I Had A Shot of a Rallycross Car - It was Bloody Good Fun!
This came about thanks to one of my mates from work. I stopped doing a lot of karting when I moved down South, mainly due to not having any space to keep the equipment. Todd, the aforementioned mate from work, asked if I’d come along with him to his rallycross races to lend a hand on the spanners. For me it was a win win. Todd gets the extra pair of hands, I get taken round race tracks all over the UK, and even get a chance to learn to fix cars from his Uncle, Duncan who is a top mechanic. If you’re interested in motorsport at all give him a follow on whatever social media tickles your pickle. He has just built a brand new car for the supermodified class which he won in 2015 It should be a cracking season.
So we were at Blyton park for a track day, Todd was bouncing round in his old classic mini for a bit of track time after the winter break. He’d been out a couple of times before turning to me and just going “You fancy a shot?”. I’d never driven the car other than onto the trailer. I’d been at the circuit for a whole 3 hours of my life in total, I’d never driven on gravel but the answer was of course yes!
My feminine sized head was quickly squeezed into Todds Fiance’s helmet (Who also races rallycross), I was belted in, and off I went to the queue to get on track. So what was it I was about to drive? Here are the headline specs;
1991 Mini Flame
Stripped to an inch of it’s life - about 700kg with driver
1275 A series bored out to 1380cc, with a nice cam and manifold
All the usual race car safety bits - Roll-cage, bucket seat, many toggle switches.
Sounds like a tasty recipe.
As I was in the queue for the track I tried to think my way round this never traversed before circuit, (for me anyway). Straight, up to 4th, Left, DONT CRASH THE CAR, 2nd, right, gravel, 3rd, YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO CRASH THE CAR, right, hold 2nd, HOPE THE ENGINE DOESN’T BLOW, more gravel, take 3rd, flat out through the chicane, DON’T CLIP THOSE BALES AND ROLL, left, right left, lap complete, repeat.
After these troubled thoughts the marshalls hand went up and I was off. I’d decided, rather cleverly you may agree, to take it easy on the first session, learn the track and the car and see how it went. I’m pleased to report there was no hassle. Not yet anyway.
First impressions were “Bloody hell this is quite quick” swiftly followed by “this is comfy” as I bounced up and down like a rampant toddler who wants out of their car seat. The quick bit makes sense too as when you think about the power to weight ratio of the car, it’s up there with some pretty quick hot hatches. Couple this with fairly standard mini suspension you can see why it’s an absolute riot of a car to drive.
Anyway, we’d learned which way the track went, got used to how the car drove a little bit, next time, we could go a little bit harder.
The car was cooled, the thimble that is the fuel tank was refilled and we were back out on track. The aim for this time was to get all the right gears for the corners and maybe even find the limit of grip in the car. The latter was remarkably high. These minicross cars run on a control Yokohama classic tyre but there is a really high level of grip from them. I was getting used to the car on the tarmac but gravel was taking a bit longer.
The only moment I had was on the first gravel section as I came into a right hand hairpin. I hit the brakes with a little bit too much vigour. Cue the arse of the car stepping round, and me fumbling at the steering wheel like a dog trying to remain upright on a patch of ice. But much like the dogs do, I held it together and didn’t bin it. Much to my, and probably Todds, relief.
After a quick chat with Todd I seemed to be in the right gears and places for most of the lap. If anything I was being kind to the car and changing up early. “Can go up to 7000rpm” was his words but i still would rather not blow it up as I was planning on getting another kart chassis, not another mini engine! In classic Hollywood style the 3rd run out would be the last session of the day and all that other cliche bollocks so I thought I’ll spend ⅔ laps warming it up then see how far I could push it. Sadly, I never quite got past that warm up bit. I’ll let the video below explain.
So what did I break? Well luckily for me, nothing. The nut had came off the bottom arm bolt resulting in what looked like something bad, about 25 degrees of camber, but in fact took 20 minutes to fix thanks to Duncan, with a jack and a hammer at the side of the track. Result. This was excellent news for my wallet, and the race car. Also i’m partly to blame for it happening as it was Todd and I who done the spanner check on the car the previous day. I swear that was his side though…..
If you want to see how fast the car goes with Todd at the helm, have a look at the video below. The main things I notice are he is much more willing to rev the thing and he has only been bombing round in minis since he was 14. It’s the best excuse I’ve got. Also you can clearly tell I come from a circuit racing background, as I tend to stick between the white lines where Todd just goes wherever the hell he does.
Once again thanks to all of the team for letting me have a go. I won’t forget it in a hurry!