Porsche Open Race Report Oulton Park 31st July 2004
Car - 944 Turbo
After the problems I had suffered at Knockhill two weeks earlier Strasse had organised for some custom made intake pipes to solve the problem of the pipes popping off. During testing I discovered that they were still wanting to pop off, but after a wander round the paddock in search of someone with some welding gear the pipes were further modified and proved to be reliable. Test sessions were shared between the 944 and the 924GT as I was entered in both races. This was my first visit to the Island circuit and strangely the car did not seem to be handling as well as it had four weeks previous. A couple of minor changes gave the handling balance I wanted and I was soon happy that the car was set up for the circuit. Some of the retaining clips were not however of special construction so after a quick phone call to Strasse they said some new clips would be with me the next morning. I dismantled the intake tract, ready for the fitting of the stronger fittings. With nothing else to do I spent the evening washing & polishing the race cars......washed down with continental beers courtesy of Des Winks.
Next morning was quite frankly a bit of a nightmare. In someone's infinite wisdom it was decided all Porsche drivers had to attend a drivers briefing. Now it's sometime since I have had to go to a new drivers to the circuit briefing, and quite frankly this one was a waste of time. There was no distinction between genuine new drivers who would benefit from some of the advice and the condescending explanation of blue & yellow flags ! The briefing took over 30 minutes, meanwhile I had two cars at the front of the queue down in scrutineering which needed presenting for examination....and it had just started raining.
Gill managed to get the 924GT through, but as the drivers seat is fixed in the 944, her legs don't reach the pedals and I now had another 20 minutes to wait before other cars which had jumped in front of me had been inspected. I was not a happy bunny !
Intent on getting as much track time as possible I was first into the collecting area and first on track. As I left the pitlane I discovered that the car had no power. At first I thought it was fouled plugs but I soon realised that the problem was that I hadn't fastened the intake hose down. Dratt & double dratt as Dick Dastardly might say. Chris Dyer from Strasse was in the pits & he re fixed the clips and sent me on my way.
Remembering that my tyres were still cold I took it steady until after Druids where I accelerated hard and suddenly lost power as, guess what, the intake hose popped off again. Returning to the pits for another clip to be tightened it later transpired that the problem was now at the turbo end, an area where i had not had a problem in testing. At this point everyone must have been thinking that I was running huge amounts of boost, in truth, I wasn't, simply the same level i have been using all season. Back out on track I tried again, but the clip had simply reached the end of its life and after trying another clip that was just marginally too large the pipe popped off again and I had to be content to set at least one lap time without boost. Amazingly I was not last and had out qualified two other cars. Wayne Jackson was the fastest of the other three 944 turbo and took class pole.
Dave Forrest from Strasse arrived over lunch, armed with heavy duty clips which were fitted in time for the race......would these hold ?
One of the benefits of starting from the back of the grid is that it removes any worries about losing places at the start. I knew that things would be busy on the run down to Old Hall and that passing opportunities would be limited until we had all passed the Island Hairpin for the first time. There would be plenty of time to catch the other cars.
My plan was spot on as there were limited opportunities to pass some of the class 4 944's before Old Hall. I managed to nick another couple of places on the short straight before Cascades but there were no further opportunities before Island as the 944's battled closely with each other. I didn't want to interfere with their race and certainly didn't want them to interfere with mine. A couple more places were taken before Knickerbrook but two hard battling 944's took up all the track up Clay Hill so I had no opportunities to pass there.
Braking for Druids was the next obvious opportunity and I lined up to take another place but I rightly sensed that the second of the two cars was not willing to concede the place as he firmly shut the door on me. Never mind, I knew I would pass him on the exit. Having the extra power really does give you the chance to drive more defensively. With just a few more 944's to pass I switched my headlights on......not to intimidate anyone just to make them aware of my presence. Honest !
I completed the first lap in 10th place, having started 19th, the race for me was really just starting. Anthony Oliver in his 964 RS was my next target and I caught and passed him on the run down to Knickerbrook on the second lap, ahead of me and visible were the remaining class three cars of Wayne Jackson and Gordon Matthew. These two were also in 944 turbos, and were about three seconds down the road. First to be tackled was Gordon who I got under braking for Lodge at the end of lap 3. I tried to pass Wayne on the run to Cascades, but he wasn't playing to team orders & made his car "a little wide". I pushed through Cascades dummied right then left before finally diving down the inside under braking for Island.
That was it, I had come from the back of the grid to first in class in four laps. What should I do now continue to push to get a better overall result or settle for the win and bring the car home. ? Well, I wasn't in the mood for compromising, and was enjoying the drive so I continued with the hard charging. By lap 14 I was over 20 seconds clear and tried a different line at Knickerbrook.
The line wasn't as good and I ran over the rumble strips. This is not normally a problem, but as I went up Clay Hill i realised that I had no power. I dipped the clutch and tried to start the car as I freewheeled towards Druids, but to no effect. The marshals directed me to pull off the circuit and I tried again to get the car started. Attempts stopped when i noticed flames licking around the back of the car. Time to pull the battery cut off and get out!
That was it, race over. What was the problem ?. Well, it seems that one of the ECU chips went for a walk, depriving the engine of a spark. We believe it must have been dislocated in the accident one month ago and the vibration from Knockhill and testing had finally unseated the chip. Why couldn't it have happened in qualifying, or 4 minutes later on the cooling down lap. I went home at least one pot fewer than I deserved.
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