Poor weather hampered Jonny Fletcher’s Astra at Cadwell Park, so would the next round of Time Attack at a bright and breezy Brands Hatch prove any more successful? Read on to find out…
Easy does it
The weeks prior to Brands Hatch were mercifully quiet, writes Jonny Fletcher. The Direnza Astra came away from Cadwell Park unscathed and required nothing more than a check over and new rear brake calipers.
Officially, Round 2 started on Sunday June 9th, but for us it began on Saturday when we bled the brakes prior to departing for Brands. It’s always better to carry out a job like that before leaving home in case a problem arises. Thankfully, things went without a hitch, so the car was loaded onto the trailer and we headed off to Kent. Upon arriving at Brands, it was simply a case of unloading the Direnza Astra and setting up the garage before retiring to the hotel, ready for action on Sunday.
Noise restrictions at Brands Hatch mean running doesn’t start until 10am, but there was still car scrutineering, a drivers briefing and the usual morning jobs to get through before then.
For the Warm Up session the weather was good – dry but not too warm. The plan was to get straight on it and get to grips (literally) with the track, while building up the pace with every lap. The session went almost perfectly, with every flying lap bringing down the lap time. We managed 15 laps in just 15 minutes, which wasn’t bad going.
However, as I exited the last corner on the last flying lap the car lost drive. I tried a few reset procedures from within the car, but couldn’t get anything so had to roll to a standstill and wait for recovery. By this time the engine was making a few strange rattling noises…
Open her up
Back in the pits, investigation work began. We soon found that the flywheel was turning with the starter motor but the crank wasn’t going with the flywheel, which straight away was seriously bad news for the engine and the rest of the day’s running. Now it was time to whip the sump off to inspect the crank, as we suspected it had snapped.
Removing the sump, we found metallic fragments in the oil along with another issue – the trigger wheel for the crank sensor was no longer attached to the crank. Round 2 was over for us, as the four-cylinder turbo engine clearly required a rebuild.
Not ones to get down about such things, we took advantage of the garage space and stripped the engine bay down, ready for the motor’s speedy removal back at base. Once this was done, it was just a case of loading up the car and heading home early.
When the engine and gearbox were eventually removed, the cause of the failure was revealed: the flywheel was not turning with the crank because all six of the ARP flywheel bolts had sheered clean off. Thankfully though, this failure was not as bad as it could have been, as the flywheel had not exited the car like they often do when they fail.
It will be a busy build-up to Round 3 at Oulton Park on July 13th, but plans are in place to make sure the Astra is ready in time. On a side note, our lap times from Brands suggested a podium or even a win was within reach, which bodes well for the rest of the season.
Thank you to Rich Sams Photo for the main image