Earlier this month, drivers Toby Owen and James Burling got to drive the team’s new MX-5 race car for the first time. The first shakedown run was at Donington Park, a well-known circuit that would provide a good test of all attributes of the car.

Report by Toby Owen

So, after laying all of the ground work for a tilt at the 2019 MX-5 Championship and acquiring an old race car, it was time to finally get behind the wheel!

James and I took turns in driving the car in the morning session, with the other one in the passenger seat watching and learning. We quickly came up against our first challenge of the day – getting into the race harness! What you don’t realise is that the harnesses are so tight, and therefore so close to your body, that when you’re wearing a race helmet you can’t actually see what you’re doing! So after an entertaining couple of minutes in which we both directed each other where to put our hands like a comedy games show, we were all set and ready to go.

Following a successful couple of acclimatisation runs in the morning, we decided to properly put the car through its paces in the afteroon. Unfortunately, it did not all go to plan. We noticed that the car was performing pretty poorly on acceleration versus similar cars. Then, after one of my runs, another MX-5 driver pointed out that the car was puffing out black smoke whenever we got on the throttle out of the corners. On further inspection in the pits, we found that the car had used more oil than we were expecting. It looked like the car was burning oil, and that’s never a good sign.

Since the day was nearly over, we decided to put James out for one final run in the car before taking it back to the workshop for a proper postmortem. A brief rain shower gave us the chance to confirm that the wipers didn’t work particularly well either, but James was at least able to put in some pretty decent lap times considering the ailing state of the car. Unfortunately, upon his return to the paddock, the water pump croaked its last and deposited radiator fliud all over the floor, which kind of summed up our day.

So, any further testing before Christmas has been put on hold whilst we source a new engine and water pump, and give the car a rigorous checking over before its next outing in January. We plan to replace pretty much everything that’s worth replacing, and start the season with a car in tip top condition. The positives we can take from the session are that the car’s chassis itself is in really good condition, so once we’ve given it a bit of TLC it should be a good car to go racing with.

Now, where did I leave that spanner?