It’s the last weekend of the 2019 Time Attack Championship and Snetterton is sure to provide the drivers with one of the hardest tests yet.
After Mallory Park the car required a gearbox rebuild after a fairly big failure during the final moments of round 5, writes Jonny Fletcher. Although this sounds like a huge job, it’s actually fairly straight forward and was completed with a week to spare.
As is usual, we headed down the day before so we could get set up in the pits and take advantage of scrutineering on Friday, which eases our schedule come Saturday morning. Helping us relax and get fully prepared to get out on track.
Round 6 of this Snetterton double header was on Saturday, on the longer 2.97 mile Snetterton 300 circuit. I haven’t driven this configuration too much, so I was eager to get in as many laps as possible to get familiar with the tricky infield section. Heavy rain made the track very tricky to navigate.
Come practice the weather hadn’t eased much, but it was time too push on a little harder to find the limits on the slippy tarmac. My first flying lap was immediately quicker than i had managed earlier in the morning but come the second lap there was a horrible sense of deja vu. Some distributing noises from the gearbox had me limping back to the pits for diagnosis.
Back in the pits we inspected the box and the worse possible scenario was becoming a reality. Something in the fresh gearbox had prematurely failed. Further stripping was required to chekc if anything could be done to resolve the issue. A few hours later we had reached a point where we knew exactly what was needed to get us running again.
Finding out the problem was the easy bit, sourcing the parts was another story. Luckily (for us) another car running the same gearbox also had issues and kindly offered us any salvageable parts. On top of that, I was sharing the pits with my gearbox builder so i couldn’t have been in a better position to get the car back out on track.
After finally sourcing some new bearings, the only part we couldn’t acquire while in the paddock, and collecting them late that evening we had everything we needed for re-assembly early the next morning.
The Season Finale
I had already made the decision to sit out the warm up session on Sunday morning to avoid putting excessive wear on less than ideal parts. It also allowed more time to get everything as dialed in as good possible, to give us the best chance of a decent result in the afternoon.
With less than an hour to spare, we where ready to fire her up. Left up on axle stands so we could run through the gears. With all our fingers crossed we where relieved to have a full selection of gears! It didn’t sound great, likely because of damage to the gears which we couldn’t replace, but at least we had the car working again.
With a huge sense of relief, I headed out for the practice session, it all went smoothly with nothing to report, other than the noisy box and although the lap times where nothing to shout about, it was good to get some reliable miles in leaving me confident going into the final sessions.
I went out for qualifying with a positive attitude, although I knew the importance of taking it easy on the box to allow me to see the day through. For round 7 we where using the shorter 200 circuit layout, which i knew well, so It didn’t take long to get used to. I racked up 11 laps and qualified 4th with a 1:23.710. This was an improvement on last years time and considering I was driving around the issues of the rebuilt box, it shows just how much the car had improved.
Throwing Caution To The Wind
The final session of 2019 had arrived, so it was time to leave everything out on track. Push as hard as possible and see what happens. After the initial banker of 1:23.922, I took a few laps to warm the tyres up ready for an all or nothing run. But with every lap that passed the wounded gearbox was getting louder and louder. I managed to knock a further tenth off my quickest lap but I knew there wasn’t much life left in it.
It was time for one last effort, throwing caution to the wind I launched it into to turn one and got a great exit however just before turn 2 the inevitable happened. I lost all drive and after pulling to the side of the track i found some gears and recovered to the pits. I had lost 5th and 6th and on such a high-speed it was time to call it a day and therefore our season.
The year has been a mixture of highs and lows, as is often the case in motorsport. But it was great to claim some podiums and the car showed so much promise during the season. It leaves me with a lot of confidence and motivation for the 2020 season. With the plans for the car I’ll be switching my attention to get everything ready for an assault for the championship.
Images: Time Attack