24 March 2010

Temporary Repair

It was back in September 2006 when the engine was being changed that the rusty power steering fluid return pipe was noticed. There was no way that a small problem like that was going to stop Team Merlot getting the car up and running, on schedule that weekend. With no replacement pipe to hand, emergency measures were called for so using the spare parts available at the time, the rusty part of the pipe was cut out and a short length of rubber hose fitted in its place. This was meant to be a temporary repair...

42 months later and the rubber pipe was still in situ and holding out well, long forgoten about. March 21st and the hose finally decides to let go, spewing PAS fluid all over the exhaust and engine.

Back in the garage the hose was removed, expecting to be in shreads but only a small cut in the pipe was found, although the hose was well swollen and clearly on borrowed time! It looks like is was a coolant pipe in a former life so did well to last as long as it did.

A new pipe has been fitted in place of the failed one, a propper metal pipe? No. That would cost money, money a lo-cost project like this doesn't have! A piece of power steering hose from a Ford Focus has been used that was destained for the skip... A temporary repair you understand!

20 March 2010

Snetterton with Javelin 21 March 10

Back on track at last and Team Merlot and the Eastern Region realise what they have been missing since the Merlot’s last track event at Mallory Park last year.

Jon, Robbie and Martin, the guys who keep it all going, were joined by MX-5 Owners Club Eastern Region members Chris Gage and Chris Woodger on a Javelin trackday at the Norfolk cicuit. Chris Gage also represented car sponsor Cambridge Area Training who are continuing their support for Project Merlot into 2010. Chris Woodger, long time MX-5 fan and Club member is also now know as Car 82 in the Ma5da Racing series. This was Chris W’s first time in the Merlot and it gave him an opportunity to compare the cars ability with his own race car (it came out quite well I think) and give Chris some much needed experience of the Snetterton circuit, new to Chris, but where he will be racing on 24, 25 April.

The day’s sunny start didn’t last long and intermittent light showers throughout the day gave the drivers the chance to try out their wet weather driving techniques as well, although overall the track stayed pretty dry.

It looked very much like “game over” early in the afternoon session when smoke was seen to come from the car which then limped home to the pits. After a few minutes of fear and trepidation Robbie got to the bottom of the problem. A split power steering pipe, and loss of all the fluid were the cause of the smoke. With his usual no nonsense flair 5 minutes later Robbie had it sorted and the car was back on the road, minus its power steering system, but otherwise none the worse.

Several Eastern Region members took advantage of the chance for a high speed passenger ride around the Snetterton Circuit. Ian Johnson had come along with 3 generations of the family and the Merlot had its oldest passenger so far when Chris W took Ian’s 83 year old father, for what was described afterwards, as a “very, very” fast ride!

Its now three and a half years since Project Merlot made its first appearance at the MX-5 Owners Club National Rally in Lincolnshire shortly followed by its first track day at Donnington Park. In that time it’s given many Owners Club members a unique opportunity to get behind the wheel, not worry about those speed limits and learn what an MX-5 is really capable of. Its seen many more members, don a crash hat, get strapped into the passenger seat, and be given the chance to see and feel first hand what its like to be on track, on the limit!

19 March 2010

CAT go forward with Project Merlot into 2010

2010 is the third year that CA Training Ltd. have helped sponsor Project Merlot, the MX-5 track day car operated by MX-5 Eastern region members Jon, Martin and Robbie. As ever the mission statement at Project Merlot is unchanged, to provide hands on experience backed up by experienced drivers.

During 2009 I was lucky enough to experience one of Project Merlot's track days at Woodbridge. With the aid of drives with all three of the team I soon appreciated how valuable their experience was.

Yesterday I attended the first Project Merlot event of 2010 at Snetterton. As ever the car was well turned out and when a minor mechanical hiccup threatened the afternoon, the teams experience was on hand to ensure the Project Merlot car was back on track in minutes.

CATraining wishes everyone involved in the project an extremely busy 2010 and we hope to be able to report back on another action packed season at the end of the year.

Chris Gage Cambridge Area Training Ltd..