BARGAIN BASEMENT ST - Building a budget race car

BARGAIN BASEMENT ST - Building a budget race car

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SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Wednesday 21st April
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FIRE EXTINGUISHER

We opted for the RRS kit from Tegiwa. It came with full installation kit, was FIA approved, a decent capacity, and a fair price.



The bracket is a simple case of drilling through the floor and bolting it down. Depending on where you locate it, it might need captive threads added in because there is a box section right underneath the passenger seat.



The metal piping supplied is pretty good and bends nicely into place. They don’t supply any protection for the pipes so we got some plastic conduit stuff for that.



This T-piece was inserted so that one pipe could be routed towards the driver; with a nozzle pointing towards the driver’s lap, and the other pipe routed off through the bulkhead and into the engine bay.



Once inside the engine bay there is one nozzle pointing at the electrical box and a second one pointing at the new terminals where the original battery was.



The pipe then continues along the front of the engine bay with a further nozzle pointing at the front of the engine, and another pointing at the side of the engine.



The final nozzle points at the hot bits - at the back of the engine.

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Thursday 22nd April
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DASH CONSOLE

When coming up with the plan for this car, the dash console was the first job I earmarked for my Dad. He's got a great eye for detail, and I knew he'd nail it. The dash console needs to provide space for an engine kill-switch, and a pull-chord for the driver to operate the fire extinguisher from the driver's seat.

The vacant stereo space is the obvious place to house those pull-cables. But there is no off-the-shelf piece of kit for this job and for this car. So we'd need to make our own.



He started by buying a sheet of carbon fibre, to act as the fascia. And getting hold of a new stereo cage, to act as an anchor point, along woth some aluminium strips to hold it all together.



He then measured up and cut the carbon fibre to size. The aluminium was then fixed to the front of the stereo cage, using the original fixings from this area of the dashboard.



The carbon fibre was then fixed to the aluminium with screws, which we later upgraded to cap heads. We then fixed the original stereo plastic surround back onto the stereo cage, giving a really nice neat finish. Looking very tidy!



He then cut a hole for the kill switch. The kill switch was bought from Demon Tweeks. It is an FIA approved switch and cost around £50.



An additional hole was cut for the fire extinguisher pull-cable that would also be housed on the console. Both are easily reachable from the driver's seat when strapped in with a harness.



This is a shot of the cables being routed from the rear of the kill switch. I am very glad to have had my Dad working on this aspect, as I'd spent a lot of time reading 'installation guides' and 'how-to' instructions for this job.. and I just didn't feel confident doing it. I am sure that a complete novice could do this job; but when the safety of the car and the reliability of the car were both so tightly wound up in one job, I felt it needed more experienced hands.



The stereo cage went in nicely as you'd expect, and the cabling was attached as below. Sorry this photo isn't very clear, but hopefully you get the general idea. I'll go into more detail on the cabling in a later post, as this was a huge learning curve for me - which included at least 2 occasions where the car would not start.



As a final flurry Dad also whipped up a little bracket to hold the bowden cable coming through the fascia, keeping things looking very tidy indeed. That cable will of course be routed to the outside of the car; as will the second fire extinguisher pull-cable - so that they can both be accessed by a marshal in order to operate the extinguisher or cut all of the electrics to the car.



I'm over the moon with the result, which looks like it was professionally made and installed. Seriously top job by my Dad.

Installation of the pull-cables is another separate job that'll be coming up in another post - as is the rather complicated job of routing in the electrical cut-off switch.


SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Friday 23rd April
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TRACK SHAKEDOWN

Well time has gotten away from us, and in the run up to the first race of the season.. the car isn’t quite finished!

We were still very confident that we’d get all of the pull-cables and electrics finished with help from our friends as Kent Motorsport. But with regards to the suspension; it just wasn’t going to get done in time.

The car felt pretty tight. The Eibach springs had dropped the ride height slightly, the new top mounts and struts meant the car now felt accurate (if a little bit leany), and the rear anti-roll bar kept things tidy at the rear. We decided to do a shakedown at Brands Hatch to see what the car was like on this suspension setup - and if it ran ok then we’d enter it into the first race weekend on the current setup.



The evening sessions at Brands are excellent for us, as we’re nearby and can bomb down there straight from work if needs be. You usually get at least 2-2.5 hours of track time. We only wanted about thirty or forty minutes to see how the car felt.



I was pretty excited to get out on track in the car we’d put together. It was great from the first lap. We ran the car on the old set of R888R’s and they were spot on for it. The car felt light. The engine and gearbox were all good and power delivery was smooth with reasonable top end grunt.



The steering felt ok but definitely needed a flush out with some new fluid. Clutch was good. Brakes were very good, lots of bite from those new front RP-X pads.



My only real criticism of the car was that, as predicted, it leaned a lot in the fast corners. Particularly paddock hill bend. But considering the car was not running coilover suspension I thought it handled pretty well.



I was expecting the car to be good fun, and I knew from driving it on the road that it hadn’t lost too many horsepower over the not inconsiderable mileage it had covered. But it was actually quicker than I’d been expecting. Not fast! But quicker than I’d expected.

It had performed well. The decision was made to enter it into the first race meeting at Lydden Hill the following weekend.



Edited by SparrowHawk on Wednesday 28th April 11:14

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Sunday 25th April
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CUT OFF CABLES & ELECTRICS

The final job before the car would be race legal.

We needed to arrange the electrics so that the electrical cut off switch was wired into the circuit. We’d also need to relocate the battery into the cabin. And then finally, route both of the pull-cables to outside of the car; one for the cut-off switch and one for the fire extinguisher.



Although relocating the battery is not mandatory it is a good idea for several reasons. It creates a lot more room in the engine bay, very handy for working on the car generally and especially handy when you’re planning to install a power steering relocation kit. And it also helps distribute weight more evenly.



We already had the Motamec battery tray, and opted for a Yuasa race battery. These are very reasonably priced, and come with the security of a well-known brand name.



The battery was installed with the same process as the fire extinguisher. Adding four bolts through the floor, with two of these requiring captive thread riv nuts due to the box section underneath the floor. We had some confusion over the required placement of the battery. One scrutineer informed us that it MUST be located aft of the passenger seat. But we clarified (as far as we know) that this is only in the case of rally cars, where a co-driver or passenger may be present. So we located ours where the passenger seat had been.



The battery left behind more than just a hole in the engine bay. It had also been the mounting point for this section of the wiring harness (probably not the correct terminology). This was the point at which I was very much beyond my skill set and feeling out of my depth on the build, and was the job that we had called on Kent Motorsport to help us with. If someone were to ask me which part of the build I’d recommend seeking professional assistance with, this would be in. Obviously it’s also a good idea to have a pro build or install your roll cage. But with the electrics, it would be very easy for a novice to make a mistake leaving their car non-working, unreliable, or even dangerous.



The guys whipped up this bracket to act as an anchor point, and earthing point, and to house this part of the original harness.



The sections were welded together and then given a nice coat of satin black. Once fitted in place it would be the point at which our new battery cables met the rest of the car.



Once the bracket was in place a new terminal box was installed. This solution was perhaps a little over-engineered, but it would do the job safely and reliably. We were very pleased to utilise the experience and expertise of the guys, to get this important job done right.



Whilst they were at it, they fabricated a similarly tasty bracket for the pull cables. Which would be housed up on the scuttle panel. On other cars I’ve seen the pull cables simply poking through the scuttle; I’m sure this is perfectly functional but it doesn’t always look very tidy, and I would be nervous of having such an important safety feature not securely fixed down.



This bracket was then also painted in satin black to match our other brackets and new parts. We had intended to do this job ourselves, but in truth time got the better of us. We had literally just a couple of days before the first race - and we were not going to get it all done in time. So a big thank you to Kent Motorsport for helping us over the line.



Installed on the car, we then threaded both of the pull-cables through the new bracket, and they were routed through the bulkhead and fitted to the electrical cut-off switch and fire extinguisher inside the cabin.

The last of the mandatory safety features had been installed. The car was now race legal - and the end was in sight!

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Monday 26th April
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FINAL ODD JOBS

Although the car was now race legal, there were still a few odd jobs to attend to before we headed to our first race meeting.

The engine bay was all now nice and tidy, and the final piece of the puzzle in that area was a front strut brace. These add a nice bit of rigidity, holding the tops of the suspension struts firmly apart and reducing movement. Especially important for us as we were still running stock suspension struts and needed all the help we could get to reduce body roll. I also finally got the Mountune cold air box fitted around the induction intake.



Next up we decided to remove the fog light and add a bend into the bracket. The light was parallel with the glass, which looked very neat.. but meant that the light was facing upwards at about a 30 degree angle.



So adding a bend meant that the fog light now faced directly backwards giving far better visibility for any cars behind.



Another small but important modification is the rear view mirror. The standard mirror is too small, and does not allow you to see both behind you and through the rear quarter windows.



These widescreen mirrors give a wider field of vision whilst also adding anti-glare too. You can get concave/convex mirrors to give an even wider field of vision, but I find those distort distances too much and make it difficult to judge how close another car is to you.



Another final job was getting our race numbers on the car. They come in regulation sizes, larger on the side windows, and slightly smaller on the front and rear screen. Only a little job, but another of the very satisfying ones to do and to tick off! No sponsors as yet, but we'll do our best to pick up a little support throughout the season to help keep the car ticking over.



We have not yet removed the air conditioning system. This adds up to a fair amount of weight, so I intend to take it all out at some point. But for now it remains.. so we also did a quick air con gas top-up to try to help keep things cool at what was forecast to be a sunny race weekend ahead.



Having a very solid mounting point for an onboard camera is vital. Stewards can also be very hot on ensuring you have a secondary fixing in place. So we mounted a Go Pro onto the roll cage with a roll-cage specific mount; and an additional tether to ensure the camera couldn't become loose and fly around the cabin.



As always, it turned into a late one and we worked into the night to get the car ready ticking off various last minute bits, and also doing a final oil change. I would be driving the race car down to Lydden (no trailer!) so everything had to be checked and double checked on Thursday night before I headed off on Friday after work.



I'd be bundling a survival kit into the back of the race car.. a one-man tent, sleeping bag, and some essentials; and then heading down on Friday to camp overnight in the paddock. Not very glamourous, but all part of the appeal of racing for me having spent most of my childhood weekends in and around race paddocks.



I wouldn't be going full Malle-Moto style though. My dad would be driving down on Saturday morning, with some tools and a set of spare wheels/tyres in the car. We were also hoping that Kent Motorsport might head down to give an added layer of support and very welcome guidance.

Time to find out whether we'd built a peach or a lemon.


Edited by SparrowHawk on Monday 26th April 15:57

BobbyA

26 posts

11 months

Wednesday 28th April
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Nice work mate. I was at Brands Hatch that evening, I was in a white and Green MX5

Best of luck for the season

bigmacca1

10 posts

14 months

Monday 3rd May
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How did your first meeting go ??

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Tuesday
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BobbyA I remember yes, they're a great car for Brands Indy. I had a Eunos race car a few years ago, it was good fun. I wasn't experienced enough at the time to get the best out of that car, as they're all about maintaining momentum aren't they. Great fun in the right hands.

Bigmacca1, I'll get the next update on today smile

SparrowHawk

Original Poster:

52 posts

108 months

Tuesday
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FIRST RACE MEETING

The car was superb.

We made a few rookie errors and learned a few things. One or two mistakes we won't make again with regards to car preparation and decisions made during the final stages of the build.

But, in short, we came out of the weekend with the best result we could possibly have hoped for - and we were absolutely buzzing.



My plan had always been to build the car as much as we could ourselves, keep it road legal, and then drive it to each race myself and camp overnight at the circuits with only the very basics to support. Inspired by the Malle Moto class at Dakar. This is a really fun way of doing it, but also slightly risky.. especially once you start venturing further afield. If you get it wrong and end up bending the car - or if you have a mechanical failure.. then you have no trailer or tow vehicle to get you home.

The journey down to Lydden was fine. It's very loud out on the road, with virtually no sound deadening. But the car is still running a standard exhaust/manifold, so the exhaust noise isn't deafening. We're also still on OEM shocks, so the ride isn't as awful as it would be in a fully finished race car. The most uncomfortable part of driving a track car long distances is often the drone from the track focussed tyres - but we've now got a second set of wheels with Uniroyal Rainsports on. These will act as my 'wets' but also be used to get drive the car to and from the circuit, again making the car less uncomfortable to drive on the road.



I wouldn't be doing it full Malle Moto style though, not this weekend anyway. My dad drove down on the Saturday morning with a car containing a few important bits like the race wheels/tyres, and essentials like a jack, axle stand, basic tools etc. Without this, I would have needed to cram the second set of wheels into the race car (not easy with a full cage). That tactic might be called upon for further away circuits but whilst we're at our local Kent circuits Dad is happy to come along with the 'support vehicle'.

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|https://thumbsnap.com/kCJp1c7d[/url]

Qualifying went well. We were running with another almost identical Fiesta ST in our class, so we knew we'd have close competition and hopefully some good racing in the day ahead. I enjoyed my first ever session on the Lydden circuit - it's fairly short and un-intimidating, but still quite tricky. It became clear that driver experience/skill is important here as I watched several less powerful cars, such as the Citroen Saxos, disappear off into the distance.

|https://thumbsnap.com/3TG86P8T[/url]

I managed to just about keep up with our main competition, the blue Supatune Fiesta ST - but he still put in a quicker time and I'd be starting alongside him on the grid. The car felt good during qualifying, I felt I had ample grip and the car was not leaning too much in the corners as I'd feared it would. The main limitations were clearly all in the driver. I didn't know the circuit and did not manage to find the right lines through turn 1 or through the tricky Devils Elbow. I was also clearly scrubbing off too much speed through Paddock turn, which was impacting my lap time.



After quali we sat down to talk about the car. We felt like it was performing well. We'd been warned that Lydden was very hard on tyres, and I'd opted to run our very used set of R888 tyres. Those tyres had done A LOT of laps on trackdays on our other car, but they performed well during our shakedown at Brands earlier in the week so we kept them on the car.

The suspension was also ok, although I could clearly see that the other cars were quicker than me through turn 1 and I did feel that this was down to our fairly basic suspension setup. The blue ST had much better traction through that turn and was getting a much better slingshot out onto the back straight; I was fairly sure this was due to my road suspension not giving me the ability to sit the car down into the corner and power out of it. I wasn't getting massive understeer, I just knew that the car would be turning in better and carrying more speed if I could rely on the suspension to do a better job.. it was the limitations of running such a basic set up. The suspension was adequate, but if we wanted to be as fast as the other cars on track then we needed to upgrade to coilovers and get the geo done professionally at some point soon.

The main upside was that our brakes were mega; we were able to brake late and very deep into one or two of the corners giving us a slight advantage there.



We decided on a pretty simple race strategy. The blue ST had shown that it was quicker in quali, and I was unlikely to magically find another few tenths during the race. So it was clear that our best shot was to get in front at the start and then try to stay there. If we allowed to blue ST to remain in front after lap 1 then he'd slowly pull away and we'd lose (barring any mistakes).

So the strategy was to go in hard during lap 1, trust the brakes, and get in front using the braking zones in turns 1 and 2. If that paid off, then drive a defensive race and see what happens.



Race 1 was interesting!

The rolling start almost went wrong when the cars in front caught us off guard and there as a slight jump-start as we came down Hairy Hill. Luckily we managed to keep pace with the blue ST and went deep into the braking zone picking up a couple of car lengths along the way; we then got out onto the back straight and did the same thing into the next turn at Devils Elbow finally getting the job done heading up the hill. We were in front and leading our class, and I managed to pull a few more car lengths over the opening lap or two. The opening laps of the race were fairly comfortable and I was just settling into a rhythm.

Then.. the tyres went off. Big time!

What came next was a very long slog to the end of the race; with the other ST filling my rear-view mirror for every second of the next ten laps. We were bumper to bumper with neither of us willing to give an inch, and with my front tyres getting worse and worse.



I was losing bucket-loads of time in turn 1, as the blue car sat down and turned in, and my car began to wash wider and wider out to the outside of the track. But our car was mega on the brakes, and I was also gaining a small advantage by snatching second gear heading up the hill to the hairpin at North Bend and winning a couple of yards back.

We both raced fair, with no weaving or diving, and I made the little silver Fiesta as wide as possible. I was being hounded by a clearly faster driver, and it was a hard task keeping him behind me; especially as we found traffic and passed a couple of slower cars - and even more so as the overall race leaders came storming past us towards the end of the race.

In the end there as a big crash in the leading pack, as a Civic took a heavy hit into the barriers on the start straight. I came through Paddock bend to find an EP3 strewn across the circuit and we slowed to a walking pace as the red flags came out.

After a few minutes lined up on the track the decision was made that as there were only a couple of minutes left, the race was called. We'd done it! In our first race we'd managed to finish and we'd somehow managed to stay in front and take the class win. What a result!



We were over the moon. The result had surpassed our expectations, and it had been a hard fought race. What a great way for this little racing car to begin it's career.

But the main talking point for us was the tyres. We'd made a big mistake leaving those used R888s on the car for the race, and it was simply down to our inexperience. The tyres had performed well during qualifying, and I guess I just thought they had eternal life left in them. In reality when they were pushed hard for five laps during the race they simply dropped off a cliff, and I no longer had grip at the front end.

Once this happened the car went from being very manageable and fairly quick, to over a second slower and almost unmanageable through the corners. In the end I'd had to drop my corner entry speed significantly in order to drive a defensive line. If I'd tried to carry my usual speed through Turn 1 or through the Hairpin, the car would have washed wide and I'd have left the door wide open to my pursuer.



We were left with a decision to make about Race 2. Do we change all four wheels and run on our wets. Or to we swap the rears to the front, and only put wets on the back? Either way the front 2 had to come off the car as they were toast!!

Our friend from Kent Motorsport had kindly come down to watch the races. He knew a few other drivers racing that weekend, and came over to give us some support and advice. With his help we opted to put the rear R888s onto the front, and put a pair of our wet wheels (Rainsports) onto the rear.

Race 2 went brilliantly!

We started in front this time. After the rolling start we pulled away slightly, gaining a fairly decent gap. Our rival got caught in a battle with one of the Saxos which allowed us to pull ahead and we again settled into a rhythm. I started to feel confident, the front tyres were miles better than the fronts we'd taken off - and the Rainsports on the rear were doing the job. I did find the back of the car started to slide much earlier with the wets on; but it was a predictable and manageable slide, so I reduced my corner entry speeds slightly and the car stayed neat and tidy through the corners.

Then.. the front tyres went off, again!

I don't know the exact wording but I think the saying goes something like, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. When we swapped the rear tyres onto the front, I think the intention had been that I would drive the car slightly more cautiously in race 2, knowing that the front tyres would probably go off again if I pushed them too hard. Sadly, being relatively inexperienced what I actually did was to drive the car almost exactly the same way that I had in race 1. The result, unsurprisingly, was that half way through the race the front tyres stopped gripping, and I started understeering badly in the corners.

It was a rookie mistake, especially given that I was a good two or three seconds ahead of my main rival. In hindsight I could have nurtured my front tyres a bit more, and given them less of a hard time through turn 1 and at the hairpin. As a result within a single lap that blue ST was right back on my bumper again and we still had at least half a dozen laps ahead of us.

What followed was almost a carbon copy of the final laps of Race 1. With my mirrors completely full of Ford performance blue. I played the same tactics of driving the car incredibly defensively; hugging the apex all the way through Turn 1, braking deep into the Devils Elbow, bouncing the car off the limiter in second gear going up the hill, and taking up the entire track coming down Hairy Hill.



This time my rival was even more intent on getting past, and did! He'd cottoned on to my second gear advantage going up the hill and was now doing the same thing. The result was that on more than one occasion he got alongside and then in front of me going up the hill. But driving incredibly fairly he gave me room and didn't cut across me, and I won the lead right back in the braking zone at the hairpin.

This carried on corner-for-corner lap-for-lap, until we finally crossed the finished line and I took the chequered flag by a miniscule 0:00.04...!!!

What an incredibly tight race, and again, what a result! We'd bagged another class win.



We'd come to the weekend hoping to finish both races, and hoping not to uncover any huge flaws in the car.

What we'd come away with was 2 class wins, and some important lessons learned on the importance of tyre management.

A great result all round - and even better we had no packing down to do and no loading or unloading to take care of. We just chucked a few things in the back of the car and set off.

Our smooth departure didn't quite go as planned as the support vehicle failed to start.. luckily the only time we needed help from the stewards that weekend!



Edited by SparrowHawk on Tuesday 4th May 15:28

Kraken

1,654 posts

165 months

Wednesday
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The Saxos are probably 200 kilos lighter than your car and with engine mods running the same sort of power (or even more) as you. Not a chance you'll keep up with them even if you had the experience on the track.

Terzo204

386 posts

121 months

Wednesday
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Very well done SparrowHawk. What a great result.

I have followed this thread from the start, its been a great read.

Best of luck for the next rounds.


Ranger 6

6,326 posts

214 months

Wednesday
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Excellent result!!

Now the work starts!!