Our last race of 2010 was the Dalby Soapbox Forest Derby, which once completed had us thinking about the 2011 season.
Did we run as we were and enjoy a "cheap" season?
Modify the current cart?
Or go for a completely new build?
There was a lot of discussion, number crunching and scribbles before we made the decision to try and sell on our cart. Knowing there was nothing wrong with the cart and it was still competetive, we decided to look at options and opportunities to put the cart up for sale. It was a chance entry in the Formula Gravity newsletter, looking for carts people had for sale that prompted us into action. An e-mail was duly dispatched and within the week I had received a reply from an interested father for his son. A couple of calls and e-mails later we were heading south to meet up with the new owners, Matt and Jack Ramsden, to handover the cart just outside Scotch Corner Services.
A couple of runs in the car park and cash changing hands, the cart was loaded onto their pick-up and we were heading home. Cash burning a hole in the pocket, nothing to race for next season and we were in the grips of one of our coldest winters.
Many cups of tea and biscuits later a plan had been hatched, steel was ordered up after the new year break, duly arrived mid January and stored in the garage. We headed out to the shed to begin the process of cutting and and welding.
We also had a timescale to work to, a new event for 2011, at Castle Forbes, Alford, at the beginning of May we had to get to work.
Long cold winter nights and the complexity of the new build did not help progress, but we were getting there. A new Evolution Fury compound mitre saw made short work of cutting material, nice clean cuts, fast and accurate, far easier than a hacksaw or angle grinder.
A couple of alterations to the length and the seating position and a chassis was starting to take shape.
We were looking to produce a minimal frontal are as possible so the width was dictated by the width of my shoulders and the chassis height was designed to provide maximum protection to the driver in the event of an accident. Other considerations were balance and the position of the feet which were to be either on or behind the front axle line. The feet position is one we always stick to and highly recommend to others and is the rule in most forms of motorsport for very good reasons.
Castle Forbes 2011
Preparations for this brand new event for 2011, didn’t go to plan.
We were well behind on the build and no-where near completion never mind testing. Both of us having to go away with work halted progress. Although, I did take the new wheel components with me and built up the wheels, in my hotel room, before dinner!
The planned canopy and rear bodywork was put on the back burner to concentrate on getting the new cart ready to race. Late nights and posted missing by our families became the norm.
Finally we got the cart ready loaded up our gear and would do the final tweaks, i.e. wheel alignment brake set up etc once we had pitched up our tents.
Arriving at the campsite and tents pitched up, we soon got to work on the set up and readiness for scrutineering. All was going Ok until Iain went for a quick test run through the campsite and found that we had desensitised the steering too much. Although the steering was not too tight, we had to put alot of lock into the steering to get it to go around corners. First job on the list of fixes to be rectified!
Through scrutineering OK and all that was left to do was to load up and get ready for racing the next morning.
Saturday morning and we headed over to the Castle Forbes estate, parked up, got ourselves ready and had a look at the course.
A quick and technical top section, with plenty to cause racers problems, but once through this the bottom half of the course would not pose any real problems for competitors.
Iain took the first run, untimed and used to familiarise racers with the course and the braking zones. This gave Iain no cause for concern, other than the armfuls of lock to get around the corners.
My turn next and the steering again being the main issue, but with us both having our first outings in the cart, we were only starting to get familiar with it. My run was slow, probably braking to early and hard, but other than the steering everything else was working great. The suspension was certainly doing its job and the run was certainly smoother than any other runs we had done in our previous rigid axle cart.
Iain was up again while I waited at the bottom of the course. Before long though, there was a problem. Carts were not getting to the bottom and it soon transpired the cart had got sideways before “chicken corner” and had got up the bank before crashing down. Once the cart was transported down the course it soon became apparent it was game over for us. With rushing to complete the build, we hadn’t any spare wheels prepared. Two wheels were damaged beyond repair, right handside front and rear uprights were severely bent and the front one even twisted with the force and also a rear calliper would need repairing.
Although we couldn’t complete any further runs, we had managed to get 2 championship points for completing a competitive run. We were not happy as the time for that one run was was well off the pace and we weren’t sure why? Had we built a real dog? Too late to do too much now. All we could do now is repair and modify it and see where we go.
The jobs were soon stacking up for our next event at Border Bogies and with a fuel pipe repair to do on my own car, time was very much against us.
Border Bogies 2011
After spending some promised time with our families we were soon getting stuck in. Time was very much against us and a few of the planned “upgrades” were dropped in favour of repairs and necessary improvements. The expanding foam and gaffa tape nose would have to stay, for another event at least, new uprights would need to be built and then concentrate on the getting the canopy and rear bodywork done, but any further paintwork or vinyl wrap would have to wait.
With very little time between events this would have to be the plan for the rest of the season, do what we can when we can and hopefully with each change we would be improving the cart.
New uprights and wheels rebuilt, the steering modified to increase the sensitivity and then the rear body work and the canopy were fitted, leaving us to get the cart set up and covered on the trailer the night before the event (again!).
An early start to get there in plenty of time and with the weather looking fine, we took a different route along the A708. A very beautiful and scenic part of the country, but not particularly suited to car and trailer, though fortunately, for us, it was quiet at that time in the morning.
Arriving earlier than expected we headed to Hawick for breakfast, probably our only main mail of the day, till we got home.
Fully fed and ready to race we headed to the village green, where a large number of carts had already assembled, awaiting inspection. With very little to do other than inflate the tyres to their race pressures, we had a wander around the green speaking to other drivers and looking over the competition.
With scrutineering, signing on and attaching race numbers, we were soon lining up and waiting for the tow cars to take us up to the start line. We had been allocated race number “2” and with me going first this time, we readied ourselves for the call to the start line. We had already had a plan between us, which was to go for it from the start. With no practice runs and with some previous knowledge of the course from previous years, there was to be no holding back and the minimum requirement was to be quicker than the time we set in our previous cart.
This being the first time I had been in the cart since my only one run at Castle Forbes I felt a little nervous, but knowing the cart had been improved, I was just rearing to go.
I was called to the line and with two locals doing the pushing, I readied myself. Three – two – one GO! I was off. The cart felt good, but not spectacularly quick down the first section, but as speed picked up on the straighter sections, the cart had a slight wander, nothing significant or unnerving, but one to watch for and also the steering had some free play which I thought was the rack and would just be a minor adjustment. Again nothing significant, but something to add to the to do list and make Iain aware of. Passing the children’s start line, speeds started picking up and before long I was heading to the narrow section towards the finish line. With the straw bales of previous years being replaced with water barriers, there appeared to be more room and the course seemed quicker. The red and white water barriers where a blur as I passed them, concentrating on the line and the finish line up ahead.
Through the finish line and careful not to lock up the brakes, I applied the brakes gently and used as much of the braking area as required, before I turned around and got myself in line ready for the tow back up. I felt optimistic that my time was quicker than last years, but when Rich came to tell me the time, I could hardly contain myself or believe it, until it was confirmed.
Not only had I bettered our time, I had set a new course time and the first under 1minute!
Not only were we back on track,we were quicker than we expected!!
As we were the 2nd team down, it gave me a chance to watch the other teams flying through the finish line and hear the other competitors times, while waiting for the tow back up the hill.
Once back up the hill, we had a quick check over the cart and found the upper pinch bolt on the steering column was slack and required tightening! Nothing which would have come apart, but it did resolve the free play.
The next two runs were much the same as the first, very quick and without any drama and only a short delay for one or two incidents and the possibility of rain threatening to dampen the day. The rain did arrive but, thankfully, only after all racing had been completed.
We had completed all three runs in very quick times, but with Steve Thomas from C12 posting a blistering time on his 2nd run, it was going to be very close.
Eventually, first place was awarded to C12 and 2nd place to us, with a difference of only 4 tenths of a second, on the aggregate time, over 3 runs, proving how close we were.
Not down heartened in anyway, we had put in 3 consistent runs all under 1minute, which was not achieved by any other team on the day.
All we had to do was collect our trophy and then pack up for the journey home and prepare for the next event at Catterline.
Catterline Carties 2011
Another early start for us – no time to for us to enjoy the Saturday night ceilidh and party atmosphere again, due to work and family commitments and also getting the bogie ready.
Arriving early we parked up and since there was not too much to do, we helped out where we could and enjoyed the glorious sunshine.
By Midday the course was in place and an initial pilot run to test the course proved disastrous for team “Pist”n”Broke”. Negotiating the 90degree right hander at “jimmy’s” the cart ended nose up and stranded on the bank. Pushed back and released Rich was able to negotiate the rest of the course without issue.
With the course successfully negotiated and not going to cause any major safety concerns we were ready to race.
Team “Pist”n”Broke”, were one of the first teams away for their test run, but “Jimmy’s” proved to be his downfall once again. This time not only being stranded, the front axle had broken with no way of completing the run or being able to repair it for the rest of the day. It was game over for “Pist”n”Broke” and no points either in the championship either.
It was not long before it was our turn and with Iain taking the first run, he successfully negotiated the top half of the course without drama and picking up speed down towards the harbour. Then disaster! Just beyond the final bend a chicane of bales had been placed in the road and Iain clipped a bale as he went through it, sending the cart into a spin and up the bank side facing the direction he had just come, with the cart finally rolling over, coming to a rest on the roof.
Once all of the first runs were complete it was time to collect the cart and drag it back up the hill to be repaired. A wheel to be replaced and an upright to be straightened, meant we were under pressure to get the cart ready for its first timed run. Assistance from Graham at “Pist”n”Broke” and Rich from “Team Art” was gratefully accepted and without them we would have been struggling.
With time running out, the organisers kindly allowed us to run last and collect us before the second of the timed runs. Virtually with seconds to spare, I was strapped in and pushed to the start line.
Three – two – one – GO and I was off. Soon heading towards “jimmys" and the tricky transition from gravel to tarmac. Breaking hard I cleared the cones at his section and picked my line for the next major corner “Slammer”. I was clear through here as well and with the knowledge that the straw bale chicane had been removed, all I had to do was keep a good line to the finish and beyond, wary of the narrow and short braking zone, which was my demise in 2010.
Safely through and parked, I soon found that I had posted the fasted time so far. Early days yet though.
With a quick check over Iain was soon strapped in and pushed to the start line. Feet positioned ready for a good push and wary not to go over the start line, Iain was given a hefty shove. Away he went and all i could do was wait....just over 30seconds seems a lifetime when waiting....and then I heard he had crashed it again, not far from my accident last year, into the banking just after the finish line. A fast time, but unfortunately picking up a 5second penalty for clipping a cone. Nothing for it but to get the cart back up the hill and get the spanners and hammers out and fix it again!
Once again with assistance from Rich (Team Art) and Graham (Team Pist"n"Broke), the cart was once again ready to go and I was strapped in ready for the off. No holding back, I just had to go for it and collect as many points as I could to give us a chance of being in the hunt for the championship decider at Cairngorm. A good push from Iain and taking the same line from the first run, I once again sagely negotiated the top section of the course, without any penalties. A couple of blasts on the horn from Jimmy's through to Slammer as an appreciation to the crowds, who come out to support the event, I was enjoying this run. From Slammer to the finish line, picking my line and setting myself up for the run through the finish line and the braking point beyond, I only braked hard once I was past the wall. A couple of blasts on the horn and then the news, I had once again posted the fastest time of the day.
With the day bathed in glorious sunshine, it was prize giving time. We knew we were going to receive one trophy, "The Cannons Shield" for the fastest time of the day, but did not expect, to also receive the "Best Engineered Cartie" award and then the "Champagne Moment" for Iain's moment, when "parked" the cart on its roof. We also collected five points for the championship and put the team top of the SCA Championship leader board.
Photographs taken and "The Cannon Shield" returned (it goes straight back on the wall), we packed up and headed for home. An excellent, sometimes hectic, day but a superb result for the team.
Cairngorm Soapbox Extreme 2011
With CSE2011 being earlier in the year, it reduced our repair and build time. On top of the planned finishing of the cart, we also had a stripdown, check and repair to do after the accidents at Catterline. With no time to spare a new set of uprights were made, this time upgrading from 10m plate rather than 8mm, with the originals retained as a spare set.
With a full strip down revealing no internal structure damage and the chassis still straight and true, the cart was taken to Iain's garage to begin the prepartion work for final bodywork covering and rebuild, while the nose and tail sections remained at Paul's for filling and finishing.
There were very few mechanical changes to the cart itself, other than new hybrid ceramic bearings supplied by the Bearing Shop and the revised towing eye position, which would make it simpler for marshall's to hook us up at events. This did not make the list of work any shorter! Mirrors were required to ensure other carts could be seen when racing head to head. A pair of bicycle mirrors were fitted on an additional tube inside the canopy, which were easily adjustable and providing a good field of vision. A set of new set of nerf bars, were also made, which were a requirement in the first set of rules. It transpired they were not needed, so were not used at the event as we were likely to be disadvantaged due to an increase in drag.
With only a week to go were were working late every night, the vinyl itself taking two nights to complete. With a couple of days to go the nose and tail sections were ready and were the final parts to be fitted to the cart, before a couple of quick photographs and loading onto the trailer for the drive up to the Cairngorm Soapbox Extreme the following morning. Wheel disc, final livery and race numbers would be added at the event, as they had yet to be printed.
Arriving early, we were one of the first teams to arrive and get final preparations completed. A final spanner check, the last truing up of one wheel, which I had not been entirely happy with, the wheel discs were installed and the geometry and tracking were checked. Once everthing was checked and OK, the race numbers and sponsors logos added and we were ready for scrutineering. All tests passed and just under the maximum weight limit we tidied up a readied ourselves for the the practice and qualifying session that night.
As well as preparing ourselves we also assisted the team from The Adventure Show, who were there to film the event as well as racing the SCA "Bandit" cart.
The only decision left to make was who was driving first - after Iain's accident in 2010, he decided I was to go first. The first and second runs were practice, with the third and if time permitted fourth runs. My main role on the first run was to identify any problems with the cart and report any potential issues on the track, not picked up when we had driven up and down the course. The only major/potential track issue being the pot hole at "dead tree"spot, a new brake rotor that needed bedding in and a very, eyewateringly, tight crotch strap on our harness. The harness we could live with and deal with before racing the next day, so Iain set off and used his run to brake more often to ensure the brakes were fully bedded in. Due to a couple of accidents during the first runs, the decision was made by the organisers to limit the qualifying to one run and I was told to go for it and not hold back. With that in mind I readied myself at the start line and waited for the green light to start my run. With the words "go for it" still in my ears it seemed an age before I got the signal to go. Brakes releaed and urging the cart forward, I was on my way, steadily picking up speed. There is no time to relax as I positioned the cart and picked the braking spot for the trickiest corner "the switch". Braking slightly early to ensure a clean and tidy run through the right then left of camber (and breathing a sigh of relief ), it was then onto the "slowest" part of the course (still travelling at just over 30mph) the flat section to "sugarbowl". Turning into "sugarbowl", the speed picks up quickly though the first two left handers on the run down to the fastest and my favourite part of the course, the fast left hander at "dead tree" and officially recording 64mph on the course radar gun. After "dead tree" and using all of the road, for the right fast right before "Alt Mor"and then swapping apexes for the next left hander. After this the speeds starts to come down (but still over 50mph) for run down to the the finish line. Unable to spot the finish line boards I was into the braking area and braking later than expected. With the brakes fully bedded in and set up, stopping was controlled and the only job now was to get the cart on the tow lines redy for the run back up the hill and pack up the night. As is traditional at Cairngorm, qualifying times are not released till the next day, which leaves a nervous wait to find out who you will be seeded against.
Once up the next day, we spent some time checking over the cart and adjusting the harness crotch strap, before heading for a good meal, as most places are closed by the time racing is finished, so snacks would suffice for during the rest of the day and later that night.
Back up at the "paddock" area near the start line, the Coire Cas car park, we went to find out the qualifying times and who we would be racing against in the first heat. We soon found that I had posted the second fastest time of the day and one of only five teams to record a time under 3 minutes, but this put us in a very strong first heat, against the 2009 winning cart, modified and with a new owner "Team Art", the 2009 runner up "Cairngorm Mountain" and a new, but fast team "Soapy Box".
Unloading the trailer and with all work done and with idle hands, we decided to add the "racing" stripes to the cart.
Dalby Forest Soapbox Derby 2011
Report to follow soon.
Screwfix Go-kart Rally 2011
Report to follow soon.
Belchford Downhill Challenge 2011
Report to follow soon.