Race Report – Castle Combe 5th May

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Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

The Track Attack Race Club (TARC) Bank Holiday meeting at Castle Combe had combined Nippon Challenge and Tricolore Trophy grids. This meant the grid was going to be pretty packed and qualifying was going to be a bit of a lottery.

By getting to the Assembly Area early, Karen was at the front of the queue to go out for qualifying. This helped Karen give the engine a decent warm up and get the Federal tyres up to some kind of temperature before pushing on. Qualifying was still tricky but Karen managed to qualify 5th out the Nippon Challenge cars.


Race 1 saw Karen make a reasonable start and she'd made a couple of places by half way around the 1st lap, but the Tricolore cars were just too light and powerful. They were soon making a break for the distance. On the 2nd lap, Karen was annoyed to be overtaken by a Tricolore car under waved yellow flags. The car's pace was obvious, but the driver should have waited until the incident was clear. Karen was then left trying to fend off Jon Winter's rapid Clio which she did, as well as overhauling a Citroen Saxo. Jon was now being harried by a couple of MX5s and so the pressure on Karen was reduced a little. She made her best efforts to make an escape, hitting the rev-limiter in top gear along the stretch up to Avon Rise! That's how things remained until the end of the race. Karen finished 1st in GT300 class and 4th in the Nippon Challenge.

Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Race 2 saw Karen make another good start and she out accelerated one of the Clios off the line. However, the Super GT MR2 Mk1 had a storming start from the back of the gird and he was soon right behind Karen. The Clio nipped back in front at the Esses. Karen spotted the MR2 Mk1 making a lunge at Bobbies and she went offline to prevent contact. Another MR2 Mk1 followed him and so Karen was down another two places! 


She quickly dispatched the normal MR2 down the main straight and began hunting down the Super GT version. She blew past him at Hammerdown and was then left fending off the MX5 of Kevin Middleton. Soon, Kevin was joined by another MX5 and Karen was now keeping a decent distance ahead of them for a couple of laps. They then got pretty close, helped by having to allow the lapping lead car through. It was just after this that race was stopped due to an incident near the start line. Jon Lord had rolled his Toyota Celica coming out of Camp Corner. It was a nasty incident, but Jon quickly made his escape from the car and was virtually unscathed. Karen was classified 1st in GT300 class and 3rd in the Nippon Challenge!

That was Karen's best ever finishing position in the Nippon Challenge so far and her first podium finish. Unfortunately, due to the combined grids it wasn't a true overall podium and so Karen missed out on the glory of a ride around the circuit waving to the crowd in the special Castle Combe converted car.

Straight line pace in Karen's car is great, but the Federal tyres take a few laps to warm up and even then they just don't seem to have the grip levels of the Silverstone tyres used previously. It may be down to the compound of the tyres which are medium rather than soft. This was to help them last during longer Classic Sports Car Club races. Plans are now in place to fit a shift light in an effort to prevent hitting the rev-limiter. That had robbed Karen of the opportunity to overtake more cars at the start of each race. In addition it should help improve gear selection throughout the races.


Face Off... And on again.

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Serious facial surgery was required on Karen's car. Our friend and race mechanic Mike Herbert was called in to help sort out the mangled radiator support. The old item was carefully cut off and one was supplied by a donor car. This was carefully welded in place after a few trial fits of the new radiator.


Luckily, new Impreza radiators aren't that expensive these days! The new radiator and intercooler kit had only taken a couple of days to arrive and were ready and waiting for the welding to be completed. Once that was done, Richard got working on fully fitting the radiator. this was quickly followed by a replacement bumper bar and the new intercooler core and piping. In addition, the car received new headlights and a new driver's side front wing.


The next task was to modify another bumper to fit over the intercooler and to repair the front splitter. These jobs were very straightforward and so after a few hours of careful cutting and painting the front of the car was looking like normal again...


With various parts of the car having been painted and waiting to dry, Richard took the opportunity to make some other improvements to the car. The Corbeau Revolution seat was fitted which only took some minimal modifications to the frame and it still allows the seat position to be adjusted easily. Thicker anti-roll bars were also fitted, which were originally on the TenguDo Motorsport #29 car. These should help sharpen up the handling.


It was a good job that the Easter Bank Holidays gave Richard and friends time to work on the car and it's now ready for Castle Combe. Here's hoping it's an incident free meeting!


Race Report – Rockingham 5th April

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A slick surface, new tyres and a good deal more power meant it was tricky for Karen in qualifying on the twisty Rockingham International Circuit configuration. Karen was disappointed with her efforts but that soon changed when she learnt that she had qualified 5th overall and 1st in the GT300 class. That's Karen's best ever qualifying performance in the Nippon Challenge!




Karen's Race 1 start was good, briefly taking 3rd position before Nick Holden's 5 litre V8 powered GT86-F powered past her. She had a slide at the first hairpin on cold tyres and lost a couple of places. Then another place was lost to Dave Hemingway's MR2. Karen fought back through the race to re-claim the position from Dave and Nick's GT86-F had dropped back due to electrical issues. This meant that Karen finished 5th overall and 1st in the GT300 class. Her best result yet, of which she was justifiably proud.



Karen's crew believed that she could make a better start in Race 2 and maximise the four wheel drive advantage of the Impreza WRX. It was hoped that Karen might make a couple of places at the start which she could defend through the rest of the race...



Karen tried the start procedure in Race 2, but there was a problem and the car virtually stalled! Karen was lucky everyone else managed to avoid her as they streamed past and she got going again just as the last car passed her! From dead last she fought back lap by lap, overtaking a total of eleven cars until she understeered through the hairpin and had a semi-spin on the grass. Karen slewed broadside across the track and there was a collision with Tony Collins' Celica, just swiping the nose of Karen's car. The radiator was holed and Karen was forced to retire.



Richard has a lot of work to do before the next outing at Castle Combe on 5th May. Parts required include a new intercooler and piping, radiator, slam panel parts, bumper bar, bumper, splitter, headlight, wing, bonnet, etc.


Karen's Plans for 2014

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No, Karen's not planning to race the gorgeous Healey Silverstone (pictured above) this coming season, but she is planning to race in the Nippon Challenge as usual. New for 2014 are plans to race in the Classic and Sports Car Club's (CSCC) Modern Classics series. This series is for mini endurance races where she will be sharing drives with her husband Richard. The series is for production sports, saloon and GT cars built up until 01/01/2000. Current cars racing include Porsche 911s, 944s, and Boxsters, BMW M3s as well as coupes and saloons, an Audi TT and a Toyota Celica GT4.
Regulations for the CSCC Modern Classics have necessitated the refitting of the passenger headlight and the returning of the bonnet scoop to face forward as it did originally. Unfortunately, sponsors TenguDo Motorsport have been forced to close and it was with regret that all sponsor decals were removed. It's hoped that another sponsor can be found, if only to make the car look as exciting as it did before!
There have also been developments under the bonnet. The running issues were diagnosed by Powerstation to a boost leak. However, they also advised Karen that the current turbo was past its best and although it was producing decent power it wasn't spooling up until comparatively late. The decision was taken to fit a new replacement as recommended by Powerstation. A VF34 roller bearing tubo will be fitted which should ensure early spool up meaning lots of available torque.
Finally, Karen was offered a bargain Carbon/Kevlar Corbeau Revolution seat that was too good to pass up. This will replace the steel framed seat currently being used. The Corbeau will be much lighter and safer than the current item.
Further improvements planned include Lexan windows to save weight and the use of better video cameras. An oil cooler will also be fitted to keep oil temperature under control when running for longer periods during the Modern Classics races.

The upcoming season should be very exciting, so please visit this site regularly to keep up with developments and exciting race footage and reports.


Karen's Supercar Showdown

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Karen was surprised with drives in several supercars at the Prodrive test facility in Warwickshire for her birthday recently. Karen was astounded to discover she would be driving a Nissan R35 GT-R, Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, Ariel Atom, McLaren MP4-12C and an Aston Martin DBS!


Karen's first drive was in the Nissan R35 GT-R. At least the GT-R shared four wheel drive like Karen's race car and Richard's road car. However, it had around 500 horsepower and a flappy-paddle gearbox. Unfortunately for Karen, it began raining just as she began her drive.


Karen had been offered a drive in full automatic mode, but she took the decision to use the flappy-paddle manual mode and had absolutely no problems. It felt natural almost immediately, which bode well for the rest of the day as most of the other cars used the same gear changing method.

The instructor gave Karen a score of 35/40 for her drive in the Nissan R35 GT-R.

The next car in line was the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. Karen was a little intimidated by the car's size and massive 640 horsepower figure.


This time, the weather was dry although sections of the track were still damp. Karen could certainly feel the immense torque of the Lamborghini V12 over the top of engine of the GT-R. Karen was surprised how much she enjoyed her drive and was certainly grinning from ear to ear when she stepped out of the car.


The instructor on her Lamborghini drive gave her a score of 35+/40.

Karen's next drive was in the Ariel Atom.The Atom is a mid-engined rear wheel drive car open to the elements. Luckily, although cool and windy it was still dry for Karen's drive.


Karen had been supplied with a helmet and gloves, but unfortunately the wind was catching under the helmet along the main straight and making it ride up which affected her confidence. This was the only car on the day which used a conventional clutch and manual gear change with a gear stick.


Despite the problems with the helmet, Karen really enjoyed her drive in the Atom. Although not as powerful as any of the other cars, it was much lighter and nimble and the power delivery felt just as fast. Karen's legs felt like jelly afterwards and we took that to mean she enjoyed it!

The instructor gave Karen a score of 36.5/40 for her drive in the Ariel Atom.

Richard had been eagerly anticipating Karen's next drive. This was the McLaren MP4-12C, a twin-turbo V8 engined car producing nearly 600 horsepower. The chassis is supposedly exemplary and the car can provide all the required performance without sacrificing comfort.


Once again the car used a flappy-paddle gear change, but Karen was now an old hand at this. Karen felt the steering to be initially quite light compared to the previous cars. Acceleration was simply in a different league and it took Karen's breath away!


The McLaren astounded Karen with its performance, both in terms of power and handling. It was also so easy to drive it was a devastating combination. The instructor was so impressed with Karen's drive that he gave her a big hug when they got out of the car!

The instructor gave Karen a score of 38.5/40 for her drive in the McLaren MP4-12C.

Finally, a real touch of class as Karen's ultimate drive was in the Aston Martin DBS. Not content with the car used by Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 in the film Casino Royale, this version was a convertible!


Karen found the car to have a wonderful interior with a very upmarket and executive feel. If that lulled her into a false sense of security, then the performance soon shattered that. The DBS was nearly as fast as the McLaren!


The instructor gave Karen a score of 39/40 for her drive in the Aston Martin DBS!

Karen thoroughly enjoyed all her drives, but she was left trying to decide her favourite between the McLaren MP4-12C and the Aston Martin DBS. She's decided on both. The DBS as her daily drive and the MP4-12C as her weekend weapon!

All photographs of the day can be found here: Karen's Supercar Showdown


Race Report – Oulton Park 28th September

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Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Karen arrived at Oulton Park on the day before the Nippon Challenge races for an afternoon of practice. The plan had been to save the semi-slick Silverstone tyres for late in the day and for the races. As Richard removed them it was discovered that one of them had a rather large egg shaped defect in it. Without the Silverstone crew in attendance there was no option but to run in practice and the races using the Federal 595 RSR tyres that had been destined for wet weather.

The weather was most definitely not wet! In fact it was a totally glorious weekend of weather, with a light breeze and warm sunshine. Probably not the best conditions for wet weather tyres. However, the Federals held up excellently and maintained decent pressures and seemed to last very well. However, Richard doubted they had the same ultimate grip as the Silverstones and thus Karen was already running at a disadvantage.

As the practice sessions continued, Karen noticed that a hesitation or "hiccup" as she described it was afflicting the car when accelerating hard in 5th gear. It seemed this may be down to overboost, but there was nothing that could be done about it.

Karen's practice times seemed pretty good and fairly consistent. She finished the afternoon of practice with a best time of 2:08 and consistent laps in 2:09.




Race 1 started well with Karen having qualified in 16th position. She overtook the MX5's of Kevin Middleton and Simon Fleet before the first corner. On lap 2, Simon got on the inside at the hairpin and was away. Karen spent the rest of her race trying to chase down Simon and Rob Jefferies in his MK1 MR2 Turbo. Karen finished 15th Overall and 2nd in the GT300 class.




Race 2 began with Karen getting passed by Kevin's MX5 at Cascades, but she out-dragged him immediately along Lakeside. Kevin got passed her again into the hairpin and Karen had to wait until Hilltop when she could overhaul him again and stay in front at Knickerbrook. Karen was now chasing after Rob's MR2 whilst trying to stay ahead of Simon's MX5. Meanwhile, Andy McLennan was forcing his way through the field in his Suzuki Swift. Karen allowed him past at the hairpin and Simon pounced to follow on Andy's coat-tails! She nearly had him back into Old Hall, but Simon held his nerve and went around the outside. Then Kevin rubbed salt into the wound at Cascades again, before Karen reclaimed the position. Karen finished 14th overall and 2nd in the GT300 class again.


Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

Karen's overall results looked pretty dismal, but this was due to the number of very quick French Trophy cars that were sharing the grid with the Nippon Challenge. Mostly populated by racing Clios, the cars were powerful, light and very nimble.

It seems that a tweak to the ECU may be required to fix the problems with turbo boost in 5th gear, as well as the fight against weight to help make the car accelerate faster, stop more quickly and be more nimble in the corners.


Race Report – Cadwell Park 31st August

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Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Weather conditions were bright and dry for the qualifying session. There were concerns that the track may still be damp in the shade through the Hall Bends, but Karen found no problems with grip. Karen seemed to be enjoying her session and she qualified 8th overall.

Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Race 1 saw Karen not getting the best of starts, but she maintained position and was surprised to see Tony Hunter's Renault Clio spin in front of her. She was having to defend heavily against the MR2 of Dave Hemmingway until his car overheated. Karen finished 8th overall, and 3rd in the GT300 class.



Karen got a much better start in Race 2, overhauling Tony's Clio and Adam Lockwoood's GT300 Nissan 200SX. However, Adam spotted an opportunity within the first few corners as Karen went slightly wide. He was then through and away. His car having an amazing turn of speed. Karen was left fighting Rob Jefferies in his Mk1 MR2 Turbo. She managed to fend him off for the rest of the race and finished 7th overall. Once again she was 3rd in class in GT300.



Once again it seems the comparative heavy weight of the Impreza WRX is denting performance against other class runners in GT300. Karen's car was weighed and is roughly 100kg over the minimum class weight. Plans are underway to reduce this but not much can be done before the end of the season.

Image used with kind permission of InMotionImages

Having watched the videos and heard the soundtrack, Richard suspected that the Blow Off Valve (BOV) was bleeding boost pressure. It’s uncertain how much pressure was lost and thus how much power Karen had been losing. A visual check of the car resulted in the discovery that the tubing from the manifold to the BOV was not connected. This has now been re-connected and secured. Hopefully Karen should be enjoying full power at the next event at Oulton Park!


Reversal of Fortune?

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Following the failure at Mallory Park, the car was taken to Powerstation for a diagnosis.Within half an hour, Andy the technician discovered the problem. The mounting for the crank sensor had sheared and the sensor itself had impacted against the back of the crank pulley. This resulted in damage to the sensor and it tore a pick-up off the back of the pulley. All of this meant the ECU was not being sent a meaningful crank position and thus there was no ignition signal sent to the engine.
Andy fitted a replacement sensor and pulley and then re-fitted the cam belt. He also welded some beading on the ends of two aluminium boost pipes to ensure a more secure fit as they were found to have come apart after the first race at Mallory Park.
Having fitted the Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC), there was no functional need for a bonnet scoop on the car. The large scoop was still capturing air and forcing it into the engine bay. This may have a detrimental effect, by stalling air over the top of the engine thanks to air from the scoop hitting air that had passed through the FMIC and radiator.
It’s a commonly held belief that some kind of reverse scoop would help draw air out of the engine bay. This was backed up by conversations with Vaughan Fletchers’ crew following their Impreza having been in wind tunnel tests.
Richard decided it would be better to use one of the original smaller scoops when reversed, rather than the currently used large one which would still be sticking out into the airflow too much.
Minor modifications had to be made to blank off sections of the bonnet using small aluminium plates. The scoop was then fitted in its reversed position securely and everything painted in black.
Having restored the engine to a running condition and made improvements to the air-flow it was hoped that finally the recent problems were behind her and Karen would have no mechanical issues in the following races.


Race Report – Mallory Park 3rd August

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Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

Karen was cautious at the brginning of her qualifying sesion, as she was wearing in a brand new set of PFC01 front brake pads. She soon got in to a rhythm and was enjoying the power and handling improvements. Karen was surprised to see her husband Richard having to stop near a marshal post and have an underbonnet fire extinguished. After that she concentrated on her times and qualified 9th overall.

Race 1 began with Karen getting past the MX5 of Kevin Middleton and chasing the MK1 MR2 Turbo of Rob Jefferies. Karen spent the race chasing Rob whilst Lee Bennet-Neil's Integra was close behind her.

Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

On the penultimate lap, Karen was wrong footed by rob at the hairpin and Lee pounced to overtake. So instead of hoping for 5th place, Karen was demoted to finish 7th overall and 3rd in the GT300 class.


Race 2 found Karen getting a decent start and overtaking Lee's Integra and then overtaking Rob's MR2 along the Stebbe Straight. Karen was now 5th overall and under pressure from Kevin Middleton's MX5. Kevin used his skill and the agile chassis of the MX5 to overtake Karen around the outside of Gerrards! Karen was patient until the main straight where she used the superior power of her Impreza to overhaul Kevin and re-take 5th position.

Image used with kind permission of Lance Wittenberg

Karen began to pull away from Kevin, but unfortunately later as she was braking into the hairpin the ignition died and she had to coast to a halt. The car wouldn't restart and Karen was forced to retire. It was a bitter disappointment after the race was going so well and Karen was running in the highest position she'd ever achieved in the Nippon Challenge.


Back in the paddock, several efforts were made to start the car, but the source of the problem couldn't be found. It had to be pushed back onto the trailer and the plan was to take it to Powerstation to see if they could diagnose and fix the problem.


About Karen Phillips

  • Karen races her Impreza WRX in the Nippon Challenge, a race series for Japanese and Asian cars. Karen has now been racing since 2006, having started in the MR2 Challenge.
  • Please check this site regularly for updates on Karen's progress through the season and developments with her race car.

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