Croft - Roadsports & ClubEnduro - 750MC - 19th - 21st April 2024

Croft - Roadsports & ClubEnduro - 750MC - 19th - 21st April 2024

2024, a new year and a new racing season for us! For me it also time for a new race car. The Golf has been sold to Grant and Michael of FR Racing (who bought our Trackday Championship winning Ibiza back in 2020) and they plan to run it with us in the 750MC RoadSports when they can (first round for them will be R2 at Silverstone in May).
The only logical choice for me was to get the other TT converted from the TFSI motor to a diesel, the same as Ryan's, and move up to Class A. This means I am going to be racing AGAINST Ryan and Dylan this season, it might get spicy! To give me the edge, I managed to get the KOTOUČ Sequential Gearbox and Öhlins Suspension courtesy of Mick Gardner Racing fitted to my TT.
We still plan to do all the RoadSports series, as well as the full Club Enduro Championship races. This would mean only 7 race weekends (8 if we include the Birkett Relay), which doesn't sound like enough to me? So to complicate things, we are going to do as many of the TimeAttack rounds as possible. The ones that clash, we plan to send Adam Blair, our tame racing driver, to get some points on the board. To be competitive, the RS3 needs a bit more power, so the TFSI we pulled from the TT kindly donated it's Garrett Powermax to get us to ~440bhp.
Videos of both builds are below:

All the details and dates for future races we are entering can be found on the Darkside Motorsport Page.

For the first weekend of the year, we were at Croft for Friday testing, 45 Minutes of RoadSports on Saturday and 2.5hrs of ClubEnduro on Sunday!
Dylan would be sharing with Ryan for ClubEnduro, who would be solo in the Roadsports race. As always I was being greedy and keeping all the driving to myself!

A layout of the Croft Circuit is below. This track has a combination of some fast flowing corners, as well as some tight, technical areas.

The TT TDIs have a declared weight of 1177kg, and being in Class A can only have ~285bhp/ton, which works out around 325bhp on the Championship Dyno. Weight is without the driver, Diesels have a 1.05 power multiplier, and Petrol powered Forced Induction cars are required to run at 5bhp/ton lower than the class maximum (i.e. 295bhp/tonne for Class A), so we are ~10bhp/ton down on Forced Induction and 15bhp/ton on NA Cars.
The 750MC now uses TSL for timing.

Full Race Day Vlog

We have a full Vlog from the weekend, with snippets of the races:


Friday testing was a relaxed affair really, giving the cars a good shakedown and iron out any creases. We found a few niggles with both cars, but nothing that couldn't be sorted easily. The only problem was the laptimes! A few weeks ago I'd managed a 1:27.14 in the Manual Car with the Öhlins fitted, exactly equalling Will Stacey's Lap record from last year, but in the morning I could only manage a 1:28.31 and Ryan's best was 1:29.53 (he'd done a 1:27.9 in the Sequential Car back in March as well). The track just didn't feel like it had the grip.
We made a few setup changes, mainly softer suspension and I got down to a 1:27.55 and Dylan was into the 28s with a 1:28.99, but still a way off where we both expected. With all the trick bits, I was hoping for a 1:26!

Roadsports Qualifying

With 37 cars on the grid, space was always going to be the struggle. Our aim is to be first in the queue, but the guys spent a bit too long waiting for the scrutineering bay to be free to weigh the cars and measure the splitter heights, we were almost at the back. I decided it would be better to hang on and hope I didn't catch anyone up on the outlap, then find some space to go for it. That did not work out and I aborted the first lap, found a reasonable gap and went for it. A 1:28.191 put me on Pole, but I didn't expect it to last!
Ryan had the same issue and he only managed a 1:29.757 on his 2nd flier before struggling for space. He was P4 at the time, which did not seem too bad, especially with more in reserve if we could get some decent space. However it wasn't to be, and every lap I was expecting to be knocked off the top spot, and Ryan dropped to 6th, then the flag dropped after 25 minutes with me still on Pole and Ryan in P6. A perfect start for me, not so much for Ryan, however he was confident in moving forwards in the race!

Most of us did the best lap early on, with Ball in the Capture TCR opting to sit out most of Qualifying. I should have done the same really as I never got anywhere near my laptime again.

Pole changed hands a few times before I got it on Lap 3 and held it 'till the end.

Qualifying Laps

Our fastest Quali laps are shown below:

Roadsports Race

The whole race was Live Streamed by the guys at AlphaLive which you can see below:

My first Pole in Class A, with Ryan a few rows back. With a good start I am sure he could make up a few places!

With my car being Sequential, I would need to stop for 10s longer than Ryan and the other Manual or DSG Cars. Luckily the Mauger Cupra and Baily's Civic were also Sequential, so I wasn't on my own with that.
As the lights went out for my first rolling start, I pulled away from the others, by 1.5s after lap 1 and 2s by lap 2, getting immediately into a rhythm, pumping in laptimes I thought would keep me ahead without killing the tyres too soon. On my third lap I punched out a 1:27.9, beating the RoadSports Lap record set by Danny in this car last year, albeit with the TFSI and DSG box, sorry Danny!
Meanwhile Ryan was not having it so easy. Baily's Civic had pulled off at the start, and he got head of Jonny in the Lotus, but the Cupras were not quite so easy. He was keeping them honest, but not close enough to make an attack just yet. The gap to Ball in third was ebbing and flowing between 2 and 4s, depending who made it through the traffic best.
Waiting as long as possible for a safety car, with less than 2 minutes before the pit window closed, I down in for my mandatory 60+10s stop. Ryan had done his the lap before so our pitbox was not too crowded! By this point I had 9s in hand over the #18 Cupra who pitted at the same time as me, so with a slick stop, I should come out ahead with the same gap, since he was also a Sequential.

The guys did a great job, my pit in to out time of 1:37.693 was the quickest of the leaders, bang on 10s longer than Ryan's, so he had a good one as well.
By the next lap (Lap 19) all the stops were complete, the pit window was closed and we could see how everyone stacked up. I was still in the lead, by 13s but to Ryan this time, so we were on for a 1-2 finish. What a dream that would be!
Ryan's pace was great, but he lost a few tenths here and there to Mauger, and over the line on Lap 28 the acceleration of the Sequential car was too much and just got him ahead into Turn 1. Ryan stuck to his tail, and on the final lap was almost ahead across the line. They finished with a gap of 0.371s, Ryan just missing the second step of the podium behind me!

After 45 minutes of racing, 16 seconds separated the top 3. With their battle towards the end, I'd pulled out a decent gap. Ryan set his fastest lap on the last attempt, putting everything in to get himself ahead.

My third lap was quick enough to get the fastest lap of the race, quite a bit ahead of the others in Class A.

My laps were all over the place, mainly due to traffic, which seriously hurts you around here if you get it in the wrong place!

The lapchart shows our progress, hopefully I can replicate this a few times, lights to flag lead! It also shows how long Ryan was just behind me before getting knocked back at the end!

TSL allows us to see some more statistics about the race as well, with no Safety car at all, amazing for the first race of the season for most of these cars!

Fastest Laps

Our fastest race laps are below:

My ​fastest lap of the race was quick enough to get the lap record from Dan as mentioned above. Rob Boston's 2022 lap record was also beaten by the Tidmarsh and Webster Ginetta, one of my rivals towards the end of last season.

ClubEnduro Qualifying

We'd been at Croft all weekend, so there were no excuses for quali on Sunday. Learning from yesterday's mistakes, we made sure we were first in the queue. The first few laps would be critical with another big grid. Dylan was a little more on the back foot, but had been studying the data so knew what he needed to do.
My first lap wasn't too bad, a 1:28.588, but my next one was looking good until Oswick in the #4 Green E46 compromised it, pulling several car lengths on me through the chicane and into Tower. He'd not sat in the car all weekend and did a 1:26.743 on his first lap, so had already set the benchmark.
Dylan was still trying to get into a good rhythm, but on lap 7 managed a 1:28.387 which was enough for P3 just behind me at the time, perfect. He came in after a few more to hand over to Ryan, who didn't find a clear lap to beat Dylan's time, but did get within 0.15s of it, so they were be close to each other during the race.
Oswick handed over to Collins so their time didn't improve, and I knew I needed to pull out the fastest lap I had ever done around Croft to get anywhere close, my previous best a 1:27.1 when the track felt much better a few weeks ago. I decided to leave my brain in the pits and go all out. On my last flying lap I managed a 1:26.909, a great lap time, but still not enough.
While this was happening, Henderson in the MX5 had pipped Ryan and Dylan for 3rd, so they were on the 2nd row in 4th.

A car that is missing from the session is #33 of Clarke. His E46 M3 turns up to many different race meetings, looks incredibly quick and then falls foul of the rules. This time it was massively underweight for the power he had declared. It was DQ'd and needed to start from the Pitlane.

As you can see, Oswick did 1 amazing lap, then backed off. I had to hope he could not maintain that pace throughout the race otherwise we would be struggling. I figured mid to high 1:27s would be the race pace, especially as the fuel level comes down.

So for around 2 minutes of the session, Darkside were on top, but it was not meant to last! Oswick was right behind me when he set that lap.

Qualifying Laps

Our fastest Quali laps are shown below:

ClubEnduro Race

The whole race was Live Streamed by the guys at AlphaLive which you can see below:

Another front row start for the weekend, but this time on the outside line. Dylan would be starting just behind me. FWD vs RWD for turn 1 honours!

First round of the season means no success penalties. A straight race to the flag. At 2.5hrs (150 minutes) with 2 mandatory 3 minute pitstops, it was going to be a difficult race. I'd said to the guys weeks ago, just finishing is likely to result in some decent points.
I had a great start from the outside of the front row, pulling just enough ahead to sweep across Collins in the E46 to take the lead. I knew I needed to push hard at this early stage to pull a gap, then come in early for my first stop. Every lap Reuben was on the radio giving me the gap, and it was increasing on most laps.
Dylan held firm in 4th, battling with the MX5 until he dropped back a little, playing the long game. The BMW and MX5 started to battle each other, which only helped us both.
Around 18 minutes in, I started to feel something strange with the gears, sometimes not being able to pull 5th or 6th. Downshifts seemed to be OK, but I could feel this shifter sticking. I told Reuben on the radio to let me know as soon as the pit window opened at 30 minutes, so I could come in and they check the car over. I slowed down the shifts, started using the clutch and nursed it, but still pulled out a gap on the guys battling behind. By lap 21, when the pits were open, I was 14.638s ahead of the MX5 who was over 1s ahead of the BMW. A good gap!
Dylan stayed out as they were going to at least the hour mark before considering a stop. He was ~8s from the lead at this point, but keeping it consistent and out of trouble, exactly what is needed in an endurance race!
During my stop, nothing too concerning as found on the shifter, so they lubed up the cables, changed the tyres, added some fuel and sent me back out. Half a lap later I couldn't get gears again. Downshifts worked, but I inadvertently dropped it all the way down to Neutral. Being a sequential, I could go down to Reverse, then cycle back down the gears, but to do this would mean stopping. In a moment I regret now, I stopped, shifted down to Reverse, then the whole shifter locked up. I was stuck on the track with only reverse as my option. My race was ruined. The safety car was deployed and I was eventually recovered back to the pits. Absolute nightmare!

While this was going on, another problem was brewing that at first was un-noticed on the pitwall. Looking back at the data, it is crazy that as Dylan drove past me stranded on the track, his coolant pressure spiked, a sure sign of head gasket failure.
In testing the previous week, Ryan's camshaft had snapped, unknowingly damaging an inlet and exhaust valve. We'd managed to source a Camshaft module and flew it in from The Netherlands. The guys fitted it, fired the engine up and it was smoking like crazy. A compression test showed one of the cylinders was way down. Head off revealed a few bent valves and some last minute work to do! This was Tuesday night, the cars were going to track Thursday evening. The guys worked like crazy and got everything ready to put back together, but we missed a crucial part - the head gasket. We normally stock them, but they had been on long term back order from both VW and Elring. The only gasket I could get on the Wednesday was a BGA, not ideal. This obviously bit us hard in the middle of the race!

On Dylan's in lap, he started to get some warnings about coolant temperature, and he had come in with some dramatic steam billowing out of the header tank. The guys rushed around trying to find the gear to refill the system (not something we normally have to do in a hurry so everything was still packed away) but it was clear that the car would not go any further. What a disappointing end to the weekend.
What little racing we did is in the below videos. The frustrating thing is, my first stop was 7s quicker than the #4, so I was 21s in the lead after the first stops. How different the race could have been if the shifter did not cause me all this grief!
After being recovered back, we found the culprit, an M8 stud on the base of the lever, that holds the rose joint together, had worked it's way out, jamming against the base. A 2 minute fix once it was spotted.

So that was it, a DNF for both cars, Ryan and Dylan were at least classified 23rd and P11 in Class A if that is any consolation, with 55 laps on the board. I only managed 29 in total, less than a third race distance.

The pace of the cars were good, but no match for the 1:26.732 Oswick did during the race (on his first lap out of the pits on full fuel).

All our paces were consistent, but the E46 when Joel was driving would have taken some beating I am sure.

Leading until Lap 21 when I pitted, and Dylan took over on Lap 40 as he was one of the last of the leaders to pit. I am sure he would have been on the podium had the car continued.

Some more statistic to look at, I held the fastest lap of the race until Oswick jumped in, and the lead changed quite a few times before finally settling with the #4 car.

Fastest Laps

Our fastest race laps are below:

The E46 also smashes the 2023 Lap record set by Stacey in the Elise, a time last year we all thought would be impossible to beat. As another kick in the nuts, the Tidmarsh / Webster Ginetta beat my Class B record by 0.3s as well, dammit!

The championship table doesn't look as good as it did for me this time last year, but we have 7 races with 2 dropped scores, so it is still anyone's season!

The next round is at Silverstone National Circuit on the 18th May for RoadSports, the day after we then need to go to Brands Hatch for the shorter, 75 minute Club Enduro race on the GP Circuit. Fingers crossed we can get both cars sorted and ready for it!

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Elsey Motorsport Photography and 750MC

All the details and dates for future races we are entering can be found on the Darkside Motorsport Page.

12 05 2024

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