With the engine and gearbox swap complete it was literally only a few hours later that Merlot Black took to the race track for the very first time. Friday morning saw Robbie, Martin and Jon at Silverstone Stowe circuit for the MX-5 Owners Club National Rally track day with Mazda on Track. With so much work having been recently completed Robbie was visibly nervous, not something we see often, and a few spots of oil on the ground and a leaky brake calliper did not make things better!
So it was with some trepidation that Robbie took to the wheel on track for the very first time on the sighting lap, followed by Martin, and then the final test, the first proper laps with Jon at the wheel and Robbie sitting, still nervous, in the passenger seat. Why were we worried? Within a few laps it was clear that Project Merlot was back. With about 45 full throttle laps being completed in the morning session, in wet and dry conditions, by lunch time there was no doubt about the car any more, and to quote Robbie’s last blog entry, “its just the same as Project Merlot, but Black”.!
The afternoon was sessioned and it gave us the opportunity to put a brand new novice track driver in the seat. Eastern Region member Carole, with Robbie instructing, had the time of her life behind the wheel, and I think Black has a new track day convert at first attempt.
After the high speed action on Saturday it was show time on Sunday. Black was entered in to the hot five competition at Billing Aquadrome. No trophy this time, but then Project Merlot never was about show, but all about go.
A big thank you to Team Merlot for letting me loose on their car at Silverstone on Saturday! It was the first time I'd done a track day, and I felt honoured to be allowed to drive the reincarnation of Merlot so soon after its extensive 'surgery'. Robbie's tuition was spot on - I had an absolutely fantastic time, adjectives fail to do justice to the experience. I still haven't come down and am boring all my family and friends with accounts of the day! The car is a dream to drive, so quick and responsive (sorry about the rev limiter...) and I was relieved to see it recovered ok to be at the National the next day. I'd love to drive again (if you'll let me) and would recommend it to anyone to have a go!