A wee bit on the soft side at the rear. Photo, as ever, by racefoto.se

A wee bit on the soft side at the rear. Photo, as ever, by racefoto.se

Or so it goes…
Doc’s been at the cars this winter as avid blog readers may know. Still, we were jumping into the big unknown last weekend with the two Imps for the first two rounds of the National Championship for Historic Racing.
We got the yellow car running thursday afternoon after some gnawing at the distributor, and were all set. Friday came, and we left straight from work to get the cars loaded. Just when we were wiping our brows getting ready for the trek, the truck didn’t fire up. Dead batteries or worse. A two-hour session of high blood pressure saw us get going after stunting a borrowed 24V charger that needed a few tricks & kicks to work, plus a can of belt-grip.

We arrived at the track full of sugary bevarages, and set up camp at a bit after midnight – in the customary pouring rain. This time we came prepared quite nicely, so in a few minutes we were set up proper, and tried to get some shuteye. With the rain drumming a crescendo on the lorry roof, this wasn’t easy. Eventually, morning came somewhat sunny and dry, and we got the cars through scrutineering with no troubles apart from the trick of driving through a crowded paddock with about 0.5mm of clutch travel…

The grids were full, over 140 cars were entered for the event, 42 of which were historic saloons and GTs. Plenty of familiar faces & smiles. It felt fantastic to be back at the friendly Våler track.

We both decided to do the warm-up session, and apart from the clutches not behaving, both cars ran solid. A bit of panic erupted when we found a leaky clutch slave cylinder hose on George, but a dash around the paddock turned up a length of aeroquip and a -4 hose end from fellow competitor Aiman Timraz (thanks! Made our day!). I ran through the Drivers’ Meeting, and off we went for qualifying.With so many cars on track, finding enough space was challenging. The smaller-engined cars are fast over a lap, but ultimately Våler is a power track, and getting past somebody costs a lot of lap time. I did manage one semi-ok lap in the end which was very close to my PR after 5 seasons of Mini-racing. Watching the video I know there is a lot to come, especially from late braking which was a no-go because of difficulty in down shifting without a clutch. I also made a total mess of a really important section of corners. To our utter shock, we were 4th and 10th fastest overall in a field of 20 cars (Periods E/F + G below 1300) – and wore big smiles! Doc had lowered his best by over 2 seconds, and all this with loads of driver-rust and cars not set up for anything other than the garage floor.

The first race was….well, one to forget. I got an ok start, but was instantly passed by a Lotus Elan, and the Ford Galaxie of Rally Champ Stig Blomqvist took off like a rocket down the straights. Alle headed by the Mini of Lars-Kristian, who clearly was on a mission. Doc had spent a fair bit of time and cash getting the yellow Imp back to councours over the winter only to have a fresh pilot use his brand new left side door as a brake entering the first corner.
He managed to keep it out of the kitty litter, but most of the field got past in the following mess. The next laps he was catching up and passing cars at an impressive rate.

My race got boring as I ended up in a void, watching the Galaxie in the distance, and with several seconds between me and the gang behind, holding 5th overall and 2nd in class comfortably. I had nothing better to do than to go easy and count down the laps. With 3 laps to go the engine stopped, and I coasted down an escape road. I had a small hunch and jumped out of the car, opened the bonnet, and pulled the dizzy cap, and sure enough – the rotor arm was broken. The curses and hand signals could be seen from the moon.

At about the same time, Doc’s car started stuttering. Probably something between our two cars…and he coasted to the pits. A shame, as he’d been carving through the field and setting lap times way better than last years effort.

Back in the paddock, we swapped the rotor arm on George, topped up with petrol, and it was good to go. Pumkin 2 was a different matter. Edwin started disecting the distributor, as we thought the misfire was from electric gremlins. After some head scratching, he found that the little piece of tin grounding the condenser had fallen off. A new condenser was stuffed in, and all sounded well.

The barbeque was a classic as usual, especially with nothing happening until around suppertime the next day because of local church laws (!) and we kept it going long into the wee hours.

After a looong morning, we were finally on the grid and roaring to go.

The rolling start was a disaster. The rules state that the pole sitter should stick to the pace car speed when it switches its lights off, and creep along until we get green lights. Instead, they chased the hell out of the pace car, and nobody understood what was happening. I didn’t see any green lights, and let up, believing that it would be a restart. After a couple of bends, I saw the marshals waving green flags, and apparently we were racing….

I chased Morten in his Cooper S hard for many laps, and had huge fun. The Imp didn’t have a tall enough 4th gear, so I lost him on the straights, but caught up again in the bends. In addition, I was racing without a clutch, and my down shifts were not up to par. I didn’t dare some extreme late braking, but instead focused on making Morten have to look more in his mirrors than in front of his car. In the end, this seemed to pay off, as he braked too late for a hairpin, and had a huge moment going onto the grass. He did a fantastic job keeping it out of the barriers, but I managed to sneak through. I ran one lap flat out, then just checked my mirrors to keep him at a safe distance. I counted down the laps, and was rather chuffed (read: overjoyed) when I saw the checkered flag. A class win – at last!

Doc was having a wonderful scrap with a couple of Minis, and had lowered his PR with more than 2.5 secs. The Imp waited until the penultimate lap before playing him a trick – when he had a safe 3rd in class lined up. Suddenly the misfire was back, and he could not hold off one of the Minis no matter how enthusiastically he tried. In the end he came home 4th in class, something to cheer anyway, as we got both cars to the finish in style.

Finally, things were looking up. We managed to get the lorry started, and Doc ran it non-stop until it was parked safely outside the garage.
The plan now was to try and sort the clutch on George, and get rid of the misfire for Pumpkin II before Velodromloppet. We are also just starting to look at setting up the cars, as George was almost scraping his exhaust in the asphalt in high-speed left turns.