but today was dry and at around 8 degrees in the sun, a great day for tracking!

Ben Clucas was along for the ride for a full day of instructing. I’ve known Ben a long time and knew his input was going to be invaluable. The track was a little damp out to begin with but it only took 45 minutes or so to dry itself out. Then it was into the learning!

Ben showing me the lines and talking me around the lap, then me trying to replicate – to mixed success. This repeated for a while, swapping seats once more to start to ramp up the pace a bit. I had brain fade just before lunch and started over driving (and going slower because of it) but after lunch and a data review, I was extremely happy with progress.

Druids and Paddock were losing me time and to that’s what we concentrated on for most of the rest of the day. Paddock eventually came to me, but Druid took all day to get right.

Towards the back end of the day, Ben set a data lap for me and I went out to see how close I could get. Pretty close was the answer – and hopefully a competitive pace for the year ahead.

Again, the Cheesemobile coped well with a very busy day. It understeers like a barge with two people on-board, but seems capable of setting good times – which is great to know. It’s off to DPR Motorsport this week to have its initial setup done, then she’s due a well deserved break until March 10th. (That’s the plan at least!).

I came away from brands FULLY hyped up for the year ahead. It’s been a dream for a long time now, and I’m certainly living it!

Getting out and about

It’s been a busy few days, and it’s not easing up just yet. After passing the ARDS test on Wednesday, I travelled up to Norfolk on Friday evening to get ready for another track day, this time at Snetterton. (Surely there’s no other reason to be in Norfolk right :)).

Extremely lucky with the weather, the day started and ended sunny and dry. The first day of the year you’d actually want to be out on track. Michael Coulton from Roadsports (a 2012 Academite) was good enough to let me share his garage for the day. Pete Basterfield from group 1 was also in attendance.

Pete’s got a brilliant outlook on life and I could spend a lifetime trying and never be as laid back.

The day went pretty well. 1. The car came back in one piece. 2. I came back in one piece. 3. I didn’t make anyone else go back in more than one piece. I picked up speed in the morning and then had a session with Paul Lind just after lunch to try and understand what I need to concentrate on.

It was in that session, whilst trying out a few changes in driving style that I had my off’s and also my spin. It’s the first time I’ve spun on track in a full sized car (well, as full sized as a Caterham gets) and whilst it was rather uneventful on a track day, I can’t say it would be so comfortable in a race! Everything ended up pointing the right way again and the car didn’t bat an eyelid. Style-wise, I can now say I’ve completed a scandinavian flick into a 360 spin successfully.

I spent the afternoon trying to implement some of the things Paul had suggested and although I never got a complete lap to stick together, my data shows that the new tweaks could potentially be 0.5 – 1 second on an ideal lap.

So, having only just packed up and recovered from Snetterton, I’m now off to Brands Hatch Indy for a day tomorrow. I’ve got Ben Clucas in the car with me for the day. I’ve known him for a long time and even been out on track with him a few times at Silverstone – so fingers crossed we won’t fall out!

There are some others from Group 1 turning up as well as a group 2’er so I’m sure there will be the usual banter and sideways glances just to see how others are getting on!

Passed! I am Racing Driver.

I travelled over to Wiltshire after work on Tuesday. It’s a long drag over in rush-hour traffic and I’m exceedingly happy that I made the correct decision to not take the Caterham. It really would only have been fun for the first 15 mins and the journey back would likely have killed me.

Steve Grubb had located a nice hotel a couple of miles from the track and Chris Middleton, James Houston and Simon Lindley had also booked in for the night, so it was great to have a chat, some food and some alcohol with friends.

Normally, 3 pints is enough to see me snooze all the way to the morning, but a ‘Family Guy’ marathon on BBC THREE kept me up to gone 1am and then a combination of excitement and a the person above taking several toilet trips though the night meant that I didn’t exactly have the best nights preparation.

Still, it’s amazing what a nice breakfast and tea (elixir of life) can do and I just about felt normal arriving at Castle Combe.

We were split into 4 groups and our group headed over to the skid pan first. Officially, we were practicing skid correction and control but in reality, we were going for drifting prowess and racing the other car! It was great being allowed to play and experiment. I think I would have been happy to stay there all day. We also did emergency braking and avoidance exercises. Again, some useful tips that need to be remembered when ‘that’ time comes.

Next up was a Race Prep chat with Brett, Jenny and the team. Talking through all the bits and bobs that need to be done to the car ahead of racing. I’m pretty happy that I have done everything needed – appart from having to adjust the harness leg straps a little more to make sure the buckle is not sat under the seats. This was a pain to do the first time round so I have every confidence that it will be even more so this time. Caterham seats make me want to cry sometimes.

A spot of lunch and a chance for a goot natter followed. I think there were only a couple of guys I didn’t get to chat to through the day, fingers crossed, that will be rectified sooner rather than later.

After lunch, it was onto the meat of the day. The reason for being there. ARDS time. The ARDS test gets you your National B racing licence and, although it’s not spectacularly tricky to pass, it does take care and attention and previous on-track experience (especially at the track you’re taking the test on) helps a lot to make you feel at ease. It comes in 3 parts; a medical; a practical; a written test. You get to watch the fabulous (ahem) MSA DVD again presented by Troy McClure… I mean, Steve Deeks. It contains all the information you need to answer the written paper and covers what will be looked at in the practical test.

The post lunch ‘snooze time’ hit really hard (and not just for me judging by the zombie looks on peoples faces!) and it was a struggle to keep focussed. Still, we made it to the mid point of the DVD and that was the time to get everyone out and into the cars.

3 passengers and one instructor to a car for some demo runs to start with. Initially showing the lines to be taken, explaining what they would be looking for through the session and showing the kind of pace they would expect to see being kept. The pace is such that you are pushing on, but we were on a damp track and any kind of slide from the tyres was a mistake, rather than proof of driving prowess! The test itself consists of some familiarisation laps, with the instructor constantly nattering at you about lines, speeds and technique. Once they think you’re ready, they stay quiet for a couple of laps and leave you to prove to them that you’ve taken on board the instructions and can be consistent by yourself.

If that all goes well, you’ve passed your practical.

Onto the medical. I can only immagine the consequences of a medical taking place at a wine tasting festival. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Everyone trotting around with their ‘sample’. There’s solidarity to be had in the slight trauma of it all! So, the medical consists of urine tests, blood pressure, heart rate, colour blindness, vision tests and a few medical history questions. Only takes a few minutes (so long as everything is clear).

It’s then finally onto the written part of the ARDS. We first watched the second half of the DVD, then the instructor asked whether there were any questions, followed by an ‘subtle’ explanation of some of the finer points of the rules and regs that may be useful to know.

The paper itself is in several sections. The first is likely most important. It lists all the explanations of what a particular flag means, and you must write in what colour the flag it is referring to and whether it is waved, or stationary. Then, it’s onto multiple choice questions. These are all heavily sign posted and any ‘tricky’ ones are likely to have been highlighted by the instructor in the briefing session. The written part isn’t designed to catch you out! You are told plenty of times ahead of the test that you must know all the flags and what they mean.

And, that, after a de-brief, was the end of a fun day at Castle Combe and the start of being able to officially call myself a racing driver… although only a lowly novice 🙂

Great to meet up with everyone again. See you at a track soon!

Testing times ahead…

Only a few days to go now before Group 1 all head over to Castle Combe to take our ARDS test. Pass it and we can call ourselves Racing Drivers! It’s a full on day with theory, practical and medical elements…

I’ve been swotting up on flags, regulations and watching the Go Motorsport DVD. I think I’m ready! Just got to remember to take along all the forms/passport photos necessary.

Will be good to catch up with a few of the guys the night before for some food and gentle refreshment! Looks like the weather won’t be kind though. Rain and possible sleet is forecast!

The car isn’t needed for the day and the weather means it likely won’t be making a journey down to Wiltshire… but it is ready for a busy few days with two track days on the Saturday and the Monday following. The race suit also arrived last week, so now I can get used to wearing that as well. I may even rock the arm restraints as well, as they need to be worn for all our official events and they take a little time to get used to apparently.

Hopefully the next post will be good news!