After the highs of a 1-2 finish in the first round of the Time Attack 2009 season, the team where looking forward to the second round. The only drawback, the track was up in Scotland! Although the team have visited the famous Knockhill circuit twice before, no one was looking forward to the journey which has taken anything up to 11 hours in the past!
The team met at the workshops on Friday morning although the cars had been loaded the night before along with the canopy and anything else we could get on the lorry as the decision had been made to take just one car and space would be limited with four blokes and their kit to carry. The cars would arrive at the circuit before us, thanks to Richard from Triple T Services, ready for the practise day on the Saturday afternoon. Driving duties were shared by the team which helped break things up and make it less of a chore.
Arriving at our hotel the team were pleasantly surprised to find a well equipped leisure complex with ten pin bowling, cinema, places to eat and even a mini golf course with palm trees! (remember we’re in Scotland) a big thanks to Steve Linton for the excellent find. We left Enfield at 11am and arrived at Premiere Inn at 9pm although there were a few services thrown in to allow for driver changes, loo breaks and something to eat. After freshening up, the team headed out to Nando’s for dinner before a couple of frames of bowling and a few drinks.
Saturday came and after a hearty breakfast, the team made their way to the circuit to unload the cars and setup their temporary base for the next couple of days. Valuable lessons had been learnt from the previous visits so catering would be taken care of by the George Foreman grill supplied by Paul Whiffin, powered by a portable generator supplied by Steve Linton with food purchased by the whole team in the shelter of the canopy also supplied by Steve Linton (the winds are unreal as the circuit is up in the clouds with no wind cover whatsoever!). Having been soaked and blown away in the past, the canopy would turn out to be a godsend as the afternoon brought the dreaded rain which neither the team or the drivers appreciated. Whilst the canopy kept the majority of the rain away, it was only shower-proof so soon started leaking water into the Team Garage Whifbitz HQ
This was Paul’s first taste of Knockhill so the wet track wasn’t helping his nerves or anyone else’s (didn’t stop him pushing hard as the owner of Apex Performance can vouch after a brief trip into the kitty litter!). There were a couple of nasty off’s, the most memorable being the “Dave’s Taxi Evo” which limped back with a nasty passenger side and rear shunt when he left the track and ploughed into the tyre wall. Fortunately, his team were able to repair the car (lots of tape and tie-wraps!) and compete on the Sunday. Back to our drivers and after a few laps under their belts and with the track steadily drying out, Paul and Steve were starting to find their feet and were getting quicker with every lap they did. Just as the practise day was coming to a close, disaster struck. Paul’s car had gone past making some rather odd and unhealthy noises. Limping back to the temporary garage (no pit garages at Knockhill) we were lucky enough to have Andy Taylor from AET Turbo’s on hand as the noise was coming from the turbo area which had only recently been re-installed after a change of the exhaust housing a few days before. With the turbo internals exposed, it soon became clear the turbine shaft had bent causing the compressor wheel to grind against it’s housing signalling the end of the GT42RS. Despite everyone’s best efforts to source a replacement turbo including the offer of driving back to Andy’s to collect another GT42RS and driving it back to install early Sunday morning (an 8 hour round trip!), Paul decided to leave it as he wanted to downsize anyway as the lag and power were not best suited for Time Attack having been chosen originally to make maximum horsepower.
Disappointment would be an understatement and the pressure was now even greater for Steve to do well in order to salvage the weekend being the only competitive car to race for Team Garage Whifbitz. Saturday night was surprisingly enjoyable with another visit to the leisure arcade and a great meal at Chiquito’s. We had chosen to leave the canopy up rather than packing and unpacking it the following morning and with a generator strapped to one leg, a full can of race fuel on another and Peter Payne’s toolbox strapped to another as well as a can of race fuel filled with water on the final corner the team were optimistic it should stay where they left it. Unfortunately, when Richard wandered over from his cab for some water the canopy wasn’t where we’d left it! Deciding it would be easier to collapse it than risk leaving it up to get blown further off track, Richard kindly put everything away.
Sunday morning came around and the forecast looked to have been right as we had bright sunshine! (again, remember this is Scotland!). When we got to the circuit, the drivers went to sign on whilst the team attempted to re-construct the canopy and get the cars washed and ready for the day. With the generator fired up and the bacon on the George Foreman, everything seemed to be going well. Suddenly the generator lost power and we were left with half cooked bacon and a cold box full of meat we couldn’t cook! They always say bad luck comes in threes and this was no exception as the BMW boot had jammed the night before and refused to open! We did try using the power invertor in the car to power the grill but it wasn’t up to the job so the team carried on with preparations for the first practise session. With our resident engineer James Hawkins aka Jimbo at hand, the decision was made to try fixing the generator so open heart surgery began! Luckily, Jimbo was quick to spot a couple of melted wires which he expertly repaired and with everything crossed, we tried firing it up. Success! The power was back on and would remain that way throughout the day which meant everyone could be fed as the queues for the fast food van were horrendous! We even found time to organise a hotdog for Rob Barnes who had been doing a superb job overseeing the event.
The practise went well as did qualifying with Steve setting a very respectable time of 58.984 seconds putting him first in the RWD class, scoring maximum points. With the Foreman hard at work, we were able to cook burgers, sausages and Paul’s favourite, chips! Strange as it sounds, grill chips cook perfectly in a George Foreman so now you know!
Having checked tyre pressures, wear patterns and temperatures, it was time for Steve to go out for the final time. With the Apex 200SX closely behind him in qualifying and a circuit not suited for the Supra, Steve finished his warm-up lap and hung back to try giving him some open track as he had struggled in the qualifying to get enough space to allow a flying lap through the first half of the complex circuit. After a further warm-up lap to get everything to temperature, the lights went on and Steve rocketed past the pit straight for his first fast lap. With every fast lap completed, the times continued to drop with a fastest time of 58.432 seconds giving Steve first place in class with a lead of 1.215 seconds.
The team were really pleased as the efforts made to get up to Scotland hadn’t been in vain and although only one car was able to compete, the chances are it would have been another 1-2 finish had Paul’s car been able to compete. The only question mark being who would have been first and who would have been second?! With Round three just two weeks away, Paul has his work cut out for him getting the new turbo installed and setup ready to mix it up again and try for some more points in the championship. Steve has now secured two first place finishes and received another F1 conrod from Cosworth. At this rate, the team should have enough to build an F1 engine by the end of the season!!
A huge thanks to all our sponsors, the fans and members of the MKIV.com Supra forum who made the trip to see the cars in action and the pit crew who give up their time to keep the cars on track and provide much needed entertainment on the long journey to Scotland and back.
Silverstone is in just two weeks time and there’s plenty to do in the workshops as the new turbo from AET Turbo’s and will need fitting and mapping to allow Paul to get back in contention. With only three rounds remaining, the championship could still be anyone’s but Team Garage Whifbitz look set to continue their winning ways as they go from strength to strength. See you in two weeks at Silverstone!