Introducing myself and my race Alfa 33:
I have raced a Fiat Uno in the Clssic Sports Car Club's "Tin Tops" series for a year or so now (the Fiat is better than it sounds, honest, & is the ex Neil Smith Auto Italia Championship winning car) but blew the engine up last year & whilst I am waiting for the engine to be re-built I have bought an Alfa 33 to race instead.
The Tin Tops series is great - its a mini enduro format of 30 min practice and 40 min race, with compulsory pit stop, for one or two drivers. I normally share with a mate but have done several races on my own.
The 33 is a 1500cc 8v car which previously won the Auto-Italia Championship and the Alfa championship but I am sure that its in fairly standard spec ie ARCA series Class D, I think. Its the ex Roger Donnan car. We are in the bottom class of Tin Tops, Class C, but there's an Alfa Sud to battle with, several Pug 205s & 106s and a couple of Fiestas as well as 2 or 3 Class B 2 litre Maestros that I battled with last year.
The 33 is probably a bit heavier than the Uno but feels sprightly enough and, subjectively, has a similar power to weight ratio to the Uno. Its actually set up very well. Surprisingly it does seem to be slightly oversteery - its the way Roger likes to drive his cars apparently & I have lowered the rear tyre pressures to make it a bit more neutral.
The first race at Snetterton was not too bad. 13th out of 18 and 2nd in Class. We are in the slowest class anyway, so wouldn't expect to be up the sharp end. It should have been a top 10 finish, though, as Nigel (my team mate & a quicker driver than me) was running well, having overtaken 5 cars in the first half of the race, until he was rudely punted off by another car and had the right hand doors smacked in. He thus lost all the places he had gained and at the driver change lost even more time as we couldn't get the drivers door open, had to change via the passenger side and had to tape some bodywork up. We lost an additional 2 1/2 minutes probably.
I then had a lonely race to the finish.
I enjoyed it anyway, it was good to get out on track again as I haven't driven anything on track since Oulton Park last year...not even a track day so I was very rusty. That's my excuse anyway. Although I know that I was still braking too early and having to speed up as I approached the corners !!!!!!
I have had a look at the results compared to last year and Nigels and my times were remarkably similar in the Alfa 33 to those recorded in the Uno.
In terms of lap times the Alfa would seem to be on a par with the Uno from last year. I admit that the Uno felt quicker...maybe that's down to the noise it made (!) but I think that the 2 cars may be pretty well matched. I thought that the Alfa behaved pretty well really; it could do with some more power, I suppose, and it doesn't seem to handle quite as well as the Uno, not quite as stiff perhaps, but it was still not at all bad.
The best in class this year was the Pug 106 at 1 min 31.2 and last year was an XR2 at 1 min 32.7 so at least one of the class rivals is a bit quicker than a year ago.
Photos of the event (sat only) can be found here:
Classic Sports Car Club meeting Snetterton April 08 pictures from cars photos on webshots
My Alfa can be seen on pages 2 & 3 -its the blue, orange and green car, no 47.
It ended up being a very mixed day - Practice went really well and qualified 16th out of 25 (4th in class out of 7) at I min 01.2 secs. I was only 0.5 sec shy of a little blue Pug 106 in the same class and 2 secs slower than a very well developed and powerful Pug 205 on class pole, I was also in front of a bunch of (nominally quicker) class A & B cars. The 106 had been much faster than me at Snetterton, (and won our class) whilst the 205 is reckoned to have about 40 bhp more so I was really quite pleased!
The race was disaster though - It rained just before the start and continued to rain for the majority of the race. I got a good start and made up about 3 places off the line and through Paddock Hill Bend and was 2 or 3 abreast on the exit as the slow starting Coventry University Pug 206 car came charging up the inside and muscled his way through, using my new doors to steady himself. Both doors bashed in. Again. Bloody students! It was a real banger racing (ie BTCC) move - Plato and Neal would have been proud - and so unecessary with 39 minutes to go and he would have outdragged me at the next straight anyway. Annoying.
I drove Ok for a couple of laps and was up to 12th but then had a couple of half spins at Paddock Hill Bend and Clearway which I caught OK but the third half spin at Paddock Hill on about lap 5 saw me on the grass on the right and not able to restart for a minute or two. The track was very slippery and List 1B tyres are not ideal, I think (my excuse anyway), although it was the same for everyone.
I got going again but was well down & off the pace. Confidence gone. At just over half distance a Class B Maestro passed me on the inside at the end of the back straight but plainly had his line all wrong for the entry speed he was doing for the left hander (Surtees?), bounced off the kerbs, fishtailed in front of me and as I bailed out right on to the grass to try to avoid him, he crossed my bows and I T-Boned him. He continued, I made the compulsory pit stop but had to have the front valance hack-sawed off to avoid it dragging. Must have lost at least 3 or 4 minutes in the pits whilst the surgery was completed and the officials made sure the car was safe to continue.
I finished firmly last, 4 laps behind the winner and one lap down on the guy in 20th place (the Maestro I hit, I think). My best race lap was 1 min 05.55 in the middle of the race when It was still very wet but generally speaking I was way off the pace in the wet. A second or two. By the end, when conditions had improved I had lost heart a bit and was just keeping out of everyone's way to get to the finish so I am not surprised I was still slow then.
The car needed 2 new wings, new headlight, a new bonnet and a front valance and this was solved via ebay & the purchase of a non running 33 & another complete set of body panels for £300. The car now looks like a patch work quilt, though. Sad really.
I've had a look at the comparative lap time from qualifying between last year at Brands (in the Uno - when I blew it up!) & this.
I was 1.5 secs quicker in the Alfa in practice than I was in the Uno, whereas my lap times at Snetterton were about half a second slower in the Alfa than they had been in the Uno (Nigel's were about the same).
Not sure whether the quicker lap times at Brands were down to me or the car? I'm hoping its down to me!! I certainly felt as though I drove far better in practice than I have done hitherto.
I know that I am not a great driver (not brave enough and always worried how much its going to cost if it all goes wrong) but I do thoroughly enjoy being out in a racing car. I am living a child hood dream just to be on the track. But, I do love competing (I find track days dull, unless I have an iunstructor to push me) & got a massive buzz out of my practice performance and my first few laps at Brands.
I missed the race at Mallory due to work but the next race out is this saturday (28th June) at Anglesey. I'll let you know how it goes.