Snetterton August 2020

I haven’t been to Snetterton since 2016, I really like the circuit but it takes hours and hours to get there so I tend to book other circuits instead. This date worked really well in my shift pattern so both Matt and I booked on the event.

I had only had a couple of days free since Ringmeisters event, but that was enough to fit the spare cylinder head and take the Golf for a drive to check everything was ok. I knew it would still burn oil but as there was no external leak or significant smoke from the exhaust, I was comfortable completing this event and building the new engine straight afterwards. The straights are nowhere near as long as the ring and that massively reduced the time the combustion chamber can get hot enough to melt an exhaust valve.

Yes, I could have cancelled the event but it had been booked for ages and it was the first one Matt and I were going to be on together since the S54 conversion.

There is no way I would do this event there and back in the day, so we drove down after Matt and Cat finished work and dropped the trailer off at the circuit and locked the cars in the garage.

 

Met up with Ian for a quick drink at the Premier Inn before calling it a night.

Forecast was for a hot sunny day and queuing for the briefing band was no hardship.

 

Noise test was 101dB, I’ve noticed this has been creeping up over the last 5 track days which is usually a sign that the silencers need repacking. I keep note of the test results for this reason and it gives me ample warning.

After the sighting laps, Cat and I went out for a session and within a lap everything had come back to me, all the braking points, turn in points and how I can’t get a good line through Coram . Once the front tyres were up to temp and pressure we came into the pits, set the hot tyre pressure and went back out.

Half way through the session the engine stopped. Despite my attempts to fire it back up, it wouldn’t start and I had to be towed back in. The diagnosis took seconds, the ECU fuse had blown.

 

This has been in line since Jan 2019 when I swapped to DTA. The failure was completely unexpected. I rang Alex at DTA to discuss. He explained the only thing that could draw that kind of current was the coil pack but that shouldn’t have blown the fuse.

Rather than risk it fail again, I ran a temporary fused feed directly to the coil pack, leaving the ECU on its original fuse.

 

By separating them in this way I could diagnose any future issues much quicker should the fuse blow again. As it happens, I’ve done several track days since this without a problem.

You may wonder why I went to all this effort rather than just replacing the fuse and going back out, I absolutely hate causing red flags and even though replacing the fuse allowed the engine to run. I don’t know why it blew in the first place and the risk of it blowing again and causing another red flag was too high, hence the quick rewire. I suspect the oil burning makes the combustion process harder to ignite which puts extra load on the coil pack resulting in the blown fuse. The fact this problem has never happened before or since does seem to back that up.

The AFR mixture was extremely rich on high boost, dropping from the usual 11.6 to 10.1! The only possible cause of this is the burning of the oil. Once I realised this I left the car on actuator pressure or mid boost for the day. The higher the boost the more oil it used and the richer the mixture became. As the full throttle sections are far shorter than that the Ring, I wasn’t concerned about burning our a valve today.

With all this talk of excessive oil you may think that I was driving around with a smoke screen behind me, but bizarrely there was absolutely no external sign of this happening. I spoke to a few people on the day and asked them to look closely as they were following me for signs of smoke or even oil misting on their windscreen. Everyone said the same thing, that without me telling them it was burning oil they would never have known as there was simply no external indication of this problem.

Lou has started going out with Matt and myself for quicker laps. This year she has enjoyed the laps much more than in the past so Matt and I always had a full passenger seat during the day. A lot of my friends go on track days by themselves or with friends but I feel extremely fortunate that its something out whole family 

 

Cat spent a lot of time in my passenger seat

 

My good friend Nick Vaughan is racing this year and he’s never been to Snetterton. I said I’d record a lap for him with me talking all the way round explaining braking points, turn in points and different lines to take. This was far harder than I expected !. I often have a running commentary in my mind where I critique my driving whilst on track but actually speaking out loud, explaining something as it happens is much more difficult than I realised. A couple of times I found myself still talking about the previous corner whilst braking for the next which meant I had to abandon the lap and do it all again  Nick said he found it useful, I would like to think he’s not just being polite.

Matt had a fuel supply issue which he traced to a bad connection on the ECU to fuel pump connector, this delay meant we didn’t get the laps on track together that we’d hoped for.

 

I followed Ian closely for a session to get some footage for him. I was trying some new cameras today and as sometimes happens on the sessions that you want to record something goes wrong. The memory cards on the front facing cameras filled up as we were leaving the pits, so whilst I followed Ian very closely for a few laps I didn’t get any footage.

Today was one of those days where I never saw some cars on track and yet came across others every session I was out. The white M3 and I were in sync all day and I had some good laps chasing him.

Last session of the day Matt and I went out for some laps together going around Coram on lap 2 and I felt some vibration from the left rear. This had happened a few times during the day and was usually rubber pickup coming off the rear wheel. It’s a high load corner and I thought nothing of it. A moment later the car snapped violently to the side and I steered into it. It didn’t take me long to realise that there was no way I could recover this and make the corner. My immediate thought was a tyre failure. Having slowed the car down whilst driving across the grass, I waited for a gap in the traffic and drove into the pit lane. Cat opened the door to have a look and exclaimed “The tyre has all gone”, I got out and walked around and said, “Its not the tyre, its the whole wheel!”.

 

I run a Polo 9N rear wheel bearing assembly, this is a cartridge type where the bearing is bought with the flange. This had been on the car since I had a similar failure in 2018 although at that time the wheel stayed on the car! I do run a spacer on this pair of rear wheels as they are different offset to the other 10, bringing the ET to 32 so nothing excessive. As I can’t repack these bearings they run with the factory supplied grease rather than the uprated CV2 I run in the fronts.

 

As this failure has no warning I shall simply ‘life’ them every 12 months in future, it’s not worth the risk for the sake of annual replacements.

 

Darkside developments run exactly the same setup and had the same failure theirs was also with no warning.

 

By taking the weight of that corner with a jack, we were able to drive to the garage at tick over, it was then only a matter of removing the hub nut, sliding off what was left of the bearing and refitting a spare before bolting on the wheel. If this had of been earlier in the day, I’d have been back out on track in under 20 minutes.

 

Cat wasn’t thrilled when the wheel came off….

 

If you look very closely in the photo above, you can see the wheel making a bid for freedom!

 

Today was a weird one. After the fuse blowing this morning the car ran without problems until the wheel bearing collapsed and I really enjoyed the laps on track. But I just don’t seem to have a great deal to say about the day. Sometimes you have those days where despite enjoying driving, nothing really stood out when you look back on it and I can`t put my finger on why.

Snetterton is a great track and I definitely plan to go back next year 

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