After some great performances at the Main Event at Santa Pod UK, we looked forward to competing at the Summer Nationals, again at Santa Pod. Our first off the trailer qualifying run netted us a great 6.15 to put us in the number 1 spot. We then managed to improve to a 6.11 in Q2, but in the final qualifying session we lost the run due to the parachutes falling out on the way up to pre stage! We were able to make a run out of session however, after repacking the chutes we improved to a 6.08, despite it not counting it provided us some valuable data. Qualifying number 1 meant we had a bye run in the first round and another opportunity to test. Just as well we had a bye run as the car traveled approximately 10 feet before going in to violent tyre shake! Time to change gear ratios and calm it all down a bit. In the second round we faced Wayne Nicholson and made we no mistake with a 6.14. Michel and the Pro Dutch team on the other side of the ladder ran a 6.15 so we knew the final was going to be a tough race. We made some small changes to the setup to hopefully improve our ET, Andy felt confident as the car was behaving well, the track conditions were great, everything looked good. Andy managed to cut a great 0.05 reaction time and stayed ahead of Michel for the whole run, 6.09 to a losing 6.14. All in all it was one of our best meetings with only one bad run and more importantly a win and as a bonus, no broken parts!
So on to the Mopar Nationals, we arrived at the track feeling confident after our great performance at the Summer Nationals. Unfortunately our run of good luck was due to run out! In the first session of qualifying we couldn't start the car due to an electrical issue. In qualifying session 2 we identified a strange misfire in the burnout. We made the decision to run anyway, after all we needed to get a time on the board and most misfires are electrical, right? Well not all of them it would seem. We managed to destroy an inlet rocker adjuster, causing the pushrod to come out, and somehow the exhaust pushrod also made a break for freedom, in doing this our boost pressure rose to unseen levels due to both valves being shut on that cylinder, and of course we did not have the correct amount of fuel to support such elevated boost levels in the remaining 7 cylinders! The outcome wasn't pretty, we torched a cylinder head and damaged the deck face of the block. Luckily we have become experts at trackside engine block repairs so out came the welder. With the motor patched up it was time for a well earned BBQ.
Due to qualifying in the bottom half of the ladder, we knew we had a tough first round against Kev Slyfield, another Torco customer. He posted a great 6.45 but our luck seemed to temporarily turn around and we netted a great 6.12. Michel and the Pro Dutch guys were the class of the field in the first round with an amazing 6.07! We knew we had our work cut out as we faced him in the next round, it was time to start turning screws as on performance we were 5 hundredths behind. We were confident that we could close the performance gap and give them a run for their money. Unfortunately no amount of confidence will change the limits of tyre adhesion, to say we overstepped the mark would be an understatement! The car literally 'Top Fuelled' the tyres and shot across the track, fortunately behind Michel who also struggled for traction. A heart stopping moment for the crew, we all had our hearts in our mouths stood on the startline, but thankfully Andy did a great job of bringing the car back under control and avoiding the barrier. I think its safe to say it raised a few pulse rates amongst the team, however Andy was positively nonchalant about the run!
We now have a short break before the Euro Finals, unfortunately we are unable to race in mainland Europe this year, but it gives us some time to thoroughly check the car for any damage and freshen the motor. Our focus will be performance with consistency at the Euro Finals, we aim to get back in to the 6.0's again, I believe it will take a 6.1 to qualify in the top half of the field so we will have to lean on it!
The first meeting of the season is always a bit of a challenge. The driver has to remember his routine, the crew have to remember what bits go where, and even the track crew and officials have to remember how to run a meeting -- all of which is difficult after the long winter lay off. Easter 2014 was no exception to this and to cap it all, we could not run on race day because of the weather.
We got in enough runs to blow the cobwebs out and re-establish our 2013 baseline, but not enough to make significant progress with our set-up. In consequence, we plan to attend the test day prior to the Main Event at the end of the May and take the opportunity to overcome some of the issues we saw last season without race meeting pressures