16 September 2012

The Merlot goes hill climbing !

In a first for Project Merlot on Sunday 16 September the team were to be found taking on the Prescott Speed Hill Climb near Cheltenham. And I can report, that despite my initial reservations about what was not much more than a few seconds drive up a hill, it was great fun. This was supposed to be a fun run only, non-competitive, no helmets, no timing.  And indeed all those applied but sit me in the Merlot, strap me in with the harnesses and there is only really one way to drive, and that’s flat out.!  So there I was on my first run up the hill, wheels locked, in a cloud of tyre smoke, heading straight for the barriers on the surprising steep and tight Pardon hairpin turn.

 But I need not have worried, the Merlot has never let me down yet, and with inches to spare, full grip was returned and the turn was made, but it did quicken the pulse a bit.!  By the time of my third and last run things were going a lot smoother and I think I even managed to take the correct line around a couple of the corners!  So, Prescott maybe the home of the Bugatti Owners Club, it may have seen far grander cars race up the hill but it can now also boast to having been conquered by the one and the only Project Merlot.

1 July 2012

The Blyton Bash

It was ambitious, but if anyone could make it happen then The MX-5 Owners Club’s newest Motorsport Coordinator, Jon Smith could. The Blyton Bash, a weekend of MX-5 dedicated track action at the Blyton Park Driving Centre in Lincolnshire. And what a brilliant weekend it turned out to be.  Project Merlot was in the hands over the weekend of Jon E, Robbie M, Martin C and long-time Merlot fan James Huggins.  The weekend also saw the MX-5 Owners Club attempt to fill the entire circuit with as many MX-5s as they could to set a couple of world records.  We still await final confirmation from Guinness on the records but we reckon the Merlot has always been a bit of a record breaker. There was no doubting the highlight of Jon E’s weekend, the chance to put in some very hot laps with Ma5da Racing champion Rob Boston in the passenger seat giving Jon some invaluable tips.
We loved the weekend and the great little Blyton Circuit, perfect for MX-5s and we are already looking forward to Blyton Bash 2013, oh yes, it’s already booked…..

Martin's new hat!

Derek Higgs takes to the wheel for the WR attempt.

Robbie and Jon trying to look casual

27 June 2012

New boots

After numerous track days the Toyo R888s on the Merlot were beginning to look a little bit the worse for wear.  In fact they were looking a lot more like a full slick rather than the semi slick road legal track day tyre they started out as. So what to replace them with ? No contest really, the R888s have been brilliant, the biggest performance improvement we have ever made to the car, so we bought a second set !

27 May 2012

We love Cornish pasties !

Yes we do, and to prove it Team Merlot and Project Merlot have just spent a week in Cornwall.  The excuse ? The MX-5 Owners Club Spring Rally held on Sunday 20 May at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, but really we went for the week to sample the delicious pasties and the even more delicious Tribute, brewed by the St Austell Brewery that we discovered at a local hotel. Oh, and we also had a blast driving some of those great little Cornish roads.

Merlot and friends, Mullion Cove.



1 April 2012

Roll up, roll up...

Shiny side up and the greasy side down! That's always seemed like good advice to me. But, you never really know and better safe than sorry, and Motorsport is Dangerous, as the signs at circuits usually like to point out. Project Merlot has therefore now been fitted with a new 4 point roll cage. The original one served us well, although never actually put into action, but we decided we needed something a bit better for the new black car. With the offer of a good value second hand TR Lane cage coming our way Merlot Black finally got the extra protection it deserved.

11 March 2012

Project Merlot gets a dent!


“Stay on the grey and keep off the green” Maybe not an exact quote but pretty much in the spirit of what Colin from Javelin Trackdays told us in the briefing at Snetterton Circuit early on the morning of Sunday 11 March. Good advice of course, and for the most part in the five and a half years of Project Merlot, it has stayed mostly on the grey with only the occasional trip on to the green followed by a quick return to the grey.

This track day was however to prove the exception. On the sunniest day I think Snetterton can ever have experienced, during the morning session, barely 20 minutes of track time passed without the red flags coming out again, and to be honest the boys and girls of Team Merlot were getting a little tired of all the return trips to the pits each time. That was until just before mid day when the action was stopped by yet another red flag incident. When your car is out there on track and the red flags are flying its usually a tense few minutes whilst you await the cars return to view, the heart races, the mouth goes a bit dry, but as the car comes in to view around a corner in the distance you once again breathe a sigh of relief that the car, and more importantly the crew, are back safely. Well so it was on this occasion, but he heart kept racing, and the mouth was getting drier and drier, but no Merlot appeared!

Enquires were made of some of the returning cars to see if they had seen what had caused the red flag, but no one seemed to know, all we knew was an ambulance and the recovery truck had been sent out! After an agonising few minutes the news finally filtered through; Project Merlot was the cause of the red flag. At that point concern was only for the driver Becky, and passenger Paul.

Merlot Black then appeared, to much surprise, driven back to the pits by Paul, and the full details began to unfold. A misjudgement of the driving line on new corner Oggies had seen Becky take to the green, but unfortunately rather than swiftly getting back to the grey, an inconveniently placed tyre wall intervened, bringing them to an abrupt stop!

Whilst part of the team gave the car the once over the rest headed hot foot to the medical centre to check up on Becky. All was well, with us all worried about Becky and her far more worried about the car!

With a bit of gentle persuasion Robbie put his bodywork skills in to practice ( which I don't think he knew he had!) and in next to no time the car was pretty much fixed, and best of all we were back out on track soon after. If you fall off we all know the best thing to do is get straight back on and try again, and all credit to Becky she was back out on track that afternoon, although we did send her out with Jon, who in the circumstances gave her a few extra tips on exactly how to keep on the grey.

With new drivers Peter and Becky plus Carole (making a return after her exploits in the ladies session at Silverstone during the National Rally weekend), and a sunny Snetterton all day, plus of course the extra excitement of getting a dent, all in all it was another brilliant day out for Team Merlot and Merlot Black.

Thanks to Javelin Trackdays for their usual excellence and once again apologies for bringing the morning session to an early close!

Look what I did!

Robbie does some body work repairs.

And off we go again.