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

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