With the start of the 2019 season fast approaching, our car prep partners have been hard at work updating the race car and installing new components. It’s nearly 3 months since the car last hit the track at Donington and came back sporting a bag of broken bits and an under-powered engine. Our pre-season testing schedule gets underway this weekend with a return to the scene of the crime, and the last week has witnessed some frantic work to get everything ready in time.

Top of the list was a new race engine. In the BRSCC MX-5 Championship, you’re allowed to run up to 105 bhp at the axle, which translates to approximately 140 bhp at the flywheel. The standard road-going engine produces 110 at the flywheel (and that’s when it’s new), so you can’t just pick up a decent road-going engine and stick it in the car. We started with a standard engine, then had it sent to our friends in Doncaster to give it a few more horses and a few other upgrades in terms of power delivery. Getting the engine in the car was a big step, but it wasn’t the last.

The headlights, sidelights and wiring all came out to shave a bit of weight out of the front of the car (not the rear brake lights though – these are very definitely required!). The wipers that didn’t work properly at our last track day were replaced, and a new radiator was fitted to help cool the engine now that it had all that extra power. Next up was the suspension, and we hit our first major snag.

Here’s a tip for any racing driver making their debut. If you’re building a car yourself, make sure you are red hot on the specification of the parts you need. I wasn’t on this occasion, and it nearly cost us. Did you know that the rear springs in an MX-5 are 7″ and the fronts are 8″? No, neither did I… until I got a call from the garage saying that the rear suspension couldn’t be installed because I’d picked up 4 lots of 8″ springs and they didn’t fit at the back. Cue panic! There are two important lessons to be learnt here: 1 – Make sure you check the specification down the finest detail; and 2 – Give yourself plenty of time to prep a car. Leaving work until the week before you’re due out on track doesn’t leave much flexibility if issues arise.

The bottom line is that we were able to get the car ready for its outing at the weekend, but the work isn’t over yet. Before the season gets underway there will be a new driver’s seat and harness going in, our championship tyres and transponder to be fitted, and the car will have a new set of clothes when our decals go on. And between now and then, I’ll be going over the regulations and specification with a fine-tooth comb to stave off any last-minute problems in the future.