Steve Wright kicks off the 2018 race sea­son at Don­ing­ton Park

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Stu­art Atlee Pho­tos: Tom Fawdry

We were en­tered in the GT & Sports Car Cup for pre-ʼ66 GT and pre-ʼ63 sports cars, which is or­gan­ised by GT&SCC Cup and run by Au­to­mo­biles His­torique. There was a va­ri­ety of cars in this race which meant our lit­tle 1958 Porsche 356A was a proper David against the Go­liaths. The field was an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of cars from truly sorted MGBS to light­weight Etypes and we have come to ac­cept that we are nearly al­ways the smallest ca­pac­ity car in the field – and the only car on drum brakes, as well.

The timetable for the week­end was leisurely, with qual­i­fy­ing on Fri­day and then rac­ing on Sun­day, leav­ing a re­laxed Satur­day to take in all the sights and sounds that the fes­ti­val has to of­fer. We had gath­ered to­gether for the first time this sea­son on Thurs­day evening, where the car was un­loaded and a cou­ple of beers con­sumed. For­tu­nately Ian Clark from Wolfs­burg Per­for­mance Ser­vices, who is also the co-driver, had re­built the en­gine over the win­ter and given the car a gen­eral go­ing through, so there was lit­tle to be done be­yond pol­ish­ing on the first night.

Qual­i­fy­ing went well and as ex­pected we qual­i­fied near the back of the field. The 356 sounded awe­some and the fresh sus­pen­sion re­build over the win­ter seemed to be do­ing its job as Steve posted our fastest ever lap time at the fa­mous Don­ing­ton Park circuit. The rest of the day was spent prac­tic­ing pit stops where we had to swap driv­ers and insert a booster seat for Ian – this is­nʼt a 2.5-sec­ond F1 stop but when swap­ping driv­ers ev­ery sec­ond we save counts. True to form our fastest time was when we were taking it slowly and me­thod­i­cally.

We stripped down the front drum brakes and re­moved all the ac­cu­mu­lated brake dust from the drums, swapped the driver ʼs brake shoes for the pas­sen­ger shoes as the driver side works twice as hard on the pre­dom­i­nately clock­wise cir­cuits we race on. We also dis­cov­ered the anti-roll bars were still on their wet weather set­tings, so we tight­ened them up ready for the race.

We got to meet Sam Tord­off (the tour­ing car driver) from JCT600 who had their Porsche Leeds deal­er­ship rep­re­sented in the pits. We must thank them for their wel­come and morn­ing cof­fee, not to men­tion the amaz­ing se­lec­tion of cars in­clud­ing 356s, a 2.7 RS and an RS 4.0 they brought with them. Sam was rac­ing his newly pur­chased Porsche Pre-a 356 and I think the week­end was quite an eye opener for him com­par­ing the classic world to the tour­ing car world. Sadly, he was the vic­tim of some tac­tics more as­so­ci­ated with tour­ing cars than classic car rac­ing, but I am sure he will be

back fir­ing on all cylin­ders next time. It also pro­vided us with an equally bal­anced chal­lenge and some­one for us to com­pare our times with.

Race day al­ways feels dif­fer­ent, ev­ery­one is up that lit­tle bit ear­lier and ready to go. So first things first: team break­fast. We were joined this time by Andy Good­win, as a trust­wor­thy spare pair of hands in the pits is al­ways wel­come. Next we com­pleted a vis­i­ble in­spec­tion in­side and un­der­neath, checked the oil, topped up the fuel and set the tyre pres­sures to the rel­e­vant cold set­tings.

We left the tyres to the last minute due to the track tem­per­a­ture just get­ting hot­ter and hot­ter, which re­sulted in cut­ting it a bit too close to not get­ting to the assem­bly area in time. Next time we will over in­flate the tyres and let them down – much quicker. An­other les­son learnt.

On the sub­ject of the weather, hav­ing spent many a week­end in the mi­cro cli­mates of most race cir­cuits where the weather is nor­mally less than ideal, to spend it in bril­liant sun­shine and hot tem­per­a­tures makes such a dif­fer­ence.

Our race was a packed grid with 40 cars, which al­ways means a rolling start. The cars come out of the assem­bly area and do one con­trolled lap be­fore pedal to the metal and the race starts. With the fastest cars lap­ping some 25 sec­onds quicker than us, it means it was­nʼt long un­til our 356 started to get swamped, which made it tricky for the driv­ers try­ing to run their own race and keep out of the way of the much faster cars.

The race con­sisted of two manda­tory pit stops and the car ʼs owner must com­plete more than 50 min­utes, which is a great idea as it stops ʻguestʼ driv­ers dom­i­nat­ing the track time, and keeps it a more level play­ing field.

The first 35 min­utes of the race went to plan with Steve go­ing well and look­ing com­fort­able. There was an in­ci­dent on the track and the yel­low flags came out to­gether with the safety cars. All of a sud­den the peace­ful pit lane was jam-


packed full of cars get­ting one of their manda­tory pit stops out of the way, and Steve was also on his way in. After moving up and down the pit lane try­ing to find a space for Steve to pit, the driver change went per­fectly, we were in and out and, more im­por­tantly, with a safe re­lease (just watch F1 to see what can hap­pen if that goes wrong!).

Steve re­ported the change to the front anti-roll­bars has made the car much more con­trol­lable, and Ian seemed just as happy after a two-year ab­sence with his lap times com­ing down ev­ery lap. Next lap, Ian was com­ing down the pit lane for an un­sched­uled stop, re­port­ing that the car was mis­fir­ing but he did­nʼt seem too con­cerned, re­main­ing in the car while we per­formed all the ob­vi­ous checks, iden­ti­fy­ing zero fuel pres­sure. We checked all the fuel lines and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tors, and we had pres­sure again. Ian was re­leased and back out on the circuit.

The car seemed to be go­ing great as far as we could see but half way round it started mis­fir­ing again and Ian was back in the pits. This time Ianʼs out of the car – no one knows the car bet­ter than Ian. We did some more checks and sent him out again but with the same re­sult; he was back into the pits on the next lap. The car does like a spark plug or four, but while swap­ping out the plugs for new plugs we dropped one into the en­gine tin­ware and by the time weʼd re­trieved it we all had burnt fin­ger tips!

We de­cided to put Steve back in the car as he still had­nʼt com­pleted his 50 minute min­i­mum driv­ing time. Just two laps later and he was com­ing back down the pit lane. We even­tu­ally di­ag­nosed a fuel block­age and the pump was just pump­ing air. There is no play­ing with the fuel sys­tem in the pit lane, so much to ev­ery­oneʼs dis­ap­point­ment we were forced to re­tire.

Rac­ing can be a cruel mis­tress and ev­ery DNF hurts after all the ef­fort ev­ery­one puts in. We loaded the car and con­soled our­selves with the com­pli­men­tary lunch pro­vided by the race or­gan­is­ers but learn to our sur­prise we have com­pleted enough laps to qual­ify as a race fin­isher and amaz­ingly we came sec­ond in class. So sil­ver medals around our col­lec­tive necks, we fin­ished the week­end with big smiles, look­ing for­ward to the next round at Sil­ver­stone in June. CP

Right: Well, they never said it would be easy. Steve Wright clearly felt the strain – just as well he was shar­ing the driv­ing with en­gine builder Ian Clark!

Above: A touch of op­po­site lock – a change to the an­tiroll bars has made the car a lot more con­trol­lable

Be­low: Driver change as Ian Clark takes over from owner Steve Wright. A re­cur­ring mis­fire put paid to the race ef­fort. Shame be­cause the early signs were look­ing good for the team

Be­low: At full tilt through the Old Hair­pin – Don­ing­ton is a track steeped in his­tory

Above right: You couldn’t ask for a bet­ter-look­ing tow ve­hi­cle than this, could you?

Above left: Ian Clark of Wolfs­burg Per­for­mance Ser­vices pre­pares the car and shares the driv­ing

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