Skip to main content
MotorsportNewsNews Page

James Johnson First Season Review

By 07/10/2015March 4th, 2016No Comments

First season review

MGCC Cockshoot Cup

The chequered flag fell at Croft circuit on 28th September, marking the end of my first year in ‘proper’ motor racing. What a year it has been, I’ll try and summarise the experience in the following paragraphs.

Following the first race meeting of the year at Mallory, covered in an earlier report, the rain followed us to Donnington Park for a day of mostly appalling weather at the end of May. Again, this was a circuit I hadn’t driven before and the heavy rain made the infamous Craner Curves even more intimidating. With signing on and scrutiny completed, learning the track would need to be done during our 20minute qualifying session. It wasn’t possible to prepare for all eventualities and wet weather racing tyres are a reasonable investment, I therefore selected my intermediate tyres with the most tread depth and set off for the track! With 7 laps of practise/qualifying completed, 19th on a grid of 28th was pleasing given the odds! By mid-afternoon, the rain stopped and it was time for our race, the circuit was drying and grip levels were considerably different to the morning. As the race got underway, David Morrison in his class B MG Midget got a phenomenal start and would finish the race 2nd overall. My result was 18th overall, and 7th in class. We had seemed to have misjudged fuel as for the last 3 laps the car suffered fuel starvation during cornering. This lead to alarming power loss mid corner, causing ‘some lift off over steer’ moments. A lesson was learnt. Donnington is a brilliant circuit and I look forward to visiting again.

Next up was the MGCC’s premier event at Silverstone. This is a fabulous weekend of celebrating all aspects of the MG marque and racing on the Historic GP Circuit. Opportunities to race on the full circuit are rare, particularly only 2 weeks prior to the F1 circus was due to roll in. It was a ‘double header’ with a race on Saturday and on Sunday. I still didn’t have wet weather tyres; the chances of three consecutive wet race weekends should have been slim. I was wrong, it poured it down. Qualifying wasn’t too wet and I was enjoying myself on the big circuit. We, the Cockshoot Cup, were combined with the Peter Best MG Cup for the weekend. A bumper grid of 55 resulted, I was 17th fastest overall – I had out qualified some of the more powerful class C cars! As we headed out for our race at 4PM, the rain was extremely heavy. Visibility, in particular the lack of it, was the biggest challenge. There is a video on YouTube for you to see for yourself. Conditions were tricky and as we entered Parc Furme at the end of the race and chatted amongst ourselves, fellow racers couldn’t decide whether we’d enjoyed it or scared and drenched ourselves! I was happy to finish in one piece, 6th in class and 15th overall.  Race 2 was on Sunday and the rain was a welcome absentee. Qualifying for this race had also been done on Saturday morning. This race was a lot more enjoyable, although I span at Vale dropping myself behind my class competitors; it was fun dicing with the quick class A cars. Once again, I had ‘fuel starvation’ like symptoms during the last 3 laps despite running a decent level of fuel. This issue would raise it’s head once again…

The picturesque circuit of Trac Mon on Anglesey was next on the calendar for early August weekend. This meeting was run by BRSCC and we were an invited championship. In stark contrast to the full grids of MG Car Club race meetings, this was a very quiet event with very few competitors. However, our race had a good entry and so did the TVRs. Qualifying was mixed, the car felt a little down on power but we completed the session. Nothing seemed obviously wrong, so we topped up the fuel and did our usual checks. Race 1 got underway, around 2 laps in the car began losing power. After two more laps, things were not well and power reduced even more. With the engine struggling to reach 5,000RPM, retiring to the pit lane was the only safe thing to do. Perhaps running low on fuel previously had damaged the fuel pump and once the pump got hot, it stopped working effectively. My road car, also an MG ZR, was taken apart with the help of team principle & father in law, Martin. Fuel tanks were taken out of both cars and pumps swapped on Saturday afternoon. After all of our effort, we were deeply disappointed that the issue remained. Electrical sensors were swapped in vain and come Sunday morning, a reluctant withdrawal from race 2 was made. A DNF and DNS were not good for my championship hopes.

It is said that diagnosis of a problem is half way to fixing it. The RPM limit suggested an electrical or VVC issue. My ZR has the ‘160’ engine with variable valve control, it was probable that this was at fault. The cylinder head was duly stripped and inspected; with no fault found it was reassembled. Chris Flannigan also helped and we ruled out electrical issues. The fault was traced to the catalytic converter, the inners of which had broken up and effectively ‘bunged’ the exhaust! The car had a sports cat’ that had been on another race car. Once it was replaced, we were back to full power!

With a family wedding clashing with our race at Oulton Park, Croft circuit in North Yorkshire was the venue for the next and final rounds of the championship. Anglesey had been sunny but with mechanical issues another chance to run in the dry was very welcome. Race 1 was a little fragmented; the red flags stopped the race following a first corner accident. A very poor start put me on the back foot but I enjoyed a great battle with fellow ZR racer Helen Waddington. I got the car out of shape approaching Sunny In and would finish behind Helen. I opted to change tyres for race 2, running a less worn set. This would work well. I got a decent start and got much better pace on the newer tyres, lapping over 2 seconds faster around the 2.12 mile circuit. I found myself in a comfortable 3rd in class with a fair gap to the car behind. Sadly a car went off and red flags were  brought out once again, we were put back on the grid. Getting another good start was critical to keep position in the 5 lap dash to the finish. It went well and I picked up another position against a class A car. The chequered flag fell and a 3rd in class and 8th overall  finish was a great end to the year.

Our championship coordinator, Paul Goodman, now had the job of announcing our 2015 Cockshoot Cup Champion; a deserving Jeremy Toes who had driven a great season in his class A MG Midget. Other trophies were awarded for the weekend’s performances. The North West Centre of the MGCC has a popular Awards Evening Dinner in November, where trophies are awarded to the deserving winners.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first year in circuit racing. The MGCC racing family is great and I quickly felt like part of it. I owe a lot to my family and friends for their help in getting onto the circuit; we’ve learnt a lot this year. The car has performed well despite limited budget and running time. During winter ‘off season’, I hope to improve the cosmetics of the car by getting rid of the battle scares it picked up prior to my ownership.

Thank you for reading. I hope to see you at a circuit next season