Wet or Dry 4th Round for the Fiat Coupe

Following our last experimental outing in the FC Performance Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo we collectively decided that developing the Coupe and sticking with Class A would be the preferred course of action for the remainder of the 2013 season.

We got a good idea of the current level of the car and it’s strengths and weaknesses during the 3rd Round qualifying and race, so the team at Grant Motorsport and FC Performance began adding a few developments to the car in preparation for the double-header event on 15/16th June 2013.

For a start we replaced the worn out clutch with a paddle-clutch whilst upgrading the chassis with the aid of replacement polyurethane bushes and uprated braces and rear anti-roll bar. A quick remap and some minor adjustments for the forecasted wet weather and the loan of a set of Toyo T1R 16” tyres as wets (courtesy of FC Performance) and we were good to go.

I’d built up a lot more confidence in the car during the last race and was keen to see just how much more we could extract from the car during this weekend, especially with the prospect of wet weather equalising the grid a bit more than usual.

Round 4 - Qualifying

Despite the weather predictions and forecasts, the weather on the first day left us qualifying on a dry set-up with a particular greasy and ‘green’ circuit. Most drivers were lapping between 6-tenths to a full second slower than the previous round, yet with our minimal modifications, I was able to put in a 1:21.975 (Personal Best), just under one second faster than my personal best during the Round 3 race!

The car itself was much more stable and predictable with a small reduction on initial turn-in understeer and a better balance of power throughout the rev range. This led to a slight difference in the appropriate gearing for the Esses and Bobbies chicanes, but nothing that a small adjustment to my driving style couldn’t overcome as best as possible.
Unfortunately as my lap times were tumbling, the session finished under the safety car after Anne King’s MG ZR crashed out into the marshal post on the exit of Bobbies (luckily she was OK just some cosmetic damage) so I only managed 5 clear laps for this session.

It was looking like a damp/wet race for the afternoon, so our attentions turned to the appropriate tyres/setup to maximise our chances later in the day.

Qualifying Lap Time: 1:21.975 (PB)
Overall Qualifying Position: 16th
Class Qualifying Position: 6th

Round 4 - The Race

The setup for the race was a little tricker than we would have liked. The circuit was wet but drying. Castle Combe notoriously dries quite quickly so it was a gamble whether to start dry and therefore slow but come on during the latter part of the race, or start wet and get a good start in before tailing off nearer the end.

In the end we opted for a wet set-up switching to the Toyo T1R’s and making a few adjustments to the engine mapping and suspension setup.

And what a difference that made! Starting 16th on the grid and 6th in class, I got an excellent start even with a little wheel-spin off the line moving up into 8th overall and 3rd in Class before we even reached Avon Rise as this video here shows!

Through Quarry and the Esses both Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird and I were battling for 7th overall literally mirror to mirror until his little 1.4 Fiesta had the upper hand on traction on the exit of the Esses. At which point team mate Dave Scaramanga appeared behind in his Grant Motorsport-prepared VW Bora 1.8T. After moving across so as not to impede Dave’s progress (the Bora is capable of much faster times than the current Coupe) I clung to the pack through Tower, Bobbies and into Camp until….

I hit the usual puddle that collects on the turn-in of Camp with my outside rear tyre which broke traction and sent me sliding into Camp at around 90mph! I managed to collect it as best as possible but couldn’t reduce the momentum enough to stop an excursion onto the grass in front of the pit wall. I was lucky to keep it from the barriers, but by the time I re-joined the circuit I’d dropped to near enough the back of the pack and 26th overall. Gutted.

Undeterred I set about catching up with the pack in front, taking a little too much speed into Quarry on what were now much colder tyres on an ever-drying circuit and drifted my way round before tagging onto the tail of the grid coming into the Esses.

The incentive to progress back through the pack outweighed any concerns over traction, understeer or the drying track and I managed to gain 12 more places to finish 14th overall and 5th in Class continuing my season long record of finishing higher both overall and in class from all 4 races compared to qualifying this season.

The car is definitely a marked improvement from the May Bank Holiday race and we can easily identify some simple yet key areas that can be improved ready for the next double-header on 13/14th July – however, we still have one more race this weekend – and that one looks wetter still!

Fastest Lap Time: 1:24.248 (Damp)
Overall Race Position: 14th
Class Race Position: 5th

Published on Monday, Jun 17, 2013 by Antony Weeks

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