By the time many of you read this, a number of your fellow FdSc Motorsport Engineering Students will have carried out their first weekend working with my team, Napier Racing.
I thought it would be interesting and fun to blog over the following weeks so you can all see the progress not only the cars are making with the assistance of the student body, but hopefully see how the students themselves (assuming they come back after their first visit) progress with picking up new skills along the way.
Presently the team has three cars, in three quite distinct states. The plan for all three is to have them out racing (again with NMA students working with the regular Napier Racing team) throughout 2017.
Firstly we have our S1 Lotus Elise. To save me reiterating what I have already written, a little potted history of the car can be found here: www.napierracing.com/the-cars
The car was last run in 2015 where we raced with Classic Sports Car Club in all of their Modern Classics series races (and selected races in their New Millennium series).
We won our respective class for the season in both series. In Modern Classics we took the class win in 10 out of 10 races. This unbeaten run was enough to see us take home the Series overall winner’s trophy.
At the penultimate round of the regular season the head of the #1 engine suffered a crack giving rise to head gasket failure (meaning that we had to finish the last races of the season on our #2 engine which is still resident in the car).
In the meantime our engine suppliers (DVA Power) have crafted us a new head and rebuilt the #1 engine. So the first job for this car is a complete engine swap. Whilst we have the power unit and gear box out of the car we will also take the opportunity to fit a new Helix race clutch and thoroughly inspect everything.
The plan on the first weekend is for NMA student (and experienced heavy vehicle mechanic) Lewis Taylor to help me with this fairly major task. Hopefully the transition from the very heavy, to the very light shouldn’t be too much of a busman’s holiday!
Next in the stable is our second Lotus Elise. This car is the newer shaped S2 model (specifically a Lotus Motorsport 135R). Once again a small precis of the car can be found at: www.napierracing.com/the-cars
This car is a complete ground-up build specifically with the Britcar Dunlop GT and Production Endurance Championship in mind.
The task list for this car is, as you would expect for a complete build, very big. However one of the first jobs is to get the brand new (DVA Power once again) engine and gearbox fitted. The logical plan is that once Lewis and I have executed a full removal and refit of the engine and gearbox in the S1 Elise, the fitting of what is essential a duplicate system in the S2 Elise should be a piece of cake.
Thirdly, and breaking away from the established Lotus motif, is our somewhat experimental Honda S2000.
This car came to the team very cheaply on account of it being my wife’s and was no longer fit for purpose when she became a mum. At the same time cosmetically it was very, very tired with some arch rust (easily rectifiable to race car standards, but hugely detracting for public resale), a tatty interior, seizing calipers and electric windows and roof with minds of their own The engine, gearbox and major suspension components however were still in a very healthy mechanical state.
Question: What do you do with a car with years left in it mechanically, but which is no longer saleable as a road car?
Answer: You take all the road car bits out of it – and give it a new lease of life as a race car!
And that is what the team have been doing slowly and steadily for the last two years or so on a ‘no-hurry’ basis. The car has now progressed far enough that we will be getting it to grid this season.
Short of completely removing the engine and drive train (which we simply dropped down out of the way as required) the car was taken essentially back to a chassis in stages. The interior was stripped completely bare at first whilst maintaining the ability for us to roll and manoeuvre the car. This facilitated a trip to Andy Robinson Racecars in Reading to have a custom weld-in cage fitted, the boot floor cut out and a flat section welded in and seat rails welded in.
Once we received the car back from Andy were able to get it up on axle stands for the hard work to begin. This entailed primarily a complete strip down of the suspension, sub frames, differential, driveshaft’s, fuel tank, and exhaust system.
I shall sign off for now as these blogs are supposed to be snappy (and I’ve just noticed I’m nearly at 850 words!). I’ll cover specific areas (chassis, suspension, electricals, engine, Interior and safety) in subsequent blogs along with the work which the NMA guys have been getting up to.
Andy Napier - NMA Student & owner Napier Racing.