Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Pembrey - May 16th/17th

  • Race 1 Qualifying : 8th (2nd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 1 : 9th (2nd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 2 : 8th (2nd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 3 : 6th (2nd in Subaru Cup)

  • The second Subaru Cup meeting of the season was held at Pembrey in South Wales over the course of a very wet, windy and occasionally sunny weekend.

    We arrived at the circuit, which is within a stones throw of the Carmarthenshire coast and set in beautiful welsh countryside, late on Friday afternoon to be greeted by a steady drizzle and strong wind but also, rather more warmly, by Rich and Karen who had found a great spot where the Subaru Cup competitors could setup together.

    As we set up the awning, unloaded the car and sorted out all the tools, tyres and other odds and ends needed for the weekend we met Adrian Howells, who was at his first race meeting and will be racing in the Subaru Cup for the rest of the season. Darren soon arrived too, leaving only the guys from X-Spec Motorsport who were bringing a car for Sam Maher-Loughan, but had gone the wrong way up the motorway and didn't arrive until about 1am (normally a trick reserved for us!).

    Getting there....

    As I have mentioned on previous posts, getting the car and van ready in time for Pembrey has been a real mission for Mikee and one that would not have been possible without the help of Amy, Joe, Pov, Paul and Andy from Cymraeg Scoobie Club, Graham from X-Spec and a whole bunch of work from Mikee himself.

    With the van failing its MoT late in the day due to having to rebuild its engine before we could take it for the test (see Snetterton post) and parts arriving late (not from X-Spec) for the scoob, it was not until Wednesday night that Mikee discovered that a failed wheel bearing I had damaged at Snetterton could not be replaced because the heat generated by running on it had welded the nut to the end of the driveshaft!

    Fortunatly the guys from Cymraeg Scoobies stepped in and Paul was able to provide us with a new hub and drive shaft assembly, which he and Mikee fitted on Thursday, less then 24 hours before we were supposed to be leaving for the race :\

    Because of the last minute work to the car, the intended visit to PowerStation to have the setup adjusted was not possible and we ended up having to just get the tracking and camber done at a local tyre shop on our way to the circuit.... not exactly the best plan as it turns out....

    Saturday - Qualifying

    Although cold and windy, conditions were good for the combined practice and qualifying session on Saturday morning, with good visibility and a mostly dry track.

    With 4 of the Subaru Cup runners grouped together in the paddock, we arrived in the assembly area at pretty much the same time and so started out on the track grouped closer together then had been the case at Snetterton.

    Darren and Sam both flew in Qualifying, but it was too much for Darrens car :(
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    I couldn't see Adrian, but Sam and Karen were instantly very fast, with Darren also running very well until lap 6 when he suffered a broken big end (which I swear to god is engine speak!) and had to retire. Sadly the damage to Darren's car was more than could be repaired with the spares and time available and this was the end of his weekend.

    Meantime I was having problems of my own, with the car handling worse even then it had without front brakes in Snetterton, I was having to fight the car through every corner with massive understeer through the fast left hander at Dibeny, ridiculous oversteer on any right hand corner (pretty much all the others!) and scary instability under braking.

    I soon lost sight of Karen and a few laps later also had to let Sam through as I was slowing him down. Trying to follow Sam through the very fast Honda Curve I lost the back end of the car, ending up with a huge drift at over 100mph all the way through to the straight!

    One lap later and the back stepped out again on the same corner. This time I was not able to catch the slide and the impressive drift quickly turned in to an impressive crash as I span onto the wet grass at high speed. Fortunatly I did not hit the wall or any other cars so was able to carry on with practice, quickly building back up to speed in what seemed a futile effort to qualify within site of the other Subaru Cup cars on the grid.

    The futility of the effort seemed to be underlined a lap later when I had another minor spin into the Esses as well as big moments at Hatchets and Brooklands Hairpins. I backed down and cruised the remaining lap or two of the qualifying session hoping to at least understand what was wrong.

    Badly set camber is clearly visable on back wheel during qualifying session
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    Minutes after qualifying that became clear. The camber was set differently on every single wheel, the car really was as undrivable as it had seemed. Even more astonishing was the news that I had qualified 2nd in class, with a lap time of 1.10.346 less then 0.7 secs slower then Sam, a professional Race Instructor based at Rockingham Circuit. >80)

    Saturday - Race 1

    Due to the cancellation of the National Club Formula Ford Championship race there was no time for Mikee to make significant adjustments to the camber or even finish changing the tyres before we were called for race 1.

    At least we now knew what the problem was. I would just have to try and take it easy and try to bring the car home in one piece for Mikee to fix in time for Race 2.

    I knew that getting a good start would be vital if I was to salvage any real result from the race, so was extra careful to properly warm my tyres and brakes during the parade lap.

    The earlier spins had really dented my confidence and I felt even more nervous then at my first race as I was lined up on the grid between Sam and Karen, both excellent off the start.

    As the 30sec board came out I thought to get my mind focused and my thoughts under control. Dialing in 5k revs I concentrated on the lights and got ready to ease out the clutch and dive up the inside for turn 1.

    Even though it is just a few seconds, the time between the lights coming on and going out seems to last for ever as you simultaneously watch all the other cars on the grid, balance your revs and wait for the moment when the lights finally go out and 30 cars try to occupy the exact same space.

    As we shot up the straight for the first time I found myself approaching Chris Dunlop in a GT250 Honda Civic on the inside, but daren't try to outbake him into the first corner with my car handling so badly so backed off and slotted in behind him and one of the other Performance Autoworks cars. Close behind were Andre Severs in a GT250 Honda Accord and Karen Phillips, the next of the Subaru Cup cars. Sam had already steamed ahead through the first few corners and was mixing it at the front with the GT500 cars of Tim Clarke and Maxim Taylor along with Dixon Cheng in another GT250 Honda (this time the DMS Integra).

    Sliding through corners I soon came under intense pressue from Andre in the lighter Accord. With Karen closing in on Andre I knew I had to keep him behind me or loose both places.

    The Talented Mr Andre (thank god!)
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    The battle with Andre seemed to stretch for hundreds of harder and harder laps, but in reality it can only have been half a dozen at most before I missed a gear change on the exit of Brooklands, allowing him to get alongside down the speedway straight. As the turbo charged motor in the Subaru came fully on boost I started to edge back ahead and started to turn in for the apex of Woodlands at over 110mph, only to find that Andre still had the nose of his car inside me somehow. Adjusting my line slightly to avoid possible contact, the back sudenly snapped away from me sending me sideways directly in front of the rapidly approaching Accord!

    I still have no idea how both Andre and Karren avoided hitting my car as I fought to regain control, but am very grateful to both for their skill and fast reactions, with Karren even taking the opportunity to pass Andrea on the way into Honda Curve.

    Having regained control of the car I was able to rejoin the race having lost only the two positions and with no other Subaru Cup runners too close to me I backed down to avoid destroying the badly flat spotted tyres (which it turns out had been torn down to the canvas in the spin!).

    Karren would have finished second, however a black flag for the sleeve of her race suit having ridden up (WTF?!) saw her have to withdraw from the race pushing me upto 2nd and Adrian to 3rd, having brought his car home in his first race dispite a few hairy moments.

    Saturday - Race 2

    Mikee worked like a demon to sort out the camber and change all 4 tyres while I sat and calmed down from the terrifying spin in race 1. One burger and coke later I was ready to get back to work as we were called for the days final race >80)

    With starting positions determined by the finishing order of the previous race I lined up in 9th, with Sam ahead of me, Adrian a few cars behind and Karen practically at the back of the grid due to the black flag in race 1.

    Even during the parade lap, it was instantly apparent that the car was more stable, with alot more consistancy in the steering. With the back still not fixed the car was still quite 'lively', but with a more grip and predicability from the front tyres I was confident that I could at least keep it on the track this time.

    A decent start, I still got tied up on the inside line on the way into turn 1 and was still unwilling to push it and risk causing an accident so backed off. Andre was again soon chasing me down, but a this time it was his turn to spin, oversteering off the track on the exit of Honda on about lap 2 I was left with space all around me and was able to largely cruise through the rest of the race, learning the new handling characteristics of the car and trying to conserve my tyres for the longer race on Sunday.... as we didn't have any more spares.

    The day went from bad to worse for Karren as she was hit hard by one of the GT150 MR2's going through Spitfires and left with heavy damage to the front off side of the car forcing her to retire.

    Sunday - Race 3

    With Karrens car repaired and the decision made to leave any further setup changes to mine until after the race, we set out for a short practice session with the MR2 Racing grid to learn where the track was still wet from the rain earlier in the day. Concious of tyre wear I came in after 5 laps along with most of the other Nippon Challange and Subaru Cup cars to get ready for the longer race 3.

    Just seconds before the call to assemble the heavens opened, negating any information we might have gained in practice and leaving the track soaking and visability poor. With this being my first ever wet race, I was relieved when the organizers indicated that we would be doing 2 parade laps to familiarize ourselves with the conditions and get some heat into our tyres and brakes.

    As we lined back up I was determined to get a good start and try and take the fight to Sam for the Subaru Cup class honours, hoping to at least make him work for his 3rd victory of the weekend :)

    The lights went out for the final time of the meeting and I got my start perfect, shooting up the outside of the grid in tandom with Sam I passed Kris Dunlop, Mike Clark, Dixon Cheng and several over cars to claim 4th position overall by the turn 1!

    I was able to keep in touch with the lead GT500 cars who were fighting with Sam up until the Speedway Straight, where the massive power difference soon became obvious and they roared away towards Woodlands with Sam still in tow.

    Tim and Maxim's GT500 monsters in Race 3 at Pembrey
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    Coming under increasing pressure from Kris and Mike in the Performance Autoworks Civics I had to defend heavily through the next 5 or 6 laps, eventually loosing out to Kris through the Chicane, gaining the place back a Spitfires/Dibeny and losing it again at the Esses.

    Fighting hard to stay with the faster GT250 cars and keep Sam in sight, together with the spins earlier in the day, was taking its toll on my car and the rear diff was starting to whine deafeningly by mid distance while the gearbox started to develop problems which would eventually rob me of fourth gear.

    Unable to keep running at this pace, I was forced to let the second Civic through on the Speedway Straight and back off again hoping desperatly that I had not already pushed the car too hard.

    Shortshifting on the straight, I was still able to maintain a good pace thanks to the turbo powered car, keeping Dixon at bay until he was black flagged for a damaged splitter, again giving me much needed breathing space.

    By the closing laps I was only intermittently able to select fourth gear and could no longer use full power in second out of the slow Hatchetts Hairpin due to serious overboosting. Fortunatly, with Karren again having started from the back and the Cymraeg Scooby Club cheering me on from the banking at Hatchetts, I was able to back off even more and bring the very sick subaru home to claim another 2nd in class and 6th place overall.

    Sam again claimed the Subaru Cup victory with Karren finally putting her bad luck somewhat behind her to claim an extremely hard earned 3rd.

    Thanks to everyone involved in organizing the event, to Mikee for making my whole season possible. Thanks also to Hannah, Craig & Amy, the mad MR2 boys Steve, Paff & Owen and everybody from Cymraeg Scoobie Club who came down to support us. Hope to see lots of you again at Silverstone!

    Next Race - Silverstone - June 6th



    Still recovering from a mad week in the build up to Pembrey and an even more manic weekend.... just got back from taking the trailer back (thanks Amy!) to Taunton, so will put a very brief post now and a full race report tomorrow.

    Pembrey, Race 3, Turn 1 - Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    As you can see from Lance's picture above, I got a fantastic start to the final race of the weekend, moving from 8th on the grid to 2nd in the Subaru Cup and 4th overall into Turn 1 in my first wet race!

    Race 3, Julian - Cymraeg Scoobie Club, 2009

    Despite a car that was severely compromised all weekend with handling problems leading to a 110mph spin in Race 1, we still came away with three 2nd place (in Subaru Cup) finishes and a firm lead in the Subaru Cup.

    More tomorrow.... >90)


    Monday, 11 May 2009

    Snetterton Race Report in Japanese Performance

    Just read this months Japanese Performance Magazine which has a full page race report from the Nippon Challenge round at Snetterton and had this to say on the Subaru Cup:

    "Martin White led home Miles Hulford and a gaggle of Impreza's in the Cup class to make a double class win on hist racing debut."

    The article also had 2 pictures with the Cancer Buddies Network / Tengudo Motorsport car (both already reproduced on this site courtesy of Lance Wittenberg) as well as the picture of the Subaru Cup winners with their trohpies, also on here already and thankfully zoomed out a little in the mag so your can't see my befuddled grin! ;)

    This is great coverage for the championship, competitors and sponsors... talking of which, we would like to remind people that we are still looking for new sponsors who we can work with and promote over the rest of the season (and beyond) >80)


    Saturday, 9 May 2009

    a BIG thankyou to....

    Joe for welding up the Transit van today so it can get through its MOT and be ready for Pembrey next week.

    Pov for sorting out the tracking on the car next week (thanks in advance).

    and Mikee.... as always for sorting everything else in the world of racing out and generally making sure my car is fast, drivable and most importantly safe.

    its been pretty challenging getting the car ready again with the current economic woes, but we are nearly there and will definitely be at Pembrey to try and bag some more trohpies ;)

    Quite alot of people from Cymraeg Scoobie Club and elsewhere will be coming down... hope you will too!