Wednesday, 1 February 2017

NZFMR Hampton Downs

NZFMR is the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing on the 3.8 km International circuit of Hampton Downs. Last weekend we used the original 2.7 km National circuit. The new section is so new that no one in the FJr group has run it before. The new bit is the lower left section.
Hampton Downs International layout
We did have to move from garage 23/24 to 17/18 which was not too bad. Other groups arrived with the rain. There were not enough garages with the bumper crop of F5000s, so sharing was the order of the day.
We had 7 Juniors plus the Ralt RT1 in our garage
RS200 in a box Unloading a F5000 on a skid from a container
This event was celebrating the continuing career of Kenny Smith. Seems to drive everything quick.
Kenny Smith (left) Undressed F5000
One new car of note was Richard Bishop-Miller making an appearance with the Autosport Special Mk2. What are the odds that 2 Canada Class cars would race together in New Zealand? He also raced it in Monaco in 2016. The Monaco race was streamed live so Richard sent Bob Hanna the link so he could watch his creation race in that famous place.
Richard Bishop-Miller with the Autosport Special Mk2
On Thursday night, the New Zealand Formula Junior group put on a welcoming dinner with series patron Howden Ganley at St. Margarets Cafe. Mr Ganley ran in Formula Junior in period before moving on to F3, F5000, F1, CanAm, and co-founding the TIGA race car constructor. Details here. Everyone was given name tags which was very helpful to put faces to names.

Friday started clear, but rain started before the drivers' briefing. The FJr grid was split into 2 groups. Group1 was Front Engine and selected Rear Engine Drum cars. Group2 was Rear Engine Drum and Disk cars. It had stopped raining by the time I went out for Group2 practice. Still wet, but drying by the end. The Fosters Hairpin, Kev's Carousel, and the second part of Double Bastard were all 2nd gear corners. Over the hill where Double Bastard reconnects to the original circuit was a bit bumpy.

The engine had been a bit hard to start and sounded a bit off so investigation was in order. Adjusted the points a bit and the plug gaps, and it was back to it's normal bark.

Our dry qualifying session got red flagged on the first lap due to a spinner in T3. Time to really learn the new sections of the track. The hill at Double Bastard was even more bumpy in the dry. Tried to find a line that didn't make the front end jump out. The session ended with another red flag due to a car with it's rear wheels in a gravel trap.
Group2 Qualifying
During the regular checks, Andreas (GMT mechanic) found a crack in the Ralt's left rear subframe. So the subframe was duly removed and the folks in garage #17 tig welded it right away. It was pretty well re-assembled by the time we left for the day at 6:30. This is why you do inspections/cleaning all the time. Find it before it fails.

Saturday dawned cloudy but dry for the start of racing. Group1 was first up, and someone dropped oil from T2 all the way through T10. Didn't think a sump would hold that much. So our start for Group2 was delayed for cleanup. The oil-dry was not swept after being applied so it was a bit dusty and slippery after that. Started 18th with a decent first standing start on the new clutch. JR got a great start and blew right by me. There were a number of spinners in the first couple of laps with the oil-dry catching some out. JR got squeezed in the Hirepool Hairpin, ending up with some nose bodywork damage. I was just being very careful with lack of grip. The race ended under safety car after Andrew Beaumount's Lotus 22 blew an oil line coming out of the last hairpin and into the Sweeper. Not a good day for oil cleanup on track.
For the afternoon race, I was moved to Group1 based on my lap times. More cars near my speed. There were 6 cars in the 2:05 lap range. That put me P5 on the grid. Someone was out of position on the grid so we sat for a long time getting engines really hot. They sent us on another formation lap to get things cooled down. Another decent start. Polesitter Tony Olissoff was having trouble with his Emeryson Experimental jumping out of first gear and 2nd being too tall. A couple cars got around me and some dropped out, leaving me in 7th at the end with no real improvement in lap time. I seem to get to my quickest lap time pretty early in a weekend and struggle to go any faster.
Tony's Emeryson Experimental is a unique beast. Front wheel drive with a split-case VW transaxle in the front. Used modified Mini front uprights, sounds familiar.
Emeryson Experimental Elfin Mk1
There was a big storm overnight that caused numerous power glitches and lots of rain. Sunday's first race started wet without actively raining. Some dry spots, so it was a game of connect the dry dots. Nigel's Stanguellini spun in the Sweeper on the first lap making us scatter. A couple laps in, the Autosud also spun in the Sweeper and stalled. Unfortunately his starter had quit so was unable to restart. It was a bit dicey as the corner just showed waving yellows for two laps with the car stranded in the middle of the track. Finally the safety car came out and that's the way we finished.
The last race of the event was looking good and dry until the skies opened while I was on the mock grid. I had a good start, passing 3 cars before T1. Who all promptly passed me back before T2. My turn to spin on the exit of the Sweeper, with Duncan's Alexis spining in sympathy. No contact, just onto the grass and continued. Discretion being the better part of something, I was careful the rest of the race as it gradually dried. As you can see from the results, the Autosport Special is much better in the rain than the Dreossi Special.
Once again time to load the container. Next stop Taupo.
Everyone loading up

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Between Hampton Downs races

Now that the first Hampton Downs weekend is done, time to put the new clutch parts into the race box (and see if the new bits work with the engine). Since I decided not to do the last wet race, I started teardown on Sunday afternoon. Travis suggested a time-lapse video would be interesting, so I mounted my Activeon camera on a broomstick sitting on the bench. Wires and hoses were disconnected by dinner time.
We were in the garage nice and early on Monday. Me to continue the gearbox update, the GMT guys to do maintenance on the other race cars. We have done 4 race weekends at this point so maintenance is required. I continued the time lapse until the gearbox was out of the car (needed the bench space so the broom had to go).
With the new input shaft and support in the gearbox, I did a trial fit to the engine without the pressure plate and disk. I found no free end-play because a chamfer on the input shaft was interfering slightly with the pilot bushing. So a chamfer was added on the bushing ID to give clearance. Adding the disk and pressure plate showed insufficient release free play. I found there was some interference between the release bearing spring retainer and the case. A little bending, a little filing, all good. By 5:30, it was pretty much back together with the help of the GMT guys (JR, Josh and Andreas). Security wanted to lock up, so we left for the day.
Ready to put it all back together
I was in by myself the next morning to finish off the installation. Mainly wiring and check of all bolts. Now to see if the clutch works properly. It won't quite disengage enough with the desired free-play at the release bearing. The clutch pedal was hitting the front bulkhead only at the bottom (near the pivot). A bit of filing on the pedal gave enough extra travel to get the clutch to release fully. I will have to take a look at this in the future. I think I need an offset key to move the starting position back. All done.

Wednesday was my only tourist day as I knew we probably would have to change garages on Thursday. First stop was the Hakarimata Scenic Reserve in Ngaruawahia, halfway between Huntly and Hamilton. Just a quick hike up to the old dam on the Waterworks Walk.
On the Waterworks Walk The 1922 dam was almost completely silted up
Small waterfall along the trail
Now it was time for the main event, the Hobbiton movie set tour and some nice twisty roads to get there. The original Hobbiton set for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was not made to last so that it was easy to return the Alexander sheep and cattle farm to it's original state. When The Hobbit movies were made, they had to re-create the set, this time with the intent of becoming an attraction (based on the popularity of the Lord of the Rings movies). The set takes up 12 acres of the 1250 acre farm with 13,000 sheep and 400 cattle. A shuttle bus takes you from the Shire's Rest visitors centre through the farm to the set.
Welcome to Hobbiton! A Hobbit hole
There are 2 sizes of Hobbit holes, big and small. If they wanted an actor to look small like a Hobbit, they filmed in front of big Hobbit hole. Likewise if  they want the actor to look big like a human, they would film in front of a small Hobbit hole.
And another Flowers in the garden
There are 44 Hobbit holes Complete with washing on the line
Minimal inside Overlooking Hobbiton
None of the holes had much inside. All the interior shots were done on a soundstage.
The tree over Bilbo Baggins' hole Bilbo Baggins' Hobbit hole
The tree above Bilbo Baggins' house is the only artificial tree on the set. They had to duplicate the tree since it had to exactly match the scenes from the Lord of the Rings, even though the production of The Hobbit movies was years later. The tree is made from foam on a steel framework. The leaves are all from Taiwan. A pretty cool place all in all.

Next stop was the Bridal Veil Falls near Makomako. A short hike at the top of the 55 metre falls, followed by 261 stairs to the bottom. The wind was moving the impact point around a lot.
View from mid way Bottom of falls with wind
The town of Raglan was nearby, which I had read was a surfing mecca. The local museum showed the history of surfing in the area. Back in the 70's, most surfers in Hamilton had to drive an hour just to see if the surf was up. That led to the local university successfully developing wave prediction algorithms that are still in use today. The museum also showed the history of the Maori in this area and their interaction with the European settlers. Outside was a 1902 Pelton water wheel that was used until 1925 to drive flax strippers. Flax was a major export from the area in those days.
1902 Pelton water wheel
It is interesting to see the different colours of sand in the area. The volcanic rock makes the sand more black. There were a number of waka ama near the harbour. Waka means canoe, ama means outrigger.
Dark beach sand in Raglan Waka Ama
South from Raglan is Ngarunui beach. The beach was a considerable way down from the car park. The rising land was handy for the parasailers. They could pretty well stay stationary using the updraft.
Surfers going down to the beach Parasailers using the cliffs
There was a class learning surfing just finishing when I arrived.
Above Ngarunui Beach Surf class in bottom right
Manu Bay and Whale Bay are the big surf spots. They are similar in that the beach is not sand, but boulders.
Manu Bay You have to work before you play at Manu Bay

Surfing at Manu Bay
At Whale Bay the beach was similar. Both gave good progressive breaking waves. Who needs a car when you have a scooter?
Whale Bay break Scooter with board holder
That's enough looking around. Back to race preparations on Thursday. There is no chance we will get the same garage as the first Hampton Downs event.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Hampton Downs Tasman Revival

Hampton Downs is a relatively new track and has several configurations available. The National Circuit was used for the Tasman Revival. We will be on the International Circuit next weekend. The Formula Junior numbers were down a bit as this is not a points race for the World Series.
Hampton Downs National Circuit
I arrived at the track on Thursday morning. Travis, JR and crew had been there on Wednesday for the biosecurity inspection and unloading. New Zealand is very careful about what comes into the country.
UK, Australia, US/Canada containers Cool self-loading flatbed trailer
The containers were just outside the garages, quite convenient for unloading. They got moved to the back of the paddock later in the day to free up space.

The car checked out fine after the trip from Australia. I've been pleasantly surprised with the lack of corrosion. Time for testing new parts. After the clutch blowup at Sandown, I decided to change to a spring-loaded centre in the disk. Of course that change rippled through the gearbox. The disk has a larger spline meaning new input shafts. That also requires the release bearing and support to get bigger. Many chips were sacrificed to make pretty new parts.
Lots of chips 2 sets of parts
I installed the new bits in the spare gearbox to see if I made the parts correctly. The only issue was getting enough retraction travel for the release bearing. A little filing on the release fork got just enough extra room. This makes me comfortable to schedule changing the gearbox in the car on Monday after the race weekend.

Friday practice dawned with overcast skies. It was really coming down by the drivers meeting but it was supposed to clear later. I decided to wait to learn the track in the dry. By noon, the track was dry so out we went. Corner 1 (Pirelli Corner) is quite steep downhill after turn-in. Easy to slide out wide if you get your turn-in point wrong. Corner 2 is visually confusing because this is where the track continues on for the International layout. Had to watch the braking point to make the uphill right then over a crest left. A short straight which was just short enough to stay in 3rd gear, before the first 2nd gear hairpin. Another short straight to the other 2nd gear hairpin. This one having a downhill braking area and tightening exit. Turn in too early puts you off in the dirt at the exit. And how would I know that?? Exit speed is important because this leads onto the second longest straight. The last corner is a wide and looong sweeper onto the front straight. Patience is a virtue at this corner. On throttle too soon will show you the curbing at the exit. Good track with interesting use of elevation changes.

I ran in 3 of the afternoon sessions before parking the car to save wear and tear. Others were not so lucky as Duncan broke a piston in his Mk1 Alexis.

Saturday was nice and sunny pretty much all day. Time for qualifying and the first races of the weekend. I started in a small group in qualifying so I backed off on the second lap to get a gap. Qualified 6th of 12 with a 1:23.890. The results look a bit odd as they were still getting cars/drivers associated with transponder number.
Since Nick Grewal was not present but his car was, Nick kindly allowed Duncan to use his Lotus 18 for the rest of the weekend.

I had a good conversation with the crew of the Elva-DKW in the garages. I have not seen many DKW powered cars before. The 3 cylinder 2 stroke makes a unique sound. Smelled nice too as they were using Castrol R (synthetic version) for lubrication. Little did I know how much I would see of Walter Findlay in this car over the weekend.
Elva 100 With DKW engine
Our first race was the last of the day. Several people had issues with getting into the correct grid position so there was some last second shuffling about. Had a decent start with a bit of a bog. Held position until the first hairpin when the Elva lost momentum (got passed awkwardly by another car) and I was able to get by as well. The rest of the time was racing hard to stay ahead of Walter. I would make some time in over the hill (corner 2 & 3) and through the second hairpin. He would make time in Corner 1 and the sweeper onto the front straight. I had one big moment in Corner 1 with some serious opposite lock due to oil on the track. JR had a good start (up to second by the first turn) and took 1.5 seconds off his best time to finish 3rd.
Sunday had mixed conditions most of the day. Luckily, our next race started dry. Grid positions were based on your quickest lap of the weekend, so I started 6th again, just behind JR in 4th. Got a decent start with the Elva right ahead of me. For the first couple of laps, I was right with him giving me an interesting view. It had a different attitude through the sweeper with the right front wheel a good 4" off the ground. There were a few drops of rain in the middle of the race which made me back off a bit. It cleared, only to come back for the last couple laps. I backed off more as I could feel the grip dropping off. Paul Halford's Autosud and Jim Barclay's Gemini didn't seem to mind the rain and they powered on by making me finish 8th overall.
The rain continued on and off for the rest of the day. The track was full wet by the time our last race came around. I decided not to go out as there are 5 more race weekends to go. Five started and three finished.
I started teardown of the car in preparation for the gearbox change on Monday. It was a good low-key weekend to get some bugs worked out of my and others' cars.