Anglesey, 19/20 August 2006

A lot has happened since our last outing at Donington back in June. As mentioned in our report from Cadwell Park, we have a new, purpose built race engine. This came with turbo and manifold that used an external wastegate, the theory being that we can run more boost, and control it much better. Time was against us, but the kappa was despatched down to Owen Developments for mapping just 9 days before the Anglesey meet. There was good and bad news, the good being 480 bhp @ 7921 rpm. The bad being that torque also peaked at 7921 rpm, the power curve being almost vertical and only stopping where it did as that was where we set the rev limiter! We were unable to contact the engine builder as he was away, just to see if he had any ideas - we had seen a power curve from this engine showing 400+ bhp/lb.ft (at the wheels) between 4500 and 7500 rpm, much more useful. Mark at Owen Developments also reported a bit of an exhaust blow, so back to Auto Integrale for a quick checkover. The turbo had come loose on the manifold, that explained the exhaust blow then.

So next day, it was off to Santa Pod (see the video) for the Forza Italia day out. Not the ideal place to test the new engine, but at least it would give me a chance to see how tractable/laggy the engine was or wasn't. A few runs up the strip with very gentle pullaways (like I do when I'm towing) and stone cold slicks got the times down to 13.5 @ 114 mph. Not bad but hardly what was expected. More worrying was a big misfire problem, most evident in fourth gear around 7000 rpm. Back home it was time to get technical and download the Motec data log. Even I could see what the misfire was - the boost trace was showing 1.9 bar but then dropping to zero for a tenth here and a tenth there giving the impression of a misfire. A quick chat with Mark at Owen Developments suggested that the exhaust was running more efficiently now it wasn't blowing, but this threw out all the settings allowing the engine to overboost and then blow off the excess boost. he suggested adjusting the boost trim within the engine map.

No chance to do much in the way of testing before the run up to Anglesey, so I expected maybe a little trial and error through the sessions with the boost levels. Even though we had a late slot booked for Saturday, I didn't fancy such a long haul as an early morning run, and remembered from 2001 how crowded the paddock there was. So a drive up on Friday night, not a pleasant one with big jams on the M6 contributing to a 5.5 hour journey. I arrived in the paddock at 1:40am courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors who had been kind enough to loan me the new L200 Warrior for review. You'll be able to read my review on in the coming weeks.

I woke in the morning to find a very bleak Anglesey. It was raining heavily and obviously had been doing so all night. The track was all but flooded, it didn't look good. I was already soaked through by about 8am despite best attempts at finding shelter, and hung around in the Team Pongo caravan until the rain stopped for long enough to move the trailer and unload the kappa. Plainly it was going to be a "wets" day, but as I started to change the wheels, so the rain started again. By the time I took the car to scrutineering around 11am, the opening of the track had been delayed until the rain stopped. It was expected that would happen around 11am but it didn't. Sometime around noon the decision was taken to run all the qualifying sessions as just three laps behind a pace car - there was that much standing water on the track anything else would have been unsafe.

Our session didn't start until about 13:15 although we had been in the assembly area for 20-30 minutes by then. With the best will in the world, nothing was going to stop the screen from misting, I undid my harness twice to wipe it clean. worse was my glasses, every time I put them on, they misted over at the first breath. Either I could hold my breath for the entire session or take them off. As we pulled out on track I took them off so I could try and see the first corner.

Three laps at slow pace took forever, couldn't see a thing out on track and there was standing water everywhere - in the assembly area it had been deeper than the front splitter, and it wasn't much better on track in places. But there were bigger problems, I had adjusted the map to cut the boost down, but now there was only 0.2 bar, almost none in real terms. And the noise was terrible, a whing howl that seemed to be revs related. I was hoping it was the alternator belt as everything electrical in the car was on and the volt meter was reading worryingly low.

Race 1:
There was only one pace session after ours and then the track was closed again. At 14:45 there was an announcement that racing would go ahead, with all races cut to 12 minutes. We were to line up in championship order in the absence of any qualifying times, this left me 8th on the grid that read Jason, Jim, John H, Simon J, Tim, Tony, Simon B, me, Neil, Rich, Dan and then the new guys in the Audi TT, Clio and Ford Puma. Oh, and we would be first out, so get to the assembly area NOW!

I had reset the boost level and was hopeful that things would be better. An added incentive was that the Ford races were being televised for showing on Motors TV - a deal was done and we were being televised too! But even on the rolling lap I knew it was going to be hard, the boost gauge now showed zero boost, and a zero boost 2 litre turbo engine with wild cams isn't very quick.

A fairly sensible start given the water on the track and the spray levels, check out the video of the start. Jim got the better of Jason up front, Tony and Simon Blanckley got past Tim before the first corner, leaving me to wait till coming out of Abbott before I could pass Tim on the outside. Simon was next up front in Pongo, but already a fair way in front. And then I realised that Pongo is quicker a straight line than a zero-boost kappa. I seemed fractionally quicker through Douglas but not enough to make any impression. Four laps in as I came out of radar just hoping for a finish, I realised the car was filling with smoke. A quick look in the mirror (I do use it really!) confirmed the worst - a white smokescreen. I hoped to limp back to the paddock but at the hairpin the smoke was getting rather bad so I drove off the track so the marshals could be ready if there was any fire. Just as I did this, plumes of smoke came from the bonnet - no fire, but lots of oil much too hot. Race over for me.

I watched the rest of the race from the side of the track at the hairpin. Jim had held on up front for three laps before Tony Soper had got past. Matthew Orford was moving up from the back in the Renault Clio Cup, he took Jason and John Hammersley while the yellow flag was being waved (for me) and would be demoted to the back of the grid for race 2. Simon Blanckley was making progress through the field, looked like the Accord was struggling with lock to get round the hair pin, but did make it to the front to win by 4 seconds frfom Tony in the Alfa GTV6. Matthew Orford got past Jim to take 3rd with Jim 4th. John Hammersley was struggling for grip in the Cavalier and Jason Holmes made it past him to take 5th by nearly two seconds. Jerry Hampshire had been an early favourite to do well in the 4 wheel drive Audi TT, but an early misfire delayed his charge through the field to 7th place a lap down. Simon Jackson was revelling in some competition in Class E from the Ford Puma of Andrew Glossop who joined in with us as well as doing a Ford race. Tim Morgan-Barrett was having a good battle with Neil Threadgill, Tim making the line by 33/1000ths of a second, so close he thought he had been beaten after a last lap spin.

Race 2:
A dry race on Sunday, yet surprisingly it was carnage by our normal damage free standards. The race started off clean exiting Radar Jerry Hampshire's TT left the track, then came back in the path of Richard Hill's Golf. The collison left the Audi with a broken steering arm, and then the race was red flagged as the Golf appear to be on fire.

After some delay, they tried again. A full restart so Jason's championship hopes were marred by the loss of Class B competition, thus costing him 6 points assuming a win and fastest lap. This time there was a coming together at Radar between Tony Soper and John Hammersley sending both cars into a 360 degree spin. This allowed Simon Blanckley to pull away and win by 19 seconds. Tony Soper recovered quickest and held John off till the end to take second place by 0.6 second. Matthew Orford came through in the Clio Cup car to take 4th place.

Jason Holmes took an uncontested class win on his way to 5th, but Jim Mepham went off at Abbott, only to see Neil Threadgill go off at the same place 3 laps later, straight into the Megane. Simon Jackson took advantage of some competition in the shape of Andrew Glossop's Ford Puma and played his joker, collected the full points and beat the Puma by almost a lap. Class D went to Graham Fields in the Ford Fiesta XR2 with Tim Morgan-Barrett spinning out.

So, Jason and John both leave Anglesey with 30 points over the two races, but Jim's DNF means John moves back into second place overall. Its still all to play for. With three races left, one of these three is most likely to be the 2006 LMA Euro Saloons champion although mathematically Tony Soper, Simon Blanckley, Simon Jackson and Stuart Jefcoate are still in with a shout.

For us, its back to Auto Integrale on Monday night to confirm my diagnosis that the turbo has gone. If we can get it fixed/replaced and freshly mapped, we will be out at Brands Hatch in two weeks. However, in light of our championship position having fallen further by the wayside, we will miss the Oulton Park round later in September before returning for the final round at Silverstone.

Visit the LMA site for details of the LMA Euro Saloons championship and standings so far.

Check out the current points standing.

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