Following a mixed result at Brands Hatch due to Paul Whiffin not having the use of his own car due to engine problems, the cars were duly returned to the workshop for some checks and servicing before the final round which was fortunately several months off! Steve Linton’s car turned up some nasty results whilst being subjected to a leak down and compression tests, leaving Darren Robinson no choice but to pull the engine out for further investigation. Basically, whilst looking into the cause of the problem it was decided to do a full refresh of the whole engine including a rebuild of the head with larger valves. Everyone hoped there would be enough time to get it done. After some careful calculations following Steve’s victory at Brands Hatch, the team were pleased to discover he had enough of a lead to win the championship regardless of his result at Snetterton but everyone wanted to see both cars finishing the season and plans were made to do just that.
With the combination of additional work being done to the engine and the need for special order parts, trying to find enough time to get the engine rebuilt proved more difficult than expected and the engine was only mapped the night before the event (we had to be at the circuit by 8am the next day). Steve Linton was faced with a drive to Oxford and back as well as driving the car to the circuit just to bed the new engine in and the car was immediately subjected to an oil change upon arrival at the pits!
Paul Whiffin’s car, was also running a brand new engine with some further subtle modifications, but had no such drama and was safely delivered by Richard of Triple T Services and made ready to do the business it needed to. The winner for the RWD Club Class might have already been decided but second place was still up for grabs and Paul was determined to continue his previous success at Snetterton following on from being one of the fastest recorded on the main straight the year before! (that included the Pro class!).
With briefings completed, the cars took to the track for warm-up and armed with a fresh set of tyres, Paul Whiffin managed a 1min 17.918sec best whilst Steve Linton did a 1min 30.240sec best. Steve’s slow times were due to wanting to check everything was operating correctly after the engine rebuild and that there were no leaks or issues. In addition to monitoring the display on the Racepak dash within the cockpit, Steve returned to the pits for a visual inspection so his times were not a true reflection of his abilities. Where we had needed to complete an oil change beforehand, we were left with no time to stiffen the suspension settings or adjust the tyre pressures so it was mainly seen as an opportunity to run the car round under slight load to check all was well. Paul was at this stage sitting 3rd overall and 1st in class which was a great start to the day!
The weather had promised to be kind and driving up from Essex we were worried when the heavens opened and it began to rain! Fortunately, there was no rain at the circuit nor throughout the day for our sessions, (the Pro boys weren’t as lucky and what a time to rain!!! The final!) Although a stiff breeze kept the team on their toes throughout the day.
Moving on to the Practice session and with Steve now running the right tyre pressures and suspension settings, both drivers were looking to improve on their warm-up times. Paul Whiffin really stood out in this session and proved without any doubt his car is seriously rapid, securing a personal best time of 1min 15.984sec which secured him 2nd overall and 1st in class!! Steve was making good progress as well and cut his time down to 1min 17.480sec which was good enough for 8th overall and 3rd in class just behind our main rival Jamie Reynolds in the Lotus Elise (0.32 of a second between them!). Returning to the pits, both drivers were pleased with their improvements, especially Paul who could barely believe the time he had set. All was looking good for the all important qualifying session later in afternoon.
Both cars are now equipped with the TyreSure monitoring system which keeps the driver informed of the pressures in each tyre at any given time and helps the team to maintain constant pressures without the need for frequent checks. Steve Linton chose to lower his front tyre pressures to attempt better grip as the temperature on circuit was quite low, preventing enough heat being generated to achieve the high levels of grip required.
The boys from Motul were a frequent sight in our pit garage for which the team would like to say a big thank you. Despite having their own stand to run, the guys made the effort to pop over and see how we were doing and their support was gratefully received. Thanks again guys!
With both drivers strapped in and fuelled up for the qualifying session, all the team could do was wait for the times to come up on the monitor. It should be pointed out that there are some points to be made for qualifying position and with Paul Whiffin looking to secure the second step of the podium for the championship season, a good result would be required.
Steve Linton, appreciating he didn’t need to collect maximum points and that he didn’t want to push the engine too hard, tried to aim for times around those of the current third place holder in the championship (Jamie Reynolds) to maximise his points and not penalise his team mate from getting second place in the championship. Both cars were running well and picking up their pace throughout the first part of the session but an unfortunate accident with a Mazda RX7 led to a red flag situation and all the competitors had to return to the pit lane whilst the emergency crews set about recovering the car and clearing up the carnage it had caused. Fortunately, the driver of the RX7 (a friend of the teams who built the engines for our Time Attack RX7 when it competed!) was unhurt and the track was made ready in good time allowing the guys one final chance to improve on their lap times. Another competitor’s car had dropped oil down on another part of the circuit and Steve Linton found it whilst braking off the back straight, puting him on to the grass but fortunately not damaging the car. Paul Whiffin continued his winning streak managing a 1min 16.698sec best which qualified him 6th overall and 1st in class. Although not his fastest time of the day, Paul felt the loss of time could be attributed to the new tyres going off that he had fitted as they were not offering the same level of grip he had experienced earlier in the day. Regardless, the time was good enough to gain him the extra qualifying points he needed and put him in good stead for the superbattle final. Steve Linton managed a marginally slower time than he did in practice, 1min 17.703sec which was enough to finish 10th overall and 3rd in class which put both drivers in good positions for the final later in the afternoon.
As the final session of 2009 approached, darkness descended over the circuit thanks largely to a bank of rain clouds which had crept up and looked rather foreboding! Fortunately, they would not empty their contents for the Club session allowing the guys to push on and attempt to finish the round with the best times possible. Both drivers waited in the pits for the field to leave hoping to open a nice gap for them to use and avoid catching other competitors as they looked to set fast times but a combination of traffic and worn tyres (and in Steve’s case his new engine as well) prevented either driver from improving their previous times. Paul Whiffin managed a strong 1min 17.242sec best which saw him 7th overall and 2nd in class. Steve Linton managed a credible 1min 20.018sec best placing him 16th overall and 3rd in class.
Both drivers had made it onto the podium yet again and everyone in the team was over the moon as we also knew we had the 1-2 finish overall for the class in the bag which was something we really wanted to achieve. With the cars safely re-loaded onto the truck under Richard’s watchful eye, the team made their way to the presentation area looking forward to hearing officially what we already knew.
The podium would see the boys not once but twice on this occasion to collect their 2nd and 3rd places for the final round as well as their 1st and 2nd places for the championship. I think everyone in the team as well as our friends and sponsors would agree that the time, effort and dedication shown by all was worthwhile as the boys took their second cheap champagne shower of the day!!
A huge thanks to our sponsors, Porterfield Brakes UK, AET Turbos, Motul, Triple T Services, Nitron Racing Shocks, APR Performance, Racepak, Cam Auto, Sybora Projects, who we hopefully made proud and to everyone in the team for their efforts throughout the season.
Thanks also to our supporters both at the events and on the web who were offering much needed encouragement throughout the season.
2010 will see the return of Team Garage Whifbitz to defend their title against a new field of machinery no doubt as Time Attack continues to grow and attract more competitors and spectators alike.
We hope to see you all again next year and thanks again to you all!!