I’ve done a few jobs on the car this week.  After the Mugglestones wiped the floor with us at Mallory I’ve been looking at losing weight.  Gone this week are the soft top and the air con. I don’t think it’s clear in the Blue Book as to whether removing the soft top is allowed, but as I have a hard top I would argue that I do not need to carry a soft top too. Removing the air con is a clearer matter as UK specification cars didn’t have ACs and so removing the air con from a Japanese Eunos just removes the weight disadvantage it carries.  The exhaust has been blowing for a few weeks now so yesterday  I had the old holed fexi cut out and a new flex welded in.

The MOT is up at the end of the month and for months I have had no rear fog light (an MOT fail) as Japanese Eunoses didn’t have them and I repeatedly knocked off my aftermarket one as it hung down too low beneath the rear bumper.  I booked an MOT for this morning and yesterday I spent a long time converting one of the reversing lights to be the rear fog light. One reason it took so long was that I thought the fog lamp switch in the car was for the fog light. In fact that is for front fog lights (which have been removed) and the indicator light for the fogs doubles as a switch for the rear fog light.  I had half the dash out of the car before I realised this! Anyway, I was relieved when it sailed through its MOT this morning. Always a relief with a twenty year old car!

Graham Hill Trophy Sprint

This morning I received the Final Instructions and Entry List for next week’s Graham Hill Trophy Sprint, organised by the Owen Motoring Club, at Curborough.

Graham Hill Trophy - image from Owen Motoring Club website.

When I was a lad, many moons ago, other kids at school were interested in football or cricket (and often both) and had heros with names I can’t hope to recall, not because of failing memory but because they meant nothing to me even at the time.  My hero was Graham Hill and the sport I loved was Formula 1. I can’t explain why it caught my imagination, nor why Graham, with his unfashionable moustache even back then, was my idol, but he was and the team I always supported was Team Lotus.  Hill and Lotus. Magic. Hill, Lotus and Monaco – I was spellbound.

Graham Hill

So next weekend’s sprint is the Graham Hill Trophy Sprint. I had thought that this was merely a name for the event, like corners are named after drivers – Graham Hill Bend at Brands for example – but no, the link is much stronger here.

I was reading on the Owen Motoring Club’s website that prior to racing for Lotus, when Hill raced for BRM, the BRM team was run by Rubery Owen and that the Owen Motoring Club was the car club of that company.

The club’s first ever event was in June 1963 at the newly opened Curborough sprint track and Hill, world champion at the time with BRM, donated one of his BRM steering wheels as a trophy.  Someone next Saturday is going to win that trophy and be linked in motoring history with Graham Hill. An honour.

So, who do I know in the entry list? Well, we have a four car line up in the MX5 class. Tony Thomas had said he would pass on Curborough as he wasn’t that keen on the track, but I notice he’s in – maybe because after the Mugglestones grabbed first and second last week he thought he’d better not miss an opportunity to score  maximum points? Dave Field is registered – his second sprint and Paul Webster. I haven’t met Paul before as he’s only been out once this year so far, at Gurston Down, which I thought too far away, and where he picked up a useful 8 points. He’s in an 1800cc Mk 2 MX5 while the rest of us are in Mk 1 1600s, though I don’t think there’s any advantage at Curborough, it being so short and tight.

Curborough is the only track in the HSA championship which I have seen before. I competed for the first time here at the last event of last year, which I wrote up here and I also did an HSA test day, which I also wrote up – here. So I have no excuses and am hoping to give Tony Thomas  a run for his money – Paul and Dave too. My previous best time was 45.40 on a wet day when the class winner (John Gallagher) did 39.69 and Tony 41.31, so I have a lot to do, but I’ve got decent tyres now and feel lucky.  We’ll see.

So who else do I spy? I see fellow dog owner and HSA committee member Chris Flavell is coming in his Peugeot 205 GTi,  Eric Morrey, who was parked next to us at Wiscombe, in his turbocharged Clan Crusader, Michael Andrews who, along with Eric, was photographed with us (see pic) at Wiscombe, and blog reader Brian Bell in his Force DS600.  Good luck to one and all. See you on Saturday.

A Wet Day at Mallory.

It was a particularly wet day at Mallory Park yesterday with lots of spins and off-roading.  I almost didn’t get there as my sat nav never picked up a signal (I guess because of the cloud cover) and it was only because I remembered the way to MIRA from last week that I got close enough to ask for directions.

It was always going to be an interesting day for Tony Thomas and me in the HSA MX5 class since this was the biggest MX5 entry so far this year with five drivers in four cars – all MkI 1600ccs. Three of these drivers we had not seen before – Dave Field from my local MX5 club, Phoenix Fives (hence our sunstrips), and Alan Mugglestone and his son Nick.

Dave Field and Tony Thomas
Alan has a long history in motorsport – at 18 he was the youngest winner of the British Kart Grand Prix at Silverstone and since then he has been involved, either as driver (Formula Ford and F3), mechanic, engineer or team owner in everything from Formula First to Formula One.
Alan Mugglestone

Last year he was chief engineer for A1 Team Malaysia and this year, from what I remember him saying, he is involved in Historic F1 and the Le Mans series and of course the REI HSA Speed Championship where he is helping Nick learn the ropes with the MX5. The little Mazda might be considered something of an ‘apprentice piece’ for Nick – a car to prepare and compete in in order to fully understand the engineering side of the sport. We wish him well and one day I hope to say, ‘Ah yes, I remember competing against Nick Mugglestone at Mallory Park’ 🙂

Nick Mugglestone and Alan Mugglestone

Alan and Nick had a van and trailer and were in a different part of the paddock to the rest of us but Alan came over to say hello and was very friendly and unassuming.  As I said after Shelsley, you meet some interesting people in this lark.

So, how did the day go?  In the first practice I spun coming out of Stapletons and ended up on the grass on the infield.  I came to rest pointing across the track right into the lens of a cameraman standing on the outside of the circuit.  I wonder if he posted the photo on the web. I was able to get back on the track and recorded a silly time of 99.20. Fastest in that session (in our class) was Alan Mugglestone with a 78.44.  This was almost three seconds faster than Tony (81.30) which caused some head scratching. In the second session Tony span, as you can see in the video, Alan didn’t go out (I think – or else went off?) and I had my moment of glory by recording the fastest time – 80.82. Time for lunch.

Dave's MX5 at its first sprint event.

We had three competition runs in the afternoon, (though HSA rules count only the first two).  Alan got his time down to 74.37, Tony 78.92, Nick 79.65, me 80.37 and Dave was pleased to improve with every run, stay on the track and record a best of 83.80.  I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Dave this season and it won’t be long before he’s pushing me down the leader board.      [correction: see comments to this post re Nick’s time]

Undoubtedly Alan and Nick’s car is well prepared but it was also the only one with Yokohama Advan Neova tyres, the rest of us running Toyo Proxes T1Rs, so it will be interesting in the future to see how they perform in the dry.

What else? Oh, Dave almost didn’t make it to the start line of his first sprint because he’d left the fan running in his car.  He donned his helmet. jumped in and discovered he’d got a flat battery. Lucky for him Neil Duncanson (Audi Quattro) was next door and had jump leads.

Dave almost missed the main event.

Neil was not too impressed with the tyres on his Quattro but was entertaining to watch as he understeered around the track. He said he did the stretch from the Bus Stop to the finish sideways.

Jonathan Plowe was again out in his Gilbern and between runs was doing the rounds of the paddock listening out of some juicy gossip for a piece he is writing for Speedscene magazine.  He asked me if I had anything for him but I couldn’t think of anything noteworthy. I should have said that the bacon sarnies were better filled than at Shelsley and although Shelsley’s new café is a wonder to behold, you can’t watch the GP Practice there as you can at Mallory.

Jonathan Plow and his Gilbern Genie

It was good to see the Morris Ital tow car in the paddock and then see that lovely little yellow Davrian again after its misfortunes last week at MIRA. Graham (Cashmore) said it wasn’t as serious as they had thought and after a hectic Sunday it was all back together again.

Graham Cashmore in his Davrian Mk6.

I met James and Sarah from Phoenix Fives standing in the rain the end of Stebbe Straight – they’d come along to see Dave’s first sprint and took loads of photos which I hope to see soon.

Well, I think that’s it. Of course loads more happened – there were lots of Morgans, single seaters, Westfields, motorbikes and sidecars, but those are other people’s stories. My next outing is Curborough on 13th June and I am toying with the idea of shedding some weight. I noticed that the Mudgglestones had ditched their soft top completely (which is within the rules) and since I have a hard top, maybe I’ll do the same. We’ll see. Onwards and upwards.

Jacqui, my wife, came to watch – I promised her Mallory was a beautiful place and we could have a picnic by the lake. Ho hum. We ended up sheltering from the rain in the cafe. Anyway, my youngest son also came and I thrust a video camera into his hand and asked him to record some of the action.  It’s a bit jerky but he caught Tony’s spin and also John Burton’s spin in his RALT.  Also, more photos here.  Enjoy! Bob.

Auto 66 Club – Car & Motorcycle Sprint – Mallory Park.

I received the paperwork today for Mallory Park on Saturday.  It looks to be a very interesting paddock including motorcycles, which I hadn’t realised would be there. Excellent!

Looking at the programme at the most important class – the “2 & 4 seater sports cars up to 2000cc” I see there are no fewer than four MX5s: Me, Dave Field from Phoenix Fives (my local MX5 club) who is taking part in his first sprint and two Mugglestones – Alan and Nick sharing a 1990 Mk1.  But where’s Tony Thomas? Well, he entered the “Standard Saloons & Sports Cars 1400 – 2000cc” class. This is probably a mistake but makes no difference to us in the HSA MX5 class as it’s just our times that are important. So that’s five MX5s – the largest field this year. And more cars mean more points are available.

Other cars that caught my eye are a 1999Alfa GTV ( I don’t think there’s a single Alfa I do not like and I can’t explain why I’ve never had one.  It’s certainly not because I let my head rule my heart – I once had a V6 Ford Cougar.)  A Renault Alpine – said in a previous post that I like those; an 8 litre Dodge Viper – I want to see that go round Gerrards; a rare Talbot Lotus Sunbeam; a 1976 Lancia Fulvia and lots of Morgans.  Lots of single seater racing cars too, but you must realise by now that that’s not really where I’m at at the moment.

The bikes look interesting too especially to my mind the two strokes (I used to race a Kawasaki 500 triple) – there’s a 1981 Yamaha TZ and a Honda NSR V4.  There are also five sidecars and a trike – should be interesting!

The Auto 66 Club’s Final Instructions contain some rules that must have been imposed by Mallory Park.  One that I haven’t seen before is that because so many competitors dropped oil in the paddock last year we all have to put a plastic sheet under our cars.  The other really odd one is that all competitors should bring “absorbent pads” with failure to do so carrying a £100 fine.  Well I have promised to be braver this week so perhaps I’ll need them.

MIRA Sprint 22 May 2010

Yesterday I was at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) near Nuneaton for a sprint event organised by MAC (Midland Automobile Club).  The public were not allowed in and no photography was allowed so no pics of event, I’m afraid.

MIRA was established by the government after the Second World War to help make the British Car Industry more competitive in foreign markets.  Something went wrong I guess.

Anyway,  it was a boiling hot day with no shade except on the shady side of the Control Tower, a building which reminded me of the those airfields in the film Battle of Britain. Indeed MIRA was established on an ex-RAF airfield, though I am not clear as to whether it was called  RAF Lindley, Nuneaton Airfield or Fenny Drayton. Perhaps all three by different groups of people at different times?

I sat there after my first run watching a stream of Caterhams and Westfields scream down the straight to the bend right in front of me. It’s the only place you can walk to from the ‘paddock’ as MIRA is not geared up for spectators and you aren’t allowed to go and spectate on any of the other corners (indeed there were not even any marshall posts around the track). From this vantage point you can see across the sprint track which is used by MIRA as a handling test circuit, across another banked track (around which drove, all day, a Bentley and an Aston) across some fields to a church. This, I think, is Stoke Golding church. In the Second World war when the Americans were using the airfield the church spire was right in the way of returning bombers so they dismantled it.  Each stone was carefully numbered and after the war it was all reassembled again on top of the tower. You can still see the join apparently.

There were only two MX5s competing (once again) – Tony Thomas (who is now leading the HSA championship) and myself. Tony brought with him a friend, Ken Stanbury, who is the joint coordinator for the Northampton Area section of the national MX5 owners’ club, to see his first sprint event.  Ken’s Mk 2 MX5 is amazing.  Probably one of  the cleanest and most highly polished I have ever seen – a real show car. Nothing like mine.   Ken seems to have encyclopedic knowledge of all things MX5 and was most impressed with my ‘Mariner Blue, short nose crank, 1990 Eunos’ – particularly the absence of rust underneath! I  was impressed it was not just an old blue Mazda.

My local (West Midlands) branch of the MX5 Owners’ Club is called Phoenix Fives and there was another MX5 at MIRA, parked not with our cars but in front of the control tower, and sporting a Phoenix Fives sunstrip. This car belonged to Dave (don’t know surname) who was marshalling for the first time.  I had met him a few weeks ago at a Phoenix Fives meet and it was good to see him again.

I also ran into the HSA chairman, Chris Bennett, in the paddock and mentioned seeing his website about his travels. I’ve done a fair few trips myself – driven from Atlantic to Pacific across the States and from Abu Dhabi down to Sur in Oman to mention just two, but he and Christine seem to have been everywhere. He said they were off to Alaska next week, which got me thinking about our summer plans.  I’m so hooked on this hill climbing lark I’ve not given much thought to summer holidays, but this morning we decided to put that right. We decided to drive to Marburg in Germany and Jacqui booked the ferry. We’ve never been to Germany but we heard a fascinating programme (Excess Baggage) on Radio Four a while back about how us Brits are missing out by not visiting the country. So with that in the back of my mind and envy for Chris’s trip to Alaska next week, we fixed our summer vacation.  I had fancied a trip to Scandinavia but it seems a bit pricey at the moment, unless you can go outside school holiday time. My son phoned from university to say he’s off to Oslo on an £8 return EasyJet flight! Anyway, I digress. MIRA – Saturday…

I was slow!  But as usual got faster on each run and left thinking what I might have done if I had been able to have more runs.  The MX5 class record was 61.58, set last year by John Gallagher, who won the championship. My first run was a super slow 70.05 after I fluffed a gear change and couldn’t find the right gear. I did the same thing in the second practice.  Tony hit 91 mph on the straight on his second practice run but then span off.  We walked the track in the lunch break and he gave me a few good pointers on what gears to use and how to improve. In the competitive runs I got down to 65.05 and Tony beat John’s record with a 61.48.  ‘You have to be braver!’ he said, and I think he’s right. I feel the car’s fine, I just need to really go for it. Well, Mallory next week, so we’ll have to see how brave I can be.

What else? There were a couple of guys with a nice Davrian Mk6. Their tow car was a Morris Ital estate which also caught my eye as I once had a Marina estate! They had taken it to France with no problems, they said. Anyway, I felt a little sorry for them as the Imp engine expired on their first run and it went straight back on the trailer. I think they were from Essex so it was a long way to come for nothing (though they said the campsite was marvellous). There was also a Gilbern Genie there. Most people think this is the only car built in Wales, but the Davrian was also built in the principality for a short time. I was a student at St David’s University College in Lampeter in the early eighties and I think Davrian had a unit on the little industrial estate there.

Wandering around the paddock (there was a lot of that, as you couldn’t walk around the track) I bumped into Peter Hubbard, whom I met at the HSA test day at Curborough. Peter says he’s finished his Marcos and will be taking it for its MOT this week. I’m looking forward to seeing that as it was one of my favourite cars as a kid. Someone else from that test day at Curborough was Steve Filkin who remembered me and stopped to say hello. I also met Graham Boulter who has a Kudos coupe (not at MIRA) and has a private plate KUDIOS, which is very apt but not as good as the Lambo at MIRA with the plate V121NME (V12 IN ME).  The HSA is a friendly outfit, I must say.

So that was my day at MIRA. They said no photos but I had to take one, didn’t I? From the outside…

Paddock Art.

You meet some interesting people at hill climbs. At Shelsley on the Sunday (May 2) I met Becca Parker who was photographing the cars in the paddock.

Becca is not only a photographer but a singer who many hill climb enthusiasts will know from Richard Danby’s wonderful time-lapse film called One Day at Shelsley Walsh. I haven’t asked permission, so won’t embed it, but you can watch it here – Becca sings (and wrote) the beautiful song, Days Like These, that provides the soundtrack.

Becca likes black and white and has produced some really haunting images of Shelsley that perfectly capture the great history of the place. She went back after we had all left and caught the ghosts of Shelsley Past in the empty paddock. Wonderful! And although she’s particularly interested in the older cars, she did take this one of my little Mazda masquerading as a racing car.

You can find Becca’s music here – and if you’d like to commission a photo of your car, I’m sure she’d be pleased to hear from you.

Seeing contemporary black and white images that fool you into thinking they’re old, reminded me of a video/poem called Hot Rodding is Dead by the American writer and poet Eric Darby.  If you like it, check out his website at

Well, that was a cultural post wasn’t it? Photography, music, poetry and film.  I may as well throw in a Rolling Stones video too.  Here you are – . Oh,  Ms Parker’s in that too.

May Midlander at Shelsley Walsh

This was a two day event with practice on the Saturday and competition runs on the Sunday.  Shelsley’s only half an hour from Kinver so it was easy to get to.  But it was absolutely freezing and although it didn’t rain, it threatened it all weekend and the track was greasy under the trees through the Esses.

In the MX5 HSA class there were three of us there – Chris Bound, Tony Thomas and myself. Tony scored maximum points breaking the MX5 class record (which was 41.86 before he broke it – can’t remember his time)  and I was delighted to get my time down to 43.56 (from 47.94, 46.41, 45.54).  Of course this is incredible slow compared to other classes but it’s all great fun and having a separate class for MX5s adds that little bit of interest for those of us with them.

Some of the HSA members at Shelsley Walsh May 2010
Special mixed class at Shelsley for the HSA Speed Championship contenders. L to R: Chris Bound (MX5), Eric Morrey (Clan Crusader Turbo), Tony Thomas (MX5), Me (MX5) and Michael Andrews (Peugeot 106 Rallye). Robin Maryon was there in his Jedi Mk 2 but in a different part of the paddock with the single seaters.

More photos here.

Wiscombe Park 24/25 April

I drove down to Devon in the MX5 on Friday night. The roads were clear and it took three 3 hours to get to Whimple where friends were putting me up.  The next morning I was up at 6.30 and drove on to Wiscombe Park between Sidmouth and Seaton. What a beautiful venue!  I’d never been to Wiscombe before, even as a spectator,  and was surprised at how long the hill was (and how steep in places). It was a little damp under the trees in the morning so I was cautious on my first practice run and recorded a 59.01. I got this down to 56.55 in the second practice and set myself a personal target of 55 seconds for the afternoon.


There were 13 of us in Class A2 Road-Going Series Production Cars 1400 cc-1800 cc but only two of us in the HSA MX5 class – myself and Tony Thomas.  John Brookes had entered (on the Sunday) but didn’t show up.  Tony was a little disappointed that I was the only one there to beat, since you need three in class to score maximum points apparently. There was another MX5 – Simon Thomlinson, who isn’t in the HSA but may join next year.  It was his first hill and he was in a different class for newcomers to the sport.

Simon Thomlinson

In the afternoon, I recorded a 56.16 which was going in the right direction and finally a sub 55 sec time of 54.63. I was delighted with this even though it was miles off Tony’s pace (53.29 – almost an MX5 class record, which is 53.20). [The day’s best time in Class A2 was Jonathan Wright in a Golf GTI – 47.11].

Over night it rained heavily and on the Sunday it was damp all day and there were showers.  I tried to improve my times and experimented with changing up later or earlier at various points but was slower on both competition runs – 55.30 and 56.79. Tony was also slower 53.72 and 53.89 but the class winner, Jonathan Wright in the Golf,  still did it in 47.71.

Tony Thomas

And after all that excitement I drove home.  Considering I only paid £1500 for the MX5 I am amazed at how good – and how much fun – this little car is.  Next weekend – Shelsley Walsh (where I notice  there’s someone else from Kinver – the village where I live!).

More photos on my Facebook site – here.

Loton Park, Easter Monday 2010

Hagley & District Light Car Club meeting.
Round 1 of the HSA Richard Eggers Championship.
Easter Monday was a cold grey day and it always threatened to rain but in fact remained dry.  I drove my car to the hill (as opposed to trailered it) and arrived at about 8.20 which was cutting it fine as I had to report to the start line at 8.45 for a briefing for new drivers. There was no time to walk the hill and I just had time to unpack the boot and put everything into my new little tent, get changed, get the numbers on the side and the beam breaker attached to the front and sign on. There were three drivers who had never driven Loton Hill before and the clerk of the course took us up the hill in his Range Rover and he probably drove up there faster than some competitors.
I decided to drive up slowly in my first practice run to get a feel for the road and did so in about 84 seconds.  For the second practice run I dropped the tyre pressures from 30 to 27 and tried a little harder and clocked  about 79 seconds.
There were 11 competitors in the 1B Class (Roadgoing Series Production Cars 1400cc – 2000cc) and of these four were in the HSA championship –  last year’s overall winner John Gallagher, this year in an  Integra instead of his MX5 from last year, and three MX5s, competing in the HSA 1B MX5 class – Tony Thomas in his red and white Mk 1 1600, Michael Tindale in his green 1800cc and me in my Mk1 1600.
In my first competition run I still felt as though I was learning the course and was hitting the rev limiter in second at the end of the Cedar Straight but couldn’t see I had time to change up before the brow of the hill.  My time was just under 75 seconds (Results haven’t been posted yet and I don’t have the exact times).  In my second competition run I did change up and didn’t lift off before the crest of the hill and the time was slightly faster.  It’s the end of the straight that I feel I could make up most time.  I think I should be able to keep my foot down all the way up to Fallow (which I don’t) and if I could leave my braking really late for Fallow (just before the 50m board?) I may be competitive.  The car handled fine; it was just me slowing things down. Museum corner is blind over the top of the hill but didn’t present a problem and the first part of the course was also OK. Just wish I could practise it a few more times.
In the MX5 class Tony Thomas broke the class record with a sub 70 second time while Michael Tindale was having traction problems on corners – probably down to suspension issues. My car seemed OK – a little gutless in third – but really no complaints. The new tyres seem very grippy and should improve with time.
I think the next time I’ll be back at Loton is 25/26 September and I’ll be looking for sub 72 second times if it’s dry.
I’ll post the results for April 5th as soon as they appear on the Hagley website.
At the top of the hill.

H&DLCC Times:

HSA points in class A2.1:

A2.1 Tony Thomas Mazda MX5 69.92 5 5 10
A2.1 Bob Ridge-Stearn Mazda Eunos Roadster 74.51 2 4 6
A2.1 Michael Tindale Mazda MX5 76.94 1 3 4