It was an early start Sunday for a visit to Slough for some 1/8 buggy action in Round 3 of their winter championship. So, up and in the car at 6:30am and on the road to pick up Tony 'RC' Scott and Dave 'Dave' O'Brien and their kit. Once everything (and everyone) was packed (rammed) into the car and after a quick pit-stop at Dave's house we were on the M3 and Slough-bound. Much amusement was had by all watching the external temperature gauge nose-dive as we headed up country. A reading of -2 on leaving Southampton had become -5 on arrival track-side. Nervous glances were exchanged, and all were glad that a large number of clothing layers had been packed!
Bags of space. People still ask why I have an estate
Gazebo up, tables and cars ready breakfast was now the next priority... sadly the usual on-site catering was absent due to unforeseen circumstances so an emergency run to the local shop was made to provision for the day.
It's not exactly F1 you know...
Numbers were down on the usual Slough turn-out, but a few of the top UK drivers had turned up, Tommy Chung and his Kyosho MP9, Lee Martin now rolling the Tamiya TRF buggy and of course Jon Hazlewood and the Agama. They would be the runners to keep and eye on.
Round one qualifying took place an a frozen solid, and I mean solid track. I was running the Losi 8ight EU with Alpha 850 power, stock set-up and Proline Calibre M2 tyres. I was on a solid but unspectacular run when the car lost drive at about 2:30. Back in the pits it became obvious the engine mounts had slipped, moving the clutch out of mesh. School-boy error, but probably to be expected with a new car I guess, and easily fixed.
Round 2 was a no show for me. Having re-aligned the motor I went to fire up only to discover that the clutch nut had backed off, so no drive. Today was not going well. Tony had problems in round one, but was going much better in round 2, with Dave the opposite with a good first round and a cut in round 2. We'd leaned the the engine slightly to try and get some more bottom end on his car, but went to far. In the end a dragging clutch was the real issue.
Round 3 was much better, Dave getting a solid 6 lapper in and Tony and me getting 7 laps in with Tony about 12 seconds quicker than me.
With qualifying done the finals were posted, Dave and I were in the C final and Tony in the B. Over the forty-five minute lunch break I made a couple of tweaks to the car, the rear shocks were stood up and a little more front toe out was added. I hoped this would calm down the rear end a little and make the car more consistent. A change to lighter shock oils would probably have been a good move due to the cold conditions, but I decided not to, I'd see how my limited changes worked first.
Lunchtime, and Tony RC fettles Dave's car for him
The twenty minute C final started with me in seventh, and at this stage I have to say a massive thanks once more to Alan Dell for pitting for me. I always feel a little more pressure when the long-standing England team manager is looking after me, but at least I know I have one of the best in the business! The driving standards in the final were 'interesting' and by the end of the first lap I was pretty much last. Over the next 20 minutes I just tried to be quick but consistent and make clean passes when I could. Truth told I had little idea where I was in the race, and just pushed as hard as I comfortably could. Two awesome pit-stops and 20 minutes of clean(ish) driving later netted me the win by a lap. For my first proper final with the Losi I was well chuffed, and really pleased with the set-up changes I had made. Dave had been looking comfortable in second, but sadly had radio issues with about five minutes to go and had to retire. Still, for his first real nitro race it was a stellar performance.
So, I'd bumped to the B final. A quick run-around to find a new pit man (big thanks to Mark Thomas for helping me out), and off we go for another 20 minutes of mayhem. Another steady drive from 11th on the grid saw a 10th place finish. Miscommunication in the pits caused an over long first pit-stop, meaning I finished about 3 seconds down on Tony 'RC' who was in 9th. Truth told I'd also let him through thinking he was un-lapping me after an earlier issue, a theory he had confirmed at the time... hum, something tells me I was scammed!
It was a shame I was marshalling the A final, as I get the impression it was a belter. Tommy had TQ'ed from the ever quick Jon H and Lee bringing his Tamiya to third on the grid. From what I saw Tommy was fast, but didn't look it, Jon was fast but ragged and Lee was just on fire. The final result saw Lee take the win by about 16 seconds from Tommy with Jon coming in third, around 25 seconds further back. It's always amazing to see the really fast guys up close, the standard of driving and sheer speed is breath taking.
Dave O'Brien, a slightly chilly nitro convert
All in all, a great days racing despite the cold. Dave's taken to nitro racing like a duck to water, and I'm much happier with the Losi buggy than I ever was with my old Associated. Roll on the summer!