EnduroKa at Ford Power Live: PH Competes
Can you really drive, arrive, race and return home without a trailer? Racing Pete has a go…
By RacingPete / Monday, September 28, 2020
"Two podiums, one midfield, one crash" read the text from Nic after all my teammates dropped out of the latest round of the EnduroKa season. As a prediction, it was both overly optimistic and (with any luck) supremely pessimistic. I hoped for the podiums, obviously – but would be doing everything I could to avoid 'one crash' going into the weekend.
It was not the typical EnduroKa event for a couple of reasons. First, it was part of the Ford Power Live weekend at Brands Hatch, which included four 15-minute sprint races over two days. And second, thanks to some epically poor planning by Team PH we hadn't sorted a trailer. Which meant that yours truly was going to drive to the circuit, race and then drive back. Hence the paramount importance of not crashing.
Of course the first challenge was simply fitting in to a Ford Ka everything you need for the weekend. Think Tetris at its top level. I managed to get a full set of spare wheels, jacks, axel stands, fuel, various toolboxes and my race wear in. Thank the ripped-out rear seats for that. A final sniff round the garage revealed it was only the TuffJugs needed for refuelling that were missing. Who needs a big estate to go racing?
Qualification was forty minutes long which at least meant it was possible to find some rhythm. Battling a strong headwind down the main straight, Paddock Hill Bend meant a settling dab of the brakes; a lift may have worked but it was a struggle to get the car turned in without the weight transfer. Something that was happening through Clearways too, which meant running out of track on the exit to the clamour of complaining tyres.
Being single-handed meant I had no idea where my lap time was compared to the field. In previous meetings 1:03s was the order of the day, as the lap timer hadn't nudged into the 1:04s I wasn't that confident. Logging on to the TSL website afterwards showed a respectable 8th out of a 27-strong field, within eight-tenths of pole. The inherent closeness of the one-make racing meant 3rd to 16th were only separated by a second.
Experience with last year's series taught us that racing over a short period with 25-odd other similarly asthmatic superminis is not the best recipe for straight panels post race, so I approached the first race with caution. Maybe too much, because it isn't recipe for propelling you up the grid order either. Apart from a little nudge through Paddock Hill bend from our garage mates, Club Racing UK, it was pretty uneventful. Fun, but uneventful. I kept out of trouble and slotted the car back where it started, 8th – though thanks to a track limit digression by one of the leaders we were up to 7th.
I'd decided early on that the weekend would be a good chance for some additional race testing, so heading into race 2 we added some more tow out and fueled light. Thanks to the controlled nature of the parts on the Ka, front tow out and tyre pressures are the only two things you can change to affect the handling – tyre pressures, understandably, become a closely guarded secret throughout the paddock. I was hoping this would bring less washout through Clearways, the one corner the car still struggled with.
Having got up to 6th from the start I had great fun swapping places (cleanly) with Burton Power; the car was indeed handling better through Clearways allowing some great moves up the inside under braking, although fueling light had resulted in some starvation round the longer corners.
Worried that the Ka might not make it to the end of the race I started coasting in braking zones to save fuel, bringing me into the clutches of the Peak Performance Reviews car. The thought of having to drive the car home duly kicked in; I'd witnessed several optimistic lunges in race 1 and was not very keen to be on the end of one. Fortunately I spotted a dive up the inside from way back and gave up the place to avoid the inevitable whack.
The following lap the number 8 car did the same thing to someone not quite so pliable and the inevitable coming together left me a small gap to nip through just as the red flag came out. Sadly two other cars, the GB Finch team and LDR Performance Tuning had come together at the beginning of the pit straight, leaving them stranded and a little worse for wear. Still it solved my fueling issue and meant the rolled back result was another 7th place.
I was determined to do better in race 3, and it started well enough getting up to 6th again from the start and after a couple of laps 2nd to 5th were just ahead of me. Perfectly positioned (and thoroughly entertained by the paint-swapping) I waited for someone to trip up. Alas, they raced brilliantly and without the security blanket of a trailer, I opted not to mix it up and came home in 6th. Just one race left and Nic's text flashed up in my head again – I hadn't notched up the podiums, but I had come through with a fairly unbattered car and was adamant about avoiding the predicted crash at this stage of the game!
I played with the tyre pressures one last time to get a better turn-in – it didn't work. I dropped off a replay of the much the same lead battle and ended up lapping alone in 7th. It took till lap 6 for the tyres to start working again and I hunted down a slowing 6th place. As I eventually got to the back of the white Ka, the timer across the line said 55 seconds left, meaning it was the last lap of the entire weekend. Having not dropped a place from where I started the whole time, I was itching to get past and forced a defensive move into Druids. Taking a later apex I got on the power earlier and put the car alongside into Graham Hill bend – place secure and another triumphant (when you think about it) 6th place. All that was left to do was pack up a clean Ka and drive home!
So, yes – in this strange, occasionally god-awful year, you can still drive to a circuit, have four epic races, and drive home again. Certainly it's a risky way to do it, and definitely makes you think twice about last-minute lunges and how in a moment the whole thing could go wrong – but then that's the risk/reward of motorsport! For Team PH I rewarded them with clean, panel dent-free car for the Indy 500 (500 mins around Brands Indy Circuit) in November. Not too bad considering the level of associated risk cheerily forecast beforehand.
Image credit | John Dignan
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