Manx Classic 2014

A bit late, but here’s a short report.

Manx Classic 2014

April 25th – 29th

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Wednesday was the drive up in convoy with Tony and Sam Browne, with their Dolomite Sprint. Both of us trailering our race cars. The trip up to Heysham from Hampshire went well with Ben and Caroline Tomkins catching up with us about an hour or so out from the ferry terminal. After a good crossing we landed in Douglas with a short drive to our hotel, where we unloaded the cars and drove up to scrutineering. This was quite strange to drive my race car on the road, legally!! For the duration of the event my race car was road legal. My race number was effectively the cars registration for the island and the scrutineering was its safety check. I have to say the novelty soon wore off as it’s uncomfortable, noisy and difficult to drive in traffic, well out of its comfort zone. I have been to the Manx Classic before but as a mechanic to Austin Healey 3000’s. The format is slightly different to the ones I remember. Thursday dawned bright and sunny, a good day to go racing, other than all the clutch fluid having drained out over night. I had had some trouble with the clutch at Silverstone with the clutch slightly dragging. This turned out to be a small pin hole in the braided hose going to the concentric clutch slave cylinder. This hose was replaced just before the Manx event. Unknown to me one of the fittings was slightly larger internally so wasn’t sealing properly. Fortunately I had the original hose with me and both hoses used reusable fittings, so, with Bens help, it was a simple matter of swopping one of the fittings over, problem solved. This was the only issue either of the Sprints had throughout the event. The first event was the Governors Sprint. This event was run in the afternoon and evening on closed public roads, 12 noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm the road being opened between 3pm and 6pm for the rush hour traffic. We were set for two timed practice runs in the first session and two timed runs, that count, in the evening session. However, due to a few incidents some of us had only one practice run, with others having only one timed run. Tony ended up with only one timed run, much to his frustration as he had encountered a pheasant wandering across the course. I took a class second place in the Sprint with a run that had its faults, as you will see from the in car video.

Friday was an early start with a drive to the first hillclimb at Creg Willey. Again the format was two timed practice runs in the morning, with the two timed runs that matter in the afternoon. This event was my favourite of the three. I could remember most of the corners by the end of the second practice run, with the only hazy bit being the distance between the first few corners. My first timed run was red flagged at Sarah’s Cottage. The TVR in front of me had hit the bales coming out of the right hander at Sarah’s Cottage. He was out for the rest of the event. My second timed run gave me class first place. As will be seen from the in car video I was hesitant through some of the first corners as this was my hazy bit, there was also an unnecessary gear change in there. As always one more run would have sorted it !  Saturday morning was wet, and on our way to the third event, over the mountain, very very foggy. Lergy Frissal hillclimb is a tad under 1 1/2 miles long (as is creg willey). The weather cleared to again a lovely sunny day. The format again was two practice timed runs in the morning and two timed runs in the afternoon. My first practice run was on a damp road, didn’t get a second practice run as a TR4 had had a bad accident, driver was a bit battered and bruised but ok. The TR was very bent but I have since heard that it will be repaired. After lunch the timed runs started. My first run was going ok until I caught up the TVR in front with a misfiring engine, that was the end of that run. My second timed run went ok with no interruptions and gave me first in class for that event. I didn’t really get to grips with this hillclimb, as will be seen from the in car video. I was  hesitant where I should have been foot flat to the floor, again a few unnecessary gear changes. Was never really sure where I was. One more run would have sorted it !!

Tony and Sam Browne were double driving their Sprint and both did very well with Tony taking two third places and with Sam’s times falling with every run. A good event for team Sprint.

I really enjoyed my trip to the Manx Classic and have every intention to return next year. Perhaps there maybe a few more sprints to show off their ability.



POE the track day car

There was POE the road car that did track days, now the beginning of the transformation too, POE the track day car that does road. Ben will now take up the story.

IMG_4701 IMG_4696 IMG_4694 I like the look of the Group 2 Sprints with their wide arches and decided to get a set of the SprintSpeed arches from Rob. I have a set of the original style Gp2 arches but the SprintSpeed set are an inch or so wider and slightly thicker, so should be more robust for a track/road car that may be lent on and have doors opened against them. After the Club Triumph track day in late November we decided to get the car into Rob’s garage and get on with fitting them.

Rob began by making some angle section out of sheet steel, this will be used to close the outer wing and give a lip to weld a return onto the inner wing.


Rob then marked where the outer arch needs to be cut. With the wing marked he cut a piece of cardboard as a template and used that to shape the 1″ angle, the angle can then be offered up and spot welded to the outer arch.

Whilst Rob was doing the technical stuff I set about taking bits off, simply the bumpers, trim and fuel tank.

The SprintSpeed flared arches come with a large amount of material that you can cut down to size, we marked the bit to cut off using the advanced approach of running a marker pen around the arch a thumbs gap away. Provided your thumb stays the same width all arches should be similar.

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Once the arches are cut down it’s time to make some mess; sand the edges so they are reasonably smooth, cue one bodgerben sent outside the garage to make some dust.

With the rear arches all marked up it’ a simple matter of cutting the outer arch. POE had plenty of wax in the rear wings, the outer arch bits were just staring to go frilly so needed repairing. This is another reason why I took the opportunity to put the flared arches on.

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With the outer arch out of the way, I drilled though the inner arch and then join the dots to cut out the inner arch.

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The front flares are simply stuck and pop riveted onto the front wings, the front wings didn’t get cut.

We offered the arch up and using a marker pen, mark the wing. I then keyed inside the mark with a very fine pad and used an ultra fine pad outside the mark, this gives the sikaflex something to grip onto. So whatever colour I paint the arches I can simply flat up to the arch and polish.

One chap asked Rob what standard Sprint wheels would look like with flared arches, so we tried them. They look horrible. You’ll need some huge spacers. This was also the time I thought the 7×13’s were not going to be big enough. We had a bit of a measure up and thought about spacers. Then I ordered some 9×13’s from Minilite.

With the metal cut out, I set to and clean up the inner arch back to bare metal so Rob has something to weld on to. If there is anything I’m good at, that’s making a mess, here I got to cover myself and most of Rob’s garage in old underseal.

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With both sides inner and outer arches cut out, there’s no turning back. This was a good time to reflect upon all the grief POE has caused me and sit there happy in the knowledge that we’ve cut loads of good metal out. And a little bit of not so good rusty metal

The outer lip (the 1″ (ish) angle than Rob made) was spot welded to the outer arch and an inner closing panel has been made. The inner closing panel is then spot welded to the angle, tapped up onto the inner arch and welded to that. The rear arches are now back solid.

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The end of the NS sill was a bit frilly, so Rob cut that out and made a new section on the car, two pieces were made up on the car and welded together, once finished you’d never know it had been repaired. Rob did similar to the OS and fixed the opposite (rearmost) edge of both sides as well. It was a pleasure watching Rob make up the small sections and weld then in. Fabricating on the car as he progressed. It’s amazing how much you can learn from a professional, I’d have spent ages making up small panels and sticking them on, Rob used larger pieces, tacked and shaped them as he went and then cut them down using the fine disc cutter. I could have watched Rob working for hours….ok, I did watch Rob for hours 🙂 In between making some mess.

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On a trial fit the NS rear door was a bit close to the arch, using a 1 mm disc Rob put a cut in the C panel, he could then close the gap and we’ll have 1 mm more room. The front, bottom of the rear arch was also a bit frilly, using a rear arch repair panel, Rob cut the old out and welded a new section in.

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Once the repair was finished, which gives some more room for the door and removes the old frilly metal; it looks almost too nice to cover with a bit of fibreglass.

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Caroline helped to degrease, etch, POR and seam seal the new metal. I then put some colour over the panels for a bit more protection. The inner arches will be stripped back a bit more and re-sealed once I’ve done the final cuts to the arches and made the inner arch panels.

The rear door panels are held on with some alloy angle that Rob made, which we riveted and sikaflexed to the door. The door panels could then be fixed to the alloy brackets, again with sikaflex and rivets.

Rob’s metalwork meant no tinkering was required on the door. The gap to the arch is fine and once the door panel is added it looks great.

Some parts of the flares will need some bridging filler and fettling. We spent a bit of time moving the arches around and sanding the inner edges, but some places like the end of the sill/bottom of door needed to be cut, but mostly the arches fit a treat with just minor fettling required.

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After the arch is glued on I remove any traces of sikaflex. And that’s about it. I have some ‘tiddly poming’ (as Rob would say) to do, and then I can get on with the paint

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Manx classic 2014

Videos of the Manx Classic 2014, click on ‘check these videos out’. Report and photos to follow.

New year, new stuff happening.

Not only am I on a diet, trying to get down to race weight again… But also some bits for the engine. along with the lighter inlet valve buckets I now have titanium valve spring caps.

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Walter Hayes Trophy, Allcomers closed wheel race

The Blue Sprint out in the Allcomers closed wheel race at Silverstone, Nov. 3rd. Finished 13th, 2nd in class, beaten by the Seat Leon. The sprint was the only classic on the grid to finish. A few more photos on the gallery page. Photos by Mick Walker

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Ben and Carolines Spa Report

Caroline had her 911 Turbo booked into a trip to Spa as soon as the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC) sent out this year’s track day diary.

The plan was that Caroline, my dad and myself would have a nice little trip to Spa, spend a couple of days driving and head back after tackling one of the world’s best circuits.


The 911 Turbo has spent a vast amount of time in Nine Excellence (9E), being tweaked to produce some enormous power and having its suspension and brakes uprated, whilst all this work was going on I didn’t have chance to sit in the back seat and see if I could cope in there for a six hour trip to Spa.


Once we got the car back from 9E I jumped in the back and said ‘I say old chap, it’s a bit of a tight squeeze in here’ (or words to that effect).


Plan B was put into practice. I got hold of Graham Clarke from RMA who were running the day for the GRRC and asked if they had room for another car, Graham was very helpful and said that if I give him the details everything would be put into place. This included the track time and EuroTunnel crossing. Result!


As we had already said to Rob (our host here at SprintSpeed) that we we’re going to Spa in the Porsche, I thought I’d rub his nose in by saying ‘hey, Rob, I’m taking the Sprint to Spa, ner, ner, de ner, ner’ but as soon as I said to Caroline that I was going to phone Rob and do the dirty, she piped up, oh, that’s nice, ask Rob to come along and you won’t be all on your lonesome in the car. Women, ay!.


Plan C was put into practice, got hold of Graham at RMA, accommodation for Rob and a driver’s pass was duly sorted.


What was going to be one car, with one squashed person and two happy people turned into two cars and four happy people.


We had two days track time booked, Monday 13th was for road cars on road tyres only. Tuesday 14th was for road and track cars and Wednesday 15th was for anything, slicks etc. I chickened out of running on Wednesday. We had to be at the circuit for Monday 8am so we travelled on Sunday and would return on Wednesday, no rushing to and from the circuit and plenty of beer time.


Sunday arrived with a slight drizzle and I shot off to collect my Dad in the Sprint, Caroline would pick up Rob in the Porsche and we’d meet up at Clacket Lane Services on the M25.

The Flexiplus Eurotunnel ticket meant we drove straight onto the train and we’re the first off (at Folkestone an Audi driver commented on how lovely the Sprint looked and he was also going to Spa, as it transpired this man was the McLaren test driver). We had a great run to Spa, only one 40min traffic jam and arrived at the Hotel de la Source just as the drivers briefing had started. No problem, beer time!


Monday – after a light breakfast we headed to the circuit in a constant drizzle, we drove around a bit looking for the F1 pits and parked up the Porsche and Sprint in our own pit garage. The drivers briefing was brief, main bits were, it’ll cost you £100 to be recovered and £1000 if you dent the Armco, so don’t get recovered or dent the Armco. RMA track days also state you can overtake either side, and it’s down to the faster car to do a safe overtake.


The first 30mins were set aside for familiarisation laps, Caroline and Rob set off in the Porsche and me and dad waited until last in the Sprint so as not to slow anyone down.

Those 30mins were quickly over and we had a great time, dad hanging onto the grab handle and the Sprint handling superbly. In the rain I was not sure that I really wanted to go much faster than during those familiarisation laps, but it was great fun. Five mins into the full session and a Porsche GT3 knocked both ends off, luckily the driver (daughter) and passenger (dad) were fine after a short hospital trip. I won’t name any names here but the passenger owns the group 2 Dolly Sprint seen at the Festival of Speed on many occasions.


Monday was spent having fun in the rain, Caroline and Rob taking turns in the Porsche with some instruction from the RMA instructor, Leyton, who is a great chap.

I kept mucking up Rivage and the entry into Bruxelles, until late in the day where I’d seen a few people leave the turn in point as late as possible, that’s much better and the car was not washing out so much. From Bruxelles down, gravity helped the little Sprint along where she would sit at the limit of adhesion on those skinny 175 tyres.


During the day lots of cars we’re racking up the £100 and £1000 charges, a lovely Ford GT, a few Lotus’s and a BMW destroyed. One German Elise driver even managed to run into the pit garage wall!


On Monday evening we had a meal with the GRRC\RMA guys and got talking to David – the McLaren test driver (Audi driver at Folkestone) and the McLaren mechanics\truck driver, and we’re offered a drive in the MP4-12C. Woo Hoo!!


Tuesday was a bit brighter with just a few light showers. Rob turned the traction control off on the Porsche and had great fun. I had a little drive in the Porsche and used all the kerbs! God that thing is quick. And Dad, Rob and Caroline had a go in the MP4-12C – Rob hitting 150 down the Kemmel straight.


Leyton took me out in the Porsche to show me the lines, I think he liked Caroline’s car. We hit 157 down the Kemmel straight on the second lap.


Tuesday was good fun, the Sprint having a fair few outings and Rob and Caroline enjoying the Porsche. The Porsche was doing 7mpg – so plenty of trips to the petrol station were in order!


Overall I really enjoyed driving the Sprint around Spa – what a circuit and the Sprint was great fun. OK the Porsche is much faster with five times the power, but driving the Sprint on this fantastic circuit has really made me look at what I can do to make the Sprint a fun road and occasional track car.


Caroline also wants to take the Porsche back to Spa!

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Ben and Caroline Tomkins



A bit of fun. Whitehill and Bordon Soapbox Derby 2013

A sunny day and a bunch of people having fun. Pictures on the facebook page.


Spa may 2013

Two new videos of the Sprint and Porsche at Spa. Click on “check these videos out” on front page.

Spa may 12th – 15th 2013

Today is the day, off to Spa with Ben and Caroline Tomkins taking Caroline’s Porsche Carrera 4 and Bens Dolomite Sprint, With myself and Bens dad, Brian as passengers. Just a few photos of our journey. Had a good day today, but tomorrow…………


Quick update

Things have been a bit quiet lately, haven’t done much since Christmas other than one track day with the blue sprint,(which raised a few issues) and a holiday. Now back into the groove. Have changed the fuel tank from a 4 gallon steel to a 8 gallon Ali. tank plus added a second fuel pump. Both these have been done as I intend to do some two driver races, these tend to be 40 minutes or so long. Also been messing with the rear suspension. I have lowered it by a further 3/4″. This required the fitting of helper springs as moving the spring seat lower left the spring rattling about. The car now sits lower at the back instead of being level, looking forward to trying it out.

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