From the Cliffe
Tristan gives us the low down on Mono's drive of the year so
Despite several months of warning, and even more months since the last
race of 2010, it was a bit of a last minute rush to get both cars ready
in time for the opening round of 2011. Tony Bishop has bought the ex-Jeremy
Timms car, and asked us to prepare it for him and run him in it, and the
full rebuild involved quite a few late nights from both Martin and I.
My own car was mostly neglected, through necessity, apart from a bit of
work to cure the misfire that plagued my gear changes last year, and 'safety-critical'
things like brake systems. I also took the opportunity early in the winter
break to tidy up some of the wiring loom where engine loom meets cockpit
loom. To assist with manpower, we sought an Engineering student, and found
a gem from Leeds University called Chris. He'll be around the Mono paddock
this year, working as Race Engineer for Tony Bishop - already he's proving
to be a great asset to our team - so make him feel welcome. My girlfriend
Laura stood in for Sara with cake making duties, and had a small selection
of shortbreads and brownies in the hospitality awning. It was felt that
some members of the club wouldn't make it through a meeting without a
supply of cakes. They were all eaten (hopefully not by one greedy person),
so I guess they were a success.
Both cars were ready for testing on Friday. Tony had a full day in his
F397, whilst I limited myself to an afternoon's running to save a few
pennies. Whilst Tony had a problem free day that finished with a laptime
of 1m55.6 and much improved confidence, I had several issues, including
a small electrical terminal block (unchanged since December 2009) coming
adrift, and an ECU error that made the car nigh on impossible to start
(caused by my own uneducated fiddling over the winter). It shouldn't be
this way - a newly assembled car is meant to have teething problems, and
a winning car is meant to be problem free! Tony's car's only problem was
exhaust heat damaging the paintwork on the left side of the engine cover.
I sound bitter, but it's through my own doing.
Anyway, the 'day off' on Saturday gave us time to fix a few things. I
reverted some of the ECU changes back to how they were in 2010, which
resulted in easier starting. I fitted some heat-proofing to the inside
of vulnerable bodywork on the new car, whilst Martin bought a new slave
battery as our one was showing signs of reduced capacity (but it has been
used since 2006, so I'll let it off).
So Sunday morning was meant to be when all the work and promise of the
winter came together. Alas, this being motorsport, it didn't happen quite
like that. I suffered a plug lead coming away from the spark plug, leaving
me with a rough sounding engine and a dramatic loss of power, and I could
not better my third lap time of 1m53.9. The result was P2 on the grid.
To rub it in, Matt Draper in the Antel run car went quicker later in the
session just to prove he was on pole (interesting fact: We once had one
of Simon Draper's - father to Matt Draper, and co-founder of Virgin Records
- car at Omicron, although admittedly before he owned it). Tony, meanwhile,
tried to repeat his laptimes from testing, but ended up overdriving and
becoming scruffy, in his own words, so had to settle for a 1m56.6 to leave
him 5th on the grid. He felt the rear wheels were locking slightly under
braking, so one turn of brake bias to the front was made in an effort
to improve confidence - especially given that several corners now require
braking whilst turning. It is telling of Tony's ambition that he is annoyed
at his qualifying performance.
Obviously there was concern about the Antel entry, as they were entered
for the F3 Cup race just 40 minutes after Mono qualifying (less, given
the time for parc ferme and assembly area timings), and had a lot of work
to convert the car between the two. For those that don't know, the ride
height would have to be dropped from 40mm to around 19mm; the fuel would
have to be drained out and replaced with Sunoco 102 Octane fuel; the restrictor
would have have to be enlarged from 25mm to 26mm; and the ECU would have
to be remapped to work properly with the different fuels. As I see it,
the wings would need altering as the raised ride height of Mono puts more
of a premium on wing downforce, whilst F3 spec cars produce more under
the floor of the car. Oh, and it is almost certain that corner weights,
cambers and toes would be less than perfect on one of the setups, and
would require some checking to achieve perfection. Watching their conversion
from Mono to F3 spec suggested they were doing all that was required of
them, and I have to complement them on their rate of work - it would take
me about two hours to convert a car from one set of regulations to the
Once Antel had converted the car back to Mono-spec we had a race to start.
Matt and I both had reasonable starts and kept position into the first
corner. Behind me I have no idea what happened, but a lack of debris or
yellow flags at the end of lap one suggested all was well. By the fourth
corner I was confident I was quicker than Matt, but as we approached the
5th corner on the new infield (the corner is called Hamilton - presumably
because it's always had the best tarmac, is hard on tyres and has little
personality) I had a moment of inattention. A senior moment one might
call it had I been a bit older. I dropped two wheels off the tarmac onto
the mud/soil/dust. I didn't even notice. Until I turned in, when the car
spun round in an instant and pirouetted neatly off the track completely.
My luck kicked in, and I drove back onto the circuit without even stopping
to collect my wits. 11th. Race over, but never give up. I was 15.6 seconds
Tony, meanwhile, had been jumped at the start by Peter Venn in the Anson,
and was defending his 5th position from Malcolm Scott and Graham Read.
By the end of the first lap I had passed Jim Timms in the re-engined 2000cc
Formula Ireland, so crossed the line 10th. On the new infield section
I was able to see Matt Draper and Richard Purcell pulling away from the
rest of the pack, but the important thing was that I could see them -
it's a lot easier to chase the carrot when you can see the carrot. We
were all learning the track really, so our laptimes were all in the 1m55
region, and little progress was being made in terms of finishing positions.
Lap two saw me pass Francis Phillips and Kevin Otway, both of whom were
fair and attentive of the red car closing in (not that I have any right
to easy passes in a race - they could have defended if they wanted to).
I found the easiest way to overtake was to be much, much slower into Williams
(the corner onto the back straight), get on the power early and carry
a large speed advantage onto the straight. It seemed to work time after
time, even if I hated losing time on the entry.
On lap three I was visibly closer to Matt as we navigated the infield
on either side of Agostini hairpin. Race on! Graham Read, Malcolm Scott
and Tony were overtaken, leaving me 5th at the end of lap three. The gap
to the leader was now 13.8 seconds.
Robbie Watts and Peter Venn were caught and passed on lap 4, leaving me
3rd at the end of lap 4, 12.5 seconds off Matt, who I think was cruising
to the finish, managing the gap to Richard. Tony, having been passed on
the pit straight by me, attempted to emulate me, and in doing so passed
Robbie Watts who had qualified ahead of him, and set off after the Anson,
whom he would overtake on lap 5 for 4th place. My lap times came down
to 1m50.1, whilst Matt was doing 1m53s or 54s as he cruised to the finish.
Lap 5 ended with the gap to the leader at 8.2 seconds. Lap 6 - 4.6 seconds,
and second position taken from Richard (who actually looked tired as he
was driving around - the car was far lazier and cautious than it normally
is with him behind the wheel). Lap 7 - 0.8 seconds, but surely the chequered
flag would come out now? It didn't.
Through Riches we were nose to tail. I 'did a dummy' into Sear Hairpin
(now called Montreal, but I think Sear Hairpin is a better name) to distract
Matt. It worked - he missed his braking point and ran wide. But so did
I, so it remained even-stevens. Corners 3, 4, 5 and 6 were navigated without
much of interest happening, though Matt was clearly making sure his car
was as wide as possible, but fairly too. I used the same slow in-fast
out tactic through Williams corner, and got a run. Matt saw me coming.
He moved to the left to ensure I had to go the long way around. But my
exit speed plus a slipstream was such that I could just drive by, take
the lead before braking, and take a defensive line through the Brundle
Esses, even remembering to cover the inside line on the exit to avoid
a counter-attack. I was in the lead, with 3 corners to go. Bombhole -
check. Two corners. Coram - check. One corner. Brake whilst turning. Turn
left. Accelerate up the Senna Straight - victory!
I very much enjoy winning. You know when, in F1, the drivers get all emotional
after winning a race against the best in the world? Well I'm like that
after a Mono win against some of the best in club racing. I have never
taken winning for granted, but I hope that doesn't come across badly.
I just like it. It makes me happy, smile and punch the air. I do apologise
for the one-finger-in-the-air thing a la Vettel, but in fairness I was
doing it before him!!! If I use the term whipper-snapper people might
confuse me with David Parkinson.
Back to earth with a bump, as we pushed the car to scrutineering - this
was when I found out that Matt's car was being checked carefully. His
rear wing was found to be above the minimum height. It has been suggested
that Team Omicron protested his car, but I can assure you that this was
not the case. I had beaten him fair and square, but even if I hadn't I
think the time for protests wouldn't have been until much later in the
season, and only then if something could be proven. I believe the Monoposto
Club are going to have a fuel testing machine on hand to ensure they have
the ability to uphold the Blue Book regulations. Sadly, he and Graham
Read (whose rear wing was also higher than the 90cm limit) were eventually
both excluded from the results due to this. One should bear in mind that
that F3 cars, at F3 ride heights, have to meet the regulation on 90cm
rear wing heights. The supports, endplates and gearbox mounts are designed
so that the car is always compliant, even at the highest ride height used
in F3. But in Monoposto we have to be ~2cm higher than that, so our rear
wings are going to be too high unless a lower mount is made/bought/used.
I made one for our car in 2009, and I made one for Tony's car last week.
I'm quite thankful I did!
This promoted Tony to 3rd place - well beyond our expectations, and I
think he's pretty pleased with himself. As he should be. His eventual
laptime was a 1m54.3 which wouldn't have been that bad in the F3 Cup race,
so well done Tony. He's still annoyed about qualifying, but proved that
it's still possible to salvage a good result even after an irritating
practice session. I hope we can continue to provide him with a good car...
So now we're off to Donington. I've been to Donington before, but the
meeting was cancelled before I drove it, so I'm a novice at this circuit.
I suspect that Richard will be as quick as usual, although his F3 Cup
exploits are undoubtedly slowing him down later in the weekend. Matt is
clearly a good driver, and Antel won't be beaten by a silly mistake on
wing heights, so I fully expect to see them there with a point to prove.
Looks like Mono2000 could be an interesting year...
Disclaimer: The above represents only the unofficial view and
opinions of the writer and not of the Monoposto Racing Club in any way
The start - Matt takes the lead
Leading Kevin Otway
Ahead of Malcolm Scott, chasing team-mate Tony Bishop
Laura provided chocolate brownies which were appreciated by many.
Pictures by Norwich Photo, except start (TC) and brownies (BBC)