Classic 3-wheeling Imp pose. Photo: racefoto.se

It’s been a busy summer! Moving the entire shop has been done by Doc and Mrs Doc, and on top of that I’ve had the nerve to go and get married – finally. So after all the flowers, cakes & napkins were cleared off, the surplus booze polished off, and a trip to Sicily was done – life was back to normal. We were going racing again!

The blue Imp almost blew it’s brand new engine at our last attempt. The plan was to fit it with our spare engine for this race at Våler, but alas, too late Doc discovered a blown clutch seal, which of course is one of the few items not stocked in our shop. It was ordered pronto from Mr Anderson, but with everything going on there simply wasn’t time to get it all done. A new motor is due to be picked up on our trip to the Goodwood Revival, and the “old” engine is currently being rebuilt at a local guru’s place.

So Doc kindly offered me to share his car at Våler – if it was still in one piece after the first race. It hadn’t run well at Velodromloppet, lacking lots of power & torque compared to the blue Imp – which has an identical motor, bar it running Webers instead of Dellortos. So Doc swapped the Webers over to see if that was the issue.

I was picked up in our Commer after work on friday, and after 4 hours of truckin’ we set up camp in the Vålerbanen paddock. This time there wasn’t any wind, but torrential downpours after what had been a blistering summer day. We checked the car, and fired up the BBQ. The social atmosphere was excellent as usual, and we were joined for dinner by camp neighbours Vegard (1275 GT), Ketil (Fiat Abarth 1000TC) and Vidar (Lotus Cortina) for the feast – as well as lots of passers by. We were quite popular that evening – might have something to do with our selection of Vino Rosso & Birra…

Le Camp SHAG

Morning came with buckets of rain shot from the sky. It was WET. Thankfully, it wasn’t cold. After a few warm-up laps, we topped the Imp up with petrol & air, and Doc set out for qualifying in the monsoon. The track was slick – and became an ice rink after 5 minutes. Vegard set class pole, then dumped all his oil on the track to make sure nobody could touch his time (“Which idiot is driving round dumping oil on the track?? (Oil press lamp flashes on) “Oh, it’s me!!” – quote)
While all this was going on, Doc had found a Lotus Elan 26R unable to escape the Imp, and thew all qualifying strategy out the window by chasing it hard, and actually getting past for a brief moment. This included some rallycrossing in a gravel trap, which explains the brief moment of glory.

Doc was quite mad at being far from his excellent time set in the warm up, and started on a mission in the race. The track was drying rapidly, but still had a few slick spots which caught a Cortina he was chasing off guard. The result was that the Cortina tried to enter the Imp through the left door unsuccessfully, and while the Imp proudly screamed on, the Cortina had to park it. A lot of other action happened at the same time – a few cars were stranded in dangerous spots, and when Vegard chased an Elan into a gravel trap the safety car was deployed.

The restart was a bit of a fumble, but Doc chased down his opponents quickly and was getting ready to strike – when he noticed the engine temps were high. Both oil and water were at 100 deg, not good news. Knowing what happens to Imp engines if something goes wrong, he immediately slowed to a cruise and ran the two remaining laps easily. It was also apparent that the car was still lacking the punch it should have had. Minis and Fiats I easily pulled away from on the straights with the blue Imp pulled away easily from Pumpkin. We’ve got work to do!

In the thick of the action. Photo: racefoto.se

The damage to the side of the car was quite hefty, but it’s curable. We did some Emergency Battle Damage Repair, and fired up the BBQ. We checked over everything even remotely connected to the engine temps without finding anything wrong, or any signs of bad health. Even the catch tank was dry.

On Sunday morning I got the first couple of laps in the car during warm up. The sun was out, and meant business. The car felt excellent – balance was perfect, and the Avon ACB10s stuck like glue. No signs of high temps, but then I only ran 5 moderate laps in heavy traffic.

Once again, we checked air & fuel, and left ourselves and the car to bake in the sun until all Church-goers were done, and racing once again was allowed. I started from the back due to no qualifying time, and found my way past a few cars. I could instantly feel the fantastic grip of those tires. But the engine felt like a 1071 Mini compared to a 1300. It sounded lovely, but there was no real go. It didn’t really want to pull above 8000 RPM, where it should be screaming with joy if everything was right. Anyway, after about two laps, the temps suddenly rose to DEFCON 2. So I let up, and cruised a few laps. Short shifting, half throttle, rolling rather than sliding and so on, while keeping my eyes on the gauges.

“I though is was just the fibreglass that got whacked….”

Seeing that I could keep temps safe if I didn’t push the engine, I set out to explore the handling as much as I could, taking every other bend a bit hard, then letting up a bit, entering corners without really braking and so on. This technique did provide ok lap times eventually, and I learned a lot about the car. This car suits me perfectly, and maybe it was a way of teaching me how to drive an Imp. Pumpkin was not a car that wanted to be wrestled and wrung, but raced by the fingertips smoothly – in strong contrast to a Mini, which needs brute force to go quick. I really enjoyed lapping the car – even if I was taking it very easy – and trying to keep momentum up through the bends was huge fun.
In the last couple of laps, Ketil started to struggle somewhat with his Abarth, and at the same time he was dicing a Cortina heavily, so in a burst I was on his tail, and to my joy he locked a tire under braking which made the pass easy. The last lap was a walk in the park, and the Imp finished yet again.

We’re desperate to get the Imp engines sorted, but it’s incredibly difficult to get a date on the rollers in this country. We’ll just try harder, and with a bit of luck we might get another race in this season – or maybe a track day to sort the engines. Looking forward to it!