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My first trip back to Weipa started quite badly, very overcast and not enough time to use the train. At that time the new Airport train hadn't yet been put through and, as things go when there isn't quite the time, things get worse, it started to drizzle.
I thought about my options and found there were very little to choose from so bundled myself into the little Clubman, tucked by baggage on to the rear section behind the driver, put on a weather jacket and headed off. As I turned onto the highway there was a sense of adventure in the journey and with that frame of mind, the rest of the trip was very pleasant. The onlookers were the same except there was the added interest in why someone would choose to head of on a journey on an open car, no roof protection, in the rain (drizzle) and no forecast of things improving....... If anyone can answer that question I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts because I've since been caught doing the same thing on quite a few other occasions. In fact on one occasion I had to stop and park under a road overpass in the safety lane for an hour waiting for the rain to pass because I couldn't see through the windscreen.
During March we found a house were liked and decided to buy. That meant another move and another round of packing and unpacking. I had gone out with my son Ben to arrange the hire of a large cage box trailer about 4 KM away. On the way back I was easing on the breaks, turning into the drive and as the front wheel touched the driveway gutter, the lower front trailing wishbone broke, collapsing the rear support of the front drivers side wheel. I also lost 75% of directional steering and thought how lucky I was that it happened where it did rather than 5 minutes earlier.
The dilemma I had was how to fix the car so that I could get it to our new house with out a workshop in less than a week. We also had to get organized to move over the next weekend and I had to continue to get to work and back leaving me with no time at the end of the day to get to shops. As things work out it simply boils down to effort, energy and a "just get it done" type of mind set.
The bottom wishbone attachments have always been a point of discussion with some of my more learned friends and the general consensus was that it may be OK but looks a little light. After 11,000km one let go and on closer inspection found that it had a crack fatigue on a weekend Grade 8 weld. I've since redesigned the whole attachment section and upped the material cross section from 7/16 to 5/8 grade 8 and removed the need for a welded attachment to the wishbone. I'll post a photo of the new wishbone end.
After the house move things got back to normal and I started to get a very loose routine going which gave me a bit more time. I decide to look at taking the car to its first race meeting to see how it handles and performs. I decided to join the Goldcoast Tweed sportscar club, a wonderful club down my way, which is actively co-ordinating, the Inter club team series for 2001. A great idea and very popular. The next event was at the Mercedes driver-training center at Norwell. It was to be a morning on the train for driver training and track familiarization and the afternoon dedication to a "Flat circuit Hill Climb" event. I decided that that was my target, one car on a flat circuit, everyone watching so that I car make a real spectacle of myself but do very little damage.
I went to their next meeting introduced myself to the club secretary, got all the information I needed, entry forms, membership forms, CAMS class 2 license forms, CAMS regulations booklet and what ever else seemed to be relevant. My son Ben thought that this sounded like a lot of fun so we got him in on the act as well. Ben turned 15 last February so just scrapes in for a Class 2 license.
The day started at 7:00am for car scrutinizing, drive debriefing at 8:00am and on the track at 8:30am until 10:30am. At 10:45am a driver debriefing for the Hill Climb which started at 11:00am. There was also a wet skid pan to prove to us all that most cars were in need of some sort of suspension tuning and/or driver skills improvement.
The track had 3 hairpin bends, one sweeping right-hander with a chicane then a series of tight left and right turns with the Start/Finish on a bit of a left hand kink in part of a sweeping left hand corner. This proved to be a very exiting and entertaining spot to be. Lots of tire burning donuts as drivers tried to squeeze the extra few 10th off their lap times as they cross the finish line far more quickly than the either the car, corner or drive could handle.
There were 55 cars fanning out around the skidpan and 60 drivers, some sharing a single car like Ben and myself. I ran number 4 on the grid Ben ran at 22. The car on 3 was a small yellow Clubman with a Rover 4.2 ltr V8, a pure fun track car and not road registered.
The day was an absolute blast and provided a tremendous insight into how the car performed on a racetrack with hard braking corners and sharp changes in directions. Over all the car ended up in the top 10% and Ben gave some of the more experienced drives a good run for their money. He ended up a bit under the top 25% of the field and didn't spin out once.
The interesting thing I found out about the car was something I had suspected for some time. It has a tendency to corner very well but lets go at the back in a great rush and its very difficult to catch once it goes. I removed the rear roll bar and fiddled with the tire pressures to see if I could influence its behavior a bit. I don't intend to use tire pressure to tune suspension but with the absence of the rear roll bar, running rear pressure at 40 and front pressure at 30, I managed to reduce the severity of the back end breaking in corners. It told me I need to fit an adjustable front anti roll bar and spend a bit of time on a skidpan collecting information. Also I suspect I haven't got an ideal distribution of corner weight on all four tires.
The front roll bar will be a challenge to size up and may need some help with that. I'll give it a go first and get some confirmation before I get it built.
It's now getting into winter and I am finding it less exiting going for an evening drive, but I was able to get out to the McKlean bridge sportscar display before things got too nippy. It was my first time and it is very impressive. For anyone who enjoys going to see cars of all kinds that's got to be a big calendar entry. Even had an original LeMans Ford GT40 in it's glorious Gulf colours.
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