Unlike the previous rounds, the team chose not to do a trackday the day before Brands Hatch as this is our local circuit, and the one on the calendar we are most familiar with having done lots of testing and trackdays in the past. Paul Whiffin’s car had to undergo quite substantial surgery following the broken cambelt tensioner pulley bracket at the last round in Scotland, as removal of the head showed damage to 12 valves which had been bent when the bracket broke. In addition to replacing the valves, Paul had to have all the valve seats re-cut as these were also damaged. The replacement tensioner pulley bracket was supplied by our newest sponsor Titan Motorsport, who are a US based Supra specialist. The bracket itself is much more robust than the OEM part and has been tested and proven in drag racing Supra’s in the US so should be up to the job for our Time Attack cars. As a precaution, Steve Linton’s car was also booked into the workshop for a new Titan cambelt tensioner pulley bracket to prevent similar issues occurring on his engine. With both cars fully operational, they were collected by Richard Turnbull of Triple T Services on the Saturday, and driven down to Brands Hatch in Kent ready for the action the following day.
The team arrived early to get the garage setup and do as much preparation as possible in terms of cleaning and readying the cars for the day ahead. Temperatures were due to be extremely high and plenty of sun cream was applied to people whilst the cars received a thorough polishing in the shade of the garages, as I can assure you polishing any car in direct sunlight/heat is tough, but black cars have to be the worst! There were some concerns also over how the engines would cope with the added heat, as turbo applications are not known to enjoy warm air and the forecast was suggesting it would be the hottest day of the year so far! Despite the extreme heat and the fact England were playing in the World Cup the same day (I won’t say another word about it I promise!), there was a good turnout of spectators including some members of the mkiv Supra Owners Club. Special mention must go out to one member in particular who travelled all the way over from Luxembourg to watch the team compete and then travelled back again! You know who you are and we thank you for your efforts and continued support.
With both cars readied and the drivers back from their briefing, the team waited patiently for the warm up session to begin. Steve Linton’s previous personal best for the Indy circuit at Brands was a 53.962sec lap and if previous rounds this year were anything to go by, he would be looking to improve on this from the start. As always, both drivers were easing back into things behind the wheel and finding their lines whilst checking brakes and warming the tyres up, so the team could check and alter these as necessary when they came back into the pits. The circuit was as to be expected busy and both drivers struggled to find a clean lap but did towards the end of the session. Steve managed to finish first overall in group with a respectable time of 54.065secs, whilst Paul managed a time of 54.833secs placing him third in class, and fifth overall. Given Paul was in the process of bedding in freshly fitted brake pads following the issues he has been plagued with this season, this was a very good time.
With both cars back in the pit garage and both drivers out of their race suits (can you imagine the heat these guys suffer dressed up in their fire retardant clothing on a hot and sunny day!), inspections were carried out and tyre pressures adjusted accordingly. Paul Whiffin was just carrying out some basic visual checks on his engine when he happened to notice a build up of small blue flecks all around the engine bay and on the inner wings. At first, he asked me whether it was residue from either the polish or the cloth I had used to clean the cars with, when I confirmed the polish was clear and the cloth was yellow, he began to check anything blue in the engine bay namely the various silicone hoses for signs of damage. Nothing looked out of place and we were starting to run out of ideas when Paul mentioned the uprated cambelt was blue. A suitable allen key was located and the cam cover removed at which point we discovered a very deep groove cut into the belt! Paul understandably didn’t want to run the engine again with that amount of damage as a snapped cambelt would have caused untold amounts of damage to the engine. The only option was to replace the cambelt, but with no spare and the workshop over an hour away, it was going to be a race against the clock. Whilst Paul began removing the various items needed to gain access to the belt itself, I raced over to the trade stands to ask around and find out if anyone had a spare cambelt for a Toyota 2JZ engine. A phone call a few minutes later from Paul confirmed he had located the cause of the groove in the belt, being a collapsed cambelt tensioner pulley/bearing! Part of the pulley managed to wedge itself between the oil pump and the belt and being metal, was doing a good job of working it’s way through the material. Had it been successful, the damage experienced previously when the cambelt tensioner bracket failed would most likely have happened again and Paul would have been faced with the cost of yet another head rebuild! Whilst it was fortunate the damage was discovered early enough to prevent any major damage, we were now trying to find a replacement cambelt and a cambelt tensioner pulley which isn’t a part most people would carry as a spare. Paul suggested I head over to the Sumo Power tent and ask them as they often carry a few parts to support the cars they enter in both Time Attack and EDC (European Drift Championship). They suggested I head over to the tent where their Nissan S15 drift car was located as it was running a 2JZ engine and might have the parts we needed. In an amazing stroke of luck and above anything else generosity, the guys were able to give us a new cambelt and the tensioner pulley we needed! We cannot stress enough how grateful we were for their help as the only other alternative was for someone to drive back to the workshops and try to get back in time to rebuild the engine before qualifying but this would have been a tall order with traffic to consider. Thanks again guys, we couldn’t have done it without you!
I headed back to the pit garage and found Paul frantically working away under the bonnet clearing the debris and handed him the parts I had managed to source. Luckily, both were what we needed and whilst the belt was a stock one, it would do given the circumstances! With Paul now working hard trying to get the pulley changed and the new belt on as well as the other ancillaries he removed to access the pulley itself, Steve was heading out for the Practise session.
The first thing Steve noticed was the track temperatures had increased significantly and the lines he had been using previously, weren’t as affective. He tried experimenting around with other lines to find one that worked best for the car but struggled throughout the session with grip, and had to return to the pitlane for me to drop the pressures further to try and compensate. As the session neared it’s close, Steve managed a time of 53.212secs which beat his previous personal best and placed him second overall behind the Lotus Exige of Jamie Wilson. The gap between them was just 0.634 seconds so another showing of David versus Goliath looked to be unfolding!
Fortunately, Paul managed to get his car back up and running in time for Qualifying but the missed Practise session would prove costly as he wasn’t able to finish bedding in the new brake pads before having to push them in Qualifying and ultimately, the Final. Steve’s cambelt was also checked to insure it wasn’t suffering similar issues but was found to be fine. Steve spoke to Alan from Toyo Tyres who are the official tyre suppliers for Time Attack about the issues he was having with grip, and Alan confirmed he needed to drop the pressures further due to the high track temperatures we were competing against. With both cars now readied, they headed out to the track.
Steve chose to trim back on the amount of fuel he was carrying for qualifying, based on an average he had worked out per lap to prevent suffering any disadvantage in carrying any unnecessary additional weight. Unfortunately, both cars were struggling to find any grip and suffered a couple of minor incidents of understeer going into Paddock Hill bend and through Clearways. A further pitstop was taken and the tyre pressures were reduced yet again to try and compensate, as the additional heat out on the track had negated the earlier changes. Despite his best efforts, Steve couldn’t find enough grip through the first sector and lost around 0.7secs to the smaller Exige. He pushed on only to feel the effects of fuel starvation through Cooper’s on the downhill run and had to return to the pitlane for me to put a few more litres in for one final run before the session ended. Paul in the meantime was gradually improving his times but was suffering from ineffective brakes as I mentioned earlier as the pads hadn’t bedded in properly. He still managed a very respectable time of 54.062secs being his fastest ever time to date and found himself third in class and fifth overall. Steve did manage one further timed lap which would turn out to be his fastest of the session namely 53.389secs which put him second overall again narrowly behind the nimble Lotus Exige (0.790secs).
During the break between Qualifying and the final, Steve was talking to Darren Robinson the workshop Manager at Garage Whifbitz about the grip issues, and the topic turned to the suspension settings. It was decided that Steve would spend the first part of the Final pitting frequently to adjust the suspension settings to see if this could aid him find the grip he needed. Both cars were checked over fully and fluids were topped up as needed before the final session would begin.
Steve decided to run slightly more fuel this time after the starvation issues in Qualifying and both cars remained in the relative coolness of the garage until the session started to try and prevent heat build-up in the tyres or the car itself (remember there is no air-con in these anymore!). This proved to be beneficial for Steve at least as his best time for the session was achieved on his second timed lap with a new personnel best of 52.550secs which put him first in group but there was still a long way to go until the session would end. Steve had gone out for a final attempt trying a different suspension setup and all eyes were on the monitors, and with time ticking down and only a minute or so left to go, Jamie Wilson managed a time of 52.187secs pushing Steve down to second place. Steve couldn’t find a clear lap in the dying seconds and therefore remained in second until the chequered flag dropped. Paul managed his best time later in the session on lap eleven namely 53.415secs which was a new personnel best. Given the problems he faced on the day with having to perform a cambelt replacement (no easy task I can assure you!), and the brakes frustratingly only starting to work properly as the final session closed, this was a great result. His time wasn’t quite good enough to secure the third step of the podium but there are still two rounds to go so hopefully the car will now perform closer to it’s true potential.
The next round sees the team heading to Cadwell Park which has the worrying nickname ‘mini Nurburgring’ due to it’s complex layout and array of corners. Having never been on the circuit, both drivers have signed up for the trackday on the Saturday before the event but are on a waiting list as it was fully booked! Hopefully at least one car will secure a spot so we can experience the circuit but only time will tell. Thanks go to all our sponsors for their continued support and we hope some of you will be able to see the team in action before the season ends as we go into the final two rounds to decide who will secure the title. Should be a nail biting finish! See you there.