3 up and 3 down!
Since our last update we have run at 3 meetings. 2 of these have been 30 lappers with mixed results.
Feb 1st had Team Fox running up at the annual Whangarei Modified 30 lapper. Only a handful of cars fronted which was disappointing for the club and the event sponsor. To be honest we were not too fazed as our intention was always really to use this event as simply a practice run where we could try a few things to find some speed in the car.
As advised in the previous update we have been a little concerned about our lack of real competitive pace this season so we went back to the drawing board and started again from the base setup and fine tuned from there. All things being equal we learned a lot from our trip up North and we made good progress. Best thing was that Foxy said that for the first time in a long time the car felt good to drive. The fact we won the event was simply a bonus and we thank the Whangarei track for the opportunity to run.
Feb 15th and we had our first run at Waikaraka for the season. We wanted to carry on with the momentum we had found from Whangarei. A small field of 7 cars fronted for, what for us, was just a club night. The important thing was that we had a few competitive cars in the field so we could use that as a gauge for our progress. The track was primo for mods and it offered drive both down low and out wide. The fact that the track was so good meant we were able to get bloody close to breaking our own lap record which to be honest hasn’t looked like being threatened by anyone for a few seasons. We took 3 wins from 3 starts on the night from 2 mid pack starts and 1 rear start. In every race we had work to do to pass fast cars in open wheel to wheel racing (not just in the lottery at the starts). Foxy was able to race high wide and handsome and the car was on rails. It was the best the car has gone all season and we felt we were finally back on track for the season. This form was found just at the right time with only a week to go to the all important Dirt Cup. We left the track hoping that the track conditions we found on the night could be replicated the week after for the Dirt Cup.
A very competitive field fronted for the second most important modified event of the year, the 2014 30 lap Modified Dirt Cup. A very strong contingent from Christchurch made the trip up and we appreciate their efforts. They were headed by the current 1, 2 and 3nz machines of Luke Keegan, Mike Gourley and Hayden MacKay. They were joined by fellow club mates 13c David Thompson and 24c Dan Rae. Both these guys run week in and week out at the pointy end of the field at home. Wellington was well represented by the 8w mod of Michael Burt, 9w Blair McPhee and 17w Jonas England. Blair in particular headed into the event with very strong recent performances under his belt.
The Stratty boys were also out in force with 31s, 55s, 67s, 77s and 226s all making the trip up. The Stratty boys always support this event and we thank them for their efforts. Locals to front were 6a, 9a, 11a, 17a, 18r, 19a, 78a and 97a.
Our hope that we would have a track as good as the week before was short-lived as it was obvious from when we arrived that the track was very, very dry. The track prep guys were stuck between a rock and a hard place on Saturday as the weather forecast was for heavy showers. If they prepared the track as normal and it rained as well the track would have been stuffed. They decided to hold off but the expected rain never happened and what we got left with was a very slow, dry and dusty race track. The dust was flying after 1 lap of the first heat! This was disappointing as we felt it played right into the hands of our South Island friends. Dry, slick bowl tracks are what these guys thrive on and are the norm down south. We missed the opportunity to put them on the back foot by presenting them with track conditions that they are use to instead of track conditions that better suit the North Island boys. Easy to blame the club for this but to be honest given the variables on the weekend I think that would be unfair.
Foxy was drawn in group 2 and this meant we would be racing against group 1 in our first heat and group 3 in our second. We drew grid 8 for heat 1 and grid 7 for heat 2. Never really off the back but also never really off the front. Heat 1 we missed the setup badly (as did most others to be fair). This was the first race of the night and the track was gone after 1 lap! Without really looking super flash we were able to progress up to 3rd by race end. This 3rd place became 2nd when 9a was relegated for indiscretions after the race. Not a bad start results wise given the car needed some tweaking. Luke in the 1nz machine had a DNF which really put him out of serious contention for the title after only 1 race.
Not being involved in heat 2 it gave us the luxury of being able to watch the race before deciding what alterations we would make for our 2nd race (heat 3). It also gave us the luxury of knowing what we needed to do to top the qualifying points. Changes were made accordingly and heading out Foxy knew that all he really had to do was finish in the top 4 from our grid 7 start to be top qualifier. The car was really good for this race and Foxy just proceeded to drive around all the cars that started in front of him and there were some top cars! Foxy hit the lead at about mid race distance and never looked back, taking the win. A first and a second from our two starts was easily enough to top the points by a clear 5 point margin and assured us of a front row start for the 30 lapper. Which grid we would start from would be decided by the pole shuffle.
The South Island boys dominated the pole shuffle entries with 4 of the 6 positions. The sole 2 North Island boys started at opposite ends of the process. Bunter in the 67s entered the shuffle process in 6th place and made short work of all the guys he encountered on his way to contesting the final shuffle against Foxy. Some great driving from Bunter saw him dispatch in order the 13c, 24c, 3nz and 2nz modifieds and I have no doubt that this put a smile on his dial! Foxy picked lane 2 for the final shuffle and the guys went neck to neck into the first turn. Foxy got the better drive on the outside through the turn and got his nose in front heading out onto the back straight. This was enough to make sure he held the advantage and take the win. We chose to start the 30 lapper from grid 2.
On heading back to the pits we had to make some decisions on the final setup for the 30 lapper and it was frustrating that we couldn’t quite get what we wanted in the way of stagger with new tyres. We either had to run with less stagger than what we really wanted with new rubber or slightly more stagger than we wanted with older tyres. The decision we made was to go with the new tyres. Our reasoning was that although the car may be a handful for a few laps it was the better option with the race being 30 laps. In hindsight the other option may have been a bit better as we simply didn’t have enough stagger through out the race.
Bunter won the start and Foxy gave chase followed by the 2nz and 3nz machines that started from row 2. Bunter and Foxy pulled away a little from these guys and entered into their own little battle. Foxy looked slightly quicker but Bunter held track position. It remained this way until the guys caught up with the back markers and Foxy then pounced, passing Bunter for the lead. Foxy made better progress through the first group of backmarkers and Bunter got held up a little which allowed Mike in the 2nz to catch up. Like Foxy, Bunter was committed to running about mid track and it looked to be the right idea until a back marker moved up on him coming off turn 2 slowing his progress and this allowed Mike to swoop under both cars and get into 2nd. The next 10-15 laps were pretty uneventful with Foxy seeming to have less trouble than Mike getting through the back markers. This advantage always seemed to leave Foxy with a comfortable buffer on the track and the laps were counting down. At about lap 24 momentum changed and it looked like Foxy was starting to struggle while Mike continued to keep nice steady lap times running the poleline. Foxy was really starting to look ugly through the turns and was getting wider and wider costing him time in every turn (not to mention tagging the wall twice!). This allowed Mike to close in and get on his tail with only 2-3 laps to run. It was obvious Foxy was struggling and Mike managed to get in under him for the lead on the white flag lap and hold him out until the finish.
We were not sure what had caused the car to go off in the last 6 laps and assumed we had just run out of tyres. On heading out to the track to help with his gear I was greeted with a huge pool of diff oil sitting under the car and with oil dripping off the inboard brake rotor and caliper it was clear there was more to it. Foxy said he knew he had a problem late in the race when heading into cemetery bend he hit the brakes as normal to set him for the turn and the car wouldn’t pull up, it just went straight ahead at speed! He wasn’t sure why as he had a firm brake peddle but the car simply wouldn’t pull up. Corner after corner he had the same problem and this caused him to carry to much speed into the turns washing the car up mid turn into the marbles and impacting on turn exit speed. He knew that his speed had dropped markedly but there was little he could do and just hoped that he would be able to get through to the finish knowing there couldn’t be many lap left. Finish he did but he had to settle for 2nd.
On further investigation we discovered that the front seal in the diff had blown out and oil was being sprayed onto the brakes meaning they simply didn’t grab. We were very lucky that the brakes didn’t catch fire and that the diff didn’t completely run out of oil! If there had been a few more laps to run we likely would not have finished the race at all so to still walk away with 2nd was a great result
Congrats to Mike in the 2nz machine for taking the win and Hayden who finished 3rd in the 3nz mod. Congrats also to Luke in the 1nz machine who powered his way to 4th from his grid 15 start. If not for Foxy holding on for 2nd we would have seen another South Island clean sweep at a major modified meeting this season. It was disappointing we couldn’t hold on for the win given our dominance on the night and the way we have run this year but sometimes things just are not meant to be. It was good to see Mike take the title as he has supported the event many times over the years without much going his way. See kids, perseverance does pay off!
Two diff issues in the last 3 Dirt Cups are two to many for our liking. 3 years ago we had done the hard work to be top qualifier and won the shuffle to head into the final from the front when we spat out the crown wheel and pinion winning the shuffle. We couldn’t make the start line. This year we looked to have it wrapped up with a handful of laps to run and this happened so it just goes to show you how hard these things are to win. We look forward to going around again next season!
We have a week off now and then we contest the Auckland Modified Champs on March 8th (night 2 of the Teams Nationals). It was a pleasant surprise to hear that Mike in the 2nz machine plans to leave his car up here and run at events in the North Island over the next month. This means we get the opportunity for a bit of revenge when we go head to head with him again in the Auckland Champs, NZGP at Rotorua and the North Island champs back at Waikaraka at the end of March. We can’t wait!
See you on March 8th!!