Updated: Sep 1, 2022
The August bank holiday saw 2RacingUK team up once again with #OctaneDistribution to take on the competition within #TimeAttackUK championship. This was round six of the championship and was held at #DonningtonPark. The weather fluctuated through out the day between bright clear skies and rain threatening cloud. Fortunately the rain seemed to skirt around the circuit making for a mostly dry, cool day.
Time attack is very different to every other championship in the UK. Where most race series try to stifle car modification to keep the racing close in strictly regulated cars. Time attack actively promotes engine tuning and encourages teams to seek an advantage through car development. This has lead to some competitors running cars with 1000+BHP and super intelligent 4WD systems with active suspension and build costs in the hundreds of thousands. The resulting motors are unbelievably capable and seriously cool.
We would be entering our #Mazda2 armed with a well used set of #MRF ZTR medium compound tyres. A #Koni sports damper kit designed for road use. #Apex lowering springs, #BlackDiamond brakes and uprated bushes and drop links from #SuperPro. The only other change to the car from standard being its stripped out and fitted with the safety kit mandated by #MotorSportUK. Our entire build including the price of the car cost us £4200.
So why have we decided to enter our tiny little 100bhp Mazda2 shopping trolley against such tuning monsters?
To prove power isn't everything. A well balanced chassis that maximises the available grip is just as important.
Show what a few well chosen upgrades can do.
Spread the word about what a cracking car the Mazda2 actually is.
Believe it or not this was the teams first ever trip to Donnington. As such, we had no reference data from previous races we could draw insight from, so picking a set up to start the day was a complete shot in the dark. We started with a stratagem aimed to cover all bases while Colin who was to drive the car learnt the circuit.
The first session or Warm up, didn't exactly go to plan due to a red flag being thrown out due to a competitor having a mechanical issue and being unable to quite make it to the pits. Our original plan had been to complete three or four laps and pit to check the tyre pressures and temperatures and get feedback from Colin as to what changes to try. We completed the four laps but then couldn't return to the track to continue as the session was cut short. Not ideal but couldn't be helped.
Prior to session two or practice session as its officially named. We made a correction to the tyre pressures with a borrowed pump. Thank you if it was your pump. Then sent Colin out to put some more laps on the car.
The second session saw the team make some great progress and drop the lap times by nearly six seconds from out lap to in lap. Colin was finding his feet and really starting to lean on the car. Craner Curves was now being taken flat out with the car feeling planted and predictable. The SuperPro bushes were giving great feedback allowing Colin to really attack the apexes of corners on the brakes.
Session three or qualifying was eventful. We didn't make any changes to the car from session two but the track had evolved, providing more grip in some areas and less in others. Colin was still pushing hard and posting consistent times right up to the last lap of the session where he decided a closer inspection of the gravel trap was required. So enthusiastic about his inspection of the gravel was Colin, that he decided to rock the car up onto two wheels for a closer look just so he wouldn't have to get out the the car. When the car dropped back onto four wheels it sadly got beached and required assistance from the brilliant marshal team to pull the car free. The #OrangeArmy don't get the thanks they deserve keeping everything running smoothly. Terrific job.
Gravel samples collected Colin drove the car back into the garage where Sam and I set about removing the samples from the body work and complaining about having to clean the car again.
Session four the final. We made our biggest changes to the car just before this session. having looked at the data we collected over the day with our super accurate £1.99 Halfords tyre pressure gage and £5.99 ebay special thermal gun. If anyone has a proper thermal probe to check the tyres temps properly that they would like to donate to the cause it would be appreciated. The front Koni dampers were stiffened by a full turn and rear tyre pressures pushed way up.
Out went Colin again. After a lap or two at a steady speed to clean the tyres of the remaining gravel dust, he was back on pace. The times were consistently within a few tenths of each other with a fastest lap in the 1min 33 seconds range. The longer the session went on the more Colin chipped time from each lap. Following the chequered flag debrief we discussed the new set up and agreed we would have been quicker still if we'd been able to start the day with the current data. Hindsight, its wonderful.
With nothing more that could be done at that time, we waited to hear the final results. On paper we should have been dead last but we weren't. We ended the final round with lap times faster then some much more powerful cars. The headline of which was a Nissan GT-R R35 which was being run in the pro class by a full second. Digging deeper into the results on TSL we found we had beat the GTR in two of the four sessions! Its quite possible the GTR was having issues but we haven't seen or heard anything to confirm this. Therefore, its a win for the Mazda2.
The key to our pace is momentum. With such limited power the apex and corner exit speeds are even more important to us then to those who can make up for a poor corner with huge amounts of boost. The skill of the driver cant be covered up with engine upgrades meaning a very small mistake will completely ruin a lap time. Missing the final apex leading to the straight by the exhibition hall would cost us five or six miles per hour by the braking point for the chicane. This would result in a huge lost of time when crossing the line to start the next lap. Like wise a poor exit onto the start finish straight ruins the lap your completing and the next lap as you carry the deficit onto the down the straight onto the new lap.
Did we succeed with our three goals. Yes, I believe we have at any rate. Our on board footage shows we kept up with, if not gaining ground on a number of cars through the twists and turns of Donnington losing out on the straights. The OEM replacement Koni suspension, MRF tyres and SuperPro bushes completely transformed our car from Grandmas run about, to competitive racer. I also think we've done a great job with the help of Octane Distribution at promoting the Mazda2 as a proper budget friendly way into motorsport. The car is so reliable, so planted and willing to play in its stock form and with a handy driver who can pedal a car properly its quick. Add to this the fact we completed the full days competition using just half a tank of fuel and its becomes even more cost effective.
Imagine the sort of driving talent that could be promoted in a limited power class in which a driver is forced to offer feedback on handling and corner grip, without worry about boost and ECU tuning. The drivers and teams would cultivate a huge amount of knowledge that will only improve standards across all motorsport.
So will 2RacingUK make another appearance in Time Attack this year? We wont say no to competing again. We certainly wont be at round 7, Brands Hatch, as we will be returning to Donnington with our main commitment for this season the #BRSCC #ClubSportTrophy in which we are running three Mazda2s but round 8 at Snetterton is an option.
If you have any questions about starting out in motorsport, joining us on the grid in a Mazda2 or even if you simply want to try one of the cars to find out for yourself why the team is so enthusiastic about them get in touch on social media or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Huge thanks go to Octane Distribution for making this seasons motorsport possible for us.
Keep aiming for the apex
Race Team Manager