British Autotest Championship

May 25th, 2014

British Autotest Championship

“Maximum Attack”  Scottish Autotest Team

2014 BTRDA Autotest Championship

Round 3, Halfpenny Green Airfield, Staffordshire

“a day of mixed fortunes” in the continuing adventures of Warren Gillespie and Willie Keaning

Round 3 of the BTRDA Autotest Championship was held on Sunday 18th May at Halfpenny Green Airfield to the left ofBirmingham!

[nggallery id=96]

Clerk of the Course,  experienced autotester Duncan Stephens, had set out a group of three tests which would be run a total of six times each. The surface at this busy little airfield was reminiscent of the broken tarmac surface at Heathhall, so hopefully, Warren and Willie would feel more accustomed to the driving conditions. However, wall to wall blue skies and blistering hot sunshine is not something that we get to experience too often at our own club events.

The event got off to a cracking start for Willie who was fastest in the class on each of the opening three tests and holding an incredible 9th overall at the end of the first loop.

Since the previous BTRDA event at Foxley, Willie had been burning the midnight oil to develop and test a modified gear cluster which would allow the selection of first gear by pushing the gear lever forward and reverse gear by pulling the lever straight back. These type of gear clusters have become very popular inIrelandandEnglandbut can suffer from a lot of teething problems. During a recent test night at Oakbank (thanks David Bogie) Gordon Clendinning had managed to jam the gearbox between gears, but the ever resourceful Willie quickly identified the problem and made adjustments to the linkage. It would be a baptism of fire for the gearbox at Halfpenny Green.

In contrast,Warren’s day got off to the worst possible start when he failed the first test of the day with a wrong direction through a gate just before the finish line. Undeterred, Warren set about recovering the twenty seconds lost on the opening test by setting fastest time in the class on test 5 only to collect a 5 second penalty on the very next test. It was looking like a case of “one step forward and two steps backwards”

The gremlins had started to appear in Willie’s Nova. An intermittent electrical fault was causing starting problems and also stopping the fuel pump on the tests which resulted in the car having to be pushed off the tests on more than one occasion. Wallace Keaning and Gordon Clendinning searched for the cause of the problem but were unable to track down the fault before the lunchtime break. Fastest in class on tests 6 and 7 came as little consolation to Willie at the time but proves that the boys are making good progress against stiff opposition.

Due to the exhausting heat, the cars were taking a pounding. Under bonnet temperatures were extremely high and tyre wear was also becoming a concern.Warrenwas on softYokohama’s while Willie was using slightly harder Toyo’s on the front but was running his rear tyres at 80psi to enable the car to break away on the grippy and hot airport type tarmac.

After lunch the action resumed,Warrenclaimed another fastest in class on test 10 however Willie’s car failed on two of the early afternoon tests. Eventually, the electrical fault that had plagued Willie’s day was traced to a loose connection inside a fuse holder which actually melted the plastic body of the fuse but didn’t blow the fuse!

Class leaders Dave and Toby Cook were having problems of there own. Dave suffered a wrong test before lunch and then struggled with a exploding rear tyre which came off the rim before the end of the test. In contrast, Toby Cook was holding a 2.9 second class lead after test number 15 despite a 5 sec penalty.

At the sharp end of the event, current MSA Champion Richard Pinkney found himself locked in a fierce battle with Dave Evans and Chris Chapman for the overall positions. Pinkney was recovering from host of penalties during the day and eventually finished in 3rd place behind event winner Chris Chapman and second placed Dave Evans. a mere 1.3 seconds covered the top three after 18 tests!

It was a case of “what might have been” for Warren who rounded off his day with two more fastest in class times to finish 3rd in class and 14 seconds behind class winner Toby Cook. As for Willie, another electrical problem limited the power in the Nova for the last three tests resulting in 4th in class.Warrenpicked up the award for best novice on the day while Willie received an award for his perseverance in getting the car to the finish of the event in 18th overall.

Positives to come from this event………..

Both Warren and Willie are gaining valuable experience on their travels this year and they are now challenging stronger within their class and are taking the fight to the class leaders. Willie’s is extremely pleased with his new development gear box and I don’t think it will be long beforeWarren’s car will be running to a similar spec.

Chairman of the MSA and BTRDA Autotest Committee, Mike Sones brought two influential members of the Japanese Motorsport Federation to the event at Halfpenny Green. These gentlemen had been attending an FIA meeting inParisand were very keen to find out about autotesting which surprisingly doesn’t exist inJapan. They were shown how the events run, the preparation of the cars and witnessed autotesting at British Championship level. They left suitably impressed and hopefully will introduce autotesting toJapanin the near future.

Our Japanese friends left a couple of little prizes with the organisers of the event and Willie was presented with a box of what looks like some kind of exotic sweets, on the other hand they could turn out to be soaps or something!

The next event in the British Championship for our guys will be a double header weekend onAngleseyand at Demon Tweeks near Wrexham at the end of June.

Gordon Clendinning.