Brands Hatch, 13 March 2005
A progress update. The kappa was all but complete. The new panels from Alpha Composites had been painted and fitted to the car. A new decal pattern had been agreed with Chilli Graphics and a date set to have them fitted. Even Rimstock (Team Dynamics) had finally come up with the wheels, and the rear arches had been lightly pulled to allow them to fit.
Auto Integrale had completed the engine installation and it was just awaiting a harness to connect the Motec M48 ECU to the Fiat Coupe 20vt engine loom, this had been ordered through Owen Developments who were going to fit the harness and then map the engine. The kappa was delivered to Owen Developments on Monday morning in the hope that the work would be carried out early in the week so we could resolve any problems. However, this did not go to plan - the harness was late coming through from Motec, then Mark at Owen Developments was out and unable to map the car until Friday. Leaving things a bit late, but all going well we would still be out at Brands Hatch, albeit with no chance to go testing before hand.
Friday came, a few wiring issues were resolved and the ECU was loaded up with a base map. The engine fired up OK but first drama was oil leaking from the crankcase - this was down to an unused bracket hole going through to the crankcase and was soon blanked off. I got a call around 5pm, not the best of news. There was a misfire as soon as the engine came on boost, at first the plugs were suspected (nice shiny new platinum tipped ones) and Owen Developments didn't have 5 suitable plugs in stock - just 4! I got another call a little later, the coils were now top of the suspect list. I arranged to take the coils off the 20vt engine in my road going kappa coupe and take them over to Owen Developments first thing Saturday morning.
And that's how I found myself at Owen Developments at 8am on Saturday. The coils made no difference. Wiring was checked and double checked. And then checked again, but still the misfire persisted. Eventually an oscilloscope was hooked up to investigate and the problem was found. The M48 ECU only has two ignition outputs, these then connect to ignition expanders (a double and a triple in this case) to make up the five outputs required. One of these was "losing count" as the boost came in and the engine was switching over to four cylinders only. Owen Developments were at a loss with this problem which is now to be referred back to head office in Australia - watch this space for further news. As I see it, the choices are either the M48 is used with some sort of correction (wiring? software upgrade?) or we will have to replace with a higher spec ECU with separate ignition outputs for each cylinder. Don't suppose either option will be cheap!
And that's how we came not to be racing at Brands Hatch on the Sunday. The early season start, some four weeks earlier than the equivalent race last season, saw many of the other LMA Euro Saloons competitors absent due to cars not being ready, including those of Pete Simpson, Derek Hale, Julian Brown, Matt Hale and Simon Jackson. Despite this, it was encouraging to see many new competitors giving us 22 cars on the grid, a figure only beaten by one other race on the day, even if this did take four Xtreme Minis running with us somewhat controversially.
First and only casualty of the race was Ian Collins (Proton Coupe) who rounded Druids on the first lap very slowly and limped into retirement. Challis was pulling away from Soper at around a second per lap, the Tomcats losing 2-3 seconds per lap. Further back some interesting groupings were running in close combat. Steve McIntyre had moved up from the Road Saloons classes in his VW Golf and was off to a flying start heading Class C rivals Richards Buckley (Honda Integra) and Perks in the early laps. Kirk, Taylor, Andrew Ludlow (Rover Metro) and Jason Holmes (Tomcat) were running with barely a second covering the four places. Holmes made a break from the pack, but Ray Tunney moved up the keep the 4 car train circulating together.
As the race progressed, Buckley moved up through the field closing up gradually on Jefcoate until passing him for the Class C lead on lap 22, easing away for the Class win. At the front Challis had controlled the gap back to Soper and ran out winner to start his title defence with maximum points. The Class B Tomcats of Nixon and Ainge finishing 3rd and 4th as they had run all race. Further back, the 4 car battle for 10th place saw Kirk, Taylor and Ludlow swapping places regularly although the extra power of the Civics looked certain to tell in the end. With two laps to go, both Civics were passed the Metro, but Ludlow fought back and passed Taylor. Coming into the final bend at Clearways, it was anyone's race. Ludlow came round the inside to pass Kirk and looked set for 10th place, but the Civic's superior power told and the crowd were treated to a drag to the finish line. The Civics went either side of the Metro, Kirk made it to the finish by 3/10ths to take 10th place, Taylor passed Ludlow just after the line and lost 11th place by 2/100ths of a second.
Ray Tunney and Stuart Jefcoate played their jokers for the race and thus take an early lead in the championship (44 and 36 points respectively) with Challis, Nixon and Buckley all on 22 points. The Driver of the Day award went to Tim Morgan-Barrett. With Tony having been slowed, this could well have been an opportunity missed to take advantage, but to get points, not only do you have to finish, you also have to get to the start line.
A great race, a great opening event to the season. With many of the missing cars expected back for the next round at Silverstone (Apr 10), there should be even more competition for places. Hopefully the kappa will be amongst these and the season can start for us.
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