The fourth and penultimate round of Time Attack saw the team setting out on a number of firsts. It was our first visit to the infamous Cadwell Park, something in itself quite daunting given it’s affectionate nickname of ‘mini Nurburgring’, but even more challenging was the prospect of joining the elite in the Club Pro class after the organisers confirmed we were too quick to stay in the regular Club Class. The challenges began early for Paul Whiffin who with only four days to go before we were due to compete, had to take his MSA National ‘B’ race license and obviously pass in order to move up to the Club Pro Class along with his team-mate Steve Linton, and theirmain rival Jamie Wilson in the Lotus Exige S1. Steve fortunately already had the required race license having competed in the Pro Class previously so everything rested on Paul’s shoulders as the organisers were only willing to add a Club Pro RWD Class if there were at least three participants competing! No pressure then Paul!
Fortunately, the test which was taken at Brands Hatch went well for Paul, and he successfully gained the race license needed. The next step was to order two sets of tyres from our official Time Attack tyre sponsors Toyo. Incredibly, they informed us that there were no sets of our chosen sized tyres available from their stock, and that we should try to find them independently at full cost! If successful, they would however be happy to brand these for us for TA competition use! (Not much help there guys!)With time running out and no tyres available, the team were forced to run the used tyres they still had fitted on the cars from Brands Hatch which would be a real disadvantage from the offset. The issue was raised with the TA organisers, who had words with Toyo but this didn’t change the fact we had no tyres unfortunately.
As with any circuit we are not familiar with, the team wanted to book spaces on a track day before they had to compete in order that they could familiarize themselves with the layout of the circuit and try to get a feel for things at a more relaxed pace. Unfortunately, the only day available was the Saturday before the event and there were no spaces available as it was fully booked! Both our drivers were added to the waiting list as reserves and the organisers for the day (the Mitsubishi Lancer Register – MLR) promised to do their best to give the guys some track time if they could. Following a frustrating start to my journey up to
collect Steve (special thanks to the Jeep Patriot driver who blocked me in at the Station car park so I wasted a half day waiting for him to get back and move!), we made it over to our hotel late on the Friday evening and joined Paul and James Hawkins at the bar for a quick nightcap, before turning in for an early start Saturday morning.
With no way of knowing whether we would be able to get out on track, all we could do was head over to the circuit and check in with the MLR organisers and hope they could fit us in at some point during the day. Luckily, we were given the nod around lunchtime that we would be allowed out for the final two hours of the afternoon session for which we can’t thank the MLR guys enough as without this opportunity, we would have been going in blind on the Sunday (thanks again guys!). The MLR organisers also suggested our drivers try and get some instruction from one of the instructors given this was their first time at the circuit. Steve was lucky enough to bump into his instructor from when he took his race license, and the two of them headed out for around forty minutes with Steve receiving invaluable information and advice throughout which was a huge help. Paul also spent a few laps with an instructor and with his car running without any issues for the first time this season did a 45 minute stint to learn the track.With a decent amount of track time, both drivers were a lot more confident by the end of the day than they had been that morning but still with plenty of time to find out on the track.
The final part of the session was spent taking members of the team out and experimenting with fuel loads and settings in preparation for Sunday. Sunday morning saw the team up and back at the circuit getting both cars cleaned off and polished whilst Paul and Steve went for their driver briefing. Following the regular checks and with enough fuel in both cars, the guys headed to the staging area whilst the rest of the team set about gathering their equipment and tools for the walk to the pit lane. None of us were prepared for quite how steep the slope was leading down to the pits which are in the middle of the circuit itself! I can tell you one thing, once the toolbox was rolled into place, it was going to stay there unless something really went wrong, as none of us fancied tackling the slope to get it back to our makeshift garage area (like Knockhill, there are no garages at Cadwell so the trusty marquee was put in use again!).
Warm-up was used by both drivers as a chance to reacquaint themselves with the circuit from the day before, and after eight laps in total, Steve managed a best time of 1min 41.871secs putting him 1st in class and 12th overall (remember this was with the Pro Class as well as Club Pro competitors) and Paul managed a time of 1min 42.353secs putting him third in class and 14th overall. Both drivers were sure they could go quicker and were becoming more confident every time they took to the circuit.
Moving on to the Practice session and with confidence high, both drivers took to the circuit and began eating into their lap times. Steve set his fastest time on his fourth lap being a 1min 40.662secs (over a second quicker thanWarm-up). Paul was going well also and after setting a time of 1min 41.359secs(almost a second quicker than he managed inWarm-up), still running on low boost, he was
absolutely flying out of Barn corner heading down the start/finish straight towards Coppice when there was an almighty bang and a huge trail of fluid on the track! From where we stood on the pit wall, it looked and sounded like a water hose had burst or popped off and we had some hope that we could fix the problem and get Paul back out in time for Qualifying. After a painful hike back up
the steepest slope I’ve ever come across with a fully loaded toolbox to push, we finally made it back to our garage area and waited for signs of Paul and the car which needed recovering from round near Park corner after Paul had switched off the engine and coasted to a halt. Seeing the recovery truck taking the long way round, we ran over to help unload the car and assess the damages (our thanks to the mkiv supra owners club members who helped push the car back to our makeshift garage – thanks guys!).
It soon became clear the damage was much worse than we had thought, and with Paul holding a large chunk of sump in his hand, any hope of getting him back out for Qualifying were lost. It later transpires that the oil pump failed and managed to blow a big hole in both the sump and the side of the block itself!With the block and sump only fit for the scrapheap, and with Paul looking at a six
week wait for the replacement Mahle stroker pistons he wants to use, a temporary engine will be built in time for the final round at Snetterton in October. Based around a set of Mahle Pro Series pistons and a standard crankshaft, Paul will be losing some power and torque for sure. He did mention upping the boost to around 2.2bar and running race fuel at Snetterton, but I guess we will have to wait and see! Rumour also has it that Paul has a larger turbo sitting to one side solely for this round, as he wants to set an
even faster time through the speed trap on the long straight this year (he was one of the top five fastest of all competitors last season!). I guess we’ll need to wait until October to see what happens!
With only Steve still able to compete and the knowledge that he had to beat Jamie Wilson in the more nimble Lotus Exige S1 if he wanted to keep his championship hopes alive this season, all eyes were on Steve as he headed out for Qualifying. It was clear early on that Steve was giving it his all and had tucked himself in behind a rather quick pink Mitsubishi Evolution and was very close to matching his pace. On just his second lap, Steve managed a blisteringly quick time of 1min 39.118secs which would be his quickest time of the session (and the day) and saw him qualifying ahead of Jamie Wilson in first place in class, and a very respectable fourth overall in the Club Pro Class as a whole. Given points are on offer for qualifying, this was a really positive result and the team were really hopeful going into the Final that Steve could keep his title race alive.
Following some further cleanup work by the circuit support staff after another car left an oil slick on the track, the drivers for the Club Pro Class were asked to form up in the holding area. With Steve’s car checked over thoroughly and additional fluids added as necessary, he made his way down to the holding pen. Paul joined the rest of the team in the pit lane and we waited for the session to begin. Steve looked quick from the start and on his second lap with the Lotus Exige in front of him and the Wallace Performance Evo in front of that, the three of them went for it. With nothing in it between them at this point, all eyes were trained on Tim Moore who had climbed up to the commentary box and was indicating to me after each lap how Steve was doing and whether he was ahead of Jamie in the nimble Exige.
According to Steve there was only one dicey moment during this session where heading down Park straight approaching the right-hander, he discovered the breaking zone was covered in cement dust following one of the earlier oil spills! There was a brief moment where he couldn’t see a thing and he had to pray no one in front of him had chosen to brake early, which fortunately they hadn’t.
Steve continued to look for enough space on track for a fast lap which he managed on his penultimate lap securing a time of 1min 39.678secs, but this wasn’t enough to beat Jamie, who was on newer tyres, had found a good couple of seconds from his Qualifying time and set a very respectable time of 1min 37.803secs (almost two seconds clear of Steve) which was enough to give him the win in class with Steve coming home second.
The team were realistic in approaching this round and had expected it to be a real challenge to outperform the little Lotus given how much more suited it was to this type of circuit. Spirits were still high however as we all knew Steve had given it his all and we headed back to the makeshift garage to begin packing up all our equipment and loading the cars onto the truck. Richard Turnbull had done another of his sterling jobs in getting to the circuit nice and early, so we were in a good location with enough space to get everything moved quickly and we then made our way over for the presentations at the podium. With both Steve and Jamie up on the podium, it came as quite a surprise when the announcer asked Paul to make his way up as well! It transpired they felt a ‘booby’ prize was in order as the line ‘I can put my hand in my engine’ was deemed worthy of cake! A black forest gateau was presented to Paul who laughed it off well and so another round came to a close.
With just one round remaining, you can rest assured both our drivers are still out to finish on a high, and with Snetterton being a more suited circuit on account of the long straights, it should be a final to remember. Lets just keep everything crossed that Paul’s replacement engine goes together ok, and can handle the boost he plans to unleash, and that Toyo will be able to supply two sets of fresh R888 rubber in our chosen sizes this time! Thankfully we have the support of Richard Turnbull of Triple T Services to transport the cars to and from these events nowadays, as there is no way Steve could have made it home on the tyres he had by the end of the event. It would be great to see as many of you there as possible to cheer the guys on, and we thank all our sponsors for their continued support. Without them, none of this would be possible and for that, we can’t thank them enough.