This is just a gentle natter on trackdays and track cars in general, how Hitler performed on his maiden voyage and of course the MX5 NC.
Back in 2019 a few of us met up for an evening session at Donington, I love Donington and always have, it’s a fantastic place, it used to be Britain F1 GP venue at one time and is steeped in history. It also faced closure and was indeed closed for some time in recent years, but is now back as it should be.
It has everything you want from a track, a long straight, high speed S bends, hairpins, chicane, double apex corner uphill section, downhill section, loads of run-off, pit garages (i’m not sure if they are free now like they used to be). Craner is the bit people usually talk about as it’s a proper heart in mouth, grit your teeth, foot to the boards and hang on for dear life kind of section! It’s a downhill stretched out S and IIRC is a bit off camber too which means when you’re flat out you can feel the back going a little light and squirming as it nears the limits. If you’ve never driven at Donny it must go on your bucket list.
Sadly as it was the day before a Caterham race many of them had booked on to test their cars and skills to the limits along with us. So we had hardened racers on the track with novices; bad idea. It was like holding an F1 race on the same track as a saloon car race.
You had people overtaking wherever they wanted as if in a race, on the left, the right, mid bend, you name it. As if that wasn’t bad enough one of them stuck it in the gravel every few laps closing the track down time and time again. The session ended earlier than advertised and unsurprisingly on an already red flagged and closed track. We’d done something like 40 miles and used less than 1/4 of a tank! We had travelled for two hours to get there, one of my mates James had done about 4hrs I think from the deep South for that amount of driving. It was a complete and utter waste of time and money.
I don’t know whether TD organisers have lists of who is going and in what anymore, MOT certainly don’t. It was a great idea as obviously you could see in advance what kind of day it was going to be, maybe see cars and people who you’d like to go up against and have a chat with.
I felt saddened and embarrassed for my friends, also cross that i’d put so much time into getting the car ready for this. I complained to the organisers who took the time to explain their position in detail and was offered a ‘freebie’ at Blyton in Spring. This was then cancelled due to the CV19 outbreak, then as things calmed down a bit another one was allowed to take place in June.
Project Hitler 2.3 was nearing completion so it was a good time for a shake down and see what the Winters work had brought about. CV19 has set us back something like 6 months, not only because of the complete closure of many businesses, but also the supply chain being interrupted and now a huge backlog of things has backed up to be cleared. It’s been difficult to get dyno time, my local friend who helps with mapping on the road went abroad and got stranded, then decided not to come back for a while anyhow! All in all it’s been a difficult time for many people.
I already have a ‘winning formula’ to work from as far as suspension and set up is concerned so knew that would be ok, but it was on different tyres, wheels, brakes and of course a new 2.3 engine. The engine hasn’t been fully dialled in yet nor is mapping complete, but it was good enough and safe to drive it.
I’d built a big bore exhaust and put a Cobra Race back box on, whilst it sounded fantastic with lots of burble, pops and crackles, it was also very loud, the driveby at Blyton is 95Db at 20m. I’d bought a quite professional Db meter, (all the way from China for a tenner! ) and we tested Hitler at 105 at max rpm. One thing you can’t really do is change an exhaust system at the track side and given it had two tail pipes, two push in ’emergency’ Supertrapp style things were far too much money. There was no room underneath for anymore silencers, Cobra had no road silencers in stock for weeks and I was running out of time and ideas. In the end I was forced to put a standard (apart from a de-cat) system on so it lost a few bhp and sounded like an angry wasp in a tin, pausing to fart every now and again. Nevermind, it would have to do, I couldn’t risk being sent home. I’ll work on a solution to this, probably just a Cobra road back-box will do the job coupled up to the big bore mid section.
I’d obtained some 17 x 8 Enkeis with a good offset, painted them the usual trademark satin black and shod them with some NS2Rs. When they weren’t quite up to temp it was quite easy to powerslide out of the chicane with the torque of the 2.3, once warmed up you could throw the thing about however you wanted as per usual. To me this is what a properly set up MX5 is all about, you can head off to the track with your mates or your family and put anyone (within TD rules) in there. Your mates, the kids, your granny, wife, whatever. Send them out and they’ll be able to drive it to their maximum ability. You can push the thing as hard as you want and it doesn’t bite like some cars do. There is so much communication from it it’s amazing and I’ve tried really hard to keep it neutral, overcook it on a bend and it’ll just four wheel drift.
I wouldn’t have said there was much in the way of serious MX5 competition for Hitler out there that day, just some mildly modded road and race cars so it was easy to reel them in and dispose of with ease. It certainly wasn’t down to my skills as i’m no driving God, so with the right person behind the wheel it would be quite a weapon.
It’s got SRF fluid in and a big brake kit on which had some Mintex pads already included, also larger dimpled and grooved Mtec discs, vented all round. I looked up the part numbers for the pads and they didn’t look to be anything special (definitely not the 1171). They felt a bit wooden on the roads when cold, needing a bit of heat in them before they worked. I figured i’d give them a go as they were, but took some Stoptech fronts with me just in case.
They clearly hadn’t had any hard use or bedding in procedure done as the nature of them changed with the hard use I was giving them. At first they smelled as hard used pads generally do (at least, I think they were mine I could smell!), then developed a really loud squeal as some track pads often do. I wondered at first if they were going to give up on me, but despite the smell and noise performed well. This is the thing about using a bigger disc and pad, you can get away with using a softer pad. On the other track car the discs and pads are so big it uses nothing but road grade, yet you can stand on the brakes time after time from 100+ and it doesn’t struggle in the slightest, the discs don’t warp, go blue or whatever and you get good feel and bite from cold.
Whilst PJ is built on a cheap base it’s undoubtedly quick, also it’s still sensible and easy to drive on track being an NA engine. I do have a history of going insanely quick in stupidly cheap, but chronically powerful cars. I have a liking for street sleepers. There is something very satisfying about blowing away an expensive car in something which looks like a piece of shit. The thing is (and it’s mentioned in another blog) if you end up in a wall then you haven’t lost much, if it’s not a HUGE accident then your go-faster goodies (and your good self) may survive and be bolted back onto another car.
This is Project sausage, it was the most powerful 16v turbo Fiat Coupe the UK has ever had:
I was back then developing parts for integrales and the Coupe 16vt shared the same engine. integrales are expensive, Coupes are cheap as chips so one was found locally for about £400. If any engine bits were created which weren’t quite up to scratch or needed testing then they were bolted onto Project sausage. Sausages are known as the butchers friend, made up from floor sweepings, but still a fine piece of food when you’re in a rush.
PS put out just over 500bhp on an honest dyno, it was FWD, had a very basic cast iron swing arm suspension, coilovers, big brakes and thicker ARBs to cure its tendency to understeer. It was properly evil. You had to commit to a corner and keep your clog buried in the carpet, back off midway and you’d find yourself pointing the wrong way in a split second. Lift-off-oversteer in large quantities.
It was a good straight liner once on the move, but would spin the wheels in first and second if you had a heavy foot until it was hooked up to third. It had so much power going through the front wheels it was like watching a little old lady being pulled up the road by a Rottweiler, it would weave from side to side as you hung onto the steering wheel whilst the scenery flashed past at comical speeds. It totally slayed many expensive motors, mainly on the motorway, BMW M3s were just breakfast for Project Sausage.
I remember driving along a local bypass one night on my way home, some guy in an Astra VXR was all over my tail wanting some, aggressive driving, weaving all over, pulling up to my rear bumper etc. I knew what he’d do and I also knew there was a long clear straight coming up where he’d do it. So I shifted down a gear and held it at 3k whilst looking all innocent. Right on cue he dropped a cog and made his move.
So did I 🙂 The loud pedal got pushed into the mucky old carpet and he got as far as drawing alongside before the GT30 got into it’s stride. That was it, he appeared to go backwards at a rapid rate. Bye bye matey boy and I just hung onto the wheel whilst PS did it’s party trick. 3 seconds later I changed up and cruised along grinning at the spec floundering in my rear view mirror about 1/4 of a mile away. Some kid learned a valuable lesson that night that things aren’t always what they seem 😉
Anyhow I digress, we aren’t really here to talk about rusty old Fiats. Just rusty old Mazdas. So all in all Hitler 2.3 proved to be all we needed; fast, great handling and reliable, the extended redline up to 8k is a big help in the corners along with a powerband starting at 4k.
Whilst Blyton is cheap and great for the beginner or testing it gets a bit boring for me after a while. The heavens then opened at about 2 and quite a few people had gone home for a variety of reasons so we packed and left too. Job done.
It’s a shame there aren’t many (if any) photographers at trackdays anymore, even if you’ve got friends with cameras you can’t get to any good vantage points to get the best shots (check out the wire fencing on the pic right at the top there), especially at Blyton.
Next I will tweak the cam timing as I think there is a little more to come from this combination, then we’ll finish off the mapping, write an article outlining what’s all about, then it’s for sale.