Category Archives: Motors

Silverstone Grand Prix 2012

Preamble – Thursday 5th July

Left home just after 2 o’clock and had a reasonable run down to Cherwell Valley services on the M40, where I checked into the Travelodge. Slightly slower than expected, on account of the M6 Toll road being closed, causing traffic chaos on the M6: I fortunately caught it on the radio, and diverted to the cross-country route. 116 miles, 2h15m,51mph
Drove over to the circuit to sign on (14mile, 25 minutes). Considering the weather we’ve had, the camp site and car parks don’t look too bad.
Headed towards Bicester looking for a beer and some tea. Nice pint of Pedigree at Bure Farm, Barberry Place, followed by fish and chips from the chippy next door.

Day One – Friday Practise

Up early with 5.30 alarm; Travelodge breakfast-in-a-box (surprisingly  OK); made food for the day, and on the road by 6.30. Arrived at the circuit and in to the marshal’s  car park without any delay, apart from a little early morning commuter traffic around the motorway junction. Significant queues already forming for routine entry to the circuit but sailed in via the specified route to Winterhill.
Very wet day, with limited action in the second F1 practice; the GP2 and GP3 practise, and Porsche session ran to schedule; HFO session in very wet conditions was pretty tame — but then, if you owned one of those machines, you wouldn’t want to take chances with it, would you?
Listening to Radio Silverstone and the Twitter feed, it became clear as the day progressed that there was chaos in the outside world with people trying and failing to get in. The day ended with the organizers telling people not to come to the Saturday Practise.
Longish journey home, following the recommended route through Buckingham. Tea from Burger King.

Day Two – Qualifying

5.30 alarm again; journey to the circuit quick and uneventful.
Weather started OK but spell of heavy rain after lunch caused an hour’s delay halfway through F1 Q2. Late finish, leaving circuit about 7.30
Salad from M&S for tea

Day Three – Race Day

Once again, 5.30 alarm, and managed to be on the road by 6.25; straightforward run as far as Silverstone village, then slow traffic to the car park; on post just before 7.30.
Some sprinkles of rain for the GP3 and GP2 races, but basically pretty dry. Low cloud base meant Red Arrows display somewhat limited, but stil very impressive. Sun came out about 12.45 and a completely dry GP was run mainly in bright sunlight — actually took my jacket of for the first time!
Excellent race, with a great drive by Alonso; but deservedly won by Webber, who passed him about 4 laps from the end. Disappoinment for the Brits: PDR out on lap one with a puncture; Button again steady but unremarkable, just finishing in the points; Hamilton pretty good, but not good enough. In the end, Red Bull, Ferrari, Ferrari, Red Bull was a fair result.
Very slow getaway from the circuit and deadly crawl to the A43 and on to the A5 roundabout: a tad over two hours to cover about five miles! Once on the A5, good run to M6 and thence home:  just over 100 miles in about two hours, with a brief stop at Corley.

In Summary —
A great experience again, despite the weather; nice to have a bit of variety with some pit lane involvement; enjoyed the racing, both GP and support events (well, perhaps not the Porsches); good bunch of fellow marshals in the team.

Back next year? – if possible, yes!

Sun Shines on the Righteous – And Also on BTCC

Contrary to expectation (after a cold and cloudy Saturday), the annual Touring Cars meeting at Oulton Park yesterday was blessed with a whole day of sunshine on Sunday. The crowds were out in force, as always: I’m told this venue has the largest attendance of any BTCC meeting.

Stationed at the Hilltop post, we had a good view of quite a few interesting incidents, and the pleasure of watching fellow marshals working hard, but for us the day was largely uneventful. One of the Ginetta Juniors made the tyre wall a bit untidy, coming out of the hairpin, and Aron Smith pulled off just over the crest in the last race, but that was about it.

Nice to have a day on the bank without being either soaked or frozen, and some good racing as a bonus.

Out In The Cold

Spent a very chilly day at Oulton Park on Saturday for the first BRSCC Race Day of the season. (Might not have been so bad if the following day hadn’t been wall-to-wall sunshine!)

Good program of events, but one we only just managed to squeeze in before curfew, and then only by cutting the last race short — they do like to get their money’s worth!

Posted at Cascades, where you can generally count on seeing some action, and sure enough we did get some exercise to warm us up. Rather unusually, most action was on the inside where we collected a Formula Ford in qualifying and a Super Mighty Mini in Race 7. Enjoyable chat with the Mini driver, who was with us for most of the race.

In the second Super Kart race, we collected a kart in the gravel, which was dealt with by lifting the machine bodily and carrying it clear. Those things are seriously mad — the fastest car of the day; imagine lapping the International circuit in around 1:37 (an average speed of just under 100mph) with your bum 3 inches off the tarmac, in a machine that can be lifted by four people!

(picture cribbed from

Another Season Begins

To Oulton Park last Saturday, for the first track meeting of the season (for me, that is — there was an MSVR event on the 17th, but I couldn’t make that one).

BARC March 2011

It was a BARC National Championship meeting featuring NW Sports Saloons, Citroen 2CV, Intersteps, Production Touring Cars, and two classes of Minis. The 2CV’s are fun for the first few laps, but tend to become a bit tedious once they get strung out a bit. Of the rest, there was good racing at some point in most of the races, so generally an enjoyable day.

No hands-on marshalling, though we came a bit close once or twice, and collected several undertray sections from a couple of the Intersteps.

Weather was excellent, given the time of year, so a good start to the season.

Sunshine and Showers in Grizedale

Good day out at the Malcolm Wilson Rally on Saturday, marshalling Special Stage 4 (Grizedale North) in mixed conditions.

Approaching Hawkshead around 9.00, after an easy drive from Garstang in not much over an hour, it seemed a bit early to sign on, so hung around in the car park for a half hour or so, listening to the radio and to the sound of rain drumming on the car roof; at that point it looked as if we were in for a pretty damp day.

Made my way to the stage start for around 9.45 and after a brief wait was assigned to Junction 6 where I found a fellow Oulton marshal already in attendance. Looked like a pretty good position: fairly sharp right-hander in an open spot with good views of the approach. (Wish I’d remembered my camera!) First car was expected around noon, so we had the usual bit of hanging around; some chat with speccies as they began to arrive. Weather began to look a lot more hopeful as the morning wore on.

Zero car came through about 11.50 and the first group began ten minutes later; we were surprised to find it was not the top guys, but the third group, and it seems the running order for the three groups had been reversed. This was a good thing, IMHO, as it means the day gets more interesting as it goes on, but can’t help thinking the fast boys would prefer to have first go, before the surface gets chewed up!

Weather took a turn for the worse just after 1 o’clock, with heavy rain and a cold wind for a while, but eventually brightened up, so we had bright sunshine for best part of an hour later on.

Our only bit of marshal activity came about two thirds of the way through the second section, when a Mk II Escort pulled up with throttle problems. We got him off to the side until the next break and then pushed him back into the junction. Pushing cars is a lot easier on a circuit than a muddy forest track!!

A good day’s rallying was enjoyed, despite the nastier bits of weather. The final bit of interest came when driving out of the stage: we were held up while a recovery team dragged a Corsa back out the forest, where it had dropped off a steep slope after negotiating about 75° of a 90° corner.

Oil Leak Fixed? (Again!)

So, having got The Five through its annual health check (see previous blog entry), the next step is to try and tackle the (latest) oil leak.

Been aware for a while that there might be a bit of a drip from the area of the Cam Angle Sensor, but hadn’t thought it was too bad. Consequently very surprised to see the amount of oil splashed around underneath the car when it was up on the lift for the MOT.

However, further investigation shows that, once again, I have failed to empty the crank breather catch-tank!! So that was the first thing to do.

Having sorted the catch tank, and since I did have a new O-ring for the CAS, it seemed desirable to tackle that drip.

Not a difficult job, in fact. Removal of the CAS was pretty simple, once I’d figured the coil pack needed to come off as well.

Putting it the CAS back was no so easy — the problem of getting the drive dogs aligned proved to be another of those awkward tasks that just needs repeated attempts, extensive cursing, and a final bit of luck.

Anyway, now it’s done, and hopefully the garage floor will remain clear for a while.  😉

Shock! Horror! The Five Fails MOT

Trotted off cheerfully to Paul Sheard Autos on Friday morning to get The Five its annual certificate of health, expecting to exchange a few pleasantries with Paul and be home in no time. (Well, in truth, “being home in no time” is more of a hope than an expectation, but then I never saw a garage yet that could complete things in the expected/promised time — I think it’s just a fact of life!)

Anyway, we sat down in the new saleroom/waiting area with a cup of tea and settle down to wait. After a bit I had a stroll round outside, checking the cars currently on offer, but saw nothing to tempt me. Returning inside, I notice the car was up on the lift, so thought I’d take the opportunity for a comfortable look around underneath. Oh dear!!

First off, Paul was not impressed with my sump-drain valve that I fitted at the last service: it protrudes below the subframe and could perhaps be in danger of getting fouled, with the result (according to Paul) that it would rip the sump out. I think he’s right — that’ll be coming off next service.

More worryingly, there was a lot of oil splashed about. I had noted marks on the garage floor, but had put it down to being hydraulic fluid that I spilled when fitting the new clutch slave cylinder; but this was definitely oil. And looking up through the engine bay, you could clearly see a drip on the bottom of the Cam Angle Sensor. I had a feeling I was losing some oil there, but hadn’t thought it was a serious leak.

Returned to the waiting area somewhat dischuffed. But worse was to come

After a while Paul appeared to report the MOT was FAILED — no handbrake on the left side!!

Not a good day 😦

Once home, it didn’t take long to establish the problem was a seized left-rear handbrake cable. Spent a difficult hour or so removing the cable, then ordered a replacement from Autolink through their ebay shop, with best-possible delivery, and settled down to drown my sorrows with the usual Friday evening bottle of plonk.

The replacement cable arrived Saturday morning — well done Autolink — but the day was so perishing cold, I decided to put of the job of installing till after the weekend.

Monday morning it was a fairly straightforward job to install the new cable (once the inboard end was connected, that is — proved to be a real pig, trying to get the inner connected to the compensator). A call to Paul Sheard resulted in “bring it in this afternoon”, so after lunch I tootled back to Congleton, taking an alternative route via Warmingham and Elworth (had some business on the north side fo Crewe).

Ten minutes after arriving, I had my certificate in my hand and a smile on my face.

Just need to fix that oil leak now!

Bleeding Awkward!

For some time now (actually, it’s about 3 months, come to think of it!), the clutch on The Five has been giving problems. (See A Right Pain in the Neck). An inspection from underneath the car early this week shows that we are leaking hydraulic fluid significantly, so it was time to replace the slave cylinder.

The machine now has a shiny new one.


As usual, what sounds like a pretty straightforward job when you read the workshop manual turns out to have its little snags.

In this case, there were two — well, very nearly three, actually.

First thing, which turned out to be a non-problem when I used the right tool, was undoing the pipe union, which was pretty tight. You can’t get a ring spanner on it of course, and the  jaws  of the ordinary open spanner were springing when any degree of force was applied, threatening to wreck the flats. I started to try using a mole wrench, but that looked like mashing things even worse. Then I remembered this tool that I bought many years ago:

There was just about room to apply this cunning device to the union and its self-tightening action proved to be just the solution needed — Phew!

Having disconnected the pipe, it was straightforward to remove the old slave cylinder and mount the new one. Then comes the first really awkward bit: reconnecting the pipe union; if getting it undone was tricky, then doing it up again was very tricky, with quite a lot of [expletives deleted]! Basically the difficulty lies in trying to get the thread aligned and started, against opposition from an uncooperative metal pipe, when you can only get one hand to the job and that hand is your left one.  However, after persevering for quite some time, it finally went in OK.

That leaves only the simple matter of bleeding the system: problem number three! I’m sure it’s not so bad if you actually have three men on the job, as recommended by the manual, but trying to do the job on your own is a pain; especially when your patent one-man-wonder-bleeder gadget appears to have stopped working (well I suppose it has been on the garage shelf for a number of years). So at the time of writing, I’m not convinced that the system is free of air bubbles — decided to just let it settle for 24 hours and then see how it feels.

Still, I’m hopeful that we are on the right track to having a fully-functioning clutch once more.

Cambrian Rally

Enjoyed my first experience of rally marshalling on a forest stage at the Cambrian Rally yesterday.

Weather was not as bad as the forecast might have indicated, with only occasional light rain.

The stage was pretty muddy, and very slippery at our location, resulting in one poor guy finishing his day too early, after losing an argument with the solid steel gatepost

Happily, both driver and co-driver emerged unhurt, and we enjoyed good craich with them during the rest of the day. (Can you have craich with a Welshman, or do they have their own word for it? — if the do, doubt I could get the spelling right!)

Got chatting with some spectators at one point, one of whom turned out to be a theology lecturer and sometime Director of Ordinands: he inquired if I had felt the call to be ordained, but at that point I found myself needed the other side of the track!

One big thing to be said in favour of rallying as opposed to “roundy-roundy” racing, is the hours involved: signed on about 9:30 (so even with a drive of about an-hour-and-a-half, no silly-o’clock alarm was required) and was on the road home just after 4:00!

Think I’ll definitely be giving it another go.

A Right Pain in the Neck

One of the most awkward, nigh-impossible jobs in maintaining the MX-5 must surely be the adjustment of the clutch pedal travel. (Well, OK, there are probably worse tasks, but the stiff muscles and crick in my neck currently make me favour this one.)

Increasing trouble with engaging or changing gear in recent months finally forced to me tackle adjustment of the clutch pedal, as it became clear the clutch was not fully disengaging.

I knew, of course, that the job really needed doing, having noted in routine servicing that the pedal travel was not within spec. But I’d put off doing anything about it because of the inaccessibility of the adjustment mechanism.

The excellent MX-5 Enthusiast’s Workshop Manual, by Rod Grainger, talks about “…standing on your head in the driver’s footwell, and generally adopting a position that would make a contortionist proud…” in order to work on this adjustment — it’s not wrong!!

Had to remove driver’s seat for access, and even then it was a pretty uncomfortable, not to say painful, experience!

Still, there’s no such word as “can’t”, as someone (Napoleon?) allegedly said, so after much wriggling and squirming, and not a little cussing and muttering, I finally managed to fettle it. Happy to say the clutch now disengages at a respectable distance off the floor.

However, there is no further adjustment available, which may mean I’m eventually going to have to service the clutch itself. At which point, I may well have to revise my opinion on the most difficult jobs! — but that’s a story for another day.