Anglesey, 4-5 April 2009

What a winter we've had. After the disaster that was the 2008 season, finally we sat back and rethought our plans. There have also been changes to the class structure within the 2009 LMA Euro Saloon and Sports Car Championship that have possibly benefitted us. In brief, the old Class A has been split into two classes (A and B), the top class containing the 4wd rice rockets and Ford Escort Cosworths along with the blown mid-engined cars such as Nobles and Exiges. Class B now contains the remainder of the old Class A, the Super Tourers, large capacity modified cars and (good for us) the Seat Leon Cupra cars post 2007 such as that which Rhys Lloyd drove to the 2008 title. The other classes move down - B becomes C, C becomes D and D and E are combined after a lack of interest in E last season. Finally the Clios have also been moved out of our class and into the new Class E. So we are in Class C this season, main competitors look to be the likes of Joss Ronchetti's Sunbeam, various BMW M3s and Olly Allen's (reigning Ford champion) Ford Escort Mk II.

So what about us? We are taking advantage of a change in capacity limits this season, now raised from 3000cc to 3500cc - or in the case of blown engines, 1.4 times less than that! The Fiat/Lancia group build the 5 cylinder turbo engine we have been using in 2000cc form, but there is also a 2400cc variant, non-turbocharged. Using the crankshaft from the Fiat Stilo Abarth along with custom made rods and pistons, the existing 2000cc block can be used to create a 2.4 lire turbo engine. Rather than try to gain even more power than the 587bhp we reached with the 2 litre engine, the aim is to wind down the boost and build the engine for torque to make the kappa more driveable.

We have engaged a new engine preparation company MBE Race Engines run by Mike Barratt. Mike has been engaged to make the 2.4 engine work in the way we had hoped. This has not been without trouble - after having the short engine built up elsewhere, a thread on the Fiat Coupe forum suggested there may be an issue with the rod design. Without getting too technical, it was suggested that the stock rod design - which was copied for all forged rods built by various suppliers - leaves far too much play (measure in numbers of millimetres) either side of the conrod big ends on the crankshaft journals. Mike's opinion was saught and he agreed. Cue some unexpected expense as a new set of custom rods were commissioned from Arrow Precision that would resolve this issue. Arrow Precision promised they could deliver within 10 days, and they did just that - so its not their fault we missed Anglesey!

We have budgeting issues which are preventing us from authorising MBE Race Engines from completing the work we have asked for. MBE Race Engines will rebuild the engine, set up base cam timing in an effort to produce a more driveable engine than we have had before, and convert the hydraulic lifters to solid so we can rev the engine as necessary. While we hope not to HAVE to use 8000rpm (where peak power was developed on our 2 litre engine), we are wary that the gearing of the kappa is too low for us to reduce the rev limit too far from that, even if we only rev past 7500 in 6th gear perhaps.

We chose not to go and watch up at Anglesey, the other drivers got by perfectly fine without us!

The first round of the 2009 LMA Euro Saloon and Sports Car Championship was a double header round at Anglesey, with a twist. Saturday would use the Coastal circuit (a first for the LMA) while Sunday would revert to the more familiar (and longer) International circuit. Early worries about the likelihood of rain so early in the year proved unfounded as the weather remained dry for the whole weekend. 24 drivers were ready to roll, a number of established drivers just didn't get their cars finished from winter rebuilds and refreshes. Encouragingly, 9 drivers were new to the LMA series, proof that the success built up over the past couple of years is creating lots of interest.

Qualifying - Saturday:
The two Nobles of Mal Davison and Richard Gould were expected to figure near the front, and indeed Davison's final lap in the extended qualifying session earned him pole position by second from Class B poleman Richard Hawken (Nissan Primera). Gould had to sit out qualifying, head gasket woes could not be repaired in time despite an all night session by his team. Also near the front were Andy Harvey (class A Subaru Impreza), Peter Challis (class B Nissan Primera), Doug Ellwood (class A Marcos Mantis) and Dave Cockell (class A Ford Escort Cosworth), all looking to ensure Davison and Hawken had some competition.

The class C pole went to Olly Allen (Ford Escort), the reigning Ford champion but Bradley Gelman (Ford Sierra Cosworth) and Kevin Wendt (BMW M3) were close behind. Class D had a disappointing single car turnout, the Vauxhall Vectra of Mike Hurst - last year there were seven Vectras in the corresponding race. With the Renault Clio Cup cars now running in Class E, 4 Clios entered along with the Peugeot 306 of Jason Newman. Fastest Clio in practice was Brett Walter by over half a second from Joe Walton.

Race - Saturday:
Richard Gould was able to start the race from the back of the grid in his Noble, with Davison on pole that was a Noble at each end of the grid. Davison got off to a good start and looked to have the race in the bag as he pulled clear of second placed Andy Harvey, with Peter Challis heading Class B and running close behind Harvey. Harvey had a 2 second lead after 2 laps, but after this Challis started to draw him in, finally overtaking Harvey on lap 9. After this Challis started to pull away from Harvey and set about chasing Davison up front. Drama on lap 11, Davison's Noble caught fire. Davison pulled to the side of the track but was unable to reach a marshal post, the marshal having to run along with the fire extinguisher. This incident caused the race to be red flagged and results taken at the end of lap 10. Unfortunately, as the "cause" of the red flag, Davison was excluded from the results and denied the race win. More unfortunately, Davison had played his joker (for double points) and this was now wasted. The countback meant the race win fell to Challis, with the Class A win going to now 2nd place man Harvey. Richard Hawken had also played his joker after a good qualifying run, but Challis had passed Hawken on the second lap, so Hawken had to settle for 2nd in class, 1.6 seconds behind Challis and 0.7 seconds behind Harvey. Doug Ellwood was running a comfortable 4th with Dave Cockell a couple of seconds behind in 5th while John Hammersley (Honda Accord) was enjoying a race long battle with Bernard Hogarth (Ford Mondeo) which ended with Hammersley taking 6th place (and third in class B) by just 0.5 second. Richard Gould put in a storming drive to finish 8th from last place at the start.

Olly Allen triumphed in Class C by 4 seconds from Bradley Gelman, but Kevin Wendt showed his intent by taking the fastest Class C lap on his way to third in class, barely a second behind Gelman with the Class A Subaru Impreza of Tim Evans splitting them at the finish. The sole Class D car (Mike Hurst) failed to finish while Brett Walter took the Class E win in his Renault Clio Cup some 6 seconds clear of Joe Walton. Last year's Mark Fish Clio Cup Challenge winner David Pierce finished 2 seconds adrift of Walton suffering from gripless ageing tyres.

Qualifying - Sunday:
Davison was unable to repair the fire damaged Noble but Gould's Noble was now in fine shape and stormed to pole position by almost two seconds from Saturday's race winner Challis. Andy Harvey only ran 5 laps but was just 0.5 seconds adrift of Challis. Hawken, Hammersley and Hogarth made up the next three places giving the Class B Super Tourers 4 of the top six places and looking better adapted to the longer circuit than the Class A cars.

Once again, Olly Allen took the Class C pole but both Wendt and Gelman were close by and just in front of the Clios of Walter and Walton. Mike Hurst again was sole Class D driver but looked to be slower than expected.

Race - Sunday:
Gould got the Noble away to make a good start from Challis and was 1.7 seconds ahead at the end of the first lap, but Challis started to close the gap. By lap 7 there was just 0.66 seconds in it, but on lap 8 Gould set the fastest lap of the race and extended his lead by another second. Challis hung in but slowed a couple of seconds a lap after breaking a rose joint over the harsh Anglesey kerbs. Gould finally took the flag from Challis by 6 seconds. Such was their pace that the next car along was 45 seconds behind Gould as Hammersley came through to take third place from a closely pursuing gaggle of cars - Simon Deaton (Subaru Impreza), Ilsa Cox (Seat Leon), Class C winner Kevin Wendt (BMW M3) and Dave Cockell (Ford Escort Cosworth).

With four cars unable to finish, class E winner Brett Walter finished up in 12th overall, 14 seconds ahead of second in class Antony Sullivan (Renault Clio). Mike Hurst compounded a miserable weekend with another DNF completing just a single lap.

Having started the season with 2 race wins and 2 fastest laps, Peter Challis and Brett Walker share the lead of the championship with 44 points apiece from Kevin Wendt (40), Olly Allen (38) and the Richards - Hawken and Gould (36). Brett Walter also leads the Mark Fish Clio Cup on 40 points from Joe Walton and Antony Sullivan (36). Ford got off to a flying start in the MSE-Performance.com cup for manufacturers leading Renault by 134 points to 126 with Subaru in 3rd place on 96. The new Super Touring Car Cup is headed by Peter Challis (40) from Richard Hawken (36) and John Hammersley (32).

Next round is on May Bank Holiday Monday at Castle Combe, once again the other drivers will get to race without us but we are hoping to join in before too many races have passed.

Visit the LMA site for details of the LMA Euro Saloon and Sports Car championship and standings so far.

Check out the current points standing.

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