Pigs Progress
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I promised Andy that I would try to post something after each meet this season, well here's the first post race bull.

Friday, having taken the day off work to finish the last few bits and pieces that we have had four months to do I finally got around to fitting a flue to the heater in the trailer. By about mid day the team was assembled, the car and tools loaded and the trailer hitched and we set off accompanied by a light dusting of snow, I should have gone home then. Two hours later we arrived at the track to find.......absolutely nothing, no other teams and not even the staff came out to meet us, spoiled for choice we drove round the pit area a couple of times looking for a good spot before settling for bang in the middle.With the mighty Black Pig rolled out we set up the pit tent and trailer, home for the weekend. I lit the heater in the trailer and the space heater in the tent, at least we had some comfort as we watched people wrestling with tents and kit in the dark, until the wind got up making sitting outside quite uncomfortable so we retired into the trailer only to find that it had also blown out the heater, which now refused to relight. So at nine thirty we retired for the longest coldest night ever, disturbed only by the team manager mentioning the fact, every ten minutes or so. I should have gone home then.
Saturday, we awoke (ha ha) to find that not only had the water frozen in the tank but also the gas in the cylinders, great start to the day. Having blagged some hot water from the crew chief, all warm and snuggly in his camper with propane heating not butane, things started to look a bit better,( I must get these eyes fixed) but really I should have gone home then. We spent the morning doing a bit of maintenance and waiting for some fool with slicks to try the track. At about 11 o'clock we decided that that fool was going to be us (or me actually) and towed down to the start. The track crew gave us strict instructions that we were to drive conservatively and not under power for the full quarter, but we knew what they meant. A good long burnout to try and get some heat into it all and jonny guides me into the lights. One truly appalling reaction time later and we were away, the car simply never hooked up and was skating from the off, a strange sensation where the tyres are not gripping and are turning just faster than the car is moving forward, it makes the car susceptible to every little imperfection in the racing surface and at about mid-track it started to come round on me and would not respond to any steering so I gave it best and drove through for an eleven something, who cares what, it was an eleven, two seconds off our normal pace. The rest of the day was spent doing more of the same, generally running against our little Welsh mate in his Mini altered ,"The Cunning Plan". We did do enough however to confirm that the converter needs changing to let us load the motor more at the start and as this was the only thing we came to prove ,I should have gone home then. Later, as we were sheeting the car for the night, it had already started to get cold again, our pit neighbours, the "B'sting" boys (another altered) came in to say that they were away to Stratford to find an hotel for the night, "ha" we cried, "wimps, you wear girlie's pants" etc and after giving them a decent head start we followed and found a nice little B&B to take us in.
Sunday, a hot shower, a good nights sleep and a full English later and we were back at the track, still cold but not as bad and showing signs of warming up. We lashed the valves, checked the oil and washed the car, all thoughts of going home were forgotten, bugger. We checked the float levels and adjusted the fuel pressure, everything looking good. It seemed like every Jap sports model in the Midlands had turned out for the day and the facility was awash with Evo's, Skylines Type R's and Volvo's (?). Now no one likes to be shown up by the likes of these, so when we judged the track had had enough use to warm it slightly we towed down. When we fired it, it sounded really crisp, the slight alterations had made some difference, I drove through the water box and Jonny squared me up and backed me back into it, on the starters signal I piled on the revs and let the brakes out, the car jumped straight up on the tyres and the shift light came on a second or so into it. Now this is a sure sign that the track is cold or underprepped but the driver was on a mission. Slamming high gear in I kept it floored, there was plenty of movement as the car rolled forward blazing the slicks, this is another sign as it should start to bite and straighten up, the top end limit light came on, lift slightly then floor it again, this has to be looking good. Across the start line and there was a slight hesitation in the motor, off the throttle and the car picks upon one of the rears and goes into it's little dance routine, it always does this and looks pretty wild but if left alone it will sort itself out pretty quickly. As it rolled to a stop I thumbed the lockout, pushed through neutral and triggered reverse, a short blip and we were running back to the start but something wasn't quite right, I could feel it. As Johnny stepped in front to guide me back he touched his ear and now he's pointed it out I can hear it too. A quick check on the oil pressure showed that we had stacks and so were not dropping it on the track ( a cardinal sin) so I stayed rolling back and punched the cutout. The track crew helped to push us back out of the firing line and I climbed out. As I was sat on the roof the next car in line went through its burnout routine, and when the smoke cleared I saw that Jimmy Hibbard of Valley Gas in Newbury had bought the "Boston Brawler" out to play and we watched whilst he put in a pass that told me all I needed to know about the track. We hitched up and towed back to the pits where, after a cup of coffee, we pulled the rocker boxes. The left bank looked good and so did the right, but not quite, it took a second or two to realise that number five had both valves fully down, bugger. We stripped the rollers off and it became clear that a bit of over revving had bounced the inlet, beating the collet to shrapnel and jamming the valve stem solid in the guide. It was about now that my dearly beloved wandered across and asked if everything was OK, one of those moments that give you a clearer understanding of what living with Turettes must be like, we all retreated to different corners to take stock. Guess what, I'm going home.
Our best case would be that the valve has held up and punched a hole in a piston as this would be a fairly easy fix with a welded patch and a bit of dressing, but as the crankcase did not pressurise its most unlikely. It may be that the valve has just skewed in the guide and that we can lap it all back within tolerances (what's the chances) but as the spark plug has a nice valve shaped relief in the side of it and a coating of ali-glitter I guess that the valve head has either separated or bent and beat the seat to death. Not the end of the world but not good on standard heads but in my beautiful AFR220's it might be a problem, at about two and a half grand a pair. We shall strip it tonight and assess the damage, if anyone's interested I'll post the results,