I arrived at the track at about 8 o'clock and pitched up with the rest of the Clanners. Mark Byrne was running his AE RC8B as was Cameron Taylor. Chris Spencer-Smith was running a Kyosho MP9 (and contemplating a JQ), Jamie Kerr was rolling his usual X-Ray and Tony RC and Dave O'Brien were both in the Losi camp with me. Latest additions to the 'team' were Ben Elliot, also running X-Ray and Jordan with a brand new JQ. Gazebo's pitched and pit tables set up, a few of us ventured out for some last minute practice whilst Nora got the kettle on. The arctic conditions made a hot coffee even more tempting than normal!
The Clanners on the road
The track was frozen solid for practice, and rear end grip was almost non-existent regardless of tyre choice or chassis. I was running a new set of red compound Hot Bodies tyres, Khoas on the back and Blocks on the front. This produced a stunning amount of turn-in, but a very loose car on corner exit. Dialing in a lot of negative expo on the throttle helped, but for a very smooth throttle finger was still required, at least by my normal (truggy oriented) standards. Back in the pits a thicker front anti-roll bar was fitted, the theory being taking off a little of the front end grip should help give a more neutral balance to the car.
After the standard drivers briefing from Adrian Svenson it was straight into round one qualifying. Dave was out first and it soon became apparent that the track had changed some what since practice twenty minutes earlier. The previously frozen surface had thawed out, and was now a quagmire that was in many cases quite literally sucking in cars and stopping them dead. I've never seen a track change so much so quickly!
Mark B's new shell. Paint by me, mud by Slough.
When it became obvious what was going on I rushed back to the pit bench to alter the car ready for my third heat run. Raise the ride height, richen the engine to cope with the mud and dowse the car in GT85. I went out with the rest of the field, and I have to admit went pretty well considering. The car stayed relatively clean compared to many others, and the engine was running as well at the end of the run as at the start... the tune seemed pretty spot on for the conditions. 6 laps in 5 some odd isn't going to set the world on fire, but I was steady and made it to the end of the run with a car in one piece and still just about recognisable!
Given the state of most of the cars by this point I got off quite lightly
Marshalling was a nightmare, I'd drawn point four - the bombhole, which was probably the wettest section of the track. Jumping in to pull out cars was tricky with out slipping over, getting back up and out again was almost impossible. The end result was a good belt in the shins by a flying car as I struggled back to my marshaling point. I don't know how many cars finished in heat four, but I suspect not many. The conditions were getting progressively worse and cars were grinding to a halt all over the place.
Some mud (and Dave's car) after round 2 qualifying. Flames not visible...
I elected not to go out in round 2, having pitted for Dave whose car got so bogged down it actually managed to combust it's clutch(!) before eventually giving up the fight and quitting. Marshalling heat four, round 2 was much simpler as only one car went out, everyone else deciding to sit the round out. Chris Spencer-Smith Kyosho clutch faired little better. The shoes disappeared in a pool of aluminum slag, the spring melted and the clutch pins were so deformed a new flywheel will be needed. It was RC carnage all round.
Dave's clutch, post fire. Now that's commitment!
Back in the pits I was contempating running in round 3. Then, disaster... Some how the car had been left on with the transmitter off. Sat like this for an hour and half or so had put a huge strain on the throttle servo and blown the motor. Two lessons to be learned, one - I should always make sure the cars off before killing the transmitter and two - I should really set my fail safe up better. Ah well, at least that sorted my dilemma of whether to run or not. I'd be qualifying based on only one round. Bottom final for me then! A mad thrash then ensued to clean the car and fit a spare servo kindly supplied by Mark to get me back out for the final. Big thanks to both Mark and Tony RC for pitching in.
Everyone else went out for round three, and it soon became obvious that the track was coming back round and the conditions were improving. It might actually be possible to run the anticipated 15 minute finals.
Tony 'RC' Scott tries out for the QVC channel!
At the end of qualifying Jordan and I were in the bottom 'F' final, Dave in the 'E', Byrners in the 'D', Tony RC in the 'C' and Clanfield star Jamie 'The Boy' Kerr in the 'A' final. Great driving Jamie. Star of the day though has to be Ben, new to off road racing and with a less than stellar engine he'd managed a run into the 'B' final, and was looking really good out on track. With more track time under his belt I think he'll be giving Jamie a hard time pretty soon.
My final had an eventful start, with me getting knocked to the back at the first chicane. After that it was head down and drive through the field. I managed to get into the flow, and after five minutes of so the car was feeling pretty good. I wound up fifth after 15 minutes, missing the bump spot by one place. Given that Jon 'Bump-up King' Dell went all the way from first in my final to a good finish in the A I don't feel quite so bad!
Dave drove really well in his final, his smooth electric style certainly shows. Sadly his engine was miss-behaving badly and meant he couldn't really show what he could do. I have to admit I missed the D and C finals, but I know Byrners started a bump up run, bumping from the D to C, and then C to B. By the B final I was back to help Dave pit him, and a missed communication resulted in a cut after his stop, probably due to alack of fuel on the way in. It was irrelevant as he lost drive shortly after, his clutch bell shedding it's teeth. Ben had been staring, leading the B, but again a missed call resulted in him running out of fuel on the way into the pits, and the lost time put him out of contention. Better luck next time mate...
Just the A final now, and Jamie Kerr was our last chance of a staring turn. He elected to change tyres before going out, bolting on a set of M2 Calibers. They didn't seem to work, I would suggest the compound was to hard for the cold wet conditions. He was driving well, but didn't seem to be able to get into his usual flow, and was making to many mistakes, eventually finishing outside the top 10. A great days racing and a good final, but he was kicking himself for making that last minute change... lesson learned for next time, as his manger, Mark B was quick to point out!
All in all a great days racing, only let down by breakages and the track conditions. All being well we'll be back on the 20th February for another crack. Here's hoping it's as much fun.
Click here for full results (courtesy of RemoteWorld)