| Thanks to the generosity of John Kyle and Cardowan Creameries we knew that for 2010 we would be racing the latest creation, Rotor JT7c, in the Sports 2000 Pinto championship. We already knew that the series was well supported and very competitive so to run a home built car so far away from base was going to be a great challenge. We knew that the systems on the car worked thanks to our “toe in the water” run in 2006 with the JT7b but what was missing from that episode was speed. A lot of time and effort had gone into the new car to try and increase the pace of the car and to offset the fact that the driver was old, overweight and out of practice. The engine, supplied by JEM engines in Falkirk, was dynometer tested to try and maximise the power and torque available. Over the winter the rest of the car had been looked at to see if we could find any more performance and like all projects, we had drawn up a wish list of things we would like to try as time and money became available. We had hoped to be on the weight limit (no mean feet) of 500kg and initially we felt we were but our scales were not that accurate and were not to be trusted as things turned out.|
The car would be driven by Graham and support to keep the car healthy would come from other members of the team when they had enough “brownie points” to go racing. We were also lucky enough to get a truck that we hoped to convert into a race transporter to take over from the van and box trailer. To keep costs down we would sleep in the van or truck and due to the time away from home, testing would be limited.
We began the season with a gentle run at Knockhill in February and the car performed well. Time on the day was tight but we managed three good sessions to optimise the systems and look for reliability. A couple of weeks later we were back and this time Graham concentrated on the driving aspect pushing harder trying to get back into the way of things. The car ran without any problems so we decided to go for another test where finding extra speed from car and driver was the plan. Everything looked good after the tests so an entry for the first round of the championship was put in and the team prepared for Snetterton.
Snetterton. 24th /25th April.Thirty six years after he first raced there Graham and his team of helpers arrived at Snetterton for round one of the Sports 2000 Pinto championship. It is a long way from Scotland to Norfolk but it is a route Graham has travelled many times before. This is where it all started and Graham has a great fondness for the circuit and surrounding area. The weather was fine and had been for a number of weeks but in the moments before qualifying a rainstorm started and a quick change of tyres was required. The boys, Simon and Brian, soon had them changed and the Rotor JT7c made its competition debut. Conditions were tough but the car performed well and after a couple of near misses on standing water Graham managed one good lap that saw the car qualify 11th which was a good result by any ones standard in a new car with no previous circuit experience. The race went well to begin with but the dry conditions soon saw the driver out of his depth and he was passed by a couple of cars in the breaking area at the end of the straight. Things were looking good as car and driver settled down but with a few laps to go Graham had an unexpected spin at Coram. Shortly after the oil pressure started to fall and Graham realised he had spun on his own oil as a union had come loose. The team were disappointed by the oil leak but felt they had made a good start to the season in their home built car. Support Brian Waugh and Simon Dunkley.
Brands GP. 23rd/24th May.The cars next outing was at Brands Hatch on the GP circuit. Graham was really looking forward to this one. The GP circuit is a fantastic track but as testing is limited there was no way we could get a run before the race meeting. The trip to Brands took ages. It is 430 miles from the workshop to the circuit but we left early and were there in time for a walk round the track in daylight. Former Rotor team driver Bryce Wilson was there for the speed series with his IF Motorsport team and offered lots of encouragement to the team. Qualifying was a disaster. A red flag early in the session meant that Graham only had 4 laps to learn the circuit. That was impossible and a lowly grid position was on the cards. In the race things were a bit better but Graham tired towards the end and decided to go for a finish rather than make an error and fall off. He got his way. The car made it to the end and the Rotor JT7 got its first finish. Support Simon Dunkley and John Fitzgerald.
Cadwell Park. 5th / 6th June.With the cars first finish in the bag we headed for Cadwell looking for more pace. Cadwell is everything a driver could want with plenty of twists and turns on an undulating track. The car felt great but the times showed we were very slow. Graham was disappointed because he felt he was going well. The car qualified 13th from 15 which was a big disappointment given the effort Graham felt he had put in. In the race it was very damp and this seemed to level the field a little and Graham scored the best finish of the year with 9th place. Support Simon Dunkley and Brian Waugh.
Happy with the result at Cadwell we set out for Silverstone looking for a good result. Silverstone was difficult and Graham suffered from a lack of pace. There was no obvious place where speed was being lost but over a lap we were struggling. 18th from 20 was the best he could do. After much thought we decided to change the car settings, see how things were and if there was not much change we would go for a finish. Things were not any better in the race so Graham had a quiet run to 12th and last. On reflection it was a good result, getting to the finish when so many others failed to make it proved that the car was reliable. Support Simon Dunkley.
After four races things were going well. We had had one good result, admittedly in the damp where car pace was not such an issue, had good reliability and were happy with the way things were going. That all changed when we went to Oulton Park. We decided to do a test at the circuit the day before the meeting. Graham had never raced at Oulton and thought that a few laps would help his confidence and improve his grid position. We had bought some new springs to test and had worked out a proper testing plan. The test went alright but when we looked at the times we were nowhere. It is a very difficult track with many different types of corners. Graham thought he was going well but the times were not there.
Oulton Park 31st July.We had tested the day before this meeting and were nowhere. The times were not there. We had a nightmare qualifying and despite Grahams best efforts could only manage 17th and second last. After qualifying was over all the cars were checked by the eligibility scrutineer where ride heights and weights were checked. It soon became apparent why we were struggling. We were massively overweight (40kg ) and running far too much ground clearance. Heads were down but not for long. We decided to go back to basics and decided that we needed to make some serious changes to how we ran the car. A chance meeting with Patrick Sherrington, MCR Duratec driver, helped lift the team. He was full of praise for our efforts and made a few suggestions re set up, areas for the driver to concentrate on and some suggestions on gearing. Graham also got the chance to study another drivers data logger print outs which confirmed we were massively over geared. We changed the ratios, lowered the car, and puzzled over the weight issue. We discovered we had 12kg of fuel left in the tank after qualifying. Lets call it the mechanics gallon or two or three but we now empty the tank after every run to keep things tight. We also discovered that the Oulton scales are slightly over and this made things look slightly better. In the race things went well. Graham made up 4 places and could hold his own with others around him. As the race progressed Graham found himself lapping alone which saw a slight dip in times. Towards the end of the race after an old man moment Graham spun and let everyone through. Another last place was the result. It was a good meeting because we learned a lot. We learned that most people run a Data logger. We discovered that the weight of the car had crept up and above all we discovered that the ratio chart we were using was miles from the mark. We came away with another finish, a list of jobs as long as your arm and the determination to get better. Support Simon Dunkley, Ian and Kenneth McRae.
After the disaster that was Oulton Graham felt that we should concentrate on developing the car further. As an example of the performance that can be found by optimising things, changing gear ratios at Oulton found a 2 second improvement in lap times. Graham felt he could not go any faster as the car was and wanted to miss the next round at Cadwell and spend the money saved on the car. Our sponsor suggested we should go to Cadwell as it was the only circuit that repeated itself on the calendar. It was a good call and proved that a little circuit knowledge helped with performance.
Cadwell Park 21/22 August.This event was the first time that we were going to a circuit that we had previously raced at. After our first visit we had a bit of data regarding improvements that we thought could make both car and driver faster. We hoped that newer tyres, more roll stiffness, better set up and closer gear ratios added to some weight loss would increase our performance. We set the car up and headed for Cadwell. In practice the car felt much faster. Pick up out of corners was greatly improved and Graham felt he could run with the midfield group. Qualifying was fraught with traffic problems and every lap seemed spoiled. It is a long lap and there are plenty of tight sections where passing is limited so get a “slot” for a quick lap was difficult. Graham managed to qualify 11th from 15. In the race Graham held his own and ran for a long time with the midfield group. More laps helped improve his times and the combination of a better car and more confidence in the car meant that although we finished last of the racers in 12th we were lapping over 5 seconds a lap quicker. Another lesson learned. Plenty of time can be had by dialling the car into the circuit and by the driver knowing the track. We also discovered that the scales at Cadwell weigh around 7 KGs lower than at Oulton which helped explain why we were so overweight there. Once again we learned a lot and had a big list of jobs we wanted to do before Silverstone GP. Support Brian Waugh and Simon Dunkley.
WE had already made lighter front wings for the car and had thrown away the rear “bumper” in an effort to lose weight. We also were starting to try and optimise the aerodynamics by looking closely at “dirt” marks to see pressure changes. We also decided to try and tidy up parts that had been made in a hurry. For Silverstone we also decided to go for it and buy new dampers. I had spoken to a couple of damper companies about the various options on race dampers. The budget was tight but fate played its hand when Pat Murphy of Quantum dampers did us a deal. I had met Pat as far back as 2006 and he was more than interested in our home built car. Pat had bought a Duratec Sports 2000 Gunn at huge expense before moving on to a bigger historic sportscar. The dampers were superb and just what we wanted. We also managed to get the truck operational and decided to make a big push at Silverstone.
Silverstone GP 1/3rd October.This was a massive meeting for the team. We had pushed the boat out on effort and were looking for big things. It was the Britcar 24 hour race meeting and as part of the support package we were well down the pecking order when it came to treatment from the organisers. It was going to be a poor weekend according to the weather forecasters and they were spot on. Silverstone might suggest it is the home of British Motorsport but the view we gat was slightly different. A flooded paddock, stinky toilets, overpriced food together with testing fees of over £200 an hour made us feel really welcome. Add in the standing water on track and you really start to feel they are missing the point. We made the best off it and did well in atrocious conditions in qualifying. Graham managed 16th from 31. In the race it was marred by an accident that resulted in a safety car for a few laps. Graham missed most of the action at the first corner accident but spun in tandem with another competitor just after the pit exit avoiding one of the front runners who was slowed by the carnage. After the safety car pitted there were only a few laps to get a move on. Graham passed 10 cars in four laps and finished 16th. It was another step in the right direction and for the final race of the Championship things were looking up. Support, Kenneth and Ian McRae, John Fitzgerald and Simon Dunkley.
Brands Hatch 16th/17th October.The Formula Ford festival was always a highlight when Rotor Racing built Formula Fords. Graham has always loved the place so he was up for a final push at the last race of the season. The team resorted to the van and trailer for this one as the extra speed and better fuel consumption of the van made taking the truck a non starter. We were also in the pit garages which meant we did not need the awning. At Silverstone we had new dampers. Circumstances meant that they were unused as we ran softer springs on the old dampers and the damp conditions put paid to us trying them. We tried them at Brands but the front springs were too hard and Graham found the car bouncing along the straights, understeering into and oversteering out of the corners. The track had been resurfaced and in the damp the track was very slippy as the oil from the tar “bleed” to the surface. Graham made a go of it and qualified 20th from 25. He was not happy but understood what was wrong and on the Sunday morning re engineered the car for the tricky track conditions. The race was great fun, it really is a fantastic track, and a smiling Graham finished 14th. Support Kenneth McRae and Simon Dunkley.
It was a good end to a good season. Who would have thought a silly old man could design and build a car for a competitive series that has been running since 1978, find the backing to contest all the rounds and finish with a prize. In the final results Graham finished 12th equal in the overall championship and third in his class. What was his reward?
Many thanks to all who helped and a special thanks to John Kyle and Cardowan Creameries who were so generous in their support.