Racing The Rat Part 1

(an article for the Constructors Car Club magazine "SpareParts" in 2007)

In January 2006 I went along to have a look at the Wallaceville hillclimb. Everyone there was having a great time ripping their cars-of-all-descriptions up this bit of country road, and I thought to myself, why not me too? I resolved to not let another year go by without giving something like this a go.

The next thing to do though was the Cape Reinga CCC road trip. As reported earlier, this was great fun, but led to a bit of an engine rebuild for the Road Rat. So, while the car had the engine out I cut off the old roll bar and dropped the car off with Ron Robinson to have a new "MSNZ standard" roll bar fitted, and some harness mounting points welded in. This, plus fastening in a fire extinguisher, putting some padding on the rollbar and devising a suitable catch tank, was basically all the changes I had to make to the car to make it comply with the requirements for Schedule A of the MSNZ regs and be able to enter into most clubsports events. By this time a year had gone by and Walliceville had rolled round again. I had got the engine all fixed up OK and joined the Harbour Capital Car Club ( a great bunch of very motivated folks), got my Clubmans Licence, put in my entry for this event and turned up for scrutineering. This went well with the only requirement being to tape up the positive battery terminal as a safety measure against electrical shorting in the event of something unplanned happening, a sensible precaution.

The day itself started a bit dampish and the on the practice run I had a bit of a problem with grip on the wet road leading to a bit of a tank-slapper coming out of the first proper corner and similar problems going up the hill. On review of the practice run I thought to myself "that was just a bit too scary" and in the next runs I planned to go slower, not faster. But as events turned out the road got dryer and the car got faster. In the end I got in about five runs, with my fastest not counting as it was beyond the three timed runs that are used in the official results. I could see that my problem is I am a slow learner and also I don't push the throttle down enough.

In the results I found that I had won the class I was in. This was very nice except it wasn't really clear quite how the class had been defined. The Triumph Car Club really knows how to do this sort of thing well and I suspect I was in the "Cars more known for their interest than their speed" class. I might not get away with this again. Overall, I was placed 20th out of a total field of 42. This quite surprised and delighted me.

Other club members competing included David Phipps and Colin Young. Colin would have got fastest time, except that some chooks ran out onto the road in front of him on his final timed run.. and that lost him the fraction of a second that made the difference between first and second.

Under Starter's Orders (Amanda) at Wallaceville

I had had a really good time, so out with the local motorsports calendar to see what else is coming up. January.. Harbour Capital car Club Autocross at Donley's Park in Levin. These events are run to strict MSNZ guidelines, so I wasn't able to use the twin handbrakes that help so much on the grass. HCCC run these events quite often at this venue. The typical Autocross course is generally set out with cones to take advantage of the venue and the event runs round the course two times with the start and finish points separated so the next competitor can be teed up while the first guy is completing his second lap. As with most short course events you just get one practice and then three timed runs. You might get more timed runs than this.. but they won't count officially. To some extent, this sort of event is the Road Rat's most comfortable territory, but the day started of with the wet long grass so slippery all I could do was tip-toe round like it was ice. But as the day wore on grip picked up and overall I was 3rd in a field of 34 that included 5 4WD cars. Again.. I have a lot to learn, because I was able to improve my best time quite a bit in an additional "unofficial" run.

Some pix from Geoff Warren's Photobucket album (thanks Geoff for this link)

****previously had some photobucket pix of Geof's linked to here****

I then went on to participate in more events and I'll write about them in a follow-up article in detail. But in summary they include:

Coming up : Port road again 21 October and Admiral Hill 4 November. Can't wait.

At most of the events I have made some video with the camera looking out through the windscreen. If you want to have a look at a few clips you can go to YOUTUBE and search on "Roadrat nz" and you should find them.

Finally in this article I would like to give a bit of advice to members building a car. This is fun. I had not really ever intended to go racing when I built the car originally.. so if you are thinking of building a car, or part way through a build, make sure that what you are building will be able to do this sort of thing. Make sure you can mount a 5 point harness, make sure your roll bars are able to be certified to MSNZ standards, or make provision to bolt in a certifiable cage. Make sure your wheels and tyres are a size that you can get reasonably priced racing rubber for.s

Links to click on....

Next - Racing The Rat Part 2

And - Racing The Rat Part 3