Finish with a bang! A win and a spin to end the championship, Rushmoor 2-Oct-16

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When I arrived at the track I was in third place in the championship with a very slim possibility that I could still win. If I won my class (scoring 15 points) and carried on to the final round at Curborough with a very good result (and bad luck for my competitors) it was still mathematically possible, so I was feeling quite excited as this was the closest I had ever been in four years of sprint competition. I had further reason to be positive as I now had a new set of Toyo R888R tyres, which should give me much more grip than the worn tyres I used when I last competed against Nick.

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My first setback was that Nick Horne who had just beaten me at the previous round at Rushmoor in an MX5 turbo and two drivers in an MG B V8 didn’t turn up meaning the loss potential loss of three points which I badly needed for the championship. The other remaining competitors were Andy Deeley in Nissan 200SX turbo who had come very close to my performance in the past, an Aston Martin DB7 and a brand new Volkswagen Sirocco turbo. If I beat them all the most I could score was 13 points (out of a maximum 15, or 16 for FTD).

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There were very slippery conditions on track after heavy rain the day before and leaves on track under trees. Track in very poor condition, with puddles. However, the weather was looking good and as the track dried I would be able to use my power advantage over the competition.

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On the first practice run I was sliding about like crazy as I expected and nearly came off the track several times. At one hairpin corner the car was facing one way, the wheels in the opposite direction and the car suddenly gripped and snapped round. Fortunately I was able to catch it and keep my foot down – that is what makes racing the Mustang so much fun! I found that I was just hitting rev limiter in second gear on the longest straight, but with only a second in this state, there didn’t seem to be time to get into third gear before the corner, although this would change as I got faster through the day.

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I felt complacent after the first practice as I was in the lead by a large margin and found it difficult to motivate myself to push hard, I was disappointed to miss the challenge from Nick’s MX5 turbo that I had been looking forward to. The second timed run was slower as I experimented with third gear on the long straight and holding it round the corner, but the speed was too slow in the slippery conditions and I bogged down at low revs. Despite this, I was still leading.

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Then there was a surprise! Andy Deeley beat me on the first timed lap and I suddenly realised I was going to have to try a lot harder, particularly as his time was better than my personal best at this track earlier in the year. I focused and pushed the car as hard as I dared, braking really late and only just hauling it around the tight corners in scary four wheel slides on the very narrow track with high kerbs (on which another competitor had smashed off his front wheel the year before!) I managed to get around the lap keeping the car on the track and I was shaking with adrenalin. Andy came over and told me I had failed to beat his time, I had actually gone slower! I was really upset thinking of all the effort and putting the car on the ragged edged had been for nothing. However, it turned out to be a joke! I had beaten him which was the good news, but the bad news was that he had been excluded from running again at the event due to not having an exhaust catalytic converter fitted. More of the emotional roller coaster as I had felt earlier in the day when do you don’t have a close rival to compete against.

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The Rushmoor circuit is laid out in a huge natural amphitheatre which was adapted to house giant military pageants in the 1920s. From the paddock you can see half of the track, whilst the other half is obscured by trees. Around twenty other Speed League sprint championship contenders were attending the event and had set up a row of deck chairs along a ridge where they could watch the action. Rather disparagingly, they said that the Mustang sounded fantastic and looked really fast along the first straight, but looked really slow along the second straight and around the hairpin bend (where I was really struggling to keep the car on the track at all!)

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Having won class on final run and having already beaten my best time from earlier in the year I decided to try and push harder and beat Nicks winning time from previous Rushmoor round. It was going well as I was fired up with Speed League contenders members comments I was determined to slide around the left hand corner into the trees more quickly and carry more speed on to the straight. I was badly out of shape as the car flicked sharply but was going much faster, I got into third gear much sooner and was roaring down the straight but was then carrying far too much speed at the end of the straight and could not brake in time on the broken track surface so I went crashing through a row of plastic barriers that marked the corner. The marshal gave me a thumbs up as I reversed out to show that the car was OK. I realised that my lap time was now lost so I might as well mess about and put on a show for the people watching on the ridge, I fishtailed wildly around the corner as I came into view and wheelspan all the way along the straight with the engine screaming. As I pulled into the paddock I was surprised no one came over to remark on the crazy entertainment I had given them, it seems that they had all gone to the burger van and no-one was watching.

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So I had won the class and beaten my own personal best time, but had failed to match Nicks time by half a second. Andy was only a second behind me whilst the Aston and Sirocco had got quite close to him, closer than any of us expected in fact.

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Some of the 60 speed league contenders at Rushmoor with Alex Peters (Left), Andy Elcomb (2nd from left), Andy Deeley (with EU t-shirt) and Lee Champion (2nd from right).

Whilst most of that was positive we then added up the championship points with the information available (there was another event on the same day at Debden). It looked like I had been overtaken by both the appropriately named Lee Champion who has probably won the speed league and also Andy Elcomb (both in Mazda MX5s), so I had now dropped to fifth place, my worst ever final placing in the Speed League.

Results

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1st 42 5 Alex Peters Ford Mustang – 55.99 secs
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2nd 41 5 Andy Deeley Nissan 200SX – 56.94 secs
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3rd 46 5 Mark Chandler Aston Martin DB7 I6 – 57.20 secs
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4th 45 5 Michael Duncan Volkswagen Scirocco 57.32 secs

original

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Last championship charge – Goodwood 24-Sep-16

Goodwood has traditionally been a difficult circuit for me, with my own bravery being a limiting factor (caused in part by some limitations of the car which are now being overcome).

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I would like to send my best wishes to Kevin See of Redline American Muscle at Rochester in Kent, who has been getting over some health problems, but is fortunately making a recovery. I would like to recommend Redline to all readers of American Car magazine (and American car owners in general) to see what these magicians can do for your car! They are very skilled, knowledgeable and reasonably priced!

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The Mustang race car with Kevin See, Mike Thompson and Alex Peters at the Redline American Muscle workshop in Hoo, Kent.

Getting towards the end of the season, this was my last realistic chance of winning the championship. Although I had been leading the championship up to the middle of the season, I hadn’t manage to enter enough events for various personal reasons.

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Some of the 60 Speed League championship contenders gathered at Goodwood (Picture by Tim Simpson)

At last I had a chance to try out the Redline throttle mod on a track where it would make a difference (there being no braking to heel and toe at the Brighton Speed trials and I couldn’t use the power in the pouring rain at MIRA). This really paid off, the massively increased feeling of control being able to control the engine revs under heavy barking was great, rather then the previous awful feeling of anticipation of a stationary engine slamming into the clutch and locking the back axle, spinning me off the track at Woodcote as it had in the past! Thanks Redline!

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There were a lot very competitive cars in my class at this event, three of whom (Bill McKenna – Posche 911 GT3, Tim Simpson – Honda S2000 supercharged and Alan Lee – BMW M235) I had never managed to beat in the past. Therefore I knew I had to pull out an even greater performance than when I had won my class at Goodwood earlier in the year. I psyched myslef up before the first run – don’t lift at Fordwater, don’t lift at Fordwater!

However, it started badly in practice with the traditional tricky gerabox problems as I missed 3rd gear at Madgwick, which dented my confidence. As a result of this whilst still trying too hard I not only lifted at Fordwater but had too brake on the apex as I was carrying so much speed. Even then I still managed to get two wheels on the grass as I exited the apex towards St Marys, a very scary moment! Despite this complete mess of a lap, I found that I was third fastest in class, which given the competition was pretty good!

On the first timed run I put in a much better perormance. Despite still braking at the apex of Fordwater, I went much faster into St Marys, using the whole width of the track for a change. (Like most drivers, I previously braked much too hard and early for this intimidating 90 degree right hander, only to find when I got there I was going too slow and a lot of spare space). I also push much harder through the complex at Lavant, hitting all three apices without moving the steering wheel – very satisfying to know that you had the perfect line. Unbelievably I now found myself in 2nd place as Tim Simpson had made an error, although I was only two hundredths of a second quicker than him.

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I didnt think I could catch Bill McKenna who had already put in a 2 second faster time than me in his Porsche. I was comfortably ahead of my other rivals (Andy Deeley – Nissan 200SX, Jim Giddings – TR8 and Alan Lee – BMW M235), so I thought if I could push myself even further then I might take 2nd place – something I hadnt dreamed possible before the start of the event where I though 5th or 6th were more likely.

I drove flat out (although still braking at Fordwater, I couldnt talk myslef out of it!) I was aggressive across kerb at Woodcote and sliding out of final chicane I shaking with adrenaline at the finish. However, it hadnt been enough, in fact I had gone nearly two tenths of a second slower on that lap, whilst Tim and Bill had both gone a second faster, so I finished third, still a reasonable achievement. In particular, I was very pleased to beat Alan Lee in his BMW M235 whose traction control systems had given him a great advantage at many events this year. Finally I could use the Mustang power to a greater effect!

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3rd place trophy

Congratulations for a brave perfromance on the Goodwood track to Susan Gibbard and Kim Charnley in their MX5!

Where marked, pictures in this article are by J Howie Photography.

Results

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1st 31 Bill McKenna
Porsche 911 GT3 – 95.95 secs
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2nd 29 Tim Simpson
Honda S2000 – 97.64 secs
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3rd 35 Alex Peters
Ford Mustang – 98.72 secs
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4th 32 Andy Deeley
Nissan 200SX – 100.08 secs
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5th 25 Alan Lee
BMW M235 – 100.82 secs
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6th 34 James Giddings
Triumph TR8 – 101.56 secs
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7th 33 Chris Penfold
Ford Sierra Cosworth – 102.28 secs
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8th 27 Geoff Corderoy
Reliant SS1 turbo – 104.73 secs
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9th 28 lan Halstead
Seat Ibiza turbo – 108.73 secs

How to make your American car really stop!

“It is amazing how many drivers, even at the formula one level, think that the brakes are for slowing the car down.” -Mario Andretti

This month I would like to make a couple of observations that mean you might all like to hear about the latest modifications to the Black Sun Racing Mustang (www.blacksunracing.co.uk). American cars are generally pretty heavy and therefore need powerful brakes in order to dissipate a lot of energy. The readers of American Car Magazine tend in the majority to modify their cars for performance which would suggest they like to drive them hard – then you need really good brakes. Although this story is about my Mustang it equally well applies to any heavy American car (so probably not a Corvair then….).

This is the story of all the lessons I learned while trying to get decent brakes on my Mustang, the most important lesson being that it is the middle pedal that makes you go faster (was it Mario Andretti who said that?). I hope this helps some other readers of ACM make their cars truly great!

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The old Wilwood brakes

From the moment I did my first track day in my completely stock 2007 Ford Mustang GT (with the Mustang Owners Club at Mallory Park in 2009), I found that the brakes were the weak point of the car; after just two laps they filled the car with clouds of smoke as they overheated. Their instant loss of performance terrified me and I switched to the “slow class” for the rest of the track day so that I could take it easy.

My first upgrade was to a set of EBC discs front and rear with Yellow Stuff pads. At a track day on the full Silverstone F1 circuit in 2010 I learned my next lesson – use high temperature race brake fluid. After just one lap the fluid boiled and the pedal went right to the floor. This was mildly terrifying, however, I found that by braking much more gently I could let the fluid recover and carry on.

The next time out at a Lydden Hill track day with the race fluid, in just three fifteen-minute sessions on track I reduced the almost new rear EBC brake pads to the consistency of a crumbly digestive biscuit. They really couldn’t handle the temperature resulting form the huge energy dissipation form the heavy Mustang. A lot of people use EBC and think they are OK. Maybe for street use, but I think for track use or even spirited street driving they are woefully inadequate.

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Old Wilwood 13-inch and new Hispec 16-inch discs

Next I decide to throw a load of money at the problem and buy a set of Roush brakes with 4-piston calipers and braided brake lines. They were much better than EBC but still gave me no confidence during a track day at Brands Hatch, they never gave any great feeling of deceleration and the discs warped really quickly, so they were still pretty rubbish. I changed to set of Hawk brake pads (HT14 compound front, HT10 rear) and a set of AP discs custom made to fit the Roush calipers and bell housing. This did make an improvement and I now found my next problem was cooling I would come into the pits at barnds and people would scream hysterically “your brakes are on fire!” as clouds of smoke filled the pit garage. To help with this, Trevor Kitney of Surrey Mustang fabricated a set of cooling ducts from the front spoiler and side air intakes to cool the rear brakes which did help matters. However, it wasn’t until Mike Thompson and Kevin See of Redline American Muscle improved the design with better airflow around the discs centres and added inline electric fans in the ducts to move sufficient air that the problem was really bought under control.

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Old Wilwood 6-piston (red) and new Hispec 8-piston (black) calipers

I was so desperately disappointed with the Roush brakes that would struggle to provide enough brake force to activate the ABS on a dry road, I decided to throw a load more money at the problem in the form of a set of Wilwood 6-piston caliper big brakes. These looked like the biggest discs and calipers you could buy for the Mustang off the shelf, I was sure that they would give me the performance I was hoping for – wrong again! Although they were significantly better than Roush they still had a load of problems, again without producing a significant feeling of deceleration even when you were standing on the pedal. I tried changing to a set of full race pads (Wilwood polymatrix-E) which ate through the discs in just two track days, without giving much performance testing. With new discs and fast street pads (Polymatrix-B) I did further testing and concentrated on a few of the other brake problems I had suffered for a while. I fitted large Wilwood rear 4-piston discs which did make a significant improvement to brake performance, the car lowed more effectively under control and heat dissipation at the rear was no longer an issue with the much large brake mass.

I had always had a very soft pedal. Redline American Muscle investigated and fitted a Mustang GT500 master cylinder which has 30% less power assistance than the GT version, so this helped and boosted my confidence under braking. They also noticed that there was significant flex in the Wilwood caliper, meaning that above a certain pedal pressure you get no more braking. This was the last straw for the Wilwood setup and meant that I still had to find another answer.

I approached Hispec, a local brake manufacturer in Dartford to ask if they could design some custom brakes for the Mustang. I Spoke to Geoff Bedding, the managing Director and engineering mastermind behind Hispec, who was himself a racing driver and was able to advise on my needs form a point of view of great experience. He was extremely helpful and together we specified a 400mm disc (16 inches) that would entirely fill the space in my 20 inch Steeda race wheels for swept maximum friction area. We agreed on an 8 piston caliper that uses two brake pads end to end, again to create a massive effective area (larger than the equivalent sized brakes in a Nissan GTR). Finally we chose a floating disc to give maximum resistance to warping from asymmetric heat build up. This is generally not recommended for a street application due to the chatter noise from the disc mountings, however I cant hear it over my V8 so cant see what the fuss is about!

The results were astounding, as I drove the car away from the fitting workshop the brakes felt much more effective with easy control and much greater deceleration. The caliper flex issues due to the massively stiffer design which includes cross bracing, so now I could stand on the pedal and actually get greater brake force. As I thrashed down country lanes I could feel the brakes bedding in at every turn, with the pad to disc contact are increasing. I was very pleased to find that the ABS was now coming on regularly meaning that the limit was now tyre grip rather than the brakes. Two days later I took the car the car to my first sprint event of the 2016 season at Hullavington (see last months ACM) and I am pleased to say that I scared myself witless! Being able to carry much more speed close to the apex of a corner with massively later and sharper braking meant that I had to relearn how to drive the Mustang, it really was like having a whole new car!

Some ACM readers who may have had dealings with Hispec in the past or come across Internet forum stories may have heard about Hispec customer service issues. I can be completely open about this – when I first contact Hispec I experienced the problems others described with a disinterested and dismissive attitude to my questions. However, I am very pleased to say that they have responded to customer comments with a completely new set of staff to deal with customers, chosen for their public facing relationship skills. Furthermore, these staff are receiving continuous training and monitoring to ensure that they are responding effectively to customer needs. If you have problems with Hispec in this area in the past, give them a call you will be amazed at the change!

Hispec are continuing to provide support and are currently investigating different pad compounds to further improve performance. I just wish I had approached Hispec at the beginning rather than thinking that an off the shelf design for Mustang brakes would be better. The most amazing thing is that these awesome brakes are only around half the cost of the Roush or Wilwood brakes! Give them a call and see what they can do for your American car on 01322 286 850 or http://www.hispecmotorsport.co.uk/

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16 inch Hispec discs fill the 20 inch wheels!

Hard up girls and slippery dissapointment – MIRA sprint 10-Sep-2016

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As Cameras are banned from the MIRA test track sprint event due to the secrecy of car company testing there, I have included the pictures of the Buster Lang car show at Sandown Park, where the Mustang was displayed on the stand of my Sponsor, Peter S. Taylor insurance services. They specialise in American cars, so with my car alongside their own C3 Corvette, the display pulled in a lot of interested visitors. The fact that I invited Lisa Marie L’Amour and her friends of the Buster Lang’s “Police Force” models as well as the girls from the Hard Up Garage to pose on the Mustang definitely helped!

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Mustang and Corvette on the Peter S. Taylor insurance stand

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The Lisa Marie L’Amour and friends check out the Peter S. Taylor insurance stand!

I was looking forward to the MIRA event as it normally has a very grippy track in the dry due to an experimental road surface, which allows me to use my power and gave me a class win over a four wheel drive Subaru Imprezza in 2013. However, on this occasion it was pouring with rain and in the wet the track seemed pretty appalling. On the previous event I was able to put power down without wheelspin and accelerate away from the line in the most mazing fashion, now I had to limp a long way round the initial hairpin, not daring to push the lateral grip.

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I pushed gingerly along the next short straight, before braking very early for the hairpin(even then I locked up badly and had to run massively off the racing line before recovering back to where I should be). After the next short straight and very tight chicane I was now on the long straight. I cautiously applied the power to find myself now aquaplaning as the solid barrier approached terrifyingly at the end of the straight! Fortunately, some very careful braking and a wide line round the next corner kept the car on the track. My time was pretty slow and I couldn’t see how I could easily improve it without taking some big risks, as I watched another competitor spin off the first straight and smash his car into the barrier. Fortunately the driver was OK but his car was in bits.

I found that I was further disadvantaged against the leading car, a BMW M235, as the driver was using all of his advanced traction control aids and even leaving the gear changes to the fully automated system. Not very sporting I thought as to win the event this should be a triumph of man over adverse conditions, rather than a victory for BMWs IT department.

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Just before the lunchtime break the rain stopped and the sun came out. This was really good news for me, as it allowed time for the track to dry significantly. I had been experimenting with different tyre pressures to try and find some grip, whilst fellow competitor Gordon Peters in his Nissan 350Z was changing whole sets of tyres.

I went out feeling much more confident and was rewarded with a much better performance. It was still quite slippery so I could not use all of my power and take advantage of the much more lively throttle adapted by Redline American Muscle, however, I put in a much faster lap. At the end of the final practice run just one second covered the top four cars, with me in fourth. I felt very pleased that if the track conditions continued to improve I could win! However, it started raining again. For the first timed run I managed to go nearly a second faster, but all of the other (lighter and traction equipped) cars went much faster. It rained even more and so I went slower on the final timed run, the end result was a fairly disappointing fourth out of six in class, five seconds behind the BMW.

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1st 26 Alan Lee BMW M235 2979T 60.81 secs
2nd 37 Gordon Peters Nissan 350Z GT 3500 61.24
3rd 27 Gordon Hick Seat Leon Cupra 280 1984T 62.06 secs
4th 38 Alex Peters Ford Mustang GT 4680S 65.28 secs
5th 28 John Williams Nissan 350Z 3500 70.82 secs
6th 36 Nic Houslip MG RV8 3946 77.98 secs
7th 29 Peter Elliston VW Golf 1984T DNS

Redline and Toyo find a new personal best time – Brighton Speed Trials 3-Sep-16

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I achieved a new personal best time at the 2016 Brighton Speed Trials, thanks to the contributions of two important sponsors – Redline American Muscle and Toyo Tires.

As regular readers of this column will know, one of the problems of the Mustang is a drive-by-wire throttle which has a deadzone in both hardware and software, presumably to make it easier to control the power for less experienced drivers. This means you have to push the pedal significantly to obtain an increase in revs and it is even worse when the clutch is depressed, where the ECU enters economy mode cutting fuel to all cylinders thereby forcing the engine to go direct to idle and adding a further software deadzone so that the throttle pedal is almost completely disabled. Altogether this makes heel-and-toe to keep the revs up on downshifts pretty much impossible. This resulted in me having a major spin off the track at Woodcote corner at Goodwood in 2014, when braking from 140mph down the Lavant Straight – checkout the video at http://tinyurl.com/hzyhccq

Fortunately the race car building geniuses at Redline American Muscle came up with an ingenious solution. We purchased a Mustang throttle pedal from a car breakers in the USA to investigate the solution on a number of internet forums, where the five parallel contact wires which do not touch the potentiometer tracks until the pedal is pressed significantly (there is a about a half inch gap which needs an inch of pedal travel to close). However, there are two problems with this – it is only possible to bend the wires by about an eighth of an inch, meaning there is still a large gap and secondly the gold wires are made of fairy pubes so just touching them causes them to disintegrate!

Kev and Mike came up with a much better way of dealing with the problem, which gave an adjustable engine idle speed (not normally possible with the fly by wire setup without reprogramming the ECU) and a “hot” pedal, so just touching it makes the engine scream! We set my idle to 1100 revs, probably faster than most people would want for road use, but great to stop the revs dropping between gear changes on a race track. I took the mustang out for a run on Redline’s test track and it had become a beast! I was able to heel and toe, revving the engine on downshifts under heavy braking into roundabouts just like my MX5 grass track racer – it was like having a totally new car! Bizarrely, the higher idle speed makes the car much easier to drive sedately, you can pull away smoothly from a standstill without the normal lack of low end torque luch – its just like driving an automatic that will creep forward smoothly without touching the throttle. If you want your ‘stang transformed into the great car it should have been go and see Mike and Kev and ask them to work their magic!

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Kevin See, Mike Thompson and Alex Peters at the new Redline workshop in Hoo, Kent

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After the crazy sliding around at Silverstone, I ordered a new set of tyres from Toyo. Rather than the R888 tyres that I had been using for the last three seasons, these were the new R888R tyres that meet new tougher EU regulations. Earlier in the season a (very rich) competitor had purchased a set of nearly all of the MSA list 1B tyres (semi slick road / race tyres) for side by side comparison at a track day. I am pleased to say that he decided the Toyo R888R was a clear winner giving more grip than anything else! I often see the question “what is the best performance tyre for my car?” on many petrolhead forums. I can recommend the Toyo R888 and more importantly the new R888R – although they are “race” tyres, they are road legal and work fine in the wet, being a softer compound they offer more grip than normal summer road tyres and when you warm them up on a track day they are amazing! Give my friend Alan Meaker of Toyo a call on 07879 813915, tell him Alex Peters of Black Sun Racing recommended Toyo to you and see what he can do for you!

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Madeira Drive at Brighton has a very bumpy track with changing surface conditions and buildings that swing out across the finish line, making it a very different prospect from racing along a conventional drag strip. With my traditional gear change problems meaning I was off the power for half a second between first, second third and fourth which massively compromised my time. However, the throttle mods from Redline and the extra grip from the Toyo R88R tyres combined to give me a new personal best time of 13.15 seconds over the quarter mile.

I was very proud of the end result of 8th of 23 in class being beaten only by the most amazing cars that (a lot) of money can buy including A McLaren 650S and four wheel drive Porsche 911 and Nissan GTR. Of this huge class of supercars worth many times the value of the Mustang, I managed to beat a Corvette Z06, Jaguar XKR-S, Porsche 911, Ferrari 430 and F40! I hope they went home crying that they had wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds to be beaten by a Mustang!

My great supporter Pete Findlow who normally helps me out with the car at Crystal Palace, turned up at Brighton to be my pit crew for the day. He helped set the car up and provided a useful discussion on tactics after each run.

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Pete Findlow, my pit crew for the day!

Unfortunately, due to the massively non-standard variety of class structures that the Brighton and Hove Motor Club use for all their events, the Speed Trials had been excluded from the Speed League Championship. However, in recognition of this, the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club presented trophies for the three fastest of their members entering this event and I am proud to say that I came second behind the slick-tyred Sylva Phoenix racing car of Jeff Wiltshire!
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Receiving the second place Sevenoaks club member’s trophy

Results

1st 109 Justin NICHOLSON
Porsche 991 11.05 secs
2nd 105 Paul KENNEY
Nissan GTR R35 11.3 secs
3rd 96 Joe EAGLE
McLaren 650S Spider 11.88 secs
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4th 90 Paul BLACK
TVR Sagaris 12.07 secs
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5th 98 Stuart GILBERT
MGB GT V8 12.15 secs
6th 112 Simon PAUL
Toyota Supra 12.2 secs
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7th 99 Dean GOLDING
Porsche GT3 12.53 secs
8th 113 Alex PETERS
Ford Mustang GT 13.15 secs
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9th 103 Gerry HULFORD
Jaguar XKR-S 13.22 secs
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10th 116 Philip WEST
Ford Sierra XR4x4 13.31 secs
11th 94 Graham CAVE
Ferrari F430 F1 13.51 secs
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12th 102 Piers HULFORD
Vauxhall Monaro 13.55 secs
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13th 93 Peter BROWN
Mercedes AMG E63 Wagon 13.59 secs
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14th 106 David MANSER
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 13.82 secs
15th 101 Jonathan HARMER
Marcos Mantis 13.88 secs
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16th 95 Patrick CURRAN
Mercedes CLK Auto 14.48 secs
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17th 110 Robert ORAM
Jaguar E Type 14.57 secs
18th 111 Robert ORAM
Ferrari F40 14.84 secs
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19th 100 Marc HANSON
MG SV 14.88 secs
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20th 114 Brian TYRER
Porsche 911 15.11 secs
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21st 104 Lee KEATING
Ford Mustang 15.27 secs
22nd 107 Arthur MASSEY
Triumph TR7 15.56 secs
23rd 108 Colin MELHUISH
TVR Chimaera 15.74 secs

Sliding like Farina – Silverstone 4-Jun-2016

(Photos by Neil Lock)

This was the first time I had competed at the Silverstone Stowe circuit. I had low expectations of the track itself, as I had raced on the full Formula One circuit in the past, the Stowe circuit sits inside the main track. I imagined it to be little more than a go-kart track, however, it is based on the main runways of the second world war airfield and so is actually the track that was used for the very first Formula One race in 1950. This lead me to dream of the great drivers of the era – Farina and Fangio racing at the same location I was now facing. However, the field I was up against looked much more competitive than me.

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Appropriately for such a historic venue, scrutineering was carried out the old fashioned continental way, the night before the event, so I drove there direct from the Abingdon sprint (which I had left early thinking it was a disaster but found out later that I had actually scored quite a few points). When I got there I had to sit in a very long and slow scrutineering queue, where the engine had cooled down and so failed the noise test at 108dB, double the 105dB limit! The scrutineer was very helpful and suggested that I drove around the circuit perimeter track to warm up the exhaust. I took the opportunity to thrash the engine at high revs, sliding around the roundabouts and having a great time. Fortunately this did the track and I passed the test to race the next day.

The started on a low note as I passed fellow competitor Nick Attridge on the motorway who had broken down in his supercharged Aston Martin DB7. I stopped to help but he was happy to have the RAC recover him home and so wouldn’t be competing. As well as being a good friend, Nick was the only car in my class that I had beaten in the past, so I was going to have a much tougher event.

My biggest problem was that my tyres had completely worn out at Abingdon the day before, I have rarely had so little grip and so with 573BHP the car was really quite scary. To make things worse the day started cold and damp, so I had to drive around on tiptoe. Despite that, the car was all over the place, I couldn’t put the power down, corner fast or brake hard into corners. You can watch the mustang sliding around Silverstone more like a ballet dance at blacksunracing.co.uk or at facebook.com/BlackSunRacing/  photo 1465118026566_zpsde82r6gk.jpg

Amazingly, despite my grip problems and cautious driving, I was fastest in first practice as both Gordon Peters in his Nissan 350Z and Brian Winstone in his Porsche 911 GT3 RS lost it at the chicane as they were perhaps pushing too hard in the damp conditions.

For my final timed lap, the track had dried considerably, but my tyres had gone completely, so it was like driving on ice. I accelerated along the start straight trying to keep wheelspin under control and went delicately through the long Hamilton chicane until I could see the exit, however, with the ever-present worries about the gearbox I had avoided changing and lost revs, so that I was way out of the power band on the exit. Learning the lesson from this, on the long entry to Damon’s hairpin I feathered the throttle a couple of times as I could feel the back stepping out, trying to balance grip against letting the revs drop too much in third gear. If I changed down to second, I would be right on the redline and forced to change up again straight away on the exit, with the very big risk of missing the change completely. Passing the middle of the hairpin, I allowed the car to go into a four wheel drift with the tail rotating faster than the nose so that it was pointing down the straight before I had even reached the end of the corner, enabling me to get the power down early. I was very proud of this particular masterpiece of driving – although much of the rest of the lap was less successful!

I powered through the Mansell chicane which had been set up so that it could be taken flat and hit the redline in third as I approached the Hunt chicane. If had a better gearbox, again I would have changed to fourth but instead held it before braking hard. This chicane was made of tyre bundles and barrels which would do a lot of damage if I hit them. The exit of the chicane was much tighter than the entry requiring even more braking. Fortunately I stayed in the power band in third as I pulled away from the chicane and was gentle on the throttle guiding the car round the Stewart curve. However, coming into the Surtees esses, the car fishtailed wildly as I had absolutely no grip, this section of the track being much worse! I used all of the kerbs trying to give the car as much space as possible up the connecting straight to the Clark curve, but it was all I could do to keep the car on the track as I crossed the finish line, frustrated that i couldn’t use the power of the Mustang.

With all of the difficulties I had with the Mustang with worn tyres, gearbox jams and unresponsive throttle, I sometimes dream of my old TVR Chimaera which was so much easier to drive. However, looking at the large number of TVRs competing in a separate class on the same day, my time would have put me just below the middle of their class. I think that with new tyres and the throttle issue fixed I could probably have been much nearer the front so I should persevere with the Mustang.

Overall it was a fairly poor result finishing at the back of the class, several seconds adrift. However, amazingly despite a series of fairly consistent if unspectacular results, I was amazed to find that ta the mid-season point I was leading the sprint championship! However, I would definitely have to improve my performance to carry this position on to the end of the season and win!

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Leading the championship

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1st Gordon Peters Nissan 350Z

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2nd Brian Winstone Porsche GT3 RS

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3rd Alex Peters Ford Mustang GT

100th of a second faster than a rival – Abingdon 4-Jun-16

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The Abingdon sprint consists of runs over two courses with final results worked out by adding the two times together. The first course is around the perimeter track of the airfield and features some very fast bends, whilst the second course uses the main runway with some very tight corners that favour the smaller cars. I knew from previous experience that the Mustang had to do well on the first course for a good result.

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As always at Abingdon I was in a very large class of 18 cars include a lot of interesting old triumph GT6s and an Alfa Romeo, as well as the regular group of more competitive modern cars headed by Bill McKenna’s Porsche 911 GT3, a couple of supercharged mini JCWs, Jim Giddings TVR engined Triumph TR8, Gordon Peters impressive Nisan 350Z, Simon Taylors rapidly improving turbocharged Renault Alpine GTA and the turbocharged MX5 that had just beaten me at Rushmoor earlier in the season.

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Unlike the 2015 event, I had the SLP exhaust fitted which gave me considerably more power. I also had the HiSpec brakes, which gave me much more confidence than ever before, enabling me to carry much more speed into the 90 degree left hander at the end of the main straight. I knew that on my final run i had really got the hang of the track. If I could get a clean lap together I could move up to 3rd place. I absolutely flew through the fast curve into the chicane and then slid around the cones as I pushed the power hard back onto the straight. My heart was pounding as I knew I had really improved my time through the difficult section and all I had to do was get the car home cleanly – however, as I pulled out of the chicane with the supercharger screaming I changed to third – and the usual gearbox problem reappeared so I juggled with 5th, 2nd and finally third before I reached the next corner. It was a disaster and I was very upset knowing what a great result I could have achieved.

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Despite the problems I was in 5th place on the first course behind Simon Taylor, just ahead of Jim Giddings. I thought I made an even worse mess of the second course, struggling for gear changes whilst trying to haul the Mustang round corners so tight they would have been a problem on full lock even at parking speeds! I was so disappointed with my performance I didn’t even check the times believing that I had a completely hopeless the event and went home feeling rather despondent. However, when I eventually received the results by email I was amazed to find that as with every year Jim got faster on the second course, while Simon got slower, so that I remained in 5th place with my aggregate time just 0.01 seconds faster than Simon! This was far better than I had imagined possible as I scored a lot of points because of the very large class, beating 13 other competitors.
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RESULTS

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1st 67 Bill McKenna
Porsche 996 98.45
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2nd 51 Richard Trevail
BMW Mini JCW 101.82
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3rd 66 Gordon Peters
Nissan 350Z GT 103.33
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4th 68 Jim Giddings
Triumph TR7 V8 105.88
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5th 69 Alex Peters
Ford Mustang GT 106.65
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6th 60 Simon Taylor
Alpine Renault GTA 106.66
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7th 57 Andy Deeley
Nissan 200SX 107.12
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8th 53 Nicholas Horne
Mazda MX5 107.57
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9th 54 Paul Braddock
BMW Mini Cooper 110.85
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10th 55 Michael Duncan
Volkswagen Scirocco 111.53
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11th 52 Tony Shearman
Ford Fiesta 111.75
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12th 64 Nick Smith
Triumph TR6 2B 112.60
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13th 58 John Le Poidevin
Alfa Romeo 159 2.4 JTDm 116.38
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14th 63 Roger McEwen
Triumph TR6 Pi 121.26
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15th 59 Robert Mead
Triumph TR4 121.57
16th 38 Martin Paine
Triumph TR6 126.93
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17th 65 Chris Roberts
Triumph TR8 130.19
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18th 61 Tom Purves
Triumph TR3a 5 130.90