Just a little trip to Belgium...
Photo credit: Nicki Russel.
The long road to Spa Francorchamps would be the third year in a row for the Students of Wrexham Glyndwr University's Together, We Progress Racing. The trip to the Belgian circuit is the furthest from home for all the 750 Motor Club#ClubEnduro competitors but never fails to prove worthwhile with stunning scenery, unpredictable weather and a challenging track.
The team's two cars would compete with 43 other UK-based teams but also alongside the Belgian Gentleman Drivers Club making for an incredible multi-national grid with an eclectic mixture of machines.
The team arrived in the knowledge that they had taken their first win at that very circuit just one year prior. A dream-come-true then but could the hard work between end in another top-step result?..
Photo credit: Jonathan Elsey Motorsport Photography.
Mazda Mk3 MX-5 - Car 73:
Qualifying would prove painful for Nick Dougill and John Munro in the MX5 Parts MRF Tyres Mk3 MX-5. After contact with track detritus a toe-link dislodged causing Nick to spin on the entry to Eau Rouge. The corner is only the second after the pit exit so Nick couldn't nurse the car around the five-mile track so had to park up and await recovery costing valuable qualifying time. As if to add insult to injury the car's transponder failed to register any of his previous laps meaning that the car would have to start race one from the pit-lane.
Remembering that the grid was composed of not just Club Enduro entries but a combined grid that would put the pair 87th of 87 cars.
Come the rolling start the sheer pace and ability of the car started to shine through, with John at the helm 25 places were gained in the first two laps including an incredible four-car uphill pass through Eau Rouge and Raidillon as John weaved past lesser cars. Afterwards John summarised his stint: "possibly the most exciting opening few laps I've ever been involved with".
With a suspect forecast the team elected to fuel the car heavy - further testament to its handling capabilities - and as the 100 minute race entered the last third the heavens opened with stair-rod rain. By now most teams had pitted and the car was running 2nd in class but the lead car span out in the torrid conditions promoting TWP Racing to the top step. As the majority of teams pitted for the second time Nick jumped in the saddle and returned to the circuit on fresh wets with a splash of fuel and only the one stop in the bag. Even with the tyre change the team posted a 3:17 pit-stop, just 17 seconds over the minimum compulsory time.
Nick drove faultlessly through the rain and kept the car out of trouble as the track dried and the wet tyres started to struggle crossing the line not just P1 in class but P9 overall. Remember that was having started dead last!
The pair posted a 2:59.719 fastest lap compared to a 3:01.269 at the same circuit in 2018, further evidence that the aero changes and weight loss programme the team has been developing has been successful.
A very different grid position for the car come the second race with the team having to run up the pits to reach the car, now sat just six rows from the very front!
However fate would deal a different hand and a braking issue meant Nick struggled to keep pace with the field, by the pit-stop the car was running P5 but very much still in contention however the braking issue worsened eventually forcing John into a spin and reverse-contact with a tyre wall. John limped the car home and a patch job was completed on the car but the second stop would prove fateful, the car eventually crossing the line P7 in class, 28th overall.
Photo credit: Jonathan Elsey Motorsport Photography.
Lotus Elise S2 - Car 72:
The story of the team's Nankang Tyres S2 Elise has been a mixed one and considerable time and effort had gone into the car ahead of the European rounds. With Giles and James heading up the drives the team reduced the aero on the car in anticipation of the increased drag of the high speed circuit.
A 3:25 qualifying time suggested an issue within the car and the first race would eventually present the issue as James lost 4th gear with an accompanying and very loud crunching of metal. The car would retire just six laps before the end of the race.
What followed was a herculean effort by the team as a new gearbox was fitted overnight in preparation for the 9.30am Saturday race. A huge thank you to Rob and the team at Rob Boston Racing for all the help, advice and moral support over the weekend!
Would see a vastly improved package - not to mention a vastly improved and reliable gearbox! - but James could not extract the pace the team had seen at Croft previously with engine power considerably down. The issue seemed to be getting progressively worse during the race and James elected to park up in the pit-lane before race end to preserve the car. What has subsequently come to light is a broken wire in the MAF sensor, essentially limiting power due to the ECU misreading the feed. A five pound component costing the team a successful second race whilst hugely frustrating is also another lesson learned in the quest to make the car as competitive as the MX5 it shares the workshop with and very much key to the team's ethos.
The takeaway from the weekend was the car is starting to show its potential and the next four weeks will see considerable time spent on ensuring this potential is reached.
Photo credit: JR Tulkian Productions.
So, another win, the team's second, and vital Championship points not just for the MX5 but also the Elise as its development and the Student's learning progresses. As always the team will keep the TWP Racing website and social media channels updated with news of our progression.
As ever we are hugely grateful to the teams at the The Awning Company. and Caber Coffee, with the TWP hospitality being the centre-point of the paddock so far from home it really did become the human refuelling station for the weekend!
Next event: Silverstone, in just four weeks time.
Photo credit: Jon Earp.
2019 Race Calendar:
750 Motor Club TEGIWA Club Enduro Championship
22 April Donington 2hr 02 June Croft 3hr 12/13 July Spa Francorchamps 2 x 100min 11 August Silverstone International 2hr 14 September Oulton Park 2hr 13 October Snetterton 300 2hr 27 October Silverstone GP 2hr
BARC / Mission Motorsport Race of Remembrance
09/10 November Anglesey 12hr (including night race)
That's 30 hours of racing!!!
TWP: Together, We Progress. In partnership with Wrexham Glyndwr University.