The Pembrey meeting of the Nippon Challenge promised to be a great weekend of racing thanks to a marvellous amount of track time. It would consist of a free practice session, a qualifying session and then three twenty minute races. Of course, to enjoy all this racing we had to get there first. We made the journey on the Friday afternoon and had to endure howling gales and torrential downpours as well as delays due to road works on the M4.
We had decided to leave the race car and trailer at the circuit under the watchful eye of Rob Jeffries #35 who was staying there over the weekend. We met Gareth Newton #17 as we arrived and we drove in together. Rob told us that the Mitsubishi Evo driven by David Williams had already been written off during a bad accident in practice earlier that day. David had been taken to hospital, but was quickly released after being checked over. The worry was that similar weather would make the weekends racing just as hazardous…
Saturday certainly began dry although it was overcast and always seemed to threaten rain. We’d taken the precaution of putting some Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres on the Supercharger, hoping they would cope in dry and wet weather. The car passed through scrutineering without incident, but the scrutineers took exception to the rollcage in Roger Sibley’s Honda CRX and the poor chap was forced to turn around and head for home!Image copyright Gareth Newton, used with kind permission
Karen went out for her twenty minute practice session carrying a fair amount of fuel. We’d put quite a bit in the car before arrival due to there being no petrol available within the circuit and other sources being quite far away. We were hoping that she’d burn off a fair bit during practice ready for qualifying but the plan didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. So the car was heavier on fuel than anticipated and Karen was complaining about oversteer, making her a little too nervous to push any harder. Richard reduced the rear tyre pressures in an effort to reduce the oversteer and Karen went back out for qualifying.Image copyright Gareth Newton, used with kind permission
Karen’s best time was 1:15.622 which put her 24th out of 26 runners. She was a good couple of seconds down on the leading N/A MR2 MK1 cars. The oversteer was still apparent and our only option was to swap the rear wheels for a pair wearing very worn track biased Yokohama A048R tyres. They would certainly provide better grip and reduce the oversteer, but only in the dry!Image copyright Gareth Newton, used with kind permission
Leaving it as late as possible and keeping a careful watch on the weather, Richard swapped the rear wheels in time for Race 1. Karen spent the entire race chasing MX5 #67 getting close several times but simply not getting a chance to overtake. She finished ahead of the chasing MR2 MK1s of Nick Winter #28 and Nick Reed #19. Whilst at the pointy end of the grid, Graham Poultney’s Impreza took the win. Chris Huntley’s MR2 Turbo came 3rd. Both Mazda RX7’s had retired with technical problems, but would be back out for Race 2.Image copyright Gareth Newton, used with kind permission
The weather remained dry and so the setup for the Supercharger remained the same. Early in Race 2 there was a coming together between Dixon Cheng’s Honda Integra and Chris’ MR2 Turbo, when Chris went slightly wide and Dixon went for the apex at Dibeni Bend. The result of this was Chris’ MR2 driving up the side of the Integra and rolling. The race was red-flagged and stopped. Chris was shaken but un-hurt, unfortunately the same could not be said for his car. After a delay to recover the car, the race re-started. It played out exactly the same as Race 1 for Karen and although the results seemed disappointing, she was enjoying her battles with MX5 #67. Graham’s Impreza took another win, being chased hard by Tony Crossley’s RX7.In-car footage of the incident in Race 2 can be seen here.
Saturday night was a chance for a social event, and the organiser of the Nippon Challenge Steve Vince had laid on a BBQ for the racers. During this he handed out the trophies for the days racing and everyone had the chance to relax and enjoy a drink. Karen was accosted by the organisers of the MX5 racing, who tried to talk her into jumping ship and driving in their series. Mad as she is, she’s not clinically insane enough to join them (Yet!).Image copyright Gareth Newton, used with kind permission
The final Nippon Challenge race of the weekend wasn’t due until just after lunchtime, and so the morning was a chance to relax and watch some of the other races. As the time of the race approached the weather was clear and bright, but there were some ominous clouds on the horizon. Race 3 began with Graham’s Impreza getting the drop on Tony Crossley’s RX7. However, Tony soon overhauled him and began to stretch out a commanding lead until after about three quarters of the race he had to pull up with a fuel pump wiring failure, and Graham was gifted with a hat-trick of wins. Meanwhile, Karen was fighting hard and managed to take the #67 car under braking into the hairpin. Once achieved, she managed to drive away from him. Then the heavens opened and Richard was worried that Karen would have difficulty in the rain on those worn semi slick rear tyres. She drove carefully and finished without incident. Karen was really happy to have achieved her goal of overtaking the MX5. Karen’s in-car footage of Race 3 can be seen here.
Given the initial promise of the Supercharger and Karen’s previous good results in the MR2 Challenge this was not where we hoped she would be in terms of results. Having to fight so hard to overtake a lower-powered MX5 whilst the rest of the field sped off into the distance was becoming something of a joke. The Supercharger can't even keep pace with an N/A MR2 MK1 race car. Consensus of opinion is that the Supercharger unit itself has a slipping clutch robbing us of the power required. The rear suspension is too soft, the car is still too heavy and another set of expensive semi-slick tyres are required.
The bad news for the Supercharger is that we’ve purchased a new car to be converted into a racing car for the Nippon Challenge and it’s not even an MR2. Sorry folks. As the old adage says “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” so we’re going to race a Subaru Impreza instead!!