Drivers: Kevin Riley
Team Director: Kieran Reeves
Senior Engineer: Gareth Downing
Engineers: Staffordshire University Motorsport Students.
The second weekend of September saw the NMA Motorsport team head to familiar territory once again. The team were racing for the third time at Brands Hatch this season, across the 12th and 13th of September. The Lotus was earning a well deserved rest whilst the Mosler competed in the Supercar Challenge. This was more of a shakedown in a competitive environment than a full out attack. With the Mosler seeing its first track time since a devastating crash at Donington last year where the car was all but destroyed putting Kevin Riley in a wheelchair for 6 weeks.
A harsh but rewarding winter regime saw the students bring back the Mosler to its former beauty and Kevin was once again ready to take on the famous Brands Hatch GP circuit, but not just yet. The Friday test session was limited to the Indy circuit.
Friday started slowly but with both Kevin Riley and Gareth Downing doing a superb job relaying information the car crept into contention and lap times were dropping with each minor tweak and set up change. The final session of the day saw Kevin emerge from the car happy to be back behind the wheel of his beloved Mosler. The car was running crisp with both the team and drivers happy with the set up.
Saturday started with a long 40 minute test session, ending early due to a charging issue and battery drain prior to the 30 minute qualifying. Alternator fixed, the qualifying session started during which gearbox issues began to infiltrate a seemingly easy return the circuit for the Mosler. False Neutrals started to appear, infrequent but enough to upset the drivers rhythm. The car pulled in and the team jumped onto the car, through the Motec system the gear position sensor was re-calibrated and the mechanical linkages checked. The issue was found on the throttle mechanism. The auto downshift linkage was broken. A temporary fix was all that could be done.
Kevin was sent back out for one last attempt, the Chief Engineer’s words repeating in his ears ‘Kevin the linkage may last for 1 lap if we are lucky, use the clutch for the outlap then give it all you can, 5 minutes remain’ Kevin duly obliged and pushed hard unfortunately too many issues on the gearbox shifts saw him set a lap of 1.34.39. The data showed him lose 4 seconds in the second sector alone, a deficit that would have seen him qualify in the top 10 in such a fiercely competed championship and after only a couple of hours of seat time.
The throttle linkage was welded and repaired and the gearbox tested on the stands in the awning. All mechanical and electrical systems were re-set and tested. The car was running well again but only loading the rear wheels up on circuit would highlight any further issues. We were entering a 1 hour race with fingers crossed. Instantly the car played up and Kevin fell back in the field but kept pushing hoping the pitstop window would allow us to fix any issues. Kevin had to persevere with the gearbox problem and use the clutch for the whole race, at the pitstop the call was made to stop the car and try and repair what we could overnight ready for race 2 on the Sunday.
The team worked hard to ensure all possible issues were rectified but the internals of the gearbox could not be replaced. The test on the stands in the awning once again gave no problems but the temporary fixes meant that it was a another race with crossed fingers. The car ran like a dream on Sunday and Kevin came over the radio telling us how well the car was pulling. He started making up places from the back of the grid and his lap time began to drop, he came in for a pitstop and the battery fault was back intermittently but Kevin knew it was fine above 4000RPM. He would continue and work around the issue. Off he went and the car came down the home straight sounding its best, and seeing the best speed trap velocities of the weekend. The team were smiling, the sun was out and then came the radio message: ’The engine has just exploded’, that was it we were out of the race.
The team were disheartened until Kevin appeared with the never ending smile on his face. “I’m going for one of those free beers in the hospitality tent” he said
A post-mortem back at the workshop will diagnose the problems and the Mosler will come back from the surgery table once again knowing that the shakedown gave us a lot of information to take forward.
So was the weekend successful? As a very famous coach once said "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” With that in our thoughts, every single student over the weekend succeeded!