Monday, 1 August 2016

All change for Caerwent stages

After the engine had been overheating on the last round I needed to try and find why it had been losing water. I only had two weeks to try and get it sorted before the next round at Mid Summer Stages. 

Thirsty work at Down Ampney

The WW2 airfield Down Ampney, was the venue for the third round of the HRCR and Mini Cup championships. 16 Minis had entered the event.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A military test for the Cooper S

Epynt Ranges 2016 

The second round of the HRCR Mini Cup took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

For those that don't know the Epynt ranges, they are the military training grounds close to Breacon. The roads are some of the most demanding I have ever driven on, with the tarmac rising over blind crests and the road then turning.

There are no trees to follow the road, this makes it important to have quality notes, to tell you which way the road will go over the next blind brow. It also is important to commit to the notes so to obtain the best times.

My car the Minisport/J P Joinery Mini Cooper S remained the same as it finished the Agbo stages, apart from the starter motor had been rebuilt. We had been invited to a test day organised for all the championship contenders by Minisport about three weeks prior to the event which the car ran with no problems. 

I had fitted new Yokohoma tyres to try and get the best possible grip if it was to rain.
Scrutineering was held on the same day as the rally but, 6am for the start of scrutineering made for an early start, this went all OK, and none of the Minis had any problems.

We then were able to check the stages, with one run over each stage to check the organisers' notes. 

As the rally started the heavens opened and, as always in Wales, it started to rain. We were seeded at car 36, with a total of 20 Minis entered it would be important for a quick run over the first few stages to try and pull a few seconds before everyone settled.

The lights changed to green and I dropped the clutch, the road was extremly slippy with the rain but we made it through the stage. We then went staight on to the next stage, which was the format for the whole rally, again I pushed trying to committ to the blind crests flat in top gear.

It was then back to service and compare our times. To my surprise we had been quickest over the first two stages, with Peter Horsborough, Adrian Kermode, Shane Gamble and the rest not far behind. 

Andrew O'Hanlon and Paul Price had both stopped on the stages but had managed to get going again, taking a maxium time for the stage.

We had only time for a dash and splash before we were away again with a rerun over the same two stages. Thankfully Craig had the help on this event from Paul for servicing so everthing was completed in time. 

The next stages went well for us and I felt that the tyres were working and was able to push the car hard, until the last couple of miles where someone had dropped oil all over the road.

The stages continued until half way though where we had a longer break for lunch, we were able to have a look at the results.

We had managed to stay in the lead of the Minis with Shane, Adrian not far behind.

The next stages were the revese direction and the rain continued to come down. The start of the stage was covered in the oil that had been left by an earlier car on the previous stage, I backed off to make sure that we stayed on the road.

Again we completed two stages and then back for a quick dash and splash. It was then back out for the next two stages.

With four stages left to run we came to the flying finish to find the car running in front of us had broken down, we had to wait for the guys to push it out of the way. 

Just off the finish Paul Price had parked up, I pulled in front and shouted put the rope on. After several minutes the rope could not be attached, we had to go to book into the control, so left them to sort out another tow.

We shot off and just manged to book into the control on our minute. 

As we pulled away from the control I noticed the oil pressure had dropped to 15psi, normally my car runs 75psi.

We drove into service and asked Craig to have a look at the pressure relief valve. Craig could not find anthing wrong, and the pressure had not improved. I decided to go out again but back off, hoping I would not wreck the engine.

The next stage, with one eye on the oil pressure guage I started to short shift, ie Change up at 6500rpm to help the oil pressure. To my suprise the pressure went up to 75psi and stayed there.

At the end of the stage the pressure also stayed at 75psi  and did so all the way through the last few stages but was still low on tickover.

To our suprise we had still extended our lead over the other Minis but had dropped time to one of the Porches which had finished just 12 seconds in front.   

Top 4 were as follows
Clive King 25th O/A 1st Mini 47.51
Adrian Kermode 32nd O/A 2nd Mini  50.16
Shane Gamble 33rd O/A 3rd Mini  50.27
Jim Brindle 34 O/A 4th Mini 50.27

Shane had lost the clutch on the last stage and dropped from 2nd to 3rd on a tie break with Jim. Only two Minis failed to finish one with engine the other Bruce Mills rolled on the last but one stage.

The organisers of this event put on a great rally and every one enjoyed themselves, Thanks must go to Anton Bird for not putting a pace note wrong all day which helped tremendously.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Flying through Round 1 with the flu

The season got off to a flying start at the end off March, With the Agbo Stages at Weston Park. The championship for 2016 is all-tarmac following the ruling last year with the cars having to run at the back of the field.

There had been 20 Minis entered for the all new-look championship, but sadly two failed to start with less than a week to go. 

This year I have obtained support from Mini Sport and JB Joinery on my campaign for championship honours. Mini Sport is also providing 'on-event' assistance for all the Minis with a van full of spares for the cars to take advantage of.

With the event being oversubcribed and 32 historic cars, I was seeded first Mini at car 29 and also first up to 1400cc car in the modern field of cars.

The car has remained in the same state as it finished the Rally GB, 8-port 1293cc, straight-cut gearbox, 4.1 final drive on a Salisbury limited slip differential set to over 100ft/lb.

I had to fit a new co-driver's seat as the date had run out on the old one, (they only last five years). We had also changed our helmets and intercom due to the dates again running out.
The evening before the event I picked up some sickness bug and spent the evening with my head down the toilet, managing to have about three hours sleep.

The morning arrived and I was feeling very poorly but headed for Weston Park undecided if I would be capable of driving.

Rob Eastwood from Mini Sport had set up our service area which looked very professional with a gazebo and service van in place.

The time arrived for us to start the first stage, with the new helmets fitted, Anton counted me down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, at this time the start marshal still had timecard, he pushed the card through the window and I dropped the clutch.

We set a good time but had dropped about 4-5 seconds at the start. Peter Horsbough and Adrian Kermode had also set fast times and were within seconds, with the other Minis just behind.

The next stage went without any problems and we managed to set a time 3-seconds quicker than Adrian and 6-seconds from Peter. This put us into a small lead. More suprising was that we were 2nd in the upto 1400cc class against all the modern cars. 

The stages continued throughout the day - there was never more than 2 or 3 seconds between us. Paul Price was setting some quick times as was Jim Brindle. At halfway we were leading followed by Adrian, Jim, Peter then Paul, but it was very close.

I still felt unwell and had not had anything to eat or drink, only water. I decided to try and get to sleep for a a while to see if this made me feel any better. I was woken up with Anton telling me we were ready to go again.

On the next stage Jim went off into a tree damaging the front of the car, but thankfully no-one was hurt.

Peter dropped a little time having hit one of the bails marking the route, and dropped a little time too.

With two stages to go we were 10 seconds in front of Adrian, and drove the last stages trying not to make any mistakes.

At the finish we managed to increase our lead but it had been a close-run event, and if this is how the year is going to play out its going to be a hard year.

1st Clive King
2nd Adrian Kermode
3rd Paul Price
4th Peter Horsburgh
5th Ken Price

With only two retirements it had been a good day for all of the Minis.
We also managed 2nd in class in the modern class beaten by a 16-valve 106 that was putting 180bhp out.

Next event is over the Epynt ranges at the beginning of May, but Mini Sport have arranged a test day for all of the Minis before this, so I will let you know how we get on. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Road to Rally GB

After winning our class on Rally North Wales, we were lucky enough to win a free entry on the UK's World Rally Championship round, Rally Wales.

I had always wanted to compete on this event after spectating on it in the late '70s, and reading about the tales of the BMC Works Minis. This year also had special significance as it would be 50 years since a Works Mini won the event, the only time that a Mini won the R.A.C as the rally was then known.

To get a Mini through the stages would be a difficult as we would be running after the WRC cars had been through. I had concerns that we could get beached on the floor in their ruts, and a lot of people suggested we were mad to try.

I was offered support for the event by the HRCR/Mini Sport which greatly helped. As we got closer to the event, other people stepped up to help and my thanks go out to them.

Mini Sport had offered to help with service van and spares and would send two guys to help look after us. They also wanted to check the car over prior to us starting. With this in mind I took the car to them two weeks before the start and I have to say, I was impressed with their facilities, with a lot of their parts designed and manufactured on site.

Every part was checked leading up to the event with paint applied to nuts and bolts to see if any had come undone during the event. New dampers and mountings were also fitted and Mike - their mechanic - made sure that he knew how everything had been fitted in case they needed to be removed on the event.

The event would run over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With scrutineering and documentation on Thursday. The Mini Sport guys Rob and Mike were bringing the car direct from Mini Sport, and we would meet them there, with Anton Craig and Bruce coming with me. Sue had agreed to do the catering for us and had arranged to have time off from marshalling duties to help us.

The day before we were due to set off, Bruce rang to say he had to go into work on Thursday, so he came to my house Wednesday night and we loaded all of my spares into his car, and agreed that he would follow after work and meet us at Deeside.

We set off first thing on Thursday and arrived to find the service area set up with the car looking very smart with the new decals installed.

I was amazed at the number of spectators who were crowding around the car throughout the day. They all seemed to be taking photographs of our Mini. We even had works mechanics from Hyundai, Ford and Citroen come and have a look at our car, some taking photographs. I wonder if they were trying to find our demon tweaks so that they can use them on their cars?

We went through all the checks of the car with scrutineering and, as it was dark, decided to head for our accommodation.

Mini Sport guys went to the service area early to ensure the car was ready for us when we arrived, and we set off for three days of hard rallying.

The stages on the first day had a 2hr 40 min run out to the first stage and we would be running after the WRC had been through only once. All went well on the road section with people standing and waving at the side of the road. We stopped to take petrol at a garage and was mobbed by a group of foreign spectators taking photographs of the car, inside and out.

The first stage was Hafren and immediately there was a delay. With the WRC coming behind for their second run through, the organisers decided to cancel this stage, and we drove through in convoy to the second stage Sweet Lamb.

This stage ran on time and we had a good run enjoying the big jump at the finish.

We crossed the road to Myherin our last stage of the day and started almost immediately.

All went well until about 5 miles in, a noise started to appear. At first we thought we had a puncture but as it got loader I suspected a driveshaft. I pulled over to take a look, but couldn't see anything amiss. I belted up in the car and started to set off again, immediately there was a bang and as I pulled over a marshal informed me that oil was running from beneath the car.

I was gutted there was a hole in the bottom of the gearbox due to something coming from inside. As we assessed the predicament I came up with a plan. I sent Rob and Mike to fetch the trailer from Deeside. With Craig and Bruce having to fetch a gearbox from home. The problem was the only available gearbox was fitted to Bernard ( my Grey Mini ), also Rob and Mike had been watching on Myherin so had over a 5 hr run to get back to us.

We got towed to the start of the stage after every one had gone through and the trailer arrived at about 8pm. We loaded up and set off. Rob had been pulling favours and managed to borrow a garage with an engine hoist from a fellow Mini driver that was about 40 minutes from Deeside service area.

I rang Craig and Bruce, they were just about to get the engine out of the car so told them to meet us at the garage.

We arrived at the garage at 10.30pm and started pulling the engine out ready to fit the new gearbox, the lads arrived with the replacement at about 11pm and it was all hands to help.

We finally finished at 3.30am and went back to the hotel to try and catch some sleep, only to find I could not get to sleep - I was wide awake, but finally dropped off at about 5am.

Rob and Mike were at the service area at 6am to finish off some of the jobs, we arrived at 8.30 to find not only had they done all the jobs left from last night, they had checked the car over, even cleaning it.

Everyone was pleased to see we were still in the rally and could not believe that we had manage to change the 'box overnight.

Saturday was our biggest day running from 9.30am into the evening.

The run to the first stage was nerve-wracking as we had only run the car the night before for a few seconds, I was waiting for a cloud of steam or oil pipe to come off but all seemed fine.

The stage was Kirk Castle - a spectator stage and we had a clean run with no problems.

The next few stages were rough, as the World Rally cars had passed through twice, the ruts were 12inches deep, and as it had been raining heavy, these had filled with water, so it was difficult to see where the rut was, in a sea of muddy water.

We all know that water and Minis do not mix, but the car never missed a beat, whatever Mini Sport had done had worked.

One of the stages we had to cross a river to access to it, the amount of water that was flowing, following the rain gave me concern, not only how the car could drive through 15 inches of water depth, but that the current would wash the car away. A marshal was on standby with a radio in case anyone got washed downstream.

The little Mini just drove through the ford no problem, the other competitors around us were saying how you are getting that car through these hazards.

We continued with no rest all day, and into the darkness. We had fitted the spotlights before we set off in the morning as we knew we would have no time for any service. These lights were good to start off but within a couple of miles mist came down which made the lights redundant.

We arrived back at service and pulled into the Mini Sport gazebo, immediately the guys had the wheels off and were checking the car over, a large crowed descended around the car, I felt like a Works driver, but realised it wasn’t me they were interested in, it was the car.

At least it had stopped raining. I found out that we had had 11 inches of rain during the day, no wonder the roads were flooded.

It was amazing to find spectators and marshals had been out all day, then drove back to the service area just to see the Mini and to congratulate us on surviving the day.

Sunday arrived and again the guys had been there early cleaning the car, even washed the wheels, the tyres were still OK from the previous two days and we decided not even to change them front to back.

The first stage was again very rough and with a lot of water about. Guess what, it was raining, but instead of coming down vertical it was coming horizontal.

The next stage was the Great Orme, this was the first time that I had made it to this famous peace of road, and it didn’t disappoint.

The last stage was the Power Stage for the WRC, and they had been through twice. Ruts, ruts, and holes are how to describe it, I drove like my granny through it. As we drove through there were cars off everywhere, but the Mini made it through.

Only the road section back to Chester and the finish ramp, we arrived at our allotted time to an enormous welcome to find we had won our Class and finished 51st overall.

Can I say a big thank you to all of my sponsors, I could not had done the event without their help. Also a big thankyou to Sue for feeding us, Rob, Mike, Craig and Bruce for looking after the real star of the rally - the Mini!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Isle of Minis of Manx... back in the driving seat!

We set off for the Manx rally mid-September early on Tuesday morning to catch the ferry at Heysham mid-afternoon.

The rally was over three days, starting on Thursday evening continuing on Friday morning, through all day, into the evening and finishing on Saturday afternoon.

The event scored points for the HRCR championship at halfway and at the end. As the last round had been cancelled and the previous rally I had been on holiday, it had been a long time since I had competed in the Mini Cooper S.

We arrived early evening found our hotel, and prepared for the reccy. This was due to take place all day Wednesday - this allows us to ride over the stages to check the route notes for accuracy.

The following day we dropped the car at the TT grandstand and were checking the notes from 8am until about 4.30pm. We then started again as soon as it got dark to check the notes for the first evening stages.

Thursday we had the car checked and put the rally plates on, but I had decided that for us to reccy any more would only confuse us. 

There were 12 classic Minis and two BMW Minis competing which was the most the event has ever had!

Day 1
The rally started on the seafront at Douglas and by the time we were due to start we were in complete darkness. We were called to the start, with cars starting side-by-side we went the heaven’s opened and the stage was covered in water within seconds. It was very slippy but we had a clean run and set the fastest time of the Minis.

On to the second stage; this started with a fast main road section which was quick then went into a narrow and very bumpy lane network, with a very rough section in the middle. As we started the wipers stopped working, this made it extremely difficult to see out of the windscreen but when we got into the narrow sections this helped as I could pick my way through the banks each side.

On one of the lanes the car jumped into the grass and we hit a rock. The car jumped into the air and I thought that would be the end of our rally as the impact was huge, I waited for the suspension to cry enough and the tyre to go down, but to my surprise they seemed OK.

We finished the stage and immediately headed to the next one. I wanted to stop on the road to change the fuse for the wipers, but we were short of time.

Straight to the start of the next stage, and as soon as we started the wipers stopped again. I pushed on and got to the finish - the spotlights were working brilliantly. At the finish I tried the wipers again and they started working, and continued to work for the rest of the rally.

The last stage of the evening ran without any problems and we returned to the grandstand for a quick service at about 1.00 am. The rain was coming down so heavy that as I went to fetch the car to go back to the hotel I got soaked. I decided that any work that needed to be done could wait until the morning.

Day 2
The next day the sun was shining, after a quick check of the car all that was needed was a drop of oil. I made sure that the wiper fuse was OK, as I did not want any more problems, and removal of the spotlights as these would not be needed until the following evening. I then looked at the wheel that we had hit something during the evening stages, the magnesium minilight had a great chunk missing out of the side, but the tyre had remained blown up.

The stages during the day were very fast with some sections where I was pulling 7000 RPM in top gear for several minutes, being careful not to over rev the car.

At the end of the day we were a surprising second in Class, beaten by Adrian Kermode (a local and not registered for our championship), so we picked up maximum points.

We had about an hour to check the car before we started the second leg with five evening stages.
The only thing to do was check the oil and put the lights back on.

We started the second evening with two stages around Castle Town in complete darkness. These went without problems, we then moved on to the next stage.

As the start lights changed to green, I dipped the clutch only for the pedal to go light, no clutch for the rest of the stage.

We pushed the car off the finish line, and I bled the hydraulics for the clutch but they were still no better.

After trying everything I could think of in the heat of the moment, we tried to get the car back to the grandstand, having to start it on the key in gear several times on the journey back. By doing this we missed two stages but if we could repair it we could start the next day.

We made it back and after going over to the service van I decided to change the master cylinder.

A local offered to open his garage to help, so we towed the car to his garage where we changed the cylinder. This did not fix the problem, it was clear it was something inside the clutch.

I then stripped the clutch cover off and found the thrust bearing had broken hence why I had no clutch. We had to try and fix it, but after changing the bearing then putting everything back still no clutch.

By this time it was 2am and I called it a night. Anton and I retired to the hotel bar to drowned our sorrows.

We got the car home and I needed to try and see what the problem was. As I started to take the clutch cover off again it pinged in to place - I had not seated it correctly. Having checked everything I put it all back together and hey-presto it all worked fine.

Last event of the championship the Cambrian Rally 17th October I have an entry and just need a finish, wish me luck.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

An unfortunate series of events

It has been quite some time since my last report, this has been due to missing the third round at Down Ampney airfield because of a pre-booked holiday, after this event was scheduled as a late replacement for Rally Midlands.

Andrew O'Hanlon won at Down Ampney
Well done to Andrew O'Hanlon for claiming maximum points, and now has taken the lead in the championship with three scores. Quite a lot of the Minis failed to finish so it did not affect me too badly, and I still lie 2nd in the championship.

The next round at Sweet Lamb was due to run at the beginning of August but was cancelled. This was disappointing as I was looking forward to getting back out in the car.

This lack of events has not stopped the work on the car though, with the car converted to gravel spec - raising the ride height, and a change of sump guard etc. I had also fitted underfloor guards, these are fibreglass floorpans that bolt onto the underside of the floor. These, I had fitted to try and protect the damage sustained when being used on the gravel stages, and with an eye on the car being more robust for Rally GB later in the year. BL Motorsport had made these for me several years ago when I was building Charlie ( White and Black Cooper S ), but it has taken me this long to get around to fitting them.

With Sweet lamb being cancelled all this work was completed in vain - so it was back to tarmac spec.

I had needed to change the gearbox after our last rally, due to it jumping out of 4th gear, but had elected to leave until after the Sweet Lamb stages. With the event not running I took the engine and gearbox out of the car, and replaced the 'box with one that I had rebuilt. There had been a change of differential to a Salisbury limited slip diff and a change of final drive from 4.3 to a 4.1. This was changed as the 8-port has more pulling power, and will be able to make use of it. 

The underfloor guards have been left on but should not be needed with the next event, the Manx Rally in September, running on tarmac.

Jobs left to do are new front discs and pads. as the front pads will need to be 'as new' for the Manx. I hope with the break that I will find time to work on Bernard too (my original grey/White Cooper S ).