Welcome to my blog on turning a rusty old shed in to a thoroughbred Italian race car. In the last episode we brought the car home to finish in dominant style at Croft, helped by the pouring rain and taking the first overall win of the season, for the car and me! In this episode we take the car to Festival Italia at Brands Hatch and take on the best from Italy and England in a fun all-comers race to celebrate all things Italian.
After winning the overall race in the pouring rain at Croft, we had little to do to the car in order to have it ready for the weekend. It seemed odd not having some last minute drama which meant a complete gearbox overall or some other major job to do until 1am. We spent the Friday before at the circuit trying some new set up changes to help the understeer on turn in and went about setting some competitive times getting dialled in to race day. We did 45 laps over the day and ended up with times in the low 55 second range.
With only 15 minutes available, qualifying was fast and frenetic. The challenge is to get a good lap time in when the track is clear and not to get in to petty races if someone is in your way. Much better to drop back, cool down the tyres and try again for the next lap with a nice gap. In the end we did 10 competitive laps with 3 clustered around 55.6 seconds. We went faster on the Friday but that is the way things go sometimes. The Lancia qualified a reasonable p11 and the only car ahead of us which was not on slick tyres was a Lotus Europa with a 54.6, just out of reach.
It is worth pointing out why drivers drone on and on about tyres all the time. It is hard to explain the importance that tyres make to lap time and as a result it dominates the technique, set up, lap time and overall performance of the car. The Lancia races with “semi slick” tyres which are just road legal, namely the Nankang AR-1. The next step from these are full racing slicks. The grip from changing from the AR-1 to full slick tyres can be as much as 3 seconds on a short track as Brands Hatch. With all that performance so there is also a cost. It costs considerably more in terms of the initial outlay but also the increased wear and tear on the cars drive train. In hindsight we should have turned up with a set of slicks and we would have been further up the field, but you live and learn.
Before I got a chance to see the lights, everyone had bolted. I was quite tentative on the start as the last thing anyone wanted to do is come together given the value of all the machines around us. The car felt good and not long in to the race the Mini Miglia (also on slick tyres) of Paul Symmonds and I started swapping places. Sadly down the back straight the drive belt on the engine failed and we lost power steering, the alternator and more importantly the water pump. We had the belt fail back at Snetterton during the first shakedown so carried two spare but it still meant we retired from race 1.
After watching the awesome F1 demo cars in the assembly area we were gridded up for the second race. Race 2 grid was based in the finishing position from race 1 which meant I was stone dead last with nothing to lose.
I make a reasonable start, as this time I saw the lights go out. The first few corners I am much more aggressive, keen to make up places at the start and by the 3rd corner I had made up 7 places. The blistering fast blue Ferrari 430 Challenge car of Nicky Paul-Barron swapped ends going around Graham Hill bend and the pack had to take avoiding action. The red Ferrari 430 of John Cowen took to the grass and managed to also swap ends whilst re-joining the track but this time in the middle of the road. Brake or drive around? I went with the latter doing some rally cross and lived for another lap. That could have been quite an expensive shunt!
I quickly caught and passed the Lotus Exige and the Mini Miglia and was for a few laps the leading non slick car and 5th overall. After being passed by the spinning Ferrari’s recovering back to the front I then had a great battle with the red Mini. You can see from the rear view mirror in the Lancia the braking and turning performance of the Mini was far superior, but given the small engine it was no match in the straights. I believe we would have been swapping places all race long but sadly on lap 9 the rear right drive shaft failed and we had to retire the car once again.
I suppose in some way it was fitting that the Lancia should go so well but have reliability let it down given the brand’s history in the UK. There was no way without slicks we could have competed with the Ferrari 360’s and 430’s and it was a shame the spectators didn’t see more of the Mini and Delta swapping positions all race long. We have some time before our next race in September to work out why we had the two failures and put in place changes to make sure it doesn’t repeat its self.
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Extended Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFKIaDn5qdM
Timing Sheets: http://tsl-timing.com/file/?f=MSVR/2017/173250all.pdf