Having found the step up to slicks and wings with the Van Diemen RF82 quite manageable I had a bit of an epiphany
while hiking in the Dolomites in the Autumn of 2014 and decided to do what I had said I would never do! That is move
to a carbon tub, bike engine and plenty of aero. The decision was helped by the fact that the RF82 had no obvious class
in Speed events (apart from the Classic single seater class which was in a bit of a decline) and the growing popularity of
the 1100cc Racing Car class. I was also thinking of the future and the transition from competitor to entrant having already
identified a possible driver who was likeable, sensible and importantly, quick!
It was really a choice between an OMS or a Force. I wasn't too keen on a Jedi and it was too soon for any used Empires to have appeared.
I'd floated the idea with Chris Jones who was keen to share the drive and we discussed it with Graham Boulter who was considering a bike engine for
another of his projects who provided some really invaluable advice. At the September Shelsley we all had a good look at the options and
it transpired that Darren Gumbley was preparing to sell his red Force PT. The car (ex Gardner & Farthing) was fitted with the latest carbon
undertray & wings, the latest DTA ECU and a recently built Mark Fisher racing K9 GSXR. It had been setting competitive times including a spectacular run
at Prescott with Alex Summers at the wheel so the deal was done. It also fitted perfectly on my trailer!
As Chris wanted to do Hillclimbs as well as Sprints the one change I wanted to make was to fit a paddle shift - I wanted to have both
hands on the wheel going up narrow tracks like Shelsley. These had been really
quite expensive but the Nick & Luke Algar Plays-Kool operation had recently introduced a more cost effective kit. Coincidentally my preferred
engineer, Nigel Keats at Cougar Engineering (who looked after Chris' Westfield and my Caterham), was about to fit the same paddle shift
system with the same ECU to Steve Day's new Caterham so it was an easy choice. The car then went to Ian Dayson back at Force to have some new parts
(stub axles, airbox etc.) fitted prior to our first test at Curborough.
Apart from a few small issues (see below) it turned out to be a good season with Chris finishing 2nd in the HSA 1100cc class amd me 4th.
Bike engines are really something, revving to 13,000 and with the flat up shift and paddles really intoxicatiing. It has also
introduce me to some new suppliers - a dive shop for compressed air and my local Suzuki dealer for spare parts. The car proved to be quite easy to drive
with very light controls - looking forward to 2016.
March: With the Force not yet ready I brought the RF89 out for the Great Western Sprint at Combe and throughly enjoyed the day setting
a 152.87s and 31st out of 78 starters.
April: The first test at Curborough was going well until the radiator sprung a leak but not before the paddle shift had
been adjusted to operate cleanly. After this it ran faultlessly for the entire season.
May: A busy month with three week-ends back to back. I ran solo at Snetterton and apart from learning the protocols for the flat shift
it all went well getting down to a 94.03s which was 4.5s faster that in the RF82. Then on to MIRA with Chris having his first run out
and second of the 1100s with me on a 49.28s despite some worries about the handling. The car was back to Nigel's for a check over and fitting a longer gear and chain ready for Pembrey.
We had a number is issues at Pembrey with overheating and what turned out to be a failed rectifier. Nevertheless Chris took another second
with me fifth on a 112.51s.
June: Just a 2 day Prescott meeting with a huge quality field of 1100s.My 47.60s wasn't that impressive and I did find the experience not
too much to my liking particularly the damp practice. Chris was again concerned about the handling and with some help from Chris Aspinall and Bill Chaplin it was discovered that the
rear suspension mounting wasn't solid. Back at Nigel's the shocks and bearings along with a lower engine mounting bolt all needed attention.
July: The traditional BARC Wales summer Llandow Sprint where the car felt much more stable (according to Chris who finished 2nd!) and
I was third with a 77.11s.
August: Loton Park. I enjoyed Loton more than Prescott and finished fourth (56.08s) behind Chris in third. We both experienced the car leaping about over the
bumps up Cedar straight which was a bit scary. It turned out the front was set on full stiff and we had been advised to adjust
the 'belleville washers' to soften things up a bit.
September: Blyton Park. I had an excellent first practice setting a time that would have got me in to the Top 12 Run Off and feeling confident in the car
for the first time. That was my undoing as I spun at the first corner on P2, forgot to get the clutch in as I went backwards and promptly exploded
the starter motor. Chris tried to to take his first timed run but found that the front suspension was way out of true after I had clobbered
a straw bale during my spin. So it was a diversion to Nigel's on the way home to straighten out the suspension and a search for spare
starter motors on eBay as a new part was prohibitively expensive. It was Shelsley the following week-end and again I quite enjoyed the
hill. Chris was on the pace and a close third while I was quite happy with my 31.56s.
October: The final event of the season at the HSA Curborough Sprint. Chris went well against Alex Summers and the Andrews (father & son)
and not too far behind. I was satisfied with my 32.46s. I also entered the Caterham in the Pagasus Sprint at Combe and was looking forward to it
but the weather was so cold, wet and windy I abandoned without taking the car off the trailer!