Cadwell Park, 19 June 2005

Not so much to report since the last one. We had hoped to get the new engine up and running in time for Cadwell Park, but by the time the new conrods arrived, time was running out and it was felt better to use the old engine for one more race - we never go well at Cadwell anyway!

The only work of any note since last time out was that Keith changed the power steering pump for a spare from a Fiat Coupe, and the polycarbonate windscreen was replaced by the glass one again. The lighter screen was flexing, and aside from aerodynamic concerns, I was more worried that if it rained, the wiper wouldn't even touch it! More of a worry was that Keith was unable to support me on track for the first time this season, and I'm just not fit to be allowed out on my own, as I would prove.

Although we had a late start, it was still better to drive up to the circuit the night before. For the first time ever, I didn't get lost and arrived an hour earlier than I usually manage. And just to make up for last season, the weather was glorious, with temperatures in the 30s.

Qualifying at 11:35 and still I get caught on the hop - well to be fair I was in the assembly area in plenty of time but we got less warning than usual to go out on track and I got caught out. Trying not to panic, I was still doing up the harness as the last car left the assembly area. I was just about to move off when I realised that putting on my crash helmet might be a good idea!

So I left the assembly area a bit after everyone else - Cadwell Park is a very long circuit and its easy to get spread out. It took a while to even find anyone. More of a concern was a loud clonking noise coming from the front. I tried to attack the mountain section a bit harder than usual, but elsewhere the clonking was distracting me - could only be the driveshafts, but I didn't understand why. We had no problems here last year, only at Castle Combe which is much bumpier. I cruised round with no real feel for how I might be doing, I caught Tim Morgan-Barrett and only 2 cars caught me all session. Having decided I had done more than the required 3 laps, I came into the pits, still concerned with the clonking. There were also reports that the kappa was smoking, I confused this with the smoke she emits on the overrun, but back in the paddock with the bonnet off, there was power steering fluid and brake fluid apparent - both were a little too full and had overflowed.

Finally Richie arrived - he hopes to enter a Fiat Tipo later this season - and he was quickly volunteered as mechanic of the day. Nothing was apparently wrong, but as a precaution I asked him to raise the ride height about 10mm, to its Castle Combe ride height.

In typical Cadwell Park fashion, qualifying times took longer than usual to come through, and given how slow we were, maybe it was best they did! Being right near the back allowed some good humoured banter about race tactics - did I try and nail Simon from the start and have to defend all race long (or until I fell off), or better to follow him round and go for it on the last lap? Decisions, decisions.

Away from my worries, other people had their own problems. I thought Tim Morgan-Barrett had fallen off when I saw his car parked up near the pit entrance, but it was just a loose wire. Peter Challis' Primera suffered a similar problem leaving him running on three cylinders and down in 4th place on the grid. But poor Stuart Jefcoate was missing completely, a victim of an engine breakdown during Saturday testing.

Right at the back of the grid, alongside Chris Brogden and with Tim Morgan-Barrett directly behind me - no place to be. I must learn to drive Cadwell. Despite the late start to the race, around 4:45, it was still up in the 30s. The race length had been cut to 15 minutes due to the usual Formula Ford incidents earlier in the day - when will organisers learn and put them last so they just screw themselves?

I wasn't wildly impressed with the length of time we spent in formation on the grid, it was far too hot to be sat stationarty with engines running. Finally we were waved off, and the pace car seemed to be setting quite a quick pace compared to usual - or maybe it just seemed faster within the confines of the circuit? As we rolled round the circuit, the clonking still there, I suddenly realised what it was. Not the driveshafts at all - more a case of the front splitter not having been slotted into its brackets when I put the bumper back on. As I said above, I shouldn't be allowed out on my own.

We rounded Barn ready for the start. I was ready to go for it, surely I could make up some places straight away. The lights went out and we were off - and it was looking good as I left Chris and Tim and homed in on a gap in front of me. Out of second into third and...oops, that's not third! Not sure if it was neutral or first, but it wasn't anywhere to be, the engine got buzzed, Tim nearly drove through me as I slowed abruptly. Two attempts later and third gear was selected, everyone was gone.

I caught and passed Tim coming out of Charlies, with momentum going I caught Chris coming to the brow and went down the inside into Park. I had my sights fixed on Simon next in front, but Chris had other ideas, his Saturday testing now paying dividends as he climbed back all over the kappa round the corners. At each straight I would pull away, but the straights here are short and I couldn't get away far enough to break free. By lap two I realised the water temperature gauge was showing 125 - not good. I carried on trying to shake free of Chris, but the water temperature was rising, the kappa was slowing. Coming out of the hairpin in second gear the k was now bogging down and Chris was having too close a look down the inside. On lap three he made the gap and we rounded Barn side by side, only for me to pull (temporarily) clear down the straight - it was going to be a tough race. By now the temperature gauge was reading 150, my only surprise was the engine was still running, although it was barely doing so now. Near the end of lap four, the gauge reached 160 and I decided to let Chris go, slow down and try and make the finish. Still got to be 3 or 4 laps to go - but I didn't want to grenade the engine and then both of us go off on my engine fluids!

The next three laps took an eternity, for the first time I was willing the marshals to hold out the last lap board, but it never came. Finally I saw the chequered flag instead - we had made it. To add insult to injury we now had another half lap to complete to get back to the paddock. We made it to the exit road, and just on the edge of the paddock the engine stopped, wouldn't restart. Many kind people were roped in to push the k uphill back to the paddock, and it was time to go.

Cadwell Park is far enough from home without extra hanging around, but it seems there was an incident between 2 of the drivers that required a talk from the Clerk of the Course. This held up results more than ever, so much so that the trophy presentation was postponed until next time. But we came 3rd, got another 16 points in the back so the journey home was a happy one, even with a dead engine!

I dropped off the k at Auto Integrale on the way home. Keith took the engine out on Monday (we think major head gasket failure) and the clutch and flywheel have been sent for balancing with the rest of the crank assembly. We are hoping to be up and running again in time for the next meeting at Brands Hatch in 3 weeks.

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