By John Thorne – Mon, 16 Jun 2008 12:51
Well, sometimes racing doesn’t get much better than that! Thewhole team had worked so hard on these cars that we really felt deserved a goodresult. After Simon’s first win the Astra VXR at Pembrey we wanted both for himto continue that run and get Leyton on the top of the podium with him.
Testing went well, the weather wasn’t the easiest to dealwith and showers followed. The track was wet but with dry patches so the timesfrom Simon and Leyton were good and we felt comfortable. In the weeks followingPembrey we pretty much re-built both cars. Both needed engine and gearboxmounts, (we have to use standard items under Dunlop SportMaxx regulations) andSimon’s Astra needed a new turbo after the manifold broke in the second Pembreyrace.
The bigger issue at Pembrey was Leytons Corsa, we werestruggling with handling issues which were both electronic and chassis relatedand whilst the second race in Walesshowed we’d cured the electronic part we still had work to do on the chassis.Again our strong relationship with KW come into play and between us we madesome changes in the spring and damper rates on the suspension and testingshowed we’d sorted it. The Corsa was quick, we just needed to prove it.
Qualifying went well. Leyton was on pole by over a second;ahead of Quentin’s Clio. Simon was third after some good times put in by SimonWallbank in his Astra VXR and Simon Gusterson in his very rapid Megane. Simon got a great start and was quicklyfighting for the lead whereas Leyton struggled with the start ending the firstlap just behind the Seat Cupra and Quentin’s Clio.
Simon did brilliantly, we were expecting a long battle withthe Megane but after a couple of attempts Simon got past him and won the raceby a comfortable 3 second margin.
In Class B, Leyton passed the Seat and reeled in the Clio. Watchingthe cars on track, it was clear that the Corsa performed extremely well in thefaster corners and under braking, impressive when you consider the fact its somuch heavier than the Clio. We really had got the suspension set up nigh onperfect. Pretty soon Leyton managed to pass the Clio and quickly built up anice lead to win the class by almost 15 seconds.
We were over the moon, another win from Simon in the Astrafollowing his first win in Pembrey and we’d finally sorted the gremlinsaffecting the Corsa to demonstrate that the car really is a championshipwinning platform, remember the Corsa Sri is unique, no-one in Europe (or theWorld for that matter) is racing one of these so we’ve had to develop thechassis from the ground up.
This has also meant that Leyton has had to work with us todevelop his driving style to suit the high torque, forced induction powerdelivery something which he initially struggled with, at Snetterton and Pembreywe were shredding tyres and having to run massive pressures to compensate butLeyton has persevered, listened and learnt (which is sometimes not easy for adriver to do) and adapted his driving to suit the car – pretty impressive for a16 year old. To give you an idea of the changes; at Pembrey we were forced torun front tyre pressures as high as 68psi to avoid the tyre rolling off the rim– far too high. At Croft we were down to 30psi, that’s evident testimony to Stirling work with KW on the chassis development and toLeyton to adjust his driving style to suit the cars characteristics.
We are equally proud of Simon. His win at Pembrey was hisfirst ever full race win and the emotion was evident but once you get the firstyou really want the second and the third. The turbo manifold failure in thesecond race in Waleswas a blow so we really wanted to come back fighting. Again we’ve workedclosely with Richard from KW, the Astra chassis is absolutely spot on, we’regetting minimal tyre wear, front end grip is excellent and Simon is able toprovoke the car to oversteer with ease. Simon has also shown the skill to adapthis driving style to suit the car, in testing we suggested running a highergear at certain parts of the circuit and despite not being sure it was a goodidea he did….with the effect of knocking 3/10ths off the lap time. For adriver to try something even when he feels it might not be the best istestimony to Simon’s skill and willingness to learn. We’re really proud of bothof them.
Handling aside, we’re really happy with the power delivery. We’vemaximised torque whilst keeping power to within regulations. As both cars arerelatively heavy in the class, this has meant we’ve needed to map the carsquite carefully to ensure they are competitive. Working closely with Superchipshas meant that we’ve not needed to remap cars in between races once, thisallows the drivers to concentrate on making time from chassis and suspensionadjustments, forcing the driver to drive with a different power map betweenraces will inevitably make it more difficult for them to adapt. Remapping carsis our business so it’s gratifying to know we’re getting it right in such ahigh pressure environment.
Having Thorney Motorsport fill the podium was an enormouslyproud moment for us all.
After wiping off the fizzy wine (this isn’t F1 I’m afraid sono bottles of Mumms) we set about preparations for race 2, this didn’t takelong. We even used the same tyres such was the set up on the cars. Both Simonand Leyton were on pole so we had high hopes and I wondered round the pitsmumbling ‘4 wins would be acceptable I suppose.’ Much to the annoyance of theteam.
The race start didn’t go to plan. John Harrison, debutingboth himself and his M3, pulled off a flyer. He jumped from 5th straightinto the lead which was very impressive, especially as John’s M3 failedscrutineering. An electrical problem saw him stumped, so we stepped in andsorted it for him. We did all hope that wasn’t going to bite us back at thatpoint. However we know from our own M3 that the tyres quickly overheat from theextra weight and John subsequently ran wide letting the Megane and two AstraVXR’s of Simon and Wallbank through.
The second race was 30 minutes with a 45 second mandatory pitstop. As the pit lane opened Simon had managed to sneak past the Megane and wasgaining on the other Astra VXR so we waited until the other VXR pitted beforebringing Simon in. Wallbank came in so a lap later we pulled Simon in and afteran uneventful 45 seconds got him back out to slip in just behind Martins Astra.We could see from the pit wall that Simon was quicker through the corners buton the straights Martins Astra was pulling away slightly so it was going to bea fight. Coming down the main straight Martin pulled a defensive line and Simonleft it nice and wide to maximise his mid corner speed; it was a classicovertake and lovely to watch, sadly Martin came across to shut the door onSimon and the inevitable contact occurred with Simon hitting the other Astrasquarely on the side, the next run saw them side by side taking out a bail oftyres for good measure – very BTCC we thought. With Simon having the insideline through the corner he made it through and we could breathe again. Howevernext time past the pit wall we noticed his front bumper was hanging off,normally this isn’t too much of a problem but you’re always nervous ofsomething piecing the radiator so three laps later when it fell off we wererelieved. Simon went on to win by just over 3 seconds – fantastic – firstdouble win for anyone in the series and it meant that Simon now had more winsthan anyone else in class A in the championship.
Leyton’s race was equally traumatic, another poor start lefthim behind the Seat and the Clio but he quickly got his Corsa past the SEAT tochase down Quentin in the Renault. Leyton was certainly committed, at one pointhe lost his brakes contacting Quentin in the side damaging his rear wing andpopping a rear window, sorry about that Quentin, but eventually Leyton got pastand built up a 3 second lead so we decided to bring him in for his pit stop.
The pit stop was interesting, the contact with Quentin had flattenedthe offside front wing onto the tyre which was slowing shreading the sidewall,while we dealt with this the brakes caught fire so it was a long 45 seconds forus. As it turns out it was too long, Leyton failed to appear after one lap andwe eventually see him walking down the pit lane, the cars clutch had overheatedin the pit stop and the release bearing had failed. Seeing as the clutch wasfine in the race this was a blow most of all for Leyton as he knew he’d notonly had his first race win but a double win in the bag – a cruel thing racingsometimes.
So, in summary? We’re delighted in almost every way. TheAstra is developing into really special car, handling, power delivery,reliability are all brilliant. Simon is adapting with the car perfectly and isable to exploit its handling to the point where he’s thinking about lines andovertaking rather than how to overcome the car, he’s using the car for what heneeds rather than having to drive round the car. We’re even happier with theCorsa, preparing a race car when its been done 100 times before is easy, justuse what other people have tested but to take a chassis, engine and drive trainand develop them to race specification without any help from the manufacturerwe are very proud of. Add to this adriver who at 16 years old is relatively young and inexperienced but bothwilling to learn and clearly has a lot of talent and we’re delighted with howthings are developing.
Next race is at Castle Combe on July 18th.
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