The story of the Toybaru
For the first time ever, we built a car for the Britcar 24 hours at Silverstone without doing an all nighter.....quite a revelation. AND for the first time we drove our new car, the Toyota GT86 supplied by Thurlow Nunn of St.Ives to the race track! I drove the truck, Harvey Death drove the race car (on road tyres and fully legal!!).
We were full of hope and anticipation of how the car would perform. We had covered most of the bases, the most important one being the worry about potential oil surge in the sump of the engine and a loss of oil pressure. The factory Toyota GT86 had been pounding round previously and had achieved around 40 laps of Silverstone without any issues, so, despite having a reserve oil pressure device fitted just in case, I drove the car without the backup device working.
We ran the car for 7 laps gently and there were no issues. The handling was good straight off. I pitted and we check it over. All ok, then went out again and push harder. Within 2 laps I felt the engine tighten up, and a small rattle could be heard. I switched off but the damage was done. Low oil pressure had claimed the bottom end of the engine.
Disaster. You can imagine, and also imagine the frustration knowing we had the back up oil pressure device fitted but hadn't used it. Stupid. My fault totally. We whipped the engine out to see the damage, and I started hitting the phone numbers for help to try and get a fresh engine or parts and technical assistance to fix it.
After around 4 hours and it was 3pm. Time was slipping way and I still didn't have a motor. I made a desperate call to Toyota GB. They had no engines available. And no other course of action would be available.
Disappointed was an understatement.
I quickly googled Subaru dealers. Yes. The car is made by Subaru and rebadged Toyota. Aberdeen......Aylesbury...that's close. Adams Subaru of Aylesbury. I spoke to Dane Adams, and he was very sharp, and very helpful. I had the engine with his boys by 5pm wednesday who immediately set upon it. My 'boys', Fred and Luke arrived at 7.45 am Thursday morning and helped. The engine duly arrived with a brand new short block fitted at Silverstone and almost ready to go into the car at 4pm Thursday.
Interestingly, during Thursday morning, after I had a fit of pique I re-entered the Toyota as a Subaru.....I then discovered that Toyota would have supplied me with a short block FOC. If only they had bothered to tell me that on Wednesday.....and if only they could have thought about some help to actually rebuild the engine.....it was all too late. The race started Saturday and every hour was precious....I couldn't afford to prevaricate.
Thursday 8 pm. The engine fires up but there is no rev counter and the electronic throttle doesn't work. We switch it off. It doesn't start again for over 24 hours! The race feels longs... that felt longer..
An electronic glitch meant that we couldn't even turn the engine over. Something had died, fried, or was disconnected. The lads gave up at about 10 pm, and waited for electronic rescue in the morning.
Subaru to the rescue again, this time in the form of workshop engineer Ian from Adams, and Dan from Litchfield Subaru. Both very clever chaps. Unfortunately, they couldn't start it either! It just wasn't making any sense.
We missed the first test. Then qualifying. Night was approaching and we had two drivers that had never been in a race car in the dark before and they had to do that to qualify. Fortunately Warren Gilbert of Topcats Racing stepped in and allowed the boys a few laps each in his own race car. Top Cats? Top chaps!
So we just needed to get our car into the race. Night qualifying started at 7 pm and still the beastie refused to start. We stripped out the dashboard and unplugged everything. We swapped all the major components with the Litchfield car, but still no success. The last vital component to change was buried in the very bowels of the cars dash, and getting to it on the race car would take hours, getting to it on the road car could take days......we tried one last component swap in desperation. We plugged everything back in, and turned the power on. Shock....the little red light for Start Engine glowed eerily, like the terminators dodgy eyeball......hmmm....we hadn't seen that in the last 24 hours. We gingerly pressed it, and the engine burst into life. The garage erupted in cheers and clapping and we quickly put the car back together. I hopped in and manage two more laps of the car in the dark before the session ended. Quite a result. The relief and joy as they say, was palpable!
The engine felt very good, much smoother than the original strangely. The lights needed a rethink, but all was good. We retired for the night, exhausted.
The next morning we had warm up. Harvey and Clive did around 5 laps each, which was not ideal, but they rose to the difficult situation brilliantly. I managed a flying lap at the end and the car felt very good.
Few more jobs to do and it was time for the race start.
I lined up at the very back of the grid, a bit of a change from previous years when I would normally be at the very front! Still, it promised to be a good challenge. I was interviewed on the grid by commentator Brian jones. It was quite amusing as I spelled out a few details of the weekend for Brian saying how without the help from Subaru and all we wouldn't have even been there to even start the race.
Back into the car and focus on the job. The race started and I quickly overtook about 5 cars. No sooner did we get onto the Hangar straight, they breezed past me again. Ooops. This car doesn't have a lot of power, but it does handle. That was to be the feature of the race.
I pounded round for almost 3 hours, but half way through the stint the tyres started to give way, quite painfully. I had to pit and swapped over to Clive. A quick check over of the car, after a refuel and tyres, and it was in great shape. The tyres I had used however were totally shagged out.
Hmmm.....and they are the hardest, we not quite, dunlop didn't bring THE hardest. So we had no choice but to try the medium compound to see if that would be any better.
Fortunately they were an improvement, but after two and a half hours they again were stressed, which was quite disappointing. However the good news was that the car pounded round, lap after lap without a single issue.
Day turned night, and Harvey got in, and again, did a great job like Clive. Not the fastest, but no mistakes. No panic ridden radio calls, just calm and collected. We steadily were rising up the order.
A one point I must have had a particularly good stint as when i got in the car we were 21st, and 3 hours later we were 14th. That was actually down to other cars dropping out but it was still very pleasing.
At about 4am I was clipped by a suicide dive from the eventual winner of our class. We both span round, I had been hit in the left rear corner. I carried on but the car was steering from the rear. I suspected something was broken but it wasn't obvious. I came in and the car was wheeled into the garage. Luke and Fred checked out the rear suspension. A wishbone bolt had come loose and the tracking adjusted to toe out quite dramatically. The boys fixed it up and in a short time we were good to go again. I think we lost 3 laps or so..
Back into the routine, Clive in, then Harvey again, and the time just slipped past. Getting close to 12 and it started spitting rain. Not much, but enough to slow the lap times a lot. Clive was getting worried in the car but we asked him to stay out. We had our own weather radar on the iPhone and could see that a monsoon was approaching and almost upon us. It was too early and dry to go onto wets. We actually also changed the driver order knowing the weather was coming, putting Clive in before me so I would face the worst of it.
Finally the rain hit, good and hard, and we got Clive in, wets on and I was out. The track was flooded almost immediately, and the Toybaru proved to be absolutely brilliant. We had ABS, traction control, and even vehicle stability control.....and they all worked superbly, making me look like a hero! The car would hit a huge bank of water, and the VSC would snap it back into line. It was all rather strange, but there is no doubt that some very lurid movements were kept together by the cars' electronics.
We had deliberately left all the aids on the car, just for this reason. It was very pleasing that they actually worked!!!!!
Another feature we left on the car was the Air Conditioning. And as the car started to steam up a bit, I fired it up, and casually set the temperature to a moderate 20.5 degrees C. Brilliant. Clear windows and nice and cosy. What a great environment!
Turns out we were carving through the field, and around 4th fastest car overall. Pretty shocking stuff as we started as just about the slowest! I even overtook the eventual 2nd place oval Aston GT3. What a laugh I was having.
Eventually my 3 hours was almost up, and I handed over for the last 20 minutes to Harvey, who had the honour of finishing the race and crossing the line after 24 hours of racing. It was a great moment.
After reflecting on the dramas that we had, it really was a great effort by my team, headed up by Luke, Mike and Fred, with great driving in their first 24 from Clive and Harvey, and technical support from Litchfield and Adams of Aylesbury.
The car was 100 pc reliable after we did our own painful development, and is a fantastic 24 hour car. In fact, the car could have run for another 24 hours without any problem at all. Quite incredible.
Luke Kendall, Mike Hurley, Fred Davies, James Batson, Stuart Donohoe, Michelle Creighton, Ben Dunmore, John Short, Karen Swain, David Short, Rob Denne, Jan Stevenson, John Dowson, James Bedford, Edward Swannell, Harvey Death, Clive Death, My boys, Morgan and Marcus Short for being great over the weekend & Christine for house, dog and babysitting.
Dane Adams and his engineer Ian for Adams Subaru of Aylesbury
Ian Litchfield and his engineer Dan from Litchfields
Stuart and Graham at Thurlow Nunn Toyota
Gladwins paint and body shop
Tony and Adrian at Fensport
Ben Jordan at Rota Wheels
BRITCAR 24 HR