MG Midget Racing

Update: Races 3 at Castle Combe, 3rd May 2010 by Rich

Safe to say it was an eventful weekend. In the week before the race John had taken the head off and found one of the valves wasn't right - having replaced it and retorqued the head, the engine sounded great.

2nd lap into qualifying on a nice dry track and I knew the car was going well, the engine sounded spot on and the car was tracking well over the bumps so I started to push quite hard. BUT it all went wrong on lap 8... I came up Avon rise flat out on the rev-limiter and found Phil moving very slowly on the crest on the line. I tried to go round then get on the brakes but the dirty side of the track and the unweighting of the car over the crest meant I entered Quarry corner backwards at some speed, straight across the grass and into the wall.

Good news is I was OK but Gertie looked pretty knackered. Then the times came round and I'd qualified 3rd of 14 in class B, no way we were giving up and going home!

The bodywork damage was fairly extensive - front end in pieces, hole in the door, doorskin detatched from inner, rear quarter completely smashed - but we had all the bits. The worst problem was the steering rack was bent into an 'S' shape. Thankfully Kim from Magic Midget came to our rescue with a spare rack. While Dave and Rich got busy with the cable ties and tank tape to piece the body back together, John replaced the steering rack and checked the car over to see if anything else was hanging off. With half an hour to spare the car was back together and the scrutineers had given us a new ticket, then on the way back from the inspection bay a horrible knocking sound from the engine bay. After all that hardwork, had the engine suffered damage? Well, not directly, the force of the crash had actually sheared an engine mount. Some scrounging later we had a mount and John and Dave set-to once again on the car. As the other cars went to the assembly area they were just finishing off with Rich already in the seat. Final nut, tape the bonnet to the scuttle, engine fires and straight up to the assembly area.

I'd love to say the car performed faultlessly despite the Frankenstein looks but something had gone awry with the handling and the car was bucking and weaving under anything but full acceleration - and then the gearknob fell off! Still had a good first part of the race, nice battle with Tom but with all the heavy braking and fast corners compromised I was having to drive very hard through and out of the slow apexes to keep up. On lap 6 I finally tried too hard and had a half spin, dropping me down to 7th behind Steve and Dean. With no cars visible behind and the handling getting progressively worse I dropped right off the pace and nursed Gertie home for 7th in class. Not really the result I wanted from a top grid slot but better than going home in an ambulance ;)

Video has the crash, photos of the damage and the first part of the race but I edited off the boring laps at the end where I coasted round:

Having got the car home, it looks pretty bent but these things can be deceptive. Silverstone is out now because John and Rich are both on holiday from next week but fingers crossed that the chassis is repairable and we'll be out again later in the season. Right, time for more ibuprofen methinks.

Update: Races 1 and 2 at Brands Hatch, 10-11 April 2010 by Rich

Just got back from an excellent weekend at Brands. As usual the Midget Challenge guys were all really friendly and the sunny weather made for a joyous start to the season.

Things I learnt last year: Take ear plugs and a sleeping mask when camping in the paddock and get a few good times in qualifying. As we changed the suspension and tyres since I last drove the car in July, I took it pretty easy in qualification for a few laps. But when James Bilsland came past I followed at a sensible distance for a couple of laps knowing he'd be putting in something respectable. Unfortuneatly, Gil's sump plug came adrift after about 7 laps and he left 2 complete laps of oil on the track - no more fast times :(. The car felt good though, not hopping about at the back.

SO my best qualifying thus far meant I started 10th on the grid. Last race of the day meant low sun but the track temp was still quite high and the previous races had left the track without too much oil. The video below shows the in car view of most of the race. John Collinson is driving the pale blue frog eye. He did very well coming from the back of the grid having still been fitting a clutch in Devon when the rest of us were out qualifing, he was very unlucky to have to retire on the last lap due to overheating. Unseen but close behind me for several laps (and hounding me after the safety car) was Tom Neat. I need to get into the rhythm a bit quicker next time.

By all accounts the battle at the front of class B between Dominic Mooney and Nigel Pratt made for good spectating. Nigel had a camera in his car so I'll try and link to his video from here after he uploads it.

Start 10/18, Result 8/18 (4th in class!), Best lap: 58.177s

Race 2 was almost a repeat of the first for me except that I had a misfire for the first 4 laps and Tom Neat stormed past me on the straight while I was stuck in the high 1:01s. Just as I thought it would be safer to give up, the misfire cleared and Tom and I had a race on our hands. Then Tom suddenly started having problems getting out of the corners, later diagnosed as a broken front anti-rollbar link. I dropped my laps back into the low 59s but Andrew Actman was too far up the road to catch.

Start 10/18, Result 7/18 (4th in class), Best lap: 59.0s

Update: 2010 Preseason by Rich

With the new season only a month away I thought I'd post a little update to show the prep work that's been going on with Gertie over the winter.

Luckily, I made it through last season without much in the way of mechanical failures or accident damage but I did only compete in 4 races. Our main effort was to look at why the back end of the car was feeling a bit unstable and losing confidence and grip at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

Well there were two reasons - the front tracking and the rear spring geometry.

Tracking should be straight to a touch of toe-in. Bertie my (now sold) road car started to exhibit the same symptoms of a twitchy rear on turn in and when I investigated it showed toe-out was to blame. Checking the tracking on Gertie showed the same problem - that spin at Brands must have knocked it out of alignment slightly.

The rear springs swing shackles were locking the springs solid because they were twisted (caused by an accident before I bought the car) and the bushes had seized. So basically they got to a moderate deflection and then stopped travelling meaning the tyres were then bouncing as there was no spring travel. No wonder the car was staying nice and level! They are now shimmed square and sporting oilite bushes pressed into nylon housings. We did lots of testing with various loads checking that the spring rates are now even and the spring rate doesn't suddenly climb. My only worry is that now the spring rate isn't being artificially increased that I'll get a lot more body roll... I'll be taking that experimental rear anti-roll bar to the first race at Brands Hatch.

Purchase: Hedtec HANS helmet
Low price but poor attention to detail - 6 out of 10

At £230 this is one of the cheapest HANS SA2005 helmets available. I took a risk and ordered sight unseen.

I haven't used the helmet properly yet so I will come back and update this review when I have but these are my first impressions:

First the positives: It's actually lighter than I thought it would be and the shell finish is good. The padding is nice and firm with good cheek pads that give a nice snug fit. Overall the helmet fit is most similar to an AGV helmet I borrowed a few years ago.

But... The cost does show itself in some of the details though. The factory-fitted visor sun strip honestly looked like it had been put on by a monkey - bubbles and wrinkles all over and hanging over the edges of the visor. The foam seal around the eye port is already falling off - and all its done is sit in its bag in my livingroom! The visor lock-down holds the visor down well but is a bastard to release to get some air in. The manual advises practising opening the visor one-handed, which I have ben doing, but I'll have to modify the stop slightly to make it usable I think. Wearing glasses is a bit awkward because the cheek pads are high and protrude further forward than most other helmets.

So overall, probably a 6/10 for hedtec - good price, nice basic construction but let down by the details.

Purchase: Otto-racing 100 Laptimer

Easy to set up and use but I've had mixed results with getting the beacon signal - probably my fault by making the bracket too flimsy - see how it gets on at Castle Coombe.