The second round of Time Attack saw the team making their annual pilgrimage to Knockhill in Scotland. By far the most remote and distant circuit on the calendar, Knockhill really needs to be seen to be appreciated. The circuit itself is set in the picturesque hills of Fife, and is around 10 miles North of Dunfermline. The views are simply breathtaking and the weather is renowned for its ability to change within minutes from sunshine to heavy rain.
The team gathered at the workshop in Enfield early Friday morning. The cars were already on their way up to Scotland thanks to Richard Turnbull of Triple T Services collecting them the day before. At around 430 miles each way, the team set off with high hopes of continuing their success from the opening round. Following a relatively uneventful trip up, the team arrived at their hotel and quickly checked in before heading out to grab a much needed meal before settling down for the night ready for the trackday the following day. A big thanks to Nelson, Levine De Luca and Horst (NLDH) whose sponsorship not only paid for the entrance costs for both cars this season, but also covered the hotel bill for the team for the three nights needed to compete at this round. When you consider that Time Attack is very much an
amateur style of competition, with no financial rewards for drivers or their teams it can be a costly exercise for all involved, so thanks again guys for helping ease the financial burden! Being our fourth year of competition at this remote location, we were familiar with the lack of amenities offered and were fortunate enough to find a leisure park last year which is located within a few miles of the circuit, and offers several eateries, a cinema, miniature golf course and a bowling alley with arcades should time allow, but it was a far cry from the hotels we stayed at before which were in the middle of nowhere!
Waking early Saturday morning, the team grabbed a quick breakfast before making their way to the circuit to sign on for the trackday they had wisely booked. Steve Linton has competed in this round since 2007 and was therefore relatively familiar with the layout, unlike Paul Whiffin who managed to drive the circuit last year on a trackday for only 7 laps in the wet, but couldn’t compete in the event itself after his turbo failed. Everyone was hoping that this year would be different, and that both Paul and the car would go the distance but only time would tell. Unlike the more preferable open pitlane trackdays, the trackday at Knockhill was grouped, meaning less track time and having to wait for groups to be called. The sessions were shorter than the drivers would have liked, and there were cones on track at the different
corners which prevented the drivers from finding their ideal lines for the following day. Despite this, it did give both drivers a chance to drive the circuit and put the cars through their paces ready for the main event the following day. Paul Whiffin’s car was still struggling with some of the braking issues he experienced at the previous round, despite having had new front discs and pads which cured the vibration issues, the soft pedal was still apparent despite replacing the front bearings in the hope it was
pad knock off, and removing the Tilton bias valve just in case this was to blame, but sadly the issue remained. Paul also thought he could hear an exhaust leak of some kind and discovered one of the wastegate clamps had gone missing! Whilst this was not a terminal issue, the team attempted to find a suitable replacement by asking around but unfortunately, no one had anything that could do the job. A temporary fix was attempted with some sealant and a jubilee clip, but no one could be sure if this would be up to the job. As if that wasn’t enough, the manifold gasket that had blown at the previous round decided to blow again, and Paul was forced to strip it all back yet again and fit another gasket (we carry a few now just in case!). With the car now back in one piece, the team headed back to their hotel and quickly changed before going out for a spot of dinner and a chance to discuss the events of the day before retiring early in preparation for the main event the following day.
With driver briefings scheduled for 8am (an ungodly hour especially for a Sunday!), the team were up and ready by 7:30am and on their way to the circuit. Whilst the drivers headed off for their briefing, the rest of the team set about constructing our base camp for the day which consisted of an awning, table and chairs and a generator to power the George Foreman grill and toasted sandwich maker we would be using to make our breakfast and lunch! Whilst there were more food choices this year at the circuit than in previous years, we struggle to find enough time to queue and home cooked food tastes better anyway!
With everything in place and both cars cleaned off and ready for action, the drivers readied themselves for the warm up session. Both Steve and Paul made it out and managed times of 1min 01.046secs (Paul) and 1min 05.222secs (Steve). Paul’s time put him first in class and fifth overall with Steve managing fourth in class and 12th overall. Given this session is only meant as a chance to sight the circuit and does not count towards any points overall, both drivers were not trying too hard. Despite having bled his brakes at the end of the trackday the day before, Paul’s car was still not working as well as it should have been, and the temporary repair to the wastegate didn’t work either, so further repair attempts were necessary. Both drivers also found the circuit quite slippery as rain the night before hadn’t cleared by this point, and although the sun was out it hadn’t warmed enough to dry out the track.
Moving on to the Practice session, both cars made their way out to the track. Listening to the tannoy, it was Steve who set a very impressive time of 55.492secs which was around 4secs quicker than his previous personal best! Paul managed a respectable best time of 56.994secs, which given the ongoing braking saga and the lack of a wastegate clamp, was a good effort when all things are considered. During the lunch break, further efforts were made to fabricate a better solution to Paul’s wastegate issues. Despite trying other teams (thanks to everyone we asked who tried to help), no one had the necessary clamp so a number of jubilee clips were used. We also struggled to do our necessary fluid checks, as the paddock area where we were based was sloped which meant the readings were out and we had to try moving the cars to level ground (no easy task with spectators, teams and the drift guys all moving around at the same time!).
Qualifying was next up and both drivers were looking to do well as points were on offer at this point, and the Lotus Exige that beat them in the first round was also in the hunt. Steve again managed a blistering time of 55.772secs which was enough to put him first in class and first overall! He was pushing so hard that he lost the inner passenger front wheel arch liner, and having only glimpsed something black and relatively large fly out from under the car in his rear view mirror, made his way into the pits convinced he’d lost the front carbon fibre splitter he’d bashed several times before when going airborne through the John R Weir Chicane! A red flag saw Paul Whiffin come back in and queue in the pitlane, but rich readings on the Air Fuel Ratio gauge and a lumpy idle caused him some concerns so he switched off and checked
around the engine bay to see if anything was amiss. With nothing obvious to see, Paul went to restart the car only to find it wouldn’t turn over! With help from James Hawkins and Tim Moore, they managed to push the car back to the paddock and started looking for the problem. Paul’s best time before the red flag was a 56.994sec lap which would put him third in class and seventh overall, a bit annoying as he was about to turn the boost up so was sure to go faster.
With not much time until the final, Paul was frantically trying to find the problem with his car which turned out to be the cambelt tensioner pulley bracket which had sheared off! It wasn’t looking good at this point but Paul took a risk and asked Peter Divine a member of the mkiv supra forum and customer of Garage Whifbitz
(Peter is also a very good photographer and was taking some shots for the team), if he could strip his car and ‘borrow’ the pulley in order to compete in the final. In an amazingly selfless act, Peter agreed and set off to collect his car from the parking lot and bring it back to Paul to begin surgery. With the clock frantically ticking down, Paul approached the guys from the Buddy Club racing team who not only offered to lend him any tools he needed, but also helped with removing the parts needed from Peter Divine’s car whilst James Hawkins frantically removed the broken parts and ancillaries needed. Huge thanks to them all for their help. Despite his best efforts, the clock wasn’t kind to Paul, and with just five minutes to go before the final session, and all the parts needing to be fitted to his car, he reluctantly called it a day and set about putting back all the parts he had taken off of Peter’s car so he could at least drive home after the event! Whilst it was a real shame that Paul couldn’t get it done in time, we cannot thank Peter Divine enough for offering up his pride and joy in the name of competitive spirit! As anyone who cherishes their car would agree, seeing your car being pulled to pieces is horrifying, and Peter wisely walked away so as to avoid the sight, but returned to witness a mass of parts on the ground and Paul buried in his engine bay! Fortunately the car went back together without incident and Peter made his trip home without any issues! Thanks again.
With only one driver left, all eyes were on Steve Linton who despite setting a brilliant time in practise, was very aware of several other drivers who were closing in on his time, including the little Lotus Exige that had robbed him of the top step of the podium at Oulton Park. Determined to bring home the gold, and with the car back on four wheels following a minor incident when the trolley jack collapsed, Steve headed to the pitlane ready for one final push. Steve had been measuring and recording the amount of fuel he used for each session throughout the day and had taken a calculated risk in minimising the amount he would be carrying for the final. In principal this could work to his advantage, but if a red flag situation occurred or he found himself caught up in slower moving traffic, it could spell disaster. On his second lap, Steve managed a time of 55.997secs which would turn out to be his best time of the session as further attempts were hampered with traffic and an element of fuel cut where he had been running the tank so low to try and save weight. It turns out that this also wasn’t a clear lap as the telemetry later showed that he had to lift off before he should have on the first corner due to traffic, reducing his entry speed. All eyes were now on the Lotus Exige of Jamie Wilson who had been setting very close times to Steve throughout the latter part of the day, but failed to improve on his time of 56.042secs which was just 0.045secs too slow to take the win away from Steve and had to settle for second place. Returning to the pits and hearing from the team that he had won the event was a fitting end to what had been a mixed day of successes and failures for the team.
Paul’s issue with the cambelt tensioner pulley could in theory affect Steve’s car as they are running similar power levels, so a beefier replacement would be needed for both cars before the next round. Following an e-mail to Titan who are a well known US tuner who specialise in the Toyota Supra as well as other cars, they have kindly offered to send over two of their billet brackets which have been proven to cope on the most demanding engines used in drag racing, as part of a new sponsorship deal. Paul has also been trying to ascertain whether the bracket failure has caused any damage to the valves as although a compression test and valve clearance check came back perfect, the results from the leak down test weren’t so good. With the team frantically packing up it was time to head over to the podium area for the award ceremony. In typical Scottish style, the heavens chose to open at precisely the same moment in time although in fairness, this was the first and only rain we had throughout the day, so it wasn’t really an issue and spirits remained high as we watched Steve receive his trophy and return to the top step of the podium where he belongs.
It is probably worth mentioning that both Paul and Steve received warnings from the event organisers following their blistering pace at Oulton Park that if they continue to set such rapid lap times, they will have to move up to the Club Pro class along with the Lotus. Apparently there is a three strike rule and with Steve setting yet another amazing time at Knockhill, it would seem the guys have only one strike left! The next round sees the team returning to their home turf of sorts, namely Brands Hatch but with question marks over the condition of Paul’s engine, it is too early to tell whether both cars will make it to the circuit, and if they do, will they be able to fend off the hungry Lotus that will surely be looking to fight back after such a narrow defeat? Only time will tell.
Points Table – Club Challenge – RWD
1st – Jamie Wilson Lotus Exige S1 198
2nd – Steve Linton Toyota Supra 198
3rd – Paul Whiffin Toyota Supra 88
Thanks go out to all of our sponsors namely, Nelson Levine de Luca and Horst, Nitron Racing Shocks, SuperPro, WIM (Wheels-inmotion), Triple T Services, Toyota Performance Magazine, Syvecs, AET Turbos, Motul, K&N, Porterfield and now Titan for their continuing support.
Round three takes place on Sunday 27th June and is sure to be another exciting and closely contested round. If you are able to come along, please make sure you pop by and say hello and be sure to check out the write-up in a future issue of Toyota Performance Magazine.