29 October 2010

Rockingham with Mazda on Track

Project Merlot's third visit to Rockingham Motor Speedway was on 29th October. The event was organised by Mazda on Track in association with Rockingham Cars. With the car sporting decals for its new sponsor MX5Parts, Robbie and Jon took to the International Long circuit.

The new-to-the team circuit configuration brought fresh challenges to enjoy; having two extra tight hairpin bends and a fantastic chicane after the turn in off the banked section meant there was a great mix of fast and slow corners.

After seeing "sparks" emitting from the right hand front wheel under heavy braking, the pad wear was closely monitored during the morning session. Just after lunch the cheap after-market front pads had nearly worn down to the back plates (apparently wearing out about 6mm of pad material) so a used set of pads was fitted to finish the day. The EBC Redstuff pads and Turbogroove discs kindly supplied by MX5Parts will be fitted next.

Jon said: "It was one of the best track days we had ever been on, with good etiquette on track, no incidents, we were driving well and the Merlot was behaving itself while holding its own against much faster cars."

But the clear highlight of the day for both drivers was spending time with Rob Boston, who took to the driver's seat of Project Merlot to give Robbie and Jon a taste of what the car can do when in the capable hands of Ma5da Racing's 2010 MX-5 Champion.

Robbie said: "Without needing time to become accustomed to the car, Rob was turning in off the banked section of the circuit in 4th gear at speeds in excess of 90mph, a turn that at 60mph I thought was very good going."

Jon said: "Rob was constantly making corrections on the steering wheel but the car was absolutely as smooth as can be. I said to Rob afterwards that I couldn't believe how much he constantly corrected the steering to get the right lines, while the car was always in control. He said that was the key to achieving speed- being smooth yet committed.

"In Rob's hands, we were convinced we had the quickest car on the circuit which was borne out by the fact that the local dealership had brought along two race cars (a Fiat 500 and a Mazda MX-5 Mk3 which had recently been entered in the Britcar 24-hour race) and both were being driven by former British Touring Car drivers to give people fast passenger rides. Yet when I wet out with Rob we were going so quickly that when we came up behind the race MX-5 Rob had to back off to give them space to accelerate away. Then we caught them up again and overtook them in our basically standard road car! It's obvious to me now that you don't need to spend thousands adapting your car to be quick. You're better off spending your money on driver tuition to become a better driver."

Rob said: "The car was fantastic, just lacking a limited slip diff - and the rear view mirror kept dropping down." After hearing what Project Merlot was all about, he said it was a 'brilliant idea'.
The Project Merlot team agree with the limited slip diff observation, but say but the mirror issue was just due to Rob using every kerb on the circuit!

Rob and Robbie.

17 October 2010

We are very pleased to announce......

The boys with the Merlot are very pleased to announce that Footman James have confirmed their continued support for the Project in to 2011. Footman James have provided insurance cover for the car since the Project’s inception offering as they do specialist MX-5 insurance and discounts to MX-5 Owners Club members.

We are also thrilled to announce our new association with the UK’s foremost supplier of MX-5 parts, the one and only MX5parts.co.uk. Their aim is to bring you the very best parts and accessories for the MX-5 and Eunos Roadster, at the most competitive prices and with the very best customer service.
Its only with such generous help from all the sponsors, supporters, the drivers and the passengers, that all get involved, that we are able to carry on our mission. So a huge THANK YOU to you all.

In the next few months Project Merlot will be on track at the following:

Mazda on Track and Rockingham Cars Customer Track Day on 29 October.
Click for more info.

Track day at Snetterton with Focused Events, 7 November.
Click for more info.

(STC) Track Day at Brands Hatch with Mazda on Track, 3 December .
Click for more info.

1 October 2010

Read all about it in Soft Top Hardtop.

The October edition of the MX-5 Owners Club magazine, Soft Top Hardtop will once again feature Project Merlot in a look back over the last four years. The original project team of Jon, Robbie and Martin give their thoughts on the past and on the future.

"One of the more recent
highlights for me has to be
going out on a track day
with my son Daniel driving.
I certainly never expected
that when we first started
on the project. And when
he managed to lose control
and spin the car on a
bend, it was quite a proud
moment for me!"

“At it’s first public appearance at the
2006 national rally in Lincolnshire, it looked fantastic and drew a great crowd. I loved driving it at Cadwell, which is my favourite circuit to
date. It was quite bizarre when a stranger in a petrol station after the event, recognised us.
He said ‘that’s the car that’s in the magazine it really does exist.’ Thinking about it, everything which we’ve done with it has been a highlight!”