“Yesterday we were students. Today we become privateers!” –Adam Painter, with a cheeky grin and giddiness usually reserved for children on Christmas morning.
I’ve been to Silverstone several times over the last year and a half, but never with a full night’s sleep. Our test in Friday made sure to kept that record intact. After the drive to Silverstone right after work on Thursday, we rolled the car into Silverstone. Garage 0- right next to race control, at 9:30pm. Penny Mattocks from the MSA Dunlop Formula Ford Championship was kind enough to wait for us and give us a quick tour of the paddock before we began working. Despite all of the progress that we made in Oxford the previous weekend there was still a lot of final preparation to be done. I first refilled the coolant before adjusting Charlie’s seatbelts, and making our area look neat and professional. We left the circuit to meet Adam at his house in Oxford, and got there at about 12:15. We went over our test plan one last time, made a last minute shopping list and got to bed at around 2am.
We were all up and on the road before 6am. We hit some heavy fog on the way, and when we got back to the track it wasn’t much better. As Charlie mentioned in his post, the start of on-track activity was delayed from 9am to 11am so that gave us a bit more time to work on the car in the morning. We finally got our dash from Jamun Racing – a big thanks to James Mundy for taking the time to find the dash, mount, and connecting wire in his massive trailer. After a bit of searching I found the mating connecter on the wiring loom and the dash started to make some pretty colors. Once it was working James showed us how to reprogram it. We stuck it in the steering wheel for the day; it functioned, but we do need to go through before our next outing and fix a few of the settings. We also need to get the cord to connect it to my laptop! Another thing we did was to shield a portion of the sidepod that was very close to the exhaust with some reflective tape, and fitted some temperature stickers in hopes of gaining a better grasp of how close the fiberglass was to its combustion point. When 11 am rolled around and the fog had finally lifted, we had Charlie ready for the first session. He pulled away for an install lap and we watched him roll down pit lane, holding our breaths and hoping nothing would fall off the car.
“The gear ratios are all wrong.” –Charles Anti
A few minutes later Charlie rolled into the pits with everything still attached and nothing on fire, which was good, but he reported that he was hitting the rev limiter about halfway down the Hangar Straight – that was bad. Considering Charlie had no experience with this gearbox, we sent him out for another lap to verify the problem and while he was out we began to make a plan. Between myself, Jake and Adam we had taken apart a grand total of 0 Hewland gearboxes. Our first session was pretty much done at this point but before Charlie got back around I had the manual up on my computer and I had also kidnapped two members of the Myerscough College team who were only in our garage for a cup of tea (we were sharing our garage space with Formula Ford hospitality). Fortunately they were extremely friendly and even more fortunately one of them had experience with Formula Ford gearboxes.
Once I figured out that we needed some oversized sockets that we didn’t have yet I went on a quest for them. I had Charlie go on his own quest to find out what gear ratios other teams were using, and I sent Adam to Trident Racing Supplies for some gearbox oil. I got what I needed from Enigma Motorsports, and Charlie obtained some correct ratios from Jamun Racing. A great thing about Formula Ford is that despite the competition, the Formula Ford paddock has some very nice people in it and I’m looking forward to some new friendships! Getting back to the gearbox, Jake found all of the specified ratios in our supply box and I had the gearbox taken completely apart. By this time Adam was just getting back and Charlie was off doing his race car driver stuff – probably sitting in a comfy couch surrounded by beautiful women while signing autographs or something like that (Note from Charlie: “yea, close enough…”).
Fundamentally the gearbox is actually quite simple, but it was still a bit intimidating having it apart for the first time – even with our friends from Myerscough helping out. The most important thing is to make sure that all of the spacers and bearings stay in the correct spot. Off the top of my head without looking I’m going to say the order is bearing, dog, gear, gear, dog, spacer, dog, gear, gear, dog, bearing… try saying that five times fast (and don’t quote me on that order)! We got everything put back together and by the time Charlie got back the car was just about ready to go. We did it, with lots of help albeit, but we did it. Not only did we swap the ratios for the first time but it was the first real challenge that we faced and we kept our cool, formulated a plan, and executed said plan without missing the second session. We refilled the gearbox oil and ran through the gears, first spinning the wheels by hand, and then having Charlie go through them with the car on stands. All signals were good so we sent Charlie out for session 2.
As Charlie mentioned, we have a lot to talk about from Friday, so in the interest of brevity I’ll stop here, but look out for part 2 in the coming days!