MG RACING: Peter Bramble’s racing diary

MG Racer Peter Bramble 'July 21 2011
MG Racer Peter Bramble 'July 21 2011
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Bramble’s adventures at Silverstone

Once again it was the time of the year when the MG brotherhood and sisterhood ( I have to be politically correct now) descend on Silverstone from all over the world. We were going to race on the new Grand Prix circuit before Lewis what’s his name and that bloke named after a car.

For our regular readers all two of you who don’t press the junk mail button, the race car was not running very well at Oulton Park in our last race. All the electrical parts were replaced and I waited to see if I had solved the problem. This was not an easy thing to accomplish as when I phoned up to buy some new spark plugs I was told we don’t make them any more. The words “don’t panic stay calm” went straight out of the window. Eventually Entune 2000 posted me some and they arrived the day before Silverstone.

We travelled down to Silverstone on the Thursday to capture a good spot in the paddock, myself in the camper van and trailer and Lesley following behind in the MGF. After I had practiced on Friday, Lesley was going on a couple of laps around the circuit and unfortunately for Lesley, I would be beside her in the car telling her which racing line to take.

The weekend started as it was to continue we were refused entry to the circuit. Unfortunately the words don’t you know who I am didn’t work and the reply well driving THAT van your not Lewis what’s his name, obviously not a fan of Team Slap.

Luckily somebody took pity on us and I led the way in, that was to be the only first of the weekend. We found our spot and started to get organised, I put up the TV arial and could not get a picture, there is a pattern emerging here that carried on through the weekend. Thinking everything had gone digital in the area we travelled to Tesco’s to buy a digital box. Eventually we got a picture just in time for me to burn the food on the barbeque.

Friday arrived dry but a little cloudy after the signing on the car was prepared for the untimed practice. Although I had never been on the track before I had been studying a map of the track and some footage from MG’S on Track, when they had a track day here earlier in the year.

Most of the track had been raced on last year, up to the part where they have built a new pits complex for the F1 drivers. From that point the track is very barren with very few reference points. Soon though it was time to put all this theory top the test .

As we exited the assembly area I was behind a car from another championship who I believed had been here before with MG o T. Brilliant I thought I will just follow him for a couple of laps. Off we go on to our first lap every thing is fine we go past the new pits, go to the right, then a left , another right, he’s not braking, well neither am I. Next thing I’m spinning off the circuit next top him in a choreographed spinning exercise. I was a little less exuberant on the next couple of laps . I found it hard though to follow where the track went, as it was like racing in the dessert with no discernable features, and no count down markers to the corners.

The car was not performing as well as it should have been as it seemed to be still down on power. It was also running at a higher temperature than normal.

Unfortunately I did not have time to look at the engine, as I had to get it scrutineered. Then it was Lesley’s turn to drive around the track coached by me. It was not too bad at least we were still talking to each other at the end. She still reminds me though that she did not fall off the track. Not trying hard enough!

We were not racing on Saturday so I thought I would look at the engine and adjust the valve clearances. I removed the rocker cover and found one broken valve spring and worst of all a broken valve collet, which had left the spring resting on the rocker mechanism.

I had two options, retire to the beer tent for the weekend or go home and take the cylinder head off my road car. Unfortunately I was persuaded to go home for the other head. I left the circuit whilst Paul and James took off one head and I raced home at obviously within the legal speed limits etc, etc.

Once at home the head came off in no time and I raced back to Silverstone to refit this head. Driving back on the A43 I heard a big bang and saw what I thought was my tyre tread flying into the air. As I was not far away from Silverstone I reduced my speed and carried on to the paddock. On checking over the MGF I could not find anything wrong. It was only later that somebody asked where the front spoiler was? It was on the A43, it was supposed to be race proof any stay on at 130 mph +I was nowhere near that. The weekend was turning into one of those where you wished you had stayed in bed.

On return to Silverstone, we started to fit the new head which did not take that long, just the usual problems, short of some nuts and one or two over of another type. At least if I leave a few nuts and bolt the car should go faster.

Our next adventure was to cycle around the track, I like to do this as it gives you a good idea where your braking and turn points will be, sometimes it is better to view a corner backwards than it is view it as you drive it.

Sunday morning dawned dry and hot, we had already added water wetter to the cooling system yesterday whilst swapping the heads. Hopefully that would cool the engine down.

I was out in the first of the days practices, it was fingers crossed as I went onto the track. The car behaved well and I was getting used to the track now picking out the braking points, even thought the new part of the track is featureless and like driving in the desert. Slowly though the temperature gauge needle was rising and before it started to boil over and possibly destroy the engine I had to pull over and switch the engine off. The only thing I could think of was , had I completed three laps to enable me to race. I was recovered back to the paddock, as there was not enough time to swap cylinder head gaskets or delve more deeply into the engine, I just retightened the cylinder head again. Also I ripped off the radiator grill in order to help the airflow, by doing this though I would be prone to stones damaging the oil cooler and the radiator.

Soon it was time to race I had qualified 25th out of a grid of 45 cars, which was a disappointment as I had hoped to be in the top 15. I was 4th in my class which was not too bad as the other cars had more laps than me to drop their times.

The day was getting warmer and there was at least one car that did not make it out of the assembly area. On the green flag lap I tried to keep away from every body to ensure that the car had a good airflow to the radiator. As we pulled onto the grid for the start all I could see was yellow flags as two cars were pushed off the grid.

As the red lights went off I had a good start and went flying into the first corner I had already gained a couple of places, as we were going down hanger straight I was overtaken by Alan Bates one of my rivals I had dropped a place in the class and was at fifth now. As we passed the new pits I had caught him up and two corners later, he spun . Luckily I missed him but my fellow racer from Kilsby MG Club James Darby went straight into the side of him. I was having a good race and catching the cars up. Also catching up was the temperature gauge and eventually I had to retire. we had done one more lap though than in practise.

It was straight back to the paddock behind the recovery vehicle, and start to work on the engine the cylinder head gasket was changed more water wetter was added, we also added some K seal a product for repairing cracks in cylinder heads. I wasn’t too hopeful but I thought I would give it one more try.

I had been promoted up the grid to 22nd.

The lights went out and I had an even better start and had gained a few more places. going into the first corner there was an accident and I managed to gain more places in the chaos. The car was going well and I was having a better race than in the first but the temperature gauge was climbing and I had to retire.

This was not a good Silverstone by any means but I am getting used to the new suspension I fitted and if the engine was running properly I think I would have done better. Motor sport though is full of if only’s.

The race head is at Entune 2000 and the road head is at Stanbridge Motors and Carl informed me that there is no crack in the engine block or cylinder head. The valves were not seating and only numbers two and three were working properly.

You can watch videos of the race and the repairs to the car on you tube just type in peter bramble, The Benny Hill one is really funny.

Hopefully I will be ready to race for our next outing at Thruxton on the 30th July and then off to Anglesey the week later.