Fourteen Hours, Fourteen Records <""

F ourteen Hours, Fourteen Records.

The idea came from Williams or, more specifically, from Peter Collins, the Williams Grand Prix team manager, and from Sheridan Thynne, a Williams stalwart and former saloon car racer who today works as Williams sponsorship co-ordinator. The F1 team already have close links with the Austin-Rover Group, Leyland Vehicles sponsored the Williams Grand Prix team in 1981, and since then the Williams cars have carried BL indentification. What car in the BL range best lent itself to a British speed record attempt?
Obviously there was neither the time nor the money to try anything lavish; Collins, Thynne and the personnel they would use are no less busy in winter than they are in the midst of a Grond Prix season. The only difference was time. In the UK for strectches longer than a week, or ten days. In winter, too, the weather would be more interesting.

The car chosen was the Rover 2400SD Turbo Diesel, a model sold in comparatively small numbers in Britain and thus in need of a filip. The venue was a straight choice between the MIRA test track - where Autotests are carried out - and a closed racing circuit, like Snetterton, in Norfolk. Much higher average speeds would be attained on the banking at MIRA - but then the existing reconrds had been set at Snetterton. If we chose the latter, straightforward comparisons would mean more. In addition, the Rover would be subjected to a much greater test, in terms of tyre, brake, gearbox and engine wear. The long - old - circuit at Snetterton comprises over two miles of straight, a hairpin and six medium- to high-speed corners. Compared with that, MIRA is tedious in the extreme.

So Snetterton it was. The date was fixed for early December - the night of the Grovewood Award presentations, as it turned out. The attempt was to last for 24 hours, would be recorded by a squad of official RAC timekeepers and would involve six drivers. Peter Collins, who in his younger days represented Autstralia in the Hong Kong kart Grand Prix, would head the line-up. Then there was Sheridan Thynne, complete with his ols Les Leston helmet and string-backed gloves; John Aley, of rollover bar frame; Charlie Chrichton-Stuart, another Williams employee and a good enough F3 racer in the 1960s to have finished third at Monaco; Charlie Moody, the team's chief mechanic; and Windsor. I was there mainly as a journalist, partly as Metro racer.

Making Plans.

Aley's involvement wa in many ways the keu to the exercise. Another saloon car driver drom the 1960s, Aley had since been involved in a host of successful record attemps; indeed, the records we set out to break in the Rover had beeb established by Aley, Desire Wilson and John Cole in a Ford Granada Diesel in 1978. He was thus perfectly placed to ensure that our attempt ran as smoothly as possible. Together with Collins, he beganin early November to organize the time-keeping and to caculate exactly the lap rimes and the number of laps we would require to break up to 19 British records. On top of that, there were contingency plans to make: what would happen if we lost time due to mechanical failure? How much fuel would be needed according to the various speeds required?

The car came straight from ARG in absolutely standard trim; nothing at all was done to the engine or the suspension and it was decided that little would be done to the interior, either. There would be no roll cage, and we would use the standard seats and seat belts. We were intending to break records, not the car.

But still there was much preparation to be done . We would be using 175 SR 14 Goodyear Grand Prix S tyres; these had to be shod to three sets of trim. The rules of record-breaking strictly control the repairs which may be made. If the car stops away from the pits, no outside assistance is allowed. Thus a huge number of spares had to be carried on board the Rover - from fuel churns to throttle cables to new oil pumps; about he only thing we didn'tneed, it seamed , were spark plugs!

Collins set about the management in a way that said much about the current success of the Williams team. Each of the drivers was allocated a number; among other things, this wouls tally with a pre-set range of cockpit seat positions, thus easing changeovers during pits stops. Each of the F1-trained mechanics was given responsiblility for a certain part of the car; Charlie Moody would check tyre and brake wear and would wupervise wheel changes. John Cadd would check engine oil levels, general engine condition and would also work on wheel changes. Malcolm Swetnam, an ARG engineer who this year plans to go Metro racing, would replenish things like wiper-washer bottles and would see to the engine's overall welfare. Ken "Biggles"Sagar would provide the motorhome that he recently bought from TAG and would be in charge of re-fuelling and of keeping the fueal usage records. Tim Hargreaves, whose wife Maureen, would do the catering, would clean the windscreen, lights and mirrors during the stops, and would also replenish the driver's drink bottle. Yes, the driver would have a drink bottle at his disposal - and a two way radio.

The attempt was set for 5-6 December, beginning at 4.00 pm. The car had been tested at Snetterton the previous week, and quickly it was established that the records were easily attainable. Laps under 2 min. 24s. were required; the Rover could be driven comfortably in the 2 min. 21s. and bellow that if necessary. Not only was it more accelerative than the Granada; it also had a better top speed (104 mph in fifth, compared with the Ford's 90 mph) and, to our minds, seemed to handle remarkable well. Understeer was there if hoy looked for it, but the Rover could easily be thrown into oversteer, thus saving the brakes and doing much for the lap time.

The schedule was geared aroung the Grovewood Award presentations. Chrichton-Stuart and I put in a couple of practice alps early on Monday before driving back to London for te evening activities. In the meantime, Collins, Thynne, Alley and Moody would begin the record attempt, trying straight off to break the 500-mile and six-hour records from a standing start.

Black Ice.

It was 1.30 am when the two of us returned to Snetterton. Darkness wasn't the word. Cold, fog- and silence. We tip-toed up to the garages, fearing the wordt. Inside, the Rover was still hot. "We've had to stop", said a subdued Collins. "Black ice". Would you believe it. They've had mild weather up here for a month - and tonight has to be the night they get frost. It's impossible out there. Apart from running the risk of going off, none of us can lap any quicker than 2 min 30s. There'sno point it going on. The plan is to sit out the night and go for a new bucch of records tomorrow. Johan Alely's gone home to Bury and the boys are upstairs asleep. The good news is that we've already got six records, and if everything goes okay tomorrow we can still break another six or seven".

The new starting time was agreed to be 10.00 am, with Collins again beginning the driving. Chrichton_stuart had been scheduled to drive from 7.00 - 10.00 am, followef by me until 1.00 pm. Now all that was changed and Chrichton-Stuart, cursing his luck, decided that he would have to return home. He had an afernoon appointment, Rover or not.

At 7.00 am there seemed to be a perceptible change in the night: by 8.00 am the suspicion was confirmed. Snetterton was beginning another day. Excited, I took the editorial Audi Quattro round for a few laps. The circuit was to follow your tracks. My confidence grew, helped by the superb traction of the Audi - and then deflated a little, squeezed by a spin at the quick right-hander, after the pits. I returned to base, where Maureen - who is used to cooking at all the European Grands Prix - had prepared porridge, egg, bacon and sausages. The record attempt was strugging back to life.

Morning Start.

It began again at 10.40 am, with Peter Collins taking a standing start from a bemused RAC official with a British flag. And round the Rover went, with Collins lapping consistently in the 2 min 15s and occasionally in the 14s. Local television and radio teams passed by, interviewing Collins at opportune moment during the lap: "How is it going so far, Peter?"
"Very well. Track's drying out all the time. We've list some time due to black ice, so now we're going as hard as we can within reason. We're not revving over 4.000 rpm in any gear, but we're pushing it through the corners. So far the car hasn't missed a beat."

Shortly before 1 o clock, however, the Rover coasted to a halt. Collins whipped round to the front, opened the bonnet - and found what he had suspected: a broken throttle cable. He made a makeshift repair, drove gingerly back to the pits and set the mechanics at work. At worst, five minutes would be lost.
¤t was my own fault, really", explained Collins. I was using the throttle pedal as a sort of foot rest going into the hairpin. I was sliding all over the place and then trying to edge back into position again with my foot on the throttle. From now on we're going to have to wedge ourselves in position".

Collins'record-breaking run ended at 2.30 pm, at which point he handed over to me. New tyres and new brake pads were fitted and enough fuel was added to keep me running non-stop until 5.00 pm. The car felt little different from the day before, although the brakes seemed to vibrate more than I had expected. I radioed back to base:
"The car feels fine, but there seems to be quite a lot of brake vibration. Was it like that for Peter?" John Aley's voice barked back. Yes, Peter confirms that they were vibrating when he was driving. You should have bedded in the pads by now - but take it easy nonetheless. If you keep the same lap times you will be comfortably inside the margins we require."
I was lapping in the 16s and 17s. The light was worsening and at Coram, the Quick right-hander, patches of ice were already building up on the outside. So I tried to settle into a rhythm. My lap times were being read out to me shortly after I left the first corner, so I could experiment with lines, with different approaches, and know instantly if I was making improvements. Whenever I spoke through the radio my lap times seemed to rise slightly - and soon I realized that I had been lifting my right foot while talking. Not by much - but by enough to make one or two tenths'difference to the lap time.

My memory of the stint is of Aley's soothing messages - "Thatls good, Peter, just keep driving like this and we will be just where we want to be"; "Don't try anything silly, now, there's not much longer to go and the conditions are getting worse"- and of time quickly passing. Never have two and a half hours been so effectively compressed into what seemde to be ten minutes or so. Those who watched the Rover in my hands no doubt felt very differently; for my part, I enjoyed every second of it.

Never more so, to be sure, than when I returned to the pits to find Rim Hargreaves with champagne at the ready. We had lost ten hours due to ice on the track, yet still we had managed to break fourteen records in fourteen hours. By the end, we had also taken new marks for 50 km, 10 km, 5 km, 5 miles and 10 miles from standing starts. I's heard plenty of people savouring victory in the past, talking of the team effort and so forth, but for the first time in my life I was beginning to understand what actually they had been going on about. Our record run was successful purely because of the organization and preparation behind it. It was a privilege to turn up at Snetterton merely to drive the car and to watch that organization at first hand.
Afterwards, after the champagne and sausage rolls, we drove back to London, me in the Quattro, the boys in the car we had just used for the record-breaking. So here, too, was a reason behind the results: the Rover Diesel Turbo had been strong enough yet quick enough to set new standards.

All credit to it and to the components it used.

(Autocar, 14 January 1984)

The Rover 2400 SD

The Rover SD2400 Diesl Turbo completed 341 laps of the 2.7 mile Snetterton circuit - 920.7 miles.
It consumed 63 gallons of diesel fuel for an average of 14.0 mpg, used ten Goodyear Grand Prix S tyres and two sets of brake pads.

    The following spares were kept on board the car during its run:
  • 1 pair headlights
  • 1 damper (front)
  • 1 damper (rear)
  • 1 laternator
  • 1 pair brake calipers
  • 2 sets brake pads
  • 1 emergency windscreen
  • 1 pair windscreen wiper blades
  • 1 gallon diesel fuel
  • 1 set alternator/fan belts
  • 1 pair front brake discs
  • 2 water hoses
  • 40 assorted Jubilee clips
  • 9 fuses
  • 1 roll lock-wire
  • 2 rolls tank tape
  • 1 box assorted nuts and bolts
  • 40 assorted tie wraps
  • 1 tyre repair bottle (inflatable)

the car also had to be painted and dressed up in the colours of our major sponsors, TAG. Techniques d┴vant Garde ´nvest in the future"through such ventures as the Williams Grand Prix team, the Porsche Formula 1 engine and the Canadian Challenger jet; sposoring the Rover Diesel record attempt was a logical extension of that programme. Partivularly as it involved friends from Williams.

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