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After enjoying itself at the Nürburgring it was time for Saxon to visit the iconic Spa circuit where it would run its awesome 680bhp 5.8-litre V10 1 Series in the Dutch Supercar Challenge.
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium: Eau Rouge, Les Combes, Stavelot, Blanchemont, La Source – famous landmarks on a classic circuit, which were all wet from early morning rain. Having been unloaded the previous evening, Cotswold Saxon’s 5.8-litre V10 1 Series, packing 680hp, was waiting in garage 12. Its two drivers, team owner Nick Barrow and fellow Herefordian Richard Corbett, were eager to explore the car’s potential on one of the most iconic strips of Tarmac in Europe…
The first practice (FP1) for the Dutch Supercar Challenge sponsored by Pirelli, part of the weekend’s Spa Racing Festival, was due to start at 11:50am so there was plenty of time for the car to be fuelled, fitted with Pirelli tyres for the first time, and for the drivers’ nerves to build up!
Before this, however, the team had gathered at its Hereford base in the early hours of Thursday morning and departed for the Port of Dover with two HGV drivers (one being chief engineer Jon Taylor) and one additional engineer. The rest of the team, this time including new recruit Martyn Goodwin, Chairman of Cotswold BMW Car Club, travelled by car. Martyn had joined the team to keep an eye on proceedings at the Silverstone 24-Hour race in the spring and had been keen to be a part of a race weekend ever since.
Saxon was pleased to be able take him along to Spa and test his resolve to play his part in the team! The journey through Belgium had already proven eventful when the truck crew discovered, at the cost of a hefty fine, that all HGVs travelling through Belgium – and many other European countries – now need to have purchased a ‘tag’ or ‘vignette’ which is effectively an electronic toll system. Other teams with HGVs over 3.5 tons beware!
Back at the track side, Pirelli’s wet tyres were fitted before FP1. Not having run its cars on these tyres previously, it was accepted that part of the weekend would be given over to finding the best setup for both track and tyres. However, having to run on wet tyres when the remainder of the weekend was expected to be dry was not helpful towards race setup. Nevertheless both drivers needed track-time on a circuit that only Nick had ever raced previously. FP2, starting at 3:15pm, was more beneficial for Jon and engineers Mike and George to fine-tune the car as tyre wear characteristics became apparent around the seven kilometre circuit. Various minor camber changes and associated alignment adjustments were made as temperatures and wear rates across the width of the tread were monitored.
As the race car had performed without fault during both sessions, the team’s technicians and engineers spent Friday evening and Saturday morning checking alignment and reducing the ride-height as much as possible. Whilst the elevation changes around the Spa circuit take everyone by surprise – the hills and inclines being much steeper than evident on the TV or on PC games – the surface is notably smoother than the Tarmac at the Nürburgring with its violent bumps and hollows, especially around Carousel. The V10, in 5.0-litre form, had last run at the ’Ring and so could be set much lower to the surface for Spa to lower the centre of gravity and increase aero grip.
Saturday qualifying for the GT class in which Saxon was entered saw Nick venture out first at 10:50am for what was expected to be a 20-minute session. Moments after the session began the team noticed that the TV screens were indicating that the GT and Sports sessions had apparently been combined in a damp 50-minute session. Fortunately, rather than bring Nick in and wait for a dry period, it was decided to let him stay out for a ‘banker’ lap as the screens soon reverted to a 20-minute session which could easily have caught out the team and compromised Nick’s qualifying laps.
Saturday’s one-hour race saw the Cotswold Saxon car lined-up in eleventh position on the grid following Nick’s damp early qualifying lap, Richard having used the minimal time available simply to record additional track time. A good start and the power of the V10 enabled Nick to gain a few places under acceleration during the early laps of his first stint before Richard took over for the last 30 minutes in eighth place.
Despite recording an impressive top speed of 169mph on the Kemmel straight between the famous Eau Rouge/Raidillon corners and Les Combes, a tap from the rear through Eau Rouge put paid to any further challenge to the top order.
Both drivers returned to the pit garage after their driving stints exhilarated and thrilled with the performance of the car and looking forward to more from the 90-minute race the next day. Unfortunately the schedule of the Dutch Supercar series does mean a lot of downtime between races and a meeting spread over three days. However, the drivers agreed that the stretched timetable – compared to one fourhour race at the ‘Ring, – had its compensations when a 680hp race car was involved.
Sunday’s second race, at 2:10pm, was to follow a similar pattern to race one, albeit with Richard starting and Nick taking up the challenge for the final 45 minutes. This time, however, full-course yellow flags for over 20 minutes of the 90-minute race due to numerous incidents and accidents prevented as much pure racing as either driver was looking forward to from taking place. The car again performed well, and its drivers, too, considering it was the team’s first outing at Spa and the first run on the specified Pirelli tyres. The car finished the weekend in eighth position overall, acquitting itself and its drivers well against the established Dutch Supercar competitors.
The next day, on the journey home, thoughts in both the team car and truck turned to off-season wish-lists and workload. In addition to the soon-to-arrive double-plate clutch and the associated software mapping to minimise stress on the Drenth gearbox on upshifts, the team is looking at ways to further reduce ride-height for traditional circuit racing. This will involve devising a way to lower the front ride height without interfering with the rear of the headlights, which are the next obstacles which the tyres would encounter!
Jon is also anxious to fit a larger oil cooler to give a greater margin for temperatures during warmer summer events where the ambient temperature may have a greater effect on cooling. Readers will know that packing components under the bonnet of the V10 is ‘intimate’ to say the least, so this may well involve a complete redesign of the packaging of all radiator and cooling components over the winter. For the team’s endurance racer, Nick has ambitions of extracting 500hp from the N57 3.0-litre diesel for next year’s Silverstone and Nürburgring 24-Hour races. Discussions are ongoing between Nick and Jon as to the best way of achieving the target, but watch this space. Meanwhile, the third chassis, used by Martin, Ellis and Tom Barrow in the VLN series to achieve their qualification for the Nürburgring 24-Hour race and currently fitted with the 2.0-litre diesel engine could be for sale, depending on driver enquiries, for next season. Then there’s work on Neoraids’ rally raid X5 in Poland – so it should be a busy winter for the Saxon team.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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Mid-July saw the Cotswold BMW Saxon Motorsport team back at the Nürburgring. This time it was there for a four-hour sprint race after its class-winning success at the 24-hour race on the same infamous circuit…
In contrast to the one-car team that contested the Nürburgring 24 Hours, this time the team arrived with two cars and five drivers for the fifth round of the German VLN Endurance series. Team owner Nick Barrow and regular driver Jamie Morrow were to drive the newly developed 5.0-litre V10 petrolpowered 1 Series while Ellis Hadley, Martin Gibson and Tom Barrow were to drive the 2.0-litre diesel built for the 24-hour race pre-qualification process. This car would run in the Alternative Fuels class as it would be powered by Neste Oils’ bio-diesel.
When Nick and his then team-mates first attended the Nürburgring for a 24-hour race back at the end of the ‘90s, as long as a driver had a competition licence, it was quite possible to arrive with a road car (a Peugeot 205GTi in Nick’s case), lightly prepped with a roll-cage and better brakes etc, get it scrutineered and go racing. Things are a little different these days and budding 24-hour race drivers with an international competition licence need to complete 18 competitive laps over three VLN races (four- or six-hour sprints) in a 2.0-litre car as well as attend a twoday training course before being allowed to enter the main event. With this in mind, Saxon converted one of its 135d cars to use the Twin Turbo Diesel N47 engine and Ellis and Martin had secured funding – and tyres – from their employer, Chinese tyre manufacturer GiTi Tyres. The tyre company is looking at the possibility of promoting public awareness of its products through motorsport and this is its first foray down that avenue.
Despite having driven numerous 24-hour races at other circuits with Saxon over recent seasons, Tom still had to complete the same pre-qualification process so joined Ellis and Martin, both of whom had previously driven for the team at Donington at the end of the 2015 season. At this stage, the aim was to give the three drivers a reliable car in which to complete the necessary laps over the coming races so chief engineer Jon Taylor and the Saxon Motorsport crew provided just that: a reliable 120d in a known chassis, albeit with unknown GiTi tyres!
Friday morning track-day practice on the GP circuit allowed all five drivers to acclimatise to their cars. Neither car had ever been to the track previously nor were any of the drivers familiar with their cars, Ellis, Martin and Tom for obvious reasons. Despite the V10 having run in the UK through its development process, the recent addition of Bosch Motorsport ABS and recalibrated paddle-shift gear change software ensured the drivers and engineers needed the track time to adjust both their driving and the cars’ performance to a new circuit. The cars acquitted themselves well in this first session with the inevitable setup adjustments required between runs for both cars – and drivers! Principally on the 120d, some suspension setup was needed to get the best out of the GiTi tyres which were performing differently to the usual Dunlop rubber.
Between the two practice sessions, scrutineering for the main event on Saturday was conducted by the VLN organising body. Due to a combination of the language barrier and seemingly ever-changing rules, this is always a stressful time for engineers and team managers alike. This visit to the Nürburgring was to be no exception with minor previously unknown alterations to rules since the 24-hour race in May and different rules for the two cars, causing delays and frustrations. However, after a good effort by the team to adapt to the new rules, the scrutineerers allowed both cars to pass and be approved for competition. Friday afternoon brought the opportunity for the cars to sample the full Nordschleife circuit for the first time. This would also be the first time the 120d drivers had been on the track with traffic – indeed the first time since completing their induction course at the end of 2015! It’s fair to say that the 120d is not currently the fastest car on the circuit although modifications and improvements will be incorporated before the next race as the car is developed.
Nevertheless, the car again achieved the aim of familiarising all the drivers with the course, helping them to learn all 25 kilometres of the circuit. The V10 on the other hand flew. Initially it was in Jamie’s hands and showed huge potential. However, as Nick took over, a misfire became apparent and the car returned to the garage. After extensive examination, the engineers concluded that a recently serviced fuel injector had become stuck open and partly filled a cylinder with fuel. This meant that the cylinder had become hydro-locked when Nick started the engine, which in turn had damaged a big end shell bearing. There would be nothing for it but to change the engine overnight! As is often the case, physically changing the engine with a spare already built-up, ready for installation is the relatively straightforward part. However, as the V10 runs with a dry sump lubrication system, every component from filters to pipes and the footwell-mounted oil reservoir, needed to be removed, flushed and refitted. With qualifying due to commence at 8:00am the next morning, the team of engineers managed to grab an hour-and-a-half of sleep before an early breakfast call.
With qualifying came the welcome news that all the hard work had been worthwhile, with Jamie and Nick reporting that the new engine was significantly faster than the original unit. Jon Taylor had expressed doubt about whether the Vanos system was working correctly during the previous day’s running and this seemed to be borne out by the driver’s observations. Indeed, as the drivers became familiar with the circuit, the V10 was hitting the rev limiter in top gear – nearly 165mph – in more than one location! The end of the qualifying session saw both car and driver combinations acquit themselves well: the V10 liningup in 36th in the first group of 50, fourth in Class SP8, there being 147 starters overall, and the 120d in 96th, second in Class SPAT (Alternative Fuels).
As the race start of 12:00pm approached, final checks on both cars confirmed that all was in order. The 120d was scheduled to stop twice to change drivers but race-pace fuel usage meant a ‘splash and dash’ towards the end of the four hours remained a possibility. The V10, meanwhile, would stop on or around the hour mark for a change of driver and to refuel; such is the difference in fuel consumption between the two cars.
Jamie elected to start in the V10; Martin – now questioning the wisdom of choosing to start amongst so many other cars – had volunteered to start in the 120d, an offer that was gratefully accepted by his codrivers!
Nearly 150 cars in groups of 50 approaching the first bend is always going to result in a few casualties, however, both Saxon cars avoided any trouble and both gained positions from others’ misfortune. The 120d race ran much as predicted – albeit with an earlier than hoped for fuel stop, shortening the second stint for Ellis. He, however, made up for his lack of laps, taking over for the final dash, and brought the car home in a creditable 98th place. All three completed their qualification laps without incident.
The V10, on the other hand, had a busy and ultimately frustrating race. After a brief stop to deal with a noise infringement notice, the car climbed as high as 33rd overall, running fourth in class and gaining on a podium finish. The car was now reaching the rev limiter in at least four places on the track and setting a blistering pace. Next time out, the team will alter the final drive gearing and run to approximately 175mph, which should see a significant improvement in lap time. At the start of the final hour, with Nick at the wheel, all still looked promising for a podium finish, until radio contact was lost and Nick arrived in the garage unexpectedly some ten minutes later than due past the pits. He had moved to the left at Hohe Acht to allow a faster Porsche to overtake on the inside and been catapulted sideways by an off-line bump. With so little run-off – and carrying significant speed through the corner – there was nowhere to go and the drivers’ side hit the barrier, hard. With the car across the track, Nick initially climbed out to safety – disconnecting the radio – and so lost contact with the pit-wall. Further inspection convinced Nick that the car could be driven, so he climbed back in and returned to the pits. Close examination soon revealed, however, that suspension components were bent and the car would take no further part in the race.
Meanwhile, the 120d was still circulating reliably and consistently, second in class, and it was not until some time after the race that it became clear that the leading Porsche Cayman – a much faster car running on an ethanol/petrol mix – had failed to finish. In this series, a car has to pass the chequered flag to classify as a finisher, so first place was inherited – apparently on the last lap! Ellis, Martin and Tom were deservedly delighted with their win: the result of consistent, smooth driving from three very well matched drivers. On the other side of the garage, Nick and Jamie were left wondering what might have been and what improvements and developments would enable them to challenge for the podium again next time out.
The trip to Germany has taught the team a lot about both cars: the V10 showing the improvements made since last year and highlighting what needs changing next – in particular the gearing. The 120d is a good, reliable base on which more performance can be built. Both cars have considerable potential and the GiTi tyres have performed like their drivers – consistently and long lasting, although a softer compound may be used next time. The team already has ideas for improving both cars’ performance before the next round so the guys returned to base in Hereford with mixed emotions but looking ahead to their return to the Nordschleife in August.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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After its brilliant class win at the Nürburgring 24-Hour race Saxon Motorsport stepped into uncharted waters at the 24-Hour race at the Slovakia Ring.
Saxon Motorsport We follow the team to the Slovakia Ring 24 Hours.
They say there’s no rest for the wicked and no sooner had the Saxon team returned from its class victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours then it was busy prepping for the next event, the Hankook 24-Hour Series race at the Slovakia Ring in Bratislava. The race was a midweek event so the team duly assembled on Monday evening ready for a busy day testing on Tuesday before the race itself on the Wednesday.
Tuesday dawned bright and warm and the team had the morning and afternoon to set up and complete scrutineering ready for first practice at 6:00pm. Regular readers may remember Saxon had some issues with the organisers at Silverstone earlier in the year when it was battling with changing rules and Balance of Power restrictions right up to the race. Well, initially at the Slovakia Ring, the organisers appeared to be putting obstacles in the team’s way as well, because at this race the Saxon BMW was moved up to the TCR Class with the faster SEATs. For a while it looked like the minimum lap times, fuel restrictions and additional time penalties imposed upon the original SP3 class would still apply but discussions were initiated and these penalties were all eventually relaxed to enable Saxon to compete with the TCRs more equitably.
As it was 26ºC in Bratislava on Tuesday and forecast to be a few degrees hotter the following day – despite the possibility of a few thunderstorms overnight – one of drivers’ main problems would be keeping cool during their two-hour driving stints. To this end, the car was fitted with a ‘cool shirts’ system, where water from an ice-filled container is pumped through a cooling element laced through the driver’s special flameproof underwear, keeping core body temperatures down.
Practice and qualifying gave the drivers three-hours of track-time to learn the technical new circuit whilst chief engineer Jon Taylor and Team Manager Clare Lee confirmed tyre wear, fuel usage and optimal lap times for the two-hour driving stints to hopefully give the team a race-winning strategy.
As race day dawned it became apparent that Slovakian weather forecasting is apparently no better than in the UK. The morning was damp, windy and was forecast to be changeable during the race (starting at 2:00pm). The morning’s warm-up was the team’s first chance to take a look at the track in the wet. The previous day’s practice and qualifying were run between 24ºC and 26ºC and proved that the track with its long straights and hairpin bends was hard on brakes and fuel consumption. However, the sessions went well for Saxon with the team’s three drivers learning the new track progressively, setting a time that put them fourth on the grid behind three TCR SEATs – exactly as expected. The organiser’s agreement to allow Saxon to run with 100-litres of fuel with no minimum lap time should have made for a very interesting race as the team saw how the SEATs coped with fuel economy and tyre wear (being front-wheel drive) during the Silverstone 24 Hours.
The drivers elected Nick to start the race and he managed to move up to third place for the first 35 minutes before the rear tyres started to go off and he dropped back to fourth position throughout the remainder of the two-hour stint. It soon became apparent, however, that the TCR SEATs were coping with the fuel allowance and tyre wear better than expected. Indeed they were managing to complete nearly two hours before refuelling and changing front tyres only; the rear tyres were changed every second stop. The front tyres were, however, on the canvas! This reduced the advantage Saxon had envisaged but didn’t change the strategy. The team continued to keep driver stints to the full two hours in order to limit the number of stops to the absolute minimum of 11.
After a fairly uneventful night, the 135d was still running fourth overall, fourth in class and chasing the three TCR SEATs. Unfortunately the SEATs also had an uneventful night! Saxon was also losing time to the TCR SEATs on every pit stop due to the delivery speed of the diesel fuel pump which is supplied by the series organisers – a frustrating problem over which the team had no control. In consolation, the next quickest class – Cup 1, consisting of mainly BMW M235is – were a safe distance behind.
The only drama during the night proved to be a scare when Richard reported a gear change problem. Given previous issues with the gearbox, the team decided to call him in for a precautionary ‘box change before the car became stranded on the circuit. At the previous race in Germany, the team changed the gearbox in a remarkable 22 minutes; however, it felt that even that could be improved upon. True to its predictions, the job was completed this time in an extraordinary 13 minutes! Subsequent inspection of the sequential ‘box was to prove that the team and gearbox supplier Drenth, true to its word, appeared to overcome the previous issues and the fault lay with a deteriorating clutch diaphragm. This continued to be a minor problem throughout the final six hours with adjustment being required at each remaining scheduled pit stop.
With six hours to go, each driver still had one stint to complete. Tom had set the team’s fastest lap during the early hours when the track and air temperatures were lower. All they had to do now was to ensure that the car made it to the 2:00pm finish without any heroics.
Sure enough, 2:00pm arrived and the team finished in its grid position. It started in fourth place and ran in fourth place throughout, chasing the TCR SEATs for 24 hours. Finishing fourth in class, Saxon was the highest placed non-TCR car and the highest placed diesel/alternative fuel car for the second race in succession.
The next morning the team departed Slovakia and made its way back to base after a satisfying performance although the guys regretted not being able to take the race to the TCRs and put them under pressure. On returning to Hereford, the team’s focus is now on Round Five of the VLN Championship back at the Nürburgring on 16 July. Nick is intending to take two cars to Germany: he will drive Saxon’s petrol V10 alongside team regular Jamie Morrow, whilst Tom Barrow, Martin Gibson and Ellis Hadley will drive the team’s newly prepared 2.0-litre diesel 1 Series, all in Cotswold Hereford BMW colours. The latter three drivers will be starting their qualification process to enable them to run in next year’s Nürburgring 24- Hour race, a process that dictates each driver completes a minimum of 18 competitive laps in a 2.0-litre car. To achieve this Martin and Ellis have obtained sponsorship from their employers – GiTi Tyre Corp.
GiTi will be providing tyres as part of its support package for its drivers and so the team will need to learn the characteristics of a new brand whilst running two very different race cars. Cotswold Saxon sees its role in training and developing new drivers as an important part of development, both for the team and future drivers. Martin and Ellis both ran with the team at the final Britcar round at Donington in 2015, acquitted themselves well and were pleased with the way in which Saxon was able to help their entry into endurance car racing. The team is sure that it will continue to develop a long association with them and GiTi Tyres.
Meanwhile, the 24-Hour 135d endurance race car will be put to one side pending its next outing – possibly at September’s 24-Hour race in Barcelona. The new-for-2016 N57 engine has performed faultlessly since a newly designed crankshaft by Arrow Precision Engineering was fitted but it still needs some development on the turbo side. Owens Developments, who have provided the latest more reliable unit, will be working with Saxon to give the engine a broader power curve to enable the drivers to be less critical of gear selection. Nick is also keen to increase the upper rev limit of the engine over the winter which could produce a further 10 per cent in peak horsepower for next season.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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Saxon at the Green Hell. After the disappointment of Silverstone, Saxon was determined to get a good result at the Nürburgring 24-Hour race…
Thursday’s free practice and night qualifying were completed without too much drama and the Cotswold Saxon Team achieved everything it needed to. Most importantly, each driver registered the necessary two laps to qualify for the race. The only incident that occurred was Ric being attacked by a Porsche at turn one on his out lap! It appeared that the Porsche overshot on the outside of the right-hander, caught it and turned to the right and collected the Saxon Motorsport No. 111. Fortunately there was only minor front end bodywork damage to the nearside, not enough to stop Ric continuing and familiarising himself with the car but just enough to spoil Cotswold BMW’s stickers. Saxon finished the session in 100th place, meeting expectations given that the team hadn’t attempted a full-pace lap.
Friday morning qualifying took place on a wet but drying track so it was time to test the intermediate tyres. Ric jumped in first to get a couple of dry-ish laps as rain was forecast for later in the session and he needed some time in the car with some decent Tarmac under him. However, a rear suspension problem put him into an exciting spin just after the Carousel, from where marshals recovered him to the inside of the circuit at a point where it was impossible to return him to the pits. Travelling by motorbike along gravel forestry tracks, chief engineer Jon Taylor and Dave Price found the stricken car to assess the damage. Ric stayed to look after it until the recovery truck arrived. As the car could not take any further part in qualifying, the best time from night qualifying dictated the team’s grid position.
Once the car was returned to the garage the suspension issue was quickly corrected; it was possibly due to the earlier contact with that errant Porsche! Then the team set about preparing the car for the following day’s race. This entailed fitting new discs and pads (which would need to be replaced again during the 24 hours) and a thorough check of each nut, bolt and component throughout the car. With this complete, the team relaxed, watched the top 30 qualifying ‘shootout’ between the GT3 cars and looked forward to a quiet warm-up on Saturday morning before the race began.
Race day arrived with a typical foggy Nürburgring morning but that soon cleared to allow team owner Nick Barrow to get a couple of steady laps in to confirm the setup after the suspension changes the previous night. Once complete, the engineers and mechanics did a final check of the car ready for its next 24 hours on track.
Race time (a 3:30pm start) approached and the cars were released on to the grid an hour before the formation lap. The day had started dry but rain was promised around the start time so teams were nervous and prepared for last minute tyre changes.
However, the weather held and Jamie Morrow, Saxon’s driver for the first stint, was strapped in and set off on the formation lap in 107th place.
Sure enough, though, the predictions of rain were fulfilled! Three laps after the race was given the green light, rain and hail were reported around the track.
Partly by good luck (in being on the right part of the course at the time) but in no small part due to his skilful driving, Jamie avoided all of the ensuing mayhem. Up to 75 cars were reported to have left the Tarmac in the wet conditions, with no fewer than 25 needing assistance from recovery vehicles. This led to the race being red-flagged at 4:00pm.
It was 7:00pm before the organisers deemed the track and conditions to be good enough to consider a restart and Jamie elected to continue his driving stint. The session began at 7:40pm with three formation laps behind the safety cars before the race finally was allowed to get under way again. Jamie drove a solid stint on wet tyres, handing over to Ric at 10:30pm.
Ric started well but unfortunately suffered a recurrence of the after-effects of a previous accident and had to withdraw after three laps, unable to drive safely. This left the team with three drivers to complete the remaining 16-and-a-half hours. This was a considerable additional strain, reducing each driver’s rest time out of the car between stints by a third.
Dave Cox was next up and took over the car – still fitted with the same intermediate tyres which Ric had used for a drying track – and completed a solid 11:30pm-1:40am stint. He then handed over to Nick, who changed to slicks for the first time in the race.
The team was competing against a variety of competitors within the Alternative Fuels class, including a Porche Cayman running a petrol/ethanol mix, a diesel Audi A4, and a Chrysler Viper on LPG. At this stage of the race, the Cayman was setting the outright pace in the dry, the four-wheel drive Audi having set the pace in the wet but falling back 30 seconds per lap in the dry. However, the Cotswold Saxon BMW, with its very efficient 3.0-litre diesel engine only needed refuelling every two hours or more and was starting to reel in the more thirsty Porsche which was pitting every one-and-a-quarter hours. The next few stints were spent chasing the class-leading Cayman, eventually pushing it into an error resulting in a long stop for repairs after a neck-to-neck session.
Saxon has recently been working with Drenth to further develop its gearbox to suit the 135d. As with any race car, development of one component leads to the need to improve others in the chase for reliable performance. The higher output of torque from the team’s newly developed engine and the extreme mileages of 24-hour racing had pushed the gearbox to its limits, leading Nick to report a gearbox problem during his second stint around 9:00am on Sunday morning. Immediately the team’s engineers and mechanics sprang into action and a complete gearbox change was achieved in under 22 minutes! The car left the garage, still in Nick’s hands, to the applause of the Audi and Haribo-Mercedes teams who were sharing the garage space. They were all highly impressed by the fast, efficient work carried out by the Saxon boys.
The swift work protected the thee-lap class-lead built up by Dave, Jamie and Nick, and the car rejoined the race retaining a two-minute lead over the second-placed Audi.
With three hours to go, Nick had finished his final stint. He’d driven well, pulling away from the chasing A4 Audi, rebuilding the lead after the transmission problem. Jamie then took over for his final two-and-a-half hour session in the light drizzle that moved around the course, generally keeping it damp in many places. He still managed to pull away at about 30 seconds a lap when the track was clear and built on a two-lap lead. The team hoped that this lead (about 24 minutes on a wet track) would be enough to allow Dave Cox a careful run to the finish without too much pressure, but there was still three hours to go!
Jamie put in another competitive stint and indeed handed a healthy two-and-a-half lap lead to Dave Cox, who gradually gained overall race positions through the mid-50s, and took the Cotswold 135d towards the flag for the last two hours. The team was left in the pits nervously watching, hoping for the best and fearing for any potential accidents or mechanical issues. Jon Taylor’s race car ran faultlessly to the finish line in Dave’s safe hands. When the final results were released, Dave had completed the race in 52nd place but, much more importantly, first in the Alternative Fuels AT class. The Saxon machine had delivered on the promise shown at the Hankook 24-hour race in Silverstone, cruelly curtailed by a faulty turbo component, and given the team a well-deserved win.
Team drivers Jamie Morrow, Ric Shaw, Dave Cox and owner-driver Nick Barrow received their trophies on behalf of the team – who had been awake for 32 hours and put in a tremendous performance to service and support the car and drivers.
By the time you read this, the team will have just taken part in the next round of the Creventic Touring Car Endurance championship at the Slovakia-Ring, 40 miles east of Bratislava. Hopefully the guys will have repeated their winning performance. We’ll be sure to let you know…Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe Highs and Lows of Motor Racing. It’s been a busy month for the Saxon team with both the high and low points coming at the Silverstone 24-Hour race.
Hankook 24-Hour at #Silverstone / SAXON MOTORSPORT / / #BMW-N57 / #N57 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW / #BMW-E87 / #BMW-E87-N57 / #Saxon-Motorsport / #BMW-E87-Saxon-Motorsport / #N57-Saxon-Motorsport / #2016 /
This 24-Hour race really had everything; there were brilliant drives, some excellent spanner action, typical Northamptonshire spring weather and some seemingly dubious late rule changes. To say the Saxon team went through the mill would be something of an understatement.
Things started pretty well with a solid testing performance on the Thursday before the race weekend and progressed in a similar vein on Friday with a good showing by the Cotswold #BMW Groupsponsored 135d in free practice, which was watched very closely by competitors and race organisers alike. Despite the rules for the event having been put in place months before the race weekend Saxon Motorsport was informed after the practice session that the team would no longer be allowed to take onboard 100 litres of diesel at each pit stop but that the quantity was being reduced to 80 litres. In addition, the Balance of Performance rules were being adjusted so that the minimum allowable lap time of 2min 18sec was being increased by one second. This had the effect of negating the diesel-powered 135d’s economy advantage by introducing a possible additional four pit stops during the race and also limiting the ability to regain lost time.
Team owner, Nick Barrow, and team manager, Clare Lee, were involved in a heated discussion with the race organisers who were not penalising the petrol-powered cars in the class to the same extent. Eventually, agreement was reached so that the 2min 19sec minimum lap time would stand and the fuel allowance would be increased slightly to 90 litres. The team and drivers were disappointed to have the potential for their highly developed diesel-engined race car so severely curtailed before the event had even started. It was almost akin to two teams showing up for a football match and one team being told their goal was to be 50 per cent larger!
Despite the shifting goalposts the team was determined to work within the new limits and prove the quality of the race car built by chief engineer, Jon Taylor. Qualifying proved the ability of the car when Dave Robinson put in two laps, each of which would have placed the car seventh on the grid, much as anticipated by the team.
Race day dawned bright and sunny and the team was made aware that three of the cars that had qualified ahead of them on the starting grid had been penalised for technical infringements so Saxon would start in fourth place. Dave elected to start the race and was soon challenging the cars ahead.
As the afternoon and early evening wore on, the car led the race for some 19 laps before the weather intervened and further reduced the car’s competitiveness as in the slippery conditions other cars were able to more closely match the lower fuel consumption of the Saxon 135d.
Drama then struck during Dave’s second stint at around 1:10am when the gearbox developed a fault and became stuck in first gear. Saxon’s team of mechanics carried out a swift and impressive gearbox change (along with a new set of rear brake pads) and the car was returned to the track after 40 minutes, having dropped to 23rd position from seventh prior to the breakdown.
The rain and wet track conditions continued throughout the hours of darkness, with Nick and Neil Primrose struggling to gain places. However, towards the end of Neil’s dawn stint, light started to show at the end of the tunnel as the rain eased and daylight began to break. As Dave’s early morning session began, lap times began to fall and car number 117 started to set fastest sector and lap times lap after lap. Bringing the car in for a driver change at 8.58am, Dave had literally driven the tread off the wet tyres but the track had still not dried completely and those on slicks were still not faster than the 135d. However, after a further six laps, Clint Bardwell decided that the time had come to change to slick tyres and immediately showed the choice to have been timed to perfection by continuing to set fastest sector times all around the track.
At this stage, the team was rapidly rising through positions 17 to 12 and continued to climb as the excitement mounted. Nick and Neil maintained the push hard with a sixth place finish well in their sights, with Dave again scheduled to be at the helm for the final stint. But disaster struck at 2:45pm – just oneand- a-quarter hours from the chequered flag; Neil reported a sudden loss of power on the back straight and drove the car into the pits for Jon to diagnose a faulty turbocharger resulting in an early end of the race for Saxon!
The team and supporters who had begun to gather in the pit garage in anticipation of the final battle for places were heartbroken. The car and team had proven capable of competing with the best cars entered, having been the fastest throughout dry daylight hours and in different circumstances could well have triumphed. Instead the team were left to pack up and head back to Hereford, imagining what might have been but at the same time looking forward to the next opportunity to prove themselves in the knowledge that so much more is achievable. Post-Silverstone technical update The modifications that the team made prior to the Silverstone race to speed up the pit stops worked well, enabling them to carry out a driver change, complete with four wheel changes and a drinks bottle refill all within about 50 seconds.
However, more improvement is being sought before the next round with an overall pit stop target time of 30 seconds being the aim. The limiting element now is the wheel changing, whereas before Silverstone it was the driver change and drinks bottle refill. The new system for providing water for the drivers (whereby the mechanic on the left rear attaches a full bottle to the dry break connector fitted into the left rear door) worked well. Fears that he would forget to remove it after he had finished changing the wheel and the car would leave with the fill bottle attached proved unfounded. However, there was a minor problem with operation of the system in the car as when the on-board bottle was full and the driver braked he got a rather unexpected jet of water in the face! The team are confident that this will be cured before their Nürburgring race.
The wheel changing had been considerably improved for Silverstone by eliminating the need for torquing the wheel nuts individually, but the next most time-consuming part is putting the five wheel nuts back on when the new wheel is fitted. The team is now working on a way of securing a set of wheel nuts on the wheel that is about to be fitted so that they are in place and ready to be tightened as the wheel is put on.
The modified N57 engine that the team used at Silverstone has now been fully-stripped. Although this wouldn’t normally be Saxon’s practice after one race, this engine featured several new developments that hadn’t been tried before. It was therefore considered expedient to examine everything to be sure no problems were developing.
In particular, Jon wanted to examine the new oil pump that he had fitted into the sump. This was stripped along with its pipework and everything checked out well. The newly supplied crankshaft from Arrow Precision Engineering had completed its first race distance at Silverstone and so the team wanted to ensure that nothing was showing signs of premature wear. The only issue spotted here was some wear marks on the side of the main bearing shells; this does not appear to be a serious concern but the cause needs to be investigated by the team and Arrow before the next race. In addition, the team had not been entirely happy with the surface finish on the top of the block and the cylinder head so these have been remachined before reassembly to ensure the best possible seal for the head gasket.
On one occasion during the Silverstone race a ‘low battery voltage’ dash board alarm had been noticed by one driver warning but once cancelled didn’t appear again. After the race Jon started to investigate what could have caused this and eventually found that a connector between a switch panel on the dash board and the main loom had been overheating and looked as if it could fail imminently. This has now been sent to the loom manufacturer to have a higherrated connector fitted.
Changing focus for the season
Preparations are now in full swing for the next confirmed outing at the Nürburgring over the weekend of 26-29 May. Those following the Saxon team will know that the intention was to run Italian driver Luca Demarci in the hybrid LPG/diesel car in GT Cup races this year but due to unforeseen budget issues, Luca has had to withdraw from the series at present. This means that the team’s focus is on the Creventic Series of endurance races for road-based cars such as the BMW 1 Series – the Hankook sponsored Touring Car Endurance Series – under the same regulations as the Silverstone race.
In addition to these races at Slovakia-ring in June and Meppen, northern Germany, Barcelona and Paul Ricard later in the year, Nick is planning to visit the VLN Series at the famous Nürburgring. “Our V10 petrol-engined car is being prepared for a couple of trips to Germany,” he says. “Having raced many times at the ‘Ring in sprint and endurance races, I know that this car will be a formidable tool on that track and can’t wait to give it a try.” Like the diesel endurance car, the V10 will be liveried in Cotswold BMW colours in recognition of its sponsorship and support. The VLN Series consists of ten rounds of four- to six-hour races throughout the year and the team is well acquainted with the track, having run there with many class wins since 2012.
Nick previously ran this car in Britcar last year, proving its competitiveness and now he wants to prove its durability. The team hope to combine these races with qualifying races for two new drivers who raced with the team at the final Britcar race at Donington last season; Martin Gibson and Ellis Hadley acquitted themselves well in the team’s Cotswold BMW-sponsored 3.0-litre diesel in only their first competitive outing in the car and have embarked on the road to qualifying for the #2017 #Nurburgring 24-Hour race. This will involve a series of sprint races in a 2.0-litre car before they can enter the endurance race. “We are happy to fit a 2.0-litre engine to one of our cars to enable them to qualify with us,” said Jon. “We know the car will be competitive there and they’ve proved to be good drivers and team members so we wish them well trying to qualify.”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSAXON MOTORSPORT TESTING TIMES
/ #BMW-N57 / #N57 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW / #BMW-E87 / #BMW-E87-N57 / #Saxon-Motorsport / #BMW-E87-Saxon-Motorsport / #N57-Saxon-Motorsport / #2016
Lots of work to do before the Silverstone 24-hour race. Saxon Motorsport has been busy readying its cars for the Silverstone 24-hour race and it’s hoping all its hard work will pay dividends come race day. It’s been a busy time for the Saxon team, prepping the car in anticipation of the Hankook Silverstone 24-hour race and since we last reported on the team’s progress its been busy stripping and rebuilding, ironing out problems and generally trying to test the BMW-1-Series to the limit.
First up was a test at Silverstone to try out some of the changes the team had made and four of Saxon’s scheduled drivers were in attendance on a freezing cold morning at the Northamptonshire circuit. The day did not start well. With Neil Primrose, Clint Bardwell and Tom Barrow waiting eagerly in the pits, Nick Barrow ventured out first and it became apparent that not only does the new N57 engine produce more power, it also produces significantly more noise – resulting in an early black flag!
Fortunately the team had anticipated this as being a potential problem and some exhaust modifications were hurriedly fitted. Noise metering then confirmed that the new exhaust met the stringent limits in force for the race and testing resumed.
As it was particularly cold, probably the coldest conditions in which the car has ever run, a pre-heater was in use to heat the engine. This worked well and enabled the car to start easily. However, when the car ventured on to the track for its first run the smell of oil indicated that the gearbox oil was not up to temperature and back pressure from the oil cooler had caused it to split! The cooler was duly replaced and the day progressed well from there.
Towards the end of the test some suspension changes were made to the rear of the car which the drivers agreed greatly improved the rear-end grip and traction. With the back end sorted, attention turned to the front suspension with various adjustments and settings providing good data, which will result in a new anti-roll bar in time for the Silverstone race. Once back at base the car was stripped and rebuilt almost in its entirety prior to the Hankook 24-hour Silverstone event at the beginning of April. All of the suspension, gearbox and differential have been stripped to component parts and rebuilt whilst the brake discs and pads will be replaced after a practice run, ready for the race start.
The oil surge issue previously documented has been resolved in the test engine with redesigned pick-ups and this unit has now been removed from the car complete with all its ancillaries to act as a fully tested spare. The race engine is as prepared as it’s possible to be without a crankshaft! This N57 unit is currently ready and sitting on the benches in the workshop waiting for the new crankshafts to arrive from Arrow. As soon as they arrive they will be taken together with pistons, con rods and the flywheel for balancing with the engine being rebuilt, installed and tested on Saxon’s own rolling road.
Providing static tests prove successful, the team will have track-tested the race car on Easter Monday or Tuesday before leaving for Silverstone on Wednesday. It’s all a bit last minute and not at all how Saxon would normally plan a race preparation but unfortunately the late delivery of the crankshafts left the team with no choice.
With preparation work being continued by chief engineer Jon Taylor, Saxon team owner Nick Barrow’s attention turned to other areas of performance where time can be gained over a 24-hour race. Detailed analysis of pit stops up to the Barcelona 24-hour Creventic-run event last year indicated that an average Saxon pit stop to change tyres and drivers meant that the car was stationary for up to a minute; in contrast, some of the top competitors were only losing half that time. The Creventic Series rules allow each driver to remain on track for up to two hours; this would result in a total of 11 pit stops during a 24-hour race. However tyre wear at Barcelona necessitated 15 stops, so risking the loss of a total of over seven minutes additional stationary time – more than three laps over a race! It used to be the case in endurance racing that stationary time wasn’t too important – this was very much a test of reliability rather than outright speed. These days there are always a few cars which have no problems and complete the distance – therefore it tends to be a flat-out race for 24 hours!
As the Saxon diesel-powered car is capable of running for up to three hours before refuelling, tyre wear is the major factor in determining the number of pit stops; this can only be decided after final practice for the event when tyre wear has been assessed. As well as the number of stops, Saxon has been working on reducing time spent on each pit stop by looking at ways to speed up tyre/wheel changing, recharging drivers’ drinks and easier methods of seat belt fastening.
The rules dictate that only four mechanics can work on the car whilst stationary – one on each corner – and Saxon recognised that too much of their time was being taken up hand-torquing each wheel nut after the wheel/tyre is fitted. After testing half a dozen systems, the team has now adopted a combination of new components to allow selected nut guns to achieve the same reliable result automatically. This has speeded up the mechanics’ work but it’s to no advantage if they are finished and the driver still isn’t ready to go! One driver has to vacate the car with their replacement getting in, being belted securely in place and connecting the radio set and drinks supply.
Until now, all of this needed a combination of the two drivers and a mechanic; to eliminate the mechanic and simplify the procedure, Nick has changed the type of seat belt used to enable the drivers to fasten them themselves and developed his own method of springing the belts out of the way once they are unfastened, allowing the new driver to get in without moving the belts. The radio and drink connectors have also been modified so that the drivers can now connect them themselves without relying on any outside assistance.
Another time-consuming task for the drivers was to fill the in-car drinks bottle, delaying their entry into the car. This unexpected problem has now been solved by using an external dry-break connection so that the mechanic working on the left rear corner has a stainless steel bottle containing the top-up fluid. This is simply plugged into the connector, automatically refilling the internal container whilst he is changing the wheel. The mechanic will then hopefully remember to remove the empty canister before the car moves off!
By the time this issue goes to print, all Saxon’s theories and work will have been tried and tested over 24-hours at Silverstone with the results hopefully justifying all of this intensive race preparation!
Above: New connector for drinks bottle should make pit stops quicker; new pistons and con rods; chief engineer, Jon.
3.0-litre turbo diesel unit will act as a spare; Below: Testing at SIlverstone; Far left: Looking good in the new livery.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSAXON MOTORSPORT. #BMW-N57 / #N57 / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW / #BMW-E87 / #BMW-E87-N57 / #Saxon-Motorsport / #BMW-E87-Saxon-Motorsport / #N57-Saxon-Motorsport / #2016
Behind the scenes preparing for the season ahead. We’re following the progress of Saxon Motorsport this year as it tackles a host of 24-hour and endurance races, as well as the GT Cup Series. And while it isn’t racing season at the moment there’s still plenty going on behind the scenes…
Since its initial conception back in 2012, Saxon Motorsport’s two #BMW-1-Series diesel race cars had always been fitted with the M57 3.0-litre diesel engine that could be found under the bonnet of a number of #BMW roads cars. Early last year, however, the team considered the engine to be reaching the end of its development potential and started to look for new solutions.
It didn’t have to look too far as during 2015 proprietor Nick Barrow became aware that the then new BMW N57 3.0-litre engine promised significant improvements, not least in overall power output. This proved to be the case when early units tuned to 440hp and 553lb ft of torque were installed.
However, these first units suffered from various teething problems which have now been addressed with the fitting of a competition oil pump into the sump, as the standard pump was unable to cope with sustained high revs in an endurance race car. Further tweaks to the engine – specifically new modified pistons – saw the N57’s figures swell to 455hp and 575lb ft of torque! Keen to ensure reliability and drivability for the coming season chief engineer Jon Taylor, who developed the new engine, put it through its paces on Saxon’s in-house rolling road at the end of January, where it performed perfectly. As anyone involved with motorsport will tell you, though, there’s a big difference between an engine performing perfectly on the rolling road and it replicating that feat once on track. The team was keen to discover whether the car would perform without any oil surge problems, so it was transported to Llandow recently for a track test.
Llandow is a 1.5-kilometre oval track with two chicanes that is reasonably close to the team’s Hereford headquarters. It’s reasonably priced, is generally available for use, and is well-suitable for this type of test. Despite its limitations, it soon became apparent that the new engine was performing well on the right-hand bends but that there appeared to be an oil surge issue on left-handers, where the oil pressure was dropping immediately. As the guys were the only people present at the oval, they were hopeful of a dispensation to run the track in reverse; however ‘health and safety’ intervened and unfortunately prevented such a test from taking place. Undeterred, the team returned to its Hereford HQ and formulated a plan to test the problem without wasting any track time. Thus, the traffic island on the team’s industrial estate was attacked late one evening, after dark! Several clockwise circuits followed by several anti-clockwise, high-speed laps proved sufficient to replicate the problem and so it’s hoped that they can repeat the test when suitable remedies have been incorporated into the sump.
While ensuring the car’s ready for the season’s racing is one of the main points of focus for the team during the off season, it’s also a time when plenty goes on behind the scenes in terms of attracting new sponsors and Saxon is delighted to announce that it has a new partner for the 2016 season in the form of Cotswold BMW Group.
Cotswold is the largest BMW Group in the West Midlands, with branches in Hereford, Cheltenham and Gloucester. Saxon tells us it is excited to be forming a new relationship with the company. To reflect this arrangement Saxon is currently redesigning and applying new livery to its cars and transporters and it looks forward to showing off its smart new colour scheme for the season soon.
Preparations for the Silverstone Hankook 24-Hour race in April continue apace. All Saxon drivers are looking forward to driving the new, more powerful car with optimism, particularly after the team’s success in the Barcelona 24-Hour race with the previous engine. Meanwhile the team’s Italian driver, Luca Demarchi, who contested the Britcar Series with Saxon last year, finishing in second place, is preparing to contest the GT Cup series in the updated hybrid diesel/LPG car.
Also, one of the team’s drivers – Neil Primrose, drummer with the rock band Travis – who will be driving in the Silverstone 24-Hour race, is posing some interesting scheduling and driver rota challenges. Neil will be rehearsing for Travis’ tour of Japan and departs on the Monday following the race, which means he will leave London rehearsals on the Saturday morning, arrive at the circuit after the race start, complete his scheduled driving stints and return to London before the race is completed! Everyone’s hoping he can play the drums in his sleep and catch up on the flight to Japan…Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.