Its true to say that the Abingdon Sprint wasn’t hugely enjoyable. Unfamiliar track, unfamiliar car and the all too familiar rain. Fantastic shake down and an opportunity to learn both driving and running the car without having to drive miles. But not really enjoyable as such.
So I signed up for the new competition car test day at Curborough in May. The weather for this was perfect, and I was somewhat surprised to see a Porsche 962 in the paddock when we arrived. This was apparently being shaken down before the Spa classic and is right up there on my list of favourite cars.
Driving the RF84 on a warm, dry, day was a revelation. It was quick, grippy and responsive, and I managed to put in about 30 laps, mostly on the figure 8, ordinarily a seasons worth. By the end of the session I really wanted to know what my times were like, but being a practice session I was never going to find that out.
Shelsley Walsh/MAC run a sprint on the Curborough 8 – so I signed up for that. And apart from anything else it would be good practice for my HSA Formula Ford debut which is planned to be the Owen Motor Club Graham Hill Sprint. Nice event that one.
Anyway weather for the MAC event was perfect. But it did mean that keeping the temperature under control was a new skill to learn. Basically I went from turning the engine off when it was looking like it was getting too hot, to turning it off when it got somewhere near the right temperature. And restarting seemed OK without the boost battery, which was lucky given the Curborough startline arrangements.
My target was to beat my best Panda time – I’d been driving that for 4 seasons so had extracted the maximum from it. Needless to say the FF still felt like a new experience. Especially in the dry. I was more than happy with my first timed run – 69.6s – more than 7 seconds faster than my best ever Panda time. The picture below may go some way to explaining why..
On my second run I messed up the gearchange on the way to the first corner, and overdrove trying to recover. But my first official run was timed at 67.92s – best part of 9 seconds faster than my Panda PB – really happy with that. With more to come, I’m sure. (When I got home I was really happy to read that the HSA record is 66s.). On my final run I was held for an age, and the clutch must have overheated as it then started dragging and the car moved forward. Not great start to a run, but I’d have taken 68.6 at the start of the day.
At present I’m not familiar enough with the car to comment on the handling it being so different to the car I’ve campaigned for the last 4 seasons. But gearing is another matter. That seems all a bit wrong. I’m up to 3rd for the first corner, down to 2nd at the Molehill, but then I do the whole figure of 8 bit in second. On the finishing straight I do get to 4th but only as I cross the line. Seems to me that I need lower gearing in 2nd 3rd and 4th for Curborough.. Might have to investigate how to achieve this.. but its a big ask by the next event.
Pictures, as is often the case here, by Derek Hibbert.