Croft 30th September 2020

The last time I drove Croft in 2018 it never stopped raining and I was hoping for some dry weather today. Even though Croft is fairly local to me I’ve only driven it a couple of times in all the years I’ve been doing trackdays.

Arriving at the circuit and the Marshalls on the gate checked your name off the list and also took your temperature with an infra-red temperature gun. If you weren’t on the list you didn’t get in and if your temp was too high you were pulled to one side and checked again. Not sure what happened if your temp was still high on the seconds test, but I was fine so Matt and I parked up in the paddock and started unloading after getting the wristbands. As usual in these times, the signing on and briefing had been done electronically before the event.

Matt drive his E36 on the road so swapped from the Pilot Sport 4`s to his AR1`s. I left the Cup2`s on the Golf as whilst it was drying in the paddock the circuit was still wet from the overnight rain.

 

Sighting laps out of the way and I went straight back out for a 10 minute session to get the tyres warmed up and just to see how it was.  The track was pretty decent in most places and was drying quickly.

 

Matt had never been to Croft before and tagged onto the back of me for a session. The kerbs through this chicane are particularly agressive. I left it on medium boost which seems to work well. If I run High boost I pull away on the straights but Boost-By-Gear seems to give us very similar performance. Matt is already looking for used supercharger kits though… 

 

Braking into the complex was still a bit iffy, the track conditions caused me a few lockups as I was braking later and later for the corner.

 

Just by having to cadence brake to stop the lockup quickly causes you to run way past the usual turn in point, which then needs a more agressive turn in to actually make the corner. I can’t even blame the weight of a passenger this time !.

That’s something I’ve started getting used to this year. Over the last decade it’s extremely rare I went out without a passenger but this year I’ve attended several days where it’s just me in the car all day. The difference to the car handling is definitely noticeable, especially under acceleration but given the option of going faster or having a passenger to share the lap, I’d take the passenger everytime.

 

Nick was taking photos and I spotted him at every point during the day apart from this one. I was talking to him at lunchtime and commented that I always gave him a wave. “You missed me when I was at one vantage point Nige”, when I asked where he just told me when I saw the photo, I’d know..

 

As the track was starting to dry I was able to use the Boost By Gear mapping and was absolutely delighted with how it was performing. We’d run it at the Ring the other week but it felt even better today after we’d optimised the values for each gear. The overtake button is still ridiculously effective but on a circuit like Croft it’s rare you get the chance to actually use it.

 

I was starting to use the Kerbs a bit more and this one into the complex really helps, if you avoid it completely the line through the corner is much wider and it makes the following left quite a bit trickier.

 

Actually taking kerbw is fine, it’s getting hard on the power whilst doing so that causes the problem…

 

Braking for the last corner and the pedal went long. I immedately came into the pits, I knew exactly what had happened. It had sheared ANOTHER CV joint. 

I carry spare complete driveshafts and within half an hour it was replaced and I was back on track but it’s still half an hour of missed tracktime and having to change the driveshaft when everything is still hot isn’t the most enjoyable job in the world.

 

The rain showers returned and turning into the first corner agressively allowed me to get the back end out nicely for Nick. The wide outside line is actually far grippier anyway, the only downside being it makes the chicane entry more acute.

 

Matt was provoking the rear everywhere.

 

When I had a drive of it later in the day even I could get the back end out easily and with the power he now has and the setup of the car it is not only easy to unsettle the rear but it’s confidence inspiring when controlling the slide after it starts.

 

The floppy marker just before the next right hander didn’t last long and it’s tempting to cut this corner, but that’s missing the point to me. Run the kerb by all means, but straightlining the whole corner just takes away part of the challenge.

 

I was really comfortable in the Golf today. Apart from the CV everything was behaving. Since the engine build oil consumption is back to being miniscule yet even with a full sump the accusump was triggering regularly on left handers as it’s designed to. I could reduce the actuation point and it would’t be used much at all but I’d rather keep the minimum oil pressure higher if possible. No need to let it drop to 1bar if I can keep it at higher by changing the ECU triggering point.

Oil pressure is the Green trace. The large drops in pressure are when the Accusump kicks in (White trace)

 

The brakes were strong but I still find ultimate feel difficult in these damp conditions and can’t lean on them as hard as in the dry. The feel just isn’t quite as good through the pedal. I reduced the vacuum assistance a fraction to see if that would help, which it did a bit.

 

I heard what was the unmistakeable sound of an exahsut blowing and it didn`t take long to find the cracked runner before the collector. It had cracked the whole circumference of the pipe, had blown the heat wrap off and was leaking quite a lot.

 

After letting it cool I removed the Turbo to gain better access, wrapped a thin piece of tin around it and secured using a couple of jubilee clips. It lasted the rest of the day and whilst still blowing it was nowhere near as bad. After the day I ground a Vee into the crack and welded it back up, it’s been fine since.

 

The track was starting to dry after lunch and I had a pretty clear lap which turned out being the quickest of the day. A bit of traffic that didn`t really get in the way and overall I’m happy with it.

Still quite a lot of time on tThe Cup2`s definitely like to squeal and the soft sidewalls don’t inspire huge confidence under turn-in. They are reaonably grippy but the more I use them the more I find deficiencies compared to the Direzzas. Side by side they are nowhere close but for these sort of conditions they are OK. When it’s dry I switch to Slicks as they are far cheaper but if I was doing a full trackday and slicks weren’t allowed I’d swap them for some more Direzzas or A052’s the Cup2s would be frustrating in those conditions.

 

I was staying out for 20 to 25 minutes at a time and Matt & I had some great laps chasing easy other. The marshalls were spot on, not unnecessary blue flagging when it’s obvious the cars are happy to follow each other and we left sufficient room around other cars that there were no issues overtaking slower traffic. As we’ve found before, Matt is better under braking than me, especially into Tower and Sunny-in. For the first time in a long time, my tall 3rd gear was a hindrance onto the start finish straight, the rpm drop from 2nd to 3rd is quite tall but it makes 3rd such a useable gear that I don’t mind. It just meant he was able to pull a gap everytime I changed into 3rd as we approached the start/finish line.

 

Without a doubt the section from the exit of Tower, through the Jim Clark Esses, Barcroft to Sunny in the highlight of the track. In conditions like today it`s particularly challenging but feels so good when you get the line just right. The Golf felt brilliant through there although I did outbrake myself into Sunny-in a few times 

I’d been building up speed through the esses all day and by lunchtime I could take it absolutely flat from the exit of tower until lifting for Barcroft, but if the line was just a little bit compromised from either passing another car or simply getting the line wrong it needed a small lift of the throttle.

 

 

This Integra moved well out of the way and indicated to let me past, my line was tighter and even though I lifted to account for that, I didn’t adjust sufficiently. I lifted just before the kerbs on the right, this transferred weight to the nose as I wanted but when I ran the kerbs the rear which was already unloaded became too unsettled and stepped out. From the skid marks on the tarmac you can see my exit stage right into the field certainly isn’t the first…

 

The off caused a significant amount of damage. The front left corner of the splitter dug into the grass and snapped clean off as it wedged into the grass. It pushed the entire splitter rearwards 60mm and 15mm to the drivers side.

The front corner of the airdam was bent and smashed, front wheelarch extension smashed and the whole radiator pack pushed rearwards 12mm 

 

Clearing off the huge amount of foliage showed just how bad it was and how the whole splitter had twisted.

 

That was day over, I could see some oil starting to leak onto the splitter so I loaded it up and went out with Matt for the rest of the afternoon. Completely my mistake but just one of those things.

Back home, splitter removed and the damage was extensive, airdam badly bent and the splitter itself completely ruined

 

Looking from underneath the front tubular crossmember had been bent backwards by the force of the splitter bracket pushing on it. I had a spare so I simply replaced it

 

The power steering cooler fared less well and this was binned and replaced with a new 7-row cooler

 

The oil I`d spotted on the splitter was coming from the oil cooler. The hose coming out of it had been pushed backwards and it had stripped the thread into the cooler itself !

 

Sent it back to SERCK where Craig did a great job of make a threaded boss, drilling out the old damaged thread and welding the new one in. The new thread is far deeper and much less likely to strip.

 

New splitter fitted but I didn`t have time to repaint it before the next trackday, Airdam bashed back into shape which from a distance looks fine…

 

Quite surprising just how much damage can be caused by a simply off. As soon as I saw the small amount of oil on the splitter I knew something was broken which is why I put it straight back on the trailer. Not worth risking it when you don`t know the full extent of the damage

 

I spent the last hour in the car with Matt where we had some great laps. It started raining again but he’d fitted the slicks at lunchtime and left them on. There wasn’t much standing water so they were fine, slippery but fun. There was no way I’d have been able to stop as late as him with those tyres though. So much so that I was just saying “Blimey, I didn’t think you’d braked early enough” when he went straight on at the first corner and through the gravel. He kept momentum and managed to drive straight out without getting stuck. The lucky bugger !

 

Even though I had a self inflicted off that ended the day early, I thoroughly enjoyed Croft. The complex onto the start finish straight is frustrating but I like the rest of the track, it’s bumpy in places too which always makes it interesting. I definitely want to drive it on a warm dry day next time though !
The CV failing yet again was the catalyst to finally fix it once and for all. I hoped the boost by gear settings would be enough to save them but sadly not.

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