Paul’s DiRT Diary Part 4 – New Year, New Challenges
I was really proud of everything Jon and I had accomplished in our first year rallying together. Ahead of us we had a whole new year and a new set of challenges to face, the story picks up in March 2012.
The Malcolm Wilson Rally
It was not only hosted by Malcolm Wilson on stages set around the M Sport testing facility but it was also the second round of the BTRDA
The Malcolm Wilson Rally on the 3rd of March 2012 was the first big event we had entered. It was not only hosted by Malcolm Wilson on stages set around the M Sport testing facility but it was also the second round of the BTRDA so there was significant quality in the field. We would be competing against the likes of Paul Bird and Steve Perez in their WRC specification Ford Focuses. Despite our promising running in the Grizedale our projected pace was not taken into consideration in the seedings and we ended up having to run at the back of the field. This was going to make life especially difficult as we were in a field of 120 competitors or more. For this event we had managed to get hold of some part worn Dmack tyres thanks to the guys at Vital Equipment. We were raring to go.
The event started promisingly and despite the appalling road conditions we managed 22nd on the first stage. We had actually been quite cautious but it was a solid start. Pressing on into stage 2 it soon became apparent that the car was developing an issue at the rear, at the time we thought it was a braking issue. The issue continued into stage 3 and with some pretty hefty braking zones and tight hairpin corners we lost a fair amount of time.
Returning to service we discovered that a loose rear hub was the culprit. After tightening the hub, changing the brake pads and a refuelling at Vital Equipment we headed out of service for the second loop back in the Grizedale Forest. Once again the roads were rough but the car felt better and we were pressing on. Through a fast section we headed into a fast left hander and hit a rock that had been dragged into the racing line. The impact kicked the car up into the air and pushed the front left suspension back into the arch. We limped on for another half a mile but eventually the suspension gave way and we were forced to retire.
It was a huge disappointment and the curse of Grizedale had struck again. We had retired a stone’s throw away from where we had been forced off the road in the previous event. Once again we were left waiting in the forest for recovery thinking about what might have been.
With the car returned to Eclipse Performance it was time to start hunting for a new damper. We also decided that a faster steering rack would be of benefit as the stock rack that we were using meant that Jon had to put in considerably more steering input than is usual in a rally car. Another area of improvement was the Handbrake, we had been losing time in the slower acute hairpins with the standard handbrake so Chris and his team fitted a hydraulic handbrake with a lever mounted close to the gearstick to assist with the tighter turns. We were confident that with these upgrades we would be making up a considerable amount of time over the course of an event.
Guide Dogs for the Blind Charity event – Nissan Test Track
Guide Dogs for the Blind host a charity event at the Nissan Test track near Sunderland each year. The infield at the test facility is used for Rally car demonstrations. Eclipse Performance regularly attend the event, so this year Jon flew up to give the new parts a shakedown on the dusty tarmac infield sections. It was also an opportunity to give some highly deserving people a ride along in a Rally car.
The day went extremely well and Jon was able to get to grips with the quicker steering rack, tweaked suspension setup and the new handbrake. Sadly at the end of the day the gearbox developed a problem which left us in a tricky situation with our next event just 3 weeks away.
The hunt was on for a replacement gearbox. The broken one was a specific version that allowed the use of central diff controller. They are very rare. A week spent hunting for that specific type proved fruitless so we had to start looking for alternatives. Luckily we found a 6 speed gearbox from a more modern Impreza that was being sold with its conversion kit, we quickly contacted the seller and set about getting it installed into the car ready for the Scottish Rally…