Sunday, 27 November 2016

Racing at Sandown in Melbourne

Sandown Formula Junior grid
One of the first things I saw in the pitlane were a series of flags. Along with flags for Sir Jack Brabham and other famous Australian drivers, there was a flag for Roger Ealand. He passed away this last March after a battle with cancer. Roger was a force in the Formula Junior world in Australia and elsewhere. I first met him at Watkins Glen in 2008 for the 50th anniversary of Formula Junior.

The only service issue I found was the top shoes of both rear brakes looked overheated and cracked. Decided to leave them alone and see how the car stopped on track. Gearbox was down 1/2 litre, puzzling.

Thursday dinner was at the Elfin Heritage Centre hosted by Bill Hemming. Elfin was a racing car (and later a street car) constructor based in Australia started in 1959. In the late 60's, they were for a time the 2nd largest race car manufacturer in the world. The cars included sports racing, Clubman, Formula Junior, Formula Vee, Formula Ford, CanAm type (Group A), Formula 5000, Formula 2 & 3. I had no idea the range of cars Garrie Cooper designed and built. A remarkable man.
Elfin Streamliner '59-'63, 23 built Elfin 600 with Repco-Brabham engine

Bodywork on the wall
Friday had 3 open practice sessions. Time to learn the track. The 1.9 mile Sandown track surrounds the horse racing track. Unfortunately, this will be the last time I race here. The track will become a housing development in 3 years.
Sandown racetrack
It is essentially 2 straights connected by wiggly bits at each end. The last turn before the back straight is a 2nd gear corner, surrounded by guard rails. Do not mess up here. Whether you run out of revs on the straights depends on the wind direction. Turn 1 was too easy to brake too late and run wide. Turn 6 at the end of the back straight, had braking markers that started too early. By the end of the weekend I was braking after the 50 mark. The noise limit was 95db measured off the side of the front straight (30 m from some point on the track). I did not get any warnings even without a muffler. Some of the muffled cars sounded way louder than 95db. There were a bunch of F5000 cars from Australia and NZ as well.
Lola T330/2 Lola T332
The Ralt FA was having more ignition problems (blowing modules). By the second practice I was using full throttle on the straight with no noise issues. We skipped the 3rd session to allow time to get cleaned up for dinner.

The FJr group had reserved spaces on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. It is a couple of historic tramcars that have been converted to restaurants. They travel a route around Melbourne while serving a 3 (early seating) or 5 (late seating) course meal. We had the early one. Excellent food. Dave and I sat with Bill Hemming and Margaret Ealand. Good fun with a waiter with a excellent singing voice. The route went into South Melbourne, by the Grand Prix circuit, to St. Kilda, and back.
Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
We wandered around downtown after to work off a bit of the meal.
The Yarra river in downtown Melbourne
The Polly Woodside was a 1885 cargo ship sitting in the old drydock right downtown.
Poly Woodside Reflection of Polly Woodside
There also was a gaming convention PAX Australia in the downtown Convention Centre.
PAX Australia gamers
Saturday morning session was qualifying. The car felt a bit odd. Some engine vibration and the clutch was not disengaging fully. After a lap, the clutch would not disengage at all so I carefully came back into the pits. We adjusted the clutch cable to no effect. Maybe we need more travel so adjusted the clutch rod. Still no better. Looking down into the clutch, it looked like the throwout bearing was moving like it should. Nothing to be done but tear it down to see what has happened. This was the first time I have ever attempted to pull the engine/gearbox at a track. At any other place the car would be on the trailer. Not an option here. So at about 10:30am we started disconnecting.

The usual sequence is: drain the water, disconnect 3 water hoses, 4 oil lines, 7 wires, clutch rod, shift linkage, rear suspension radius rods, rear brake line, front motor mounts, rear motor mounts, loosen the rear gearbox mounts. Lift the front of the engine (with gearbox still attached) so you can get at the 9 bolts that hold the back of the monocoque onto the front with at long extension and a u-joint.

At this point, I usually have already pulled all the rear suspension and half-shafts off as well. Dave convinced me to try not pulling the rear suspension. I had tried that before without much success by myself, but it would shorten the time if it worked. It makes getting at the 9 bolts a bit harder since the half-shafts are in the way, both physically and visually. But it also meant that we could roll the back section on it's own. We had been lifting the engine with a jack under the oil pan from the side, but that would not slide. So brute force was required. A jack handle, a ratchet strap on the front of the engine, and 2 guys lifting and shuffling got the engine/gearbox/rear section out. For a 1 litre engine, there is a lot of cast iron there. Wiggling the clutch rod showed all the normal movement. Now we have to disconnect the engine from the gearbox. It was a bit tricky supporting the front of the gearbox while it still was in the rear bodywork, but off the engine came.
Disassembled Dreossi
 The clutch throwout bearing was a bit loose, but not enough to cause the problem. Pressure plate pivots looks ok. Time to pull the clutch. This is what we found. The disk had broken. Probably due to the standing starts. It is a Austin Healey Sprite disk with a Fiat 600 hub riveted into the centre.
Broken clutch disk
This is one spare I do not have. So we will have to make one. First thing, pull the old disk apart to see how the rivets are sized. There were a group of apprentice mechanics/fabricators in the last garage with some equipment to help the racers. I used their disk grinder to take off one side of the rivets, and knocked them out with a punch. Now we need a new Sprite disk. JR sent me off to find Peter Larner, a local engine builder. He contacted a local supplier in Dandenong, B.G.T. Brake Services, who had one in stock. The shop was supposed to be closed, but the owner was there picking up some parts for someone else. We arranged for him to leave the clutch in a drop box in front of his shop. So we were back at the track by 1:30pm with the new disk. Time for lunch while our hands were clean :)
New Sprite Disk
Drilled out the Sprite rivets to get the disk off the hub. The disk is slightly thinner with a slightly smaller bolt-circle of rivets. Now how do we connect the two parts?

More racers to the rescue. We were introduced to Greg Smith, a local racer/restorer/fabricator. He has a 'shed' that may have the right tools for the job. A shed over here is what we call a garage or home shop. Quite a shed, with a lathe, mill, drill press, welders, and sheet metal tools. A good number of interesting vehicles under way as well. Greg took a skim cut on the hub to make sure it was flat. While Greg made rivets on the lathe, I ground the disk rivet holes to match the Fiat hub trying to keep everything centred. After the rivets were knocked in place, time to form the other side. To make the rivet tight, Greg hot-riveted the parts together. Acetylene torch to heat the rivet and a big hammer to form the head.
Heating a rivet Peening a rivet
Many thanks to Greg for saving my trip. We were back to the track by 5:30pm to start reassembly. JR was back helping as his other work was done. It was 'just' the reverse sequence. Clutch back on, engine back on the gearbox (tricky when you cannot support the front of the box properly while trying to get the input shaft engaged). We figured out how to use the body of the jack under the rear bodywork with the jack point under the oil pan so we could slide the engine assembly back into the front body. It takes putting the engine at several heights while moving in to clear all the stuff in the way. We quit at 9pm with 90% of the reassembly complete.

Back early Sunday morning to finish off some hoses, battery, catch tanks, and bleeding the brakes. Found that the gearbox vent hose had not been routed properly before, likely why the oil level was down (the catch tank was pretty full when we pulled the car apart). A couple adjustments of the clutch linkage after a lap of the paddock and we were ready to race.

I had to apply to the Race Secretary to re-join the grid as I had missed the Saturday afternoon race. Started from the back, with careful clutch work for the standing start. Slow away also because I didn't notice the repeater lights for the start as I could not see the starter stand from way back. Found I could overpower the clutch if I shifted quickly. Likely due to the friction surface not worn in yet. Still had a small battle with a Stanguellini and a Lola Mk1. FINISHED THE RACE!! 21st out of 25 starters.
Sandown Race2 Class Results
So for the last race of the weekend, I started 21st, where I could see both the starter stand lights and the repeaters. A decent start being careful with the clutch. A slow get-away from a car further up mixed things up a bit and I got ahead of both the Stanguellini and the Lola. Started chasing John Rowe in his Lotus 18. It ebbed and flowed as we both made mistakes. I out braked myself in Turn 1 and gave an easy pass to Jeff Brown's Brabham BT28 Screamer. Finished 20th of 26 starters, 6th in class. The clutch was working better now that it had bedded in the friction surface.
Sandown Race3 class results
JR got a 4th overall in the drum brake class because shift linkage issues in the first race dropped his finishing position.

Margaret Ealand presented both the winner's trophies for the feature race, and the overall class winners for the weekend. In turn, she was presented with a plaque acknowledging her contribution and support of Roger's activities, and the flag from the pitlane.

We finished loading the container to be shipped to Sydney by headlights at 8:30pm. A long day.

This was also the end of Dave's trip. I dropped him off at the Melbourne airport for his long flight home. Time to go back to work.

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