<- Waits for the post about how the tires flew off the wheels because they weren't glued...
Race night arrives. I can't be bothered to stick around at work, so I head off to the track nice and early and help the organisers put out the tables. Once I've got somewhere to sit, I unpack the car and start getting my pit space set up for a night's endurance. Car on my old Pedigree Bitter barmat, transmitter to hand, batteries out of box and ready, charger plugged in and switched on, tools laid out neatly and cooling stand ready to be fired up for intense cooling duties after each stint.
I remove the wheels from the car and pull off the unglued tyres. I've never bothered to glue Tamiya TC tyres, because I've never had them come off (apart from after my very first race with the TA05, when the inner rim of a tear tyre came slightly off). I push-fit a Sorex 24 tyre, but it seems way too loose to stay put. I use a Tamiya tyre insert, which makes it sit a little firmer on the rim and feels better too. I figure it'll do for the first race, just so I can see how it handles. The tyres are seriously sticky - I don't know if there's some release agent put on them when they're manufactured, but after fitting them to the wheels my hands were royally gummed up.
I then reset the rear shocks back to their stock position, as I'd tuned in a little too much grip for the borrowed Sorex tyres the previous week. The rest of the car seemed find and ready to race, so I let it be and went to watch some practicing, figuring the racing would start soon. I chose not to run a practice session as I wasn't sure how long I'd get between stints for charging. In the end, I'd have probably had enough time to drain the pack on track and fully recharge it, as the club seemed to be having some technical problems and it took a while to get the teams organised.
Team sheets were written up by hand. There were seven teams of 3 or 4 members, which meant up to 7 cars on track at any one time - endurance can sometimes be a bit crazy! I was to be racing with young Callum, with his green Mini, and a top-heat racer called Ben, who had forgone his touring car for a Mardave rigid-axle chassis for the endurance race. Ben apologised quickly and said his basic car would hold back our team's lap count, but we weren't bothered and just wanted to enjoy the racing.
We chose a running order of Ben first, Callum second and myself last, so I made sure my car was ready then headed off to my marshalling post.
Endurance really is crazy for marshalling. There's a huge mix of skill, experience and technology on track at the same time, from youngsters in their first season with box-stock TT01s and Minis, to long-term drivers with club-legal hot motors and tuned chassis, all the way up to experienced racers using the non-championship format as a chance to get their other cars set up for this weekend's Thrashnals. During my first stint I think I spent longer in the middle of the track picking up overturned cars than I did stood at my post. Truly manic!
I ran to the track on the second whistle, eager to test out my latest mods. Callum pulled his car into the pit lane, and I was cleared to go. And go I did. Straight into the barrier.
The car was like driving on ice. I had literally no grip. The car would accelerate in a straight line, then understeer on full lock and head straight into the barrier. It did it almost every corner. Then the front started to grip, and the back end was flying around everywhere. I really wished that I'd taken five minutes in the practice to scrub in the tyres - there surely must be something on them that needs scrubbing off before they work properly.
Then the tyres flew off the wheels because they weren't glued.
I knew something wasn't right at the end of the first or second lap, when the car shot sideways for no reason. Then a rubber hoop went bouncing across the track to be caught by a marshal. The car ground slowly the pit lane, the other rear tyre having come off and jammed the wheel. So early in my stint, there was nobody from my team waiting in the pit lane, so I had to grab my car and run back to Ben's pit area. "I'm out with technical problems." I told him. "Are you ready to race yet?" He was, but not without hunting in his toolbox for a few minutes to lend me some proper tyre glue.
Good stuff, that glue, but very thin! I think I managed to stick myself to just about everything I touched. I stuck the car to my Pedigree mat, which left some annoying hard gluey bits in the towelling. Oh well, an excuse to go looking for another bar mat, I suppose! With just the outsides of the tyres glued, I left them to set and relieved Callum from his marshalling duties.
Having glued the insides of the tyres after my marshalling stint, I was busy unsticking myself from my Pedigree mat when the whistle blew. With fingers unstuck, I headed to the track and picked up from Callum. Once again, the car was like driving on ice, but at least the tyres stayed on, and after a couple of laps everything started to bed in. The car still felt a little loose at the rear, but it was improving all the time.
Sadly, the same can't be said for my driving. I managed to find a good couple of minutes in the middle of my stint to get in some good solid laps, but I wasn't really on form. I found myself forever turning too early or too late for corners, catching the apex and rolling or bashing straight into the barrier. That said, my car was seriously quick in a straight line, able to power past most others on the straights. I even found that, when I got it right, I could thread around other cars in the tight sections and make some good progress, but then I'd let myself down with another series of big crashes. Thankfully I mostly avoided hitting other cars, but I was getting worried for the state of my own when the whistle blew.
I didn't change anything except the battery. The rear diff felt a little loose, but endurance racing in a team of 3 doesn't leave a lot of time for adjustment, so I left it be and got to the track before the whistle blew. I got straight out onto the circuit and took care to warm the tyres before I really went for it, although the horrendous cold-tyre understeer still caught me out at one point. When I got back into the racing, I was a little steadier than before. I tried to concentrate on lines rather than speed, and went back to my original style of keeping out of people's way and making steady progress rather than overtaking four cars in a lap and then losing five places when I got stuck in a barrier. I was mostly better than before, although a bad exit from the top corner put my car into a multiple barrel-roll that would have become an overnight Youtube sensation had it happened in 1:1 GT racing. The car landed upside down next an empty marshal post, and stayed there for some time.
Slightly angry with myself for making too many mistakes, I was almost glad when I was relieved at the end of my stint.
Again, I found no point in making changes. A freshly-topped battery went into the car, along with a little extra tape to try to keep the multitude of wires in place. I was at the pit lane as the whistle blew and on track for the last time. We weren't sure how long was left to run, and the field was getting thin, so I decided to get in some good laps and finish on a high. It was then that I realised part of my problem: I had reverted to the old driving style I'd adopted for the slippery Tamiya slicks - throw it into the corners, let the back end slide around, then power out. The faster drivers don't spin their cars nearly as much as I do. They stay planted and straight all the way around, even on the fast corners, engine pulling, using 4wd traction to keep the car flat on the carpet. I started to try it, and was amazed at the extra speed I could carry through corners when I went in smooth and straight.
Of course, I was still bashing barriers and clipping apexes, but my laps felt much faster.
Many people seemed to pack up and go after their last driving stint, because marshals were thin on the ground until the final whistle blew.
I'll keep it brief this week, as there's not really much to say. The car doesn't need any new bits and nothing needs repairing. The tyres are covered in dust and dirt, like a scale version of an F1 tyre after its warm-down lap, but they're still stuck to the wheels. The glue is finally beginning to peel off my left index finger, although I expect it'll remain on my nail until it grows out in a few months time. The only problem I have seems to be with the bio-organic input device that holds the transmitter.
No lap times this week, as the timing system didn't seem to be in use. The team came in 5th out of 7, which was probably to be expected as all of us spent time in the pits when we should have been on track.
Next week is back to regular championship racing, so hopefully I can improve my game and try to up my laptimes.
Next week's goal: to finish better than last place in my heat by merit.