NSSCC Race Report Croft 24/25th September 2005
Car - 911 2.7RS
This was the final round of the NSSCC championship for 2005 and I had decided to use the 2.7RS to give the 924GT the best chance of reliability in the Porsche Club races also taking place this weekend. Friday testing followed the recent pattern for Croft. In other words it was raining for most of the day. That wasn't a problem as my 8 year old Pirelli P Zero tyres were still working well and the car was set up soft enough to give tremendous feel. I think the most memorable event of the day was chasing Marcus Carniel in his 911SC. Though the 2.7RS was running well enough it was strangely down on power and wouldn't rev beyond 6500 RPM. Even so I still managed to pass and catch him towards the end of the session. Lots of NSSCC competitors were pleased to see the car out again, though one or two Porsche competitors looked perplexed or worried when they saw me in a 911. Chris Stewart didn't think I drove 911s while a number of expressions flashed across Andy Purdies face when he saw another possible class 1 car for the club race. That wasn't the reason the car was there though, she was there to do duty in the NSSCC and gain the one point I needed to secure second in class B for the second successive year.
Saturday morning came and the BCD session was the first on track activity of the day. The track was dry and I had a pretty uneventful session. What I did learn was that the transition from left to right through the Jim Clark Esses was not as reassuring as I would have liked. The car needed to be stiffer, but with no damper adjustment I wasn't going to start messing around with the setup and simply accepted that I was not going to be a frontrunner this weekend. That attitude was given more resonance when I discovered that both David Cox and Terry Wright had blown their engines up. David sent for his spare engine and spare car, the Honda Civic he used to race as it was unlikely he could get the Pug engine installed in time for race one while Terry went to the garage to attempt a repair having dislocated a liner.
I also suffered from a long brake pedal on the slowing down lap so when i returned to the paddock it was time to do some routine maintenance on the RS and bleed the brakes in preparation for the race.
Ten out of ten for Terry Wright as he arrived back at the circuit no more than five minutes before we took to the circuit. I saw Phil Lee and others rush over and help him unload the car from the trailer to get him onto the grid. The tow car and trailer were I think abandoned until after the race. quite Wright too !
Between qualifying and the race I had gained one position and was now 16th, very nicely on the wall side of the grid. When the lights changed I got the usual 911 flying start but was unable to capitalise too much as I was on the exposed outer flank on the way into Clervaux. I did however make up around 5 places and followed Paul Moss all the way to Tower. I dived to the inside in an attempt to pass him, but kept it tight to give him room. After nosing ahead he took advantage of a higher corner speed to pull back ahead of me and lead me into the Esses. The next couple of laps were quiet as I pulled away from the cars behind and Paul pulled ahead of me. It says something of the power to weight ratios of the smaller engined cars in the championship that his car was at least as quick in a straight line as my, admittedly below par, 2.7RS.
Now I could have settled down to a safe race and let anyone coming near me past, but that carries the danger of making mistakes through lack of concentration and taking unpredictable lines. So what choice did I have but to have race after all.
Key feature of the race was Mike Williamson in his pale yellow BMW M3. The gap ebbed and flowed between us in a fairly predictable pattern as I pulled away from Clervaux to Sunny In and he made big inroads through the Complex. After a couple of laps he disappeared from view after making a mistake and falling off. That left me fairly comfortable in 11th place, but with 3 laps to go I had a bit of a moment at Sunny. In the braking area the pedal went to the floor and there was only some rear axle braking. I decided to use what was available rather than release the pedal and I turned in to some understeer as I ran wide halfway onto the grass. I kept three cars behind me all the way to Sunny out, but in quick succession David Cox, Tony Barrett and Les Coburn all flashed past. Now I wasn't sure if I had simply suffered from knocked back pads or brake fade, but the approach to the Complex gave me confirmation that it was brake fade as I had to pump the brakes 4 or 5 times to get a pedal.
No matter how slowly I drove the pedal refused to come back so I deliberately kept my speeded down on the straights to give less work for the brakes to do and give me more time to do something if they failed completely. This action ensured that the situation did not deteriorate until the next car to catch me was Gavin Lee. Just like two weeks ago I got mean on the last lap. This time I had to press on from Sunny to extend a slight lead over Gavin so that under braking for the Complex he would find it difficult to outbrake me. I then took a defensive line through the Complex to the Hairpin where I was able to go to the inside and take advantage of the superior traction of the 911 to blast away to the chequered flag for 14th overall, 5th in class and the second place in class for the 2005 season.
For the remainder of Saturday afternoon I was busy with the 924GT and so Sunday morning was the first opportunity to take another look at the brakes. Bleeding them clearly had not worked, so I decided to change the fluid. The problem was that I only had two part containers of different types of fluid and was not sure that they would be compatible with each other. David Cox offered me some of his fluid and I was talking on the phone to Dave Forrest of Strasse when Tony Barrett parked next to me heard of my dilemma and offered me some of his own ATE Blue fluid. That was the decider as I knew with a change to this fluid it would be obvious when I had expelled all the old fluid by simple change of colour. Thanks Tony.
Grid positions were decided according to second best qualifying time so I took up 16th place again. The track was damp from some light morning showers and I though the traction of the 911 would give me a good advantage again. The lights changed but my reactions were a bit slow and rather like yesterday I ended up following Paul Moss round into Tower. having passed the BMW's. For a couple of laps I followed Paul before going to the inside under braking for Tower. Unlike yesterday I was able to make it stick and pulled out a few seconds over the next couple of laps.
I was having a relatively lonely race now, but saw the BMW of Tony Barrett battling with Paul Moss. He passed him and with around 6 minutes to go started to close on me by a couple of seconds per lap. On the final lap he closed on me on the exit of the chicane but I was confident that I would be able to maintain the position to the finishing line. I picked my pace up a bit and for the second time this weekend made the back of my 911 appear to be very wide. At the hairpin I took the inside line and allowed the rear end grip provide the early acceleration needed to pull away from Tony and be almost a second ahead at the flag.
Race 3 - Katie Trust Invitation Race - Car 924GT
DDMC had excelled itself by running a superb race meeting, on timetable, a packed barbecue evening and to round off the Centenary race meeting an invitation race. Despite having to drive down to London for a business meeting the next morning I decided to stay and take part. There were lots of changes to the entry list which was obviously causing some fun in arranging the grid for the marshals. In usual relaxed style (looking like a swan, paddling like hell under water) we all lined up and I was in position 8 on the grid, but the 5th car with Marcus Carniel in his 911 alongside. I was really looking forward to occupying the same piece of track as him after the disappointment of the first Porsche race and starting at the back in the second.
I got a good start when the lights went out, but had to tuck in behind Marcus at Clervaux. No real surprise there then ! Pushing through Hawthorn I saw a faint glimmer from the oil pressure warning light. It came on again on the gearchange on the run up to Tower which I approached at full chat. Not wanting to mess around I yet again went to the inside but just had too much speed to negotiate the corner and had to apply arms of opposite lock to catch the slide. That gave Marcus ten yards on me and a couple of cars came between us. However all that was to be irrelevant as the oil pressure warning light lit up at full intensity and I had no choice but to return to the pits at minimal revs to avoid damage to the engine. Such a shame, now I have two front engined Porsches with poorly engines.
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