Racing diary

9/3/09 ~

We have been awarded the Concours D'elegance trophy for the new craft which makes a lot off the effort put into the craft seem worth it and shows that it has been noticed!

20-21st September 2008- Last event of the UK season at Whittlebury, Silverstone ~

This was the first UK event for the new craft to be competing rather than testing, and it was a brand new venue. You don't see on google maps, but when we arrived it turned out most of the course was on a fairly steep hill! Hovercraft tend to drift down the contours and accelerate very fast downhill! This was going to be interesting... As we were next to Silverstone we could hear the 24 hour Britcar racing going on all weekend, and on the Saturday there some flying displays put on for the event!

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I managed to get a few laps in practice, but as the electronic lap timing was not in use at this event the initial grid places were based on the seasons standings. This was useless for me as i had only been to a few other UK events this season. I started from the back of a very tight, crowded grid and managed to get into about 6th place by the water entrance- the grid was on the apex of a hill that went straight down into the water, lots of craft getting airborne! I managed to get to 4th place after a few laps but then the back-markers started coming thick and fast (there was a very large grid of about 20+ craft including the slightly slower F35 craft). Because of this there was lots of close racing and i did make one bad decision and hit Chris at one point- sorry mate! Going through back-markers was great fun and had its advantages in that the guy in front could be held up by one giving you a gap to squeeze through. This was how i managed to take third place in the final lap, getting a good line coming off the water.

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In the second race i started on the front row of the gris and managed to out drag everyone at the start and get into 1st place until the second lap where i had the craft on its side on the hill and went back into 4th place which is where i finished- one of the best races i ever competed in so far with positions changing most laps and lots of close racing.

On Sunday i started in 4th spot on the grid, still at the front and managed to get into 2nd of the line behind Tony. I managed to keep Jamie and Dave behind me for a few laps but Jamie got me on the inside on the hill. With Dave right behind me i accidently got the craft pointing skyward again, managed to get it back down again, but couldn't avoid the crash netting where i had to turn the craft around to get back on the track. After taking the last few laps very tentatively i finished 3rd because Jamie didn't finish.

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For the last race of the season i was sitting in 4th place on the grid, i was like the worlds again, i could get third place trophy if i beat Tony and came 2nd... I managed to get away in second again, behind Tony who i couldn't quite catch until he got caught behind a back marker when i got through a gap... Dave was having problems so was not in the race which made it easier to get me into second place. Jamie had overtaken both of us at some point in his 100hp storm craft so i was lying in second, i just needed to finish the race... Then somehow i pulled my lanyard off and was left dead at the side of the track, i re-started as quickly as possible but Tony had got me by then and i finished 3rd!


Another great weekend with the new craft at a great new venue, and again i was just short of the trophies..! There is plenty in store for next year though, which should increase the craft's performance (although most of the problem is the driving!) The craft will be completely stripped and looked at and hopefully it will have some tuned engines and a stator for the thrust duct to increase thrust, more on this later.

18-24th August- World Hovercraft Championship 2008 in Stockholm, Sweden ~

Camracing is 4th in the world!

Our first major international event was a success in spite stiff competition and exploding engines... Initially our craft, number 37, qualified 4th on the grid for the first race and took four 3rd places out of the six races. The course was mostly water with some very long straights on the lake and a small, technical land section. The lake was next to a hill which is where ski jumping competitions take place in the winter- so we were racing on a ski resort! In world championship events there are 6 races and the winner is whoever has the most points from all of the races; 25points for 1st, 20 for second, 16 for third and so on. For laptimes and pointstables go to www.worlds.raceresults.info ->. Keith Oakley was broadcasting results, pictures and commentary live over the internet during the event. Before we travelled to Sweden a few mods were carried out on the craft- an extra fuel tank was added at the front to deal with the longer course and to put some more weight up the front of the craft and some more non slip tape and foam was added in the cockpit for more comfortable (and safe) driving...

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In practice before time trials i did one lap of the course going very conservatively and on the second lap the engine cut out on the water, after being towed back to land without sinking... i managed to sort out the minor electrical problem, however i missed the rest of practice. This meant i had to practice during the time trial period when i should have been trying for my fastest time to get onto the grid. In spite of this i managed to get 4th place on the grid for the first race posting a 91.3 second laptime. There were 4 craft within 2 seconds of my time- there was going to be some good racing. Another plus of my time trials was that i didnt go swimming at all, in all about 4 of my competitors had gone swimming multiple times because of the conditions- waves and unpredictable winds make some craft very difficult to control at speed...

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Race 1- I was gunning my engine on the front row of the grid ready for a speedy getaway, the low end acceleration is one of my craft's stronger areas, the flag was waved and i dawdled of at a third power! A problem with the engine that we thought we had resolved had re-surfaced again- i was last by this point as i came slowly upto the first buoy. Then randomly the engine revved upto half power as i went round the corner and just after i had been lapped by first and second places the craft picked up to full power and we were off proper, i kept in front of third place (albeit a lap behind him) and started taking back some positions. But two laps later as i was slowing down behind some craft on the twisty land section my engine bogged down and eventually died completely. I tried to start again but it was seized solid, i was out of the race. In the pits we found lots of bits of steel on top of the pistons and no rollers inside the big-end bearings! Apparently a failing big end bearing explained the seemingly random coming and going of the engine that we experienced- sometimes all of the rollers were just sitting in the wrong places which caused so much friction that the engine couldn't run properly, and when they fell back into place it would go. We spent the afternoon installing the spare engine which meant we missed the second race, thanks to Rick and Dave for helping get the thing going again. It could have been a help not going out in the second race as three craft (including 2nd and 3rd) were put out of the race after being thrown into the air by the wake from a massive gin palace that powered past the race area!

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I was ready for race 3 after going out in practice the craft felt good with the new engine. I started from near the back of the grid since i had missed the previous race but by the second lap i was fourth and closing in on Tony in third place. I managed to take him on the large water straight and had no chance of reaching 1st and 2nd who were miles away in this race. Throughout the rest of the race i was on average about 3-seconds faster than fourth place and finished in a comfortable third place.

Race 4 was similar to race 3 apart from the changing wind which was now coming toward land making the craft feel very flighty on the outgoing water straight... After fighting through the rear of the grid i had to try and take Tony again- i tried to out-drag him down the water-straight and came to the corner buoy about level but he didnt notice i was there and there was no room to get through! I had to go straight over the buoy which was slightly bigger than a space hopper- it launched me into the air and i splashed down nose down, i didnt feel like it had caused too much of a problem but spectators on land were convinced i was going to submarine the craft completely! I managed to get past Tony on the next lap and finished 3rd again.

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In race 5 i got a cleaner run off the grid and came got into 3rd place on the first lap and finished in that position. By now my laptimes were around the 80 second mark, and my average laptime was only a few seconds slower than 1st and 2nd places... My fastest lap on the course was set in this race at 78.4 seconds.

For the final race i was back on the front row of the grid in fourth place, it was all or nothing in this race; if i beat Tony i would get 3rd place overall and vica versa, and we both knew it... The tension was not eased when the start was held up, it gets hot standing around in race kit and the waiting isn't great for your nerves! Also the conditions had worsened- there was a gusting wind and the water was fairly choppy. Finally the 2-minute board was shown and we started our engines and got ready, at the wave of the flag the first four were very close along the opening straight, i couldn't seem to make any ground on Tony! We raced in a group nose to tail for the next lap but as we came to the last buoy before the land section 1st place, Dave, ploughed in to the left and we all overtook him putting him in fourth, but still hot on my tail.

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The conditions were making some of the corners quite difficult and i wasn't driving as well as i had been previously; the next lap i took i slightly wide line around the shicane on the land and Dave tried to get through, but there wasn't enough room and his rear slammed round into my front causing me to spin off into the catch netting. I jumped out the the craft which id kept running and turned it round, got back in, lanyard on and off i went again, i thought i would be out of the race now but overtook Dave again not far after. I could see Tony at the end of the straight so i put my foot down. A few laps later i saw Dave stopped on the land, he had damaged his rudders when he tried to take me on the shicane. In the end i came in third behind Tony, there was no way i could have caught him, later i found out that he had done some mods on his craft for the last race that were all or nothing- he had compromised his lift to get some more thrust out of the craft which had definitely worked, but meant he could only drive at 100% or nothing! If i had not have been knocked off the course the story could have been different- my laptimes were very similar to Tony's and i might have been able to get past him if i was still close to him... However im still very happy how it worked out- we took 4th place in a new, unproven craft in spite of not finishing 2 out of the six races, result!

26-27th July 2008 4th round of the UK national champs near Southampton ~

The new craft goes... too fast maybe as I managed to flip it and dislocate my shoulder...
About_img_08 It hadnt taken too much time to fix the damage from the first meeting, a new lift shaft, just standard aluminium tube and a few safety bits that were recommended by scrutineers at Claydon.
The craft felt good for a few laps in practice on saturday morning, but tore most of the skirt off on the bottom attachments when i entered the water on the 3rd lap- on this course there is a half meter drop into the lake which can put quite a lot of force on the skirt fixing points. There were also a few rips in the skirt from this, it took most of the morning to repair this damage- when i re-did the skirt fixing larger rivets and washers were used to spread the load more, thanks to Andy for helping out with the repairs. I got onto the grid for the second race of the day and was placed quite near the back since i had missed the first race. The craft accelerated off the grid and took a few places before the first corner, it was faster than anything i had driven before. I had finally got the little digital tacho working and i was only revving to a maximum of 8200rpm, plenty of power in reserve. I came 5th in the end and flew back to the pits. The only problem had been some occasional 'bad vibrations coming from the lift shaft, on closer inspection it turned out that the steel frame holding the lift gearbox in place was being bent and cracked by the forces from the shaft/ fan. The frame was welded up as a temporary fix for the next day of racing, thanks to Jon.
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On Sunday morning i pitched back the thrust blades as i had been under-revving in the last race, on the way to the grid i couldnt tell if it had made any difference so i had to wait for the race to tell...
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At the start i out-dragged everyone on my row of the grid and the craft was flying, the revs were pretty much spot on- it peaked at just over 10,000rpm and was around 9,500 on the straight. Within a few laps i was going through the tailenders and this caused me some problems, ahead of me Tony, 131 had been coming into view which i didnt understand because i knew he was one of the fast ones..! At the end of the straight on one lap i accidently had the craft right on its end and nearly fell out, i managed (through as much luck as skill) to get it back on the ground without pulling the lanyard out and carried on. I have to learn how to keep the thing on the ground!. When i got out of the craft in the pits i was shaking with adrenaline rush, this thing was fast!
For the last race of the weekend i was on the 4th place on the grid and had another good start, the low end acceleration seems to be very good. After the first lap i was in 3rd place and saw Tony a bit in front. Through the race i managed to catch up with him and was just behind him three laps in. I was just behind him all the way down the straight but as we came up to the chicance i realised there were two slower craft that we needed to pass. I was thinking that there was not going to be enough space for 4 of us to go in at once and was trying to go very wide to do a w rather than a wiggle to aviod a big pile up! I was up on my side slightly as i was going into the corners and caught the thrust air from the other craft that had already turned for the next bit of the chicance. This caused my craft to flip over spitting me out right in the path of Barry in 4th place who managed to mostly avoid me. I had dislocated my shoulder when i fell which was already weak -an annoying re-occuring rugby injury. The craft had minor damage but was ready to go out in the re-run of the race (which had been red-flagged at this point) thanks to everyone putting it back together, thanks Jon, Dan, everyone else! Unfortunately i was at Southampton A & E getting my shoulder put back in...
Overall the weekend was a success in spite of the accident- the new craft had outperformed my expectations and made all the effort i have put into it worthwhile. The crash had been down to me not having experienced a situation like this at this speed before in a craft that i was not really used to, i should have forseen what would have happened and got my weight over the front much quicker to prevent it lifting up. This course is the Monaco of hovercraft racing and there is normally more room for manoeuver. Especially in Sweden which is a very large water course...

12-13th July 2008 Craft's first outing at Claydon House~

About_img_08 Claydon house is the venue where my first craft made its debut three years before, the course is set in the grounds of a stately home with the water section along the moat of the house. After arriving on the friday night through thunderstorms the pits were setup and none of the work that was needed was carried out on the craft thanks to the rain.
It was an early start the next morning and the craft got through its initial scrutiny without any problems which was surprising considering its novel design. The next hurdle was the flotation test where the craft has to float with its engine off for 5minutes. At this point we had realised there was some sort of electrical problem with the engine which meant it only ran at half power or not at all and was difficult to start. Three coils were swapped in and out and in the end the craft was flown to the lake while only revving to around half power in a break in the racing program (i had missed practice and the first race by now). Even with the engine problems the craft was nearly as fast as the old craft which wouldn't even have lifted from the ground at this power! The craft stayed afloat and i flew back to the pits along the water section. The craft was now effectively signed off and ready to race so it was fueled up and prepped for the afternoon race.
When the 10minute board came up i put on my kit and went to try and start the craft... which didnt want to play ball! The intermittent spark had given up completely and this meant i missed all of Saturday's races. This gave us the opportunity to spend the rest of the afternoon sorting out lots of other bits and trying to solve the engine problem with the help of lots of other experts helping out.
It was the same story on Sunday which was incredibly frustrating, in the end the problem was two faulty coils and one with a bad connection in an HT lead! By the time the engine was running sweet and the fan blades had been optimised slightly i had missed all of my races. I took the craft upto the test area and blasted about a bit which made the whole weekend worth it- even going uphill on long grass the craft accelerated much faster than my previous craft or any i had driven before. It felt very responsive and easy to drive even though nothing was properly dialed in yet. Unfortunately the first time it got to higher revs the seal on the lift shaft exploded and took the shaft with it. This is a fairly easy fix and was due to the shaft being there in the first place- a completely different solution to stop water going through the seat will be made.
We were so busy working on the craft we had no time to take any pictures, but it generated a lot of interest from competitors and also the public. There is now 2 weeks to fix the craft and carry out a few changes before the race at Southampton- for details of the event go the hovercraft club website.