Cadwell Park - parked


Round 3 of the BMW 116i Trophy took us to Cadwell Park. We'd done a track day there about a month before on a baking hot evening and found the track to be great fun but hard work. It has some great inclines and drops and the barriers are a bit close creating a real impression of speed through the wooded bit.

Qualifying on the Saturday morning saw me get the car in 16th out of 24 before Jack took over, his last lap before a red flag incident stopped qualifying saw him get the car in 6th on the grid, a great effort!

Jack started the race, this will become the norm for us as he's good in traffic having had much more racing experience, also me being 30KG heavier it pays to put me in the car at the end when there's much less fuel being carried. On the opening lap he gained a place to fifth when on running over a kerb on that opening lap the engine management light came on and the car dropped in to limp mode. He brought he car in to the pits and we managed to reset it but we were now last and 2 laps behind the leader. He set off at great pace and the decision was made to bring him in for the first compulsory pit stop early, just after the 15 minute mark. This would mean he'd be in a less congested pit lane and would come out in fairly clear traffic. At that stop (which is a mandatory minimum of 60 secs) the scrutineer in the pit lane spotted that the drop link to the front ant roll bar was hanging down and scraping on the surface, Alan managed to get it tie wrapped up out of the way but we'd now have the handling compromised. Jack complained about a scraping noise at the rear but we explained we'd found the problem and sent him on his way. He then set about catching up the rest. The next 45 minutes saw some impressive driving with him lapping at about 5th fastest pace in a compromised car. Little did he know I was in the pits fighting with a broken zip on my overalls, more of this later. During this period the commentator would occasionally comment that the car seemed to be bouncing all over the place in right turns, we could only see the car on the straight so couldn't see a problem. In that 45 minutes Jack dragged the car back up to a remarkable13th place and we called him in so I could take over. What followed next was a bit of a farce.

Jack got out of the car saying there was something wrong at the left rear, he'd been much slower on the previous two laps and there had been a loud bang, he said I shouldn't go out. Anyway, knowing better I got in the car and was strapped in as usual and as I did so my overall zip gaped wide open and the scrutineer spotting it shouts "you can't go out like that". I jump out of the car and tell Jack to get out of his overalls so we can swap, he's complaining back that the car is knackered and shouldn't go out. Anyway adrenaline being what it is I, while standing in the pit lane in my pants and T shirt, manage to convince him to swap and I squeezed in to his overalls which were a little tight but did up and I could sort of stand in without my eyes watering too much. Now finally strapped in the car I head out of the pit lane. The first corner is a left hander taken at about 95 - 100MPH, from the pit lane you're not going quite that quickly and through the turn I was aware of a scraping noise from the rear of the car. The next corner is a slightly slower right and as I turned in I was aware that it wasn't just the front wheels steering any more, I began to think that maybe Jack was right. I also found out that the brake pedal had very long travel before anything much happened. Driving at 80 to 90% pace I made my way around the lap thinking that it was time to retire from the race, part way round the lap I spot a damaged car on the grass not far from the edge of the track and think that it may warrant a safety car period, we may be able to finish the race at the much slower pace behind the safety car and still get some sort of result, so I don't pit and head off on a second lap. I then on this lap realised that that car hadn't just crashed, it had been there ages, the safety car didn't appear so I was again bringing the car in to retire, except the fun wasn't over yet. The wooded section I referred to earlier, where the barriers are close has a sequence of corners taken at maybe 70 ish MPH starts with a right turn, and as I turn in to the right there's another loud bang at the back and the car turns in sharply and starts to spin, lots of opposite lock and it flicks to the left and slides down the track at 90 degrees, lots of other lock holding it roughly in position, though this may have been down to the flapping left rear wheel that was now in charge of the steering. It stopped short of the barriers anyway in a cloud of smoke. A quick restart of the engine and a shuffle back and forth and I rejoined the track and very slowly took the car in to retire.

It looks like from the opening lap the rear damper disconnected itself from the wishbone, one spectating driver and another spectator confirmed after the race that the left rear spring seemed undamped for the whole race and that certainly explains the pitching in right hand turns seen by the commentator. The suspension then seems to have slowly shaken itself apart. The first bang Jack heard was probably the bush in the top suspension arm pulling out, this stressed the rear brake hose so it ruptured, hence the long brake pedal and poor braking, only one brake circuit was working. The bang I heard that led to my spin was the bolt snapping for the toe link, by this stage there was very little left holding the wheel and hub in place. I'm sorry to say it looks like the trouble we'd had at Donington, which later turned out to be the second hand hub we were running being for a later car had resulted in me dismantling and rebuilding the left rear again and inadvertently putting the top suspension arm in the wrong way round, the bush at that end of the arm would never have seated properly on the hub but I didn't spot it. Not entirely sure how we lost the damper bolts but I can confirm that BMW want £13 each for them. No one hurt and the car didn't hit anything but a lesson was learned.

Off to Anglesey next, hopefully, I'm still waiting for the last part just days before we head off. Thanks again to Alan and Ryan for their help and for Alan's tools, truck and patience.