Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Clanfield Winter Series - Round 6

Or finally the weather relents... sort of.

After what seems like an eternity Clanfield was finally blessed with some decent weather for Round 6 of their Winter Series, at least for qualifying. It all went a bit Pete Tong later in the day, but we'll come to that in a minute.

The more astute of you will be thinking 'but wait, if this is the report for Round 6, what happened to Round 5?', and well you may ask. It rained. A lot. A few hardy souls raced, and then spent the next week rebuilding very poorly cars. Dave Dibble, Byrners, Tony RC and myself, we came, we saw, we buggered off for a fry up at Loomies fine biker cafe. If you're ever out that way head to the Meon Hut cross roads on the A272 for some of the finest bangers around, highly recommended. Anyway, back to round 6.

After something of a false start (driving off with both mine and the wifes house keys, oops), and getting lost (how the hell did I forget how to get to Clanfield and wind up driving into Pompey?) I finally made it to Clanfield to find the track cold, but bathed in wondrous spring like sunshine. It was almost overwhelming after the lousy winter we've had so far!

Numbers were down on recent events, but truggy numbers were up to nine, some thing of a record of late. Dave Dibble was popping his truggy cherry with another EBay bargain Losi 8ight T2, joined by Tony RC with his Christmas present Losi and futher support for Losi came from Lee 'Tortoise' Warren, returning from his regular winter hibernation, and Jimmy Tattlow. Rich Hobbs was running another Losi, I think an original 8ight with Alpha power. Byrners, Paul Berky Berkinshaw and I were rolling with AE as usual, and Adam Bailey was running a fully rebuilt Hyper looking considerably spankier than it had last time out!

The buggy boys featured the regulars, including a few of the Agama flock, Jamie Kerr trying to get some wheel time before his trip to the Neo race in a months time. I won't mention Jon Wolfe at this point, having dropped him in it with the misses after the last race report. Sorry buddy, we'll stop laughing about it soon, promise.

The track was looking damp, but no where near as sodden as expected. One bonus to Clanfield is that it does drain really well, and so dries up quicker than any dirt track I know. Tony B and Les had been out with a whacker plate the day before tarting up the worst areas of the track, so it was rough but perfectly drivable and practice showed that most of the jumps were much better than last time out. They seem to wear to a point of blowing out and becoming unpredictable, but then settle back in with some weathering. It was going to be a challenge, but then that's why we race off-road and not touring cars.

Ten minutes off free practice got the Alpha S851 in my truggy tuned up and singing. The little mill has some serious millage on it, but puts a grin on my face every time I get to open it up. The bottom-end is massive but not explosive and tuned right on the top end it can sing out with the best of them. My setup changes had worked for the most part, but the back end was still skipping and the HB red compound tyres were just a little too hard for the cold conditions.

for round one qualifying I elected not to change anything, and rolled out for the five minute run. Everything went well, and a pretty consitent, if not particularly fast, round saw a solid 7 laps and fifth place. Clearly it was time for a change. I've been struggling to get on top of the truggy for a while, and not getting 8 lappers in, which is where I need to be. I was going to be busy in the 15 minute break!

Rear springs were softened, and the rear ride height substantially dropped. A change of tyres was made, the HB Blocks and Khaos making way for a set of worn LRP Kamikaze medium compounds. I'd have loved a set of softs, but there were none in my tyre box. The Kamikaze has long been the tyre of choice for Clanfield, especially in the damp, and I probably should have switched back some time ago.

Round two was much better. The truggy was as consistent as before, but the rear end was much more planted, meaning I could be far more aggressive into the corners, and use more throttle through the rougher sections of the track. I was straight back into the 8 lap bracket, winding up fourth behind Byrners, Tatlow and Tony RC.

For round three I figured it was probably best to leave everything alone.I drove a little more erratically, again an 8 lapper behind the usual suspects, but 10 seconds slower. I caught traffic, and had a slight red-mist moment. I need to learn to calm down, or at least drink less coffee on race days.

Out for round four, and no Jimmy T in sight, out with a blown servo. My best qualy of the day, an 8 in 5:29... well chuffed with that. Mention of the round has to be Dave O'brien though, coming in just 9.76s short of an 8 lapper on his first time out with a truggy, and only his fourth ever nitro race. Top job geezer.

Qualifying over, and the top five truggys were

  1. Mark Byrne
  2. James Tattlow (JT would not run the final due to breaking)
  3. Tony 'RC' Scott
  4. John Clarke (me)
  5. Lee Warren

In buggy it was a close fought battle for TQ honors, Jon Wolfe taking it on count-back from Tommy Chung both having scored 400 points. Third and fourth was also a count back, Francois Nerriere taking it from Jamie Kerr. Jamie must have been kicking himself for the school-boy error that saw one of his wheels over-taking his car at the end of the main straight during round two. Coach Byrne wasn't impressed.

Time for the finals, and at this point mother nature played her joker. The A final truggies took to the rostrum to a dry track, but an overcast sky. Just as the countdown started the rain began to come down. Truggy drivers are a hardy bunch, and we all stayed out but I have to say it was probably the hardest 15 minutes of driving I've ever done. The track got crazy slick, and a really gentle throttle finger was needed.

I cam off third on the grid, and briefly had second before getting carried away at the first jump and binning it. Bugger, I'm last. A quick chase back saw me up to fourth and running ever so slightly faster than Lee in third. Byrners was running away with it, Tony RC in second trading fast laps but over all falling back from the Iceman. I couldn't quite get u to Lee, too many silly bobbles kept knocking me back. Pit stops at 8 minutes saw a quick turn-around for the top three. Knowing I could do 10 minutes I opted to stop a lap later to ensure a clear pit lane, and the binned it on the way in. Bugger again. Twinkle-toes Berky my pit man was quick to recover the car, and I was soon off after Lee again, but the mishap cost me time and meant all chance of catching Lee was pretty much gone. I kept pushing though, and racing on the slick track was proving a fun challenge. I think my recent time with 2wd electric is helping me to drive smoothly and in the conditions that paid dividends.

Late in the race I noticed a minor altercation on track as Byrners was passing Lee, who I was managing to reel in by this point. I don't know quite what happend, but the next thing I know is that Lee's car has gone rogue and shot off the back of the far right hand banked corner. I think probably a run away. I'm up to third due to Lee's misfortune, and cruising. Mark's a lap up, and Tony get's me for a lap just before the line. Still, a third is a third, handy championship points, I'll take it!

By the end of the Truggy A final the tracks awash, the rains coming down and the buggy boys in light of the experience a couple of weeks earlier elect to knock it on the head. Good call I think, if disappointing.

So, it all comes down to the final round at the end of the month. The truggy championship is probably between Tattlow and Byrners, with me hovering to take third factoring in dropped rounds. But Byrners and I don't have any rounds in hand and a number of other drivers do, so a bad day for either of us could have a huge effect. It's crunch time and the pressure is on. My money is on the Iceman FTW, but we'll have to see.

Big thanks to the Clanfield crew, Jon 'RC SureStart' B and Chris S-S for running a great event, Tony and Les for the track work, Nora for the coffee, Berky and Jon Wolfe for pitting and the racers for a good morning of banter. Lets hope next time we can get a full day's racing under some more spring sunshine.

Full results here (courtesy of Clanfield RC Club)

Photos to follow.

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