Scotland's famous Knockhill circuit was the venue for the 3rd round of the Time Attack series. Just north of Edinburgh and renowned for it's changeable weather, we expected the first wet test this year but, like each of the 2 previous rounds, we were treated to bright sunshine and high temperatures.
Despite being a very long journey (6.5hrs in our case) all of the front running competitors made it up to Scotland. This made for a fantastic couple of nights at the Hotel bar at least. The turn out was huge, allowing many of the Scottish car tuning scene the chance to prove themselves on their own soil. Three of Knockhill's own race championship Escort Cosworths also came out to show just how fast we would need to be at their home circuit.
Right from the very first practice session the three 600bhp+ Fords were showing everyone what they would need to beat with some blistering 55-55sec laptimes. However this actually worked out quite well as we knew straight away that while the locals raced each other their times would be optimum.
Knockhill is a built into a side of a hill and is an extremely bumpy circuit with some large gradient changes and challenging curbs. Coming from the billiard smooth Silverstone GP circuit of the last round meant some wholesale suspension changes would be needed. This made the three short practice sessions very important with our driver, Phil Keen, giving superb feedback to the team with regular trips into the pits for damper adjustments. This is where the AST 3-way suspension proved its worth, with each change showing an improvement in laptime and chassis balance. The original Silverstone settings were inducing speed sapping understeer over the large bumps and crests. Mid-way though the 3rd session AST suspension expert, Curtis, had worked with Phil to reduce the lap times by over a second and things were looking good.
Our rivals were also finding the circuit a real challenge with a number of high-speed offs and mechanical problems affecting many of the drivers. Knockhill features a tight hairpin that leads onto the start-finish straight which is all visible from the pit wall. This made a superb vantage point to watch the quicker cars blast out of the bend and accelerate up the sloped straight. Some of the big horse power cars were devastating here and even got airborne over the straight's crest. The Skyline of Robbie Thornton and the Norris Evo were particularly impressive and consistently topped the top speed traps. Simon Norris's short wheel base 840bhp Evo also nearly deafened all those that dared to stand on the pit wall as its side-exit exhaust past just metres away.
For this round the practice sessions and finals were separated by a long break at 5pm. This allowed many of the competitors to watch the football and England slump out of the World Cup. However being in Scotland meant that most of the watching club house were delighted and we might as well have been in central Lisbon.
After the anger and disappointment of yet another poor display by England, all the pressure was on Phil to lift our spirits which, as ever, he did!
As expected the Escorts set the pace posting exceptional laps of 55.191 and 55.953 seconds. We chose to run last to let the evening air cool as much as possible and see what we needed to beat. One of the impressive aspects of the car is that the chassis works so well and the Milltek Exhaust is extremely quiet. This means that the Race car does not have the same visual drama of the other cars, but catches many people by surprise by just how fast it is. As Phil crossed the line we could hear him flat-shift into his flying lap before breaking late into the first bend. As he reappeared into sight it was clear he was really pushing with the commentators marvelling at his blistering first sector. He rocketed out of the final hairpin and across the line setting his fastest lap of the day with a 55.476. We were delighted with 2nd especially given the challenging nature of Knockhill's track and conditions. To be able to split the local race Fords was an exceptional achievement and despite being significantly down on their power (and thus 8mph slower down the straights) Phil was really able to demonstrate the excellent chassis set-up of the Subaru.
With three of the five races completed we currently sit at the top of the Time Attack table. A testament to the hard work and effort put in by all the team. The Type-25 race car's engine has now spent over 12 hours and nearly 500miles driving flat-out around some of the UK's most demanding race tracks. With all this abuse happening at very un-British high summer temperatures it has never missed a beat.
At this stage of the championship we wanted to prove the reliability of some of the new road engine components outside of our road going prototypes. Running approximately 15% more power than the road car and under difficult conditions has really enabled us to test each aspect of the engine package. We have been delighted with the durability of the engine with only ancillaries needing attention between races. Hopefully before the Rallyday at Castle Coombe and the next round at Silverstone the Type-25 Race Car will sport more Cosworth engine upgrades. If Silverstone is warm and dry we should be able to directly compare data from our last run.
Our busy summer of shows and races continues and, if you can't make it along, feel free to call us anytime to discuss the race car, the models it is based on and the parts we can offer.
At the end of the day the organisers ran the first "Superbattle" which is designed to let the top competitors have a 20min open pit lane to set a fast lap under busy track conditions. However the battle lived up to its name with some close non-stop track racing. The in-car video perfectly highlights the different strengths between the fastest two cars, the Ford is able to pass us towards the end of the straight but we make up huge amounts of time in the bends. The video shows Phil being able to use the Subaru's superior chassis to catch up though the bends and finally dive up the inside at the hairpin to cross the line ahead.