Euro Finals Shootout 2021

With travel to the UK for most European competitors out of the question (although some incredibly determined racers did actually make it), the Euro Finals was downgraded to a national event, albeit with a good turnout of fuel cars and bikes. For us this meant running in the Funnybike class as usual, and not in Top Fuel bike as we usually do at European rounds.

After the unsettled year we have had we chose to run the Thursday test day immediately prior to the event to make sure everything, including the rider, was working as it should. The first test run gave a promising 1.08 to 60′ with a little tyre shake and 2.88 to 330′, but the front wheel bobbled then washed out on landing. We decided to try lowering the wheelie bars a little and adjusting the handlebars for the next run.

After a break for some rain we went to the start but the bike would not shift gear – wires to the gearchange button had broken off.

Around 4pm we tested again with a PB 60′ of 1.079, but I extra shifted from 3rd back to first gear (a software protection we had to prevent this has got lost along the way), which doesn’t do any damage to the engine but does ruin any chance of a decent run. Also the small turbo oil drain line came off, giving me shiny legs and making quite a mess. No damage was done but we retired for the day to clean up and take stock.

Friday was the first qualifying day for the event, but after the first session burnout the engine refused to idle. Back in the pits we adjusted the idle screw and all seemed well. After a good amount of rain the second qualifying session happened at 5.45pm. Again the engine tried to die after the burnout. Simon and Santa Pod chief starter Ian Marshall pulled the bike back to the start line while I tried to keep the throttle partially open but the bike was pointing heavily to the right. Setting off with a brisk 1.09 to 60′ we just about missed the right wall with a shutoff 7.6 to qualify 5th, but a small fire occurred in the shutdown area when the cam cover breather hose and some wires got close to the hot exhaust. On top of that, a sprung bolt used in the clutch pressure plate had snapped off, leaving Mick with an overnight repair job!

By Saturday morning Mick had fixed the clutch, but by then Fredy had found a loose injector while cleaning. Inspection revealed that an injector pocket welded into the inlet manifold had broken off inside, which almost certainly was the cause of the idling problem. Mick went back home again to fix the manifold, and Simon collected it from him later. The team then worked til 11pm to rebuild the manifold and surrounding parts, with no chance of any further qualifying runs. Thanks to Kermit who came to watch, but ended up getting his hands dirty! We couldn’t have got it all done without you.

Sunday then, we met #3 qualifier Dave Peters in round 1 of eliminations. Dave and his team had faced their own challenges over the weekend, piecing together one good engine out of three overnight and almost beating his PB in the process. Our burnout and staging procedure went fine, but 0.5 seconds into the run we lost all boost and Dave took the win.

We’ll be looking into the loss of boost, and the fuel fumes which have been getting worse all year, before the next event at the end of September, the National Finals.

Congratulations to Mark Smith for the event win and his first six second run. Now you know what arm-stretching turbo power feels like! Nice dance moves too!

Commiserations to Tony Clark and others who suffered engine damage after some great performances.

Thanks to our hard working team who all pulled together to get us to the eliminations; Mick H, Simon, Dave, Mik B, Fredy and Sarah, and to the Santa Pod crew who let us do what we do and keep us as safe as possible.

Lorcan.

Pics from Sarah White, Santa Pod, Pudgey’s Pics and Blackett Photography.

Green Light Nationals 2021

We were in optimistic mood heading for this event, but a test day immediately prior to the first day soon dampened our spirits. A test launch netted a very lazy 1.16 to 60′ and 3 seconds to 330′. The data log revealed low boost. After checking all the pipes, clamps, and the exhaust for leaks, Mike found that the wastegate housing had gone slightly out of round and wasn’t sealing properly. He took it home for machining that evening, but the next morning a quick test on anti-lag showed the problem persisted.

Further checks for leaks turned up a loose exhaust clamp in a rather inaccessible position. By the time this was fixed, we had missed the first round of qualifying, and subsequent rounds were rained off so we didn’t qualify at all!

With rain also forecast for eliminations day we hung around for a while hoping to make at least a demo pass but by lunchtime decided to pack up and go home. That’s drag racing (or not)!

Summernationals 2021

The Summernats is an event we always look forward to and occasionally do well at. This year brought challenges, but was not without its rewards.

We elected to run the RWYB Friday test day before the event, to test the new clutch spigot and make sure there were no other problems before Saturday qualifying. We anticipated putting in 3 test passes, weather was hot and sunny with a slight tailwind.

Test 1: Bike drifted left so backed off to 40% throttle at 330′ then a squirt of power before the finish. 1.13′ to 60′ and 7.04 @ 192.

Test 2: shutoff for no boost (programmer error) and we also had an oil leak from a pump fitting, both easily fixed.

Test 3: 1.10 to 60′ and 6.67 @ 210mph. We put in a little more clutch for this run, which improved the 60′, and a little more boost brought us close to our “normal” run pace, but after the finish line the bike turned scarily hard left (from the right lane) and almost hit the left wall with the bike flopping from right to left, damaging the ancillary drive pulley.

Investigation revealed that the front tyre had contacted the inner fairing, wearing a hole in it and causing the front wheel to lock up on the brakes. Over the winter we’d reduced the steering rake and now there wasn’t enough clearance for the suspension to move fully. Mick H tidied up the pulley Friday night and Saturday morning the team cut the centre of the fairing piece away. The two remaining outer pieces were then bonded to the rest of the fairing. We checked clearance by pulling the forks down with a ratchet strap. More on this later…

Saturday morning dawned hot and sunny and we elected to make a banker pass to make sure we qualified.

Q1: 1.11 to 60′, 4.36 at the eighth and 7.65 @ 123mph at the finish, shut off at 500′. Straight and easy, no dramas.

Q2: Match up with UK Funnybike record holder Stu Crane. Craney slightly ahead all the way until Lorcan went for 4th gear at the eighth (we only have 3 gears) which put the bike back into 1st gear. Unlike most bikes this doesn’t do any damage due to our planetary transmission, but it was a shame not to finish the run under power as it would have been close with Stu. Until fairly recently we had a software protection built in which ignores any attempted gearshifts after 3rd is selected, but somehow we’ve lost this along the way. 1.10 to 60′, 4.31 @ 165mph eighth and 7.22 at the stripe made us #2 qualifier.

Q3: with more boost and more clutch we saw our hardest launch yet, 1.085 to 60′ and our quickest 330′ ever, 2.78, with the bike carrying the front wheel through the first two gears but again heading left. On landing the front wheel tucked under, slid and the bike hit the wall side on. Lorcan kept the bike upright but banged his arm against the wall. There was no damage to the bike, but although a quick check at the Santa Pod medical centre showed nothing was broken Lorcan was unable to continue to eliminations the next day.

We’re still looking into what happened on this run but a photo by Sarah shows the front wheel locked up on landing from the wheelie, so we suspect it could have contacted the fairing edge with the handlebars turned and the forks compressed. For the next meeting we’ll be cutting the fairing edges back further, replacing the 3 year old rear tyre and also replacing the ancient and ineffective Kawasaki-style steering dampers that are fitted.

Needless to say we were disappointed with the end result, but encouraged by the short times which would have put the bike comfortably in the 6.4 second zone. Stu who went on to win with a string of 6.4s and 6.5s – maybe next time we’ll be able to make him work a bit harder for it.

Thanks go to our sponsors Owen Developments, Horsepower Factory UK and ARP Fasteners, to the many well wishers who visited our pit over the weekend, and of course to the Santa Pod medical team and track crew who looked after us so well.

Until next time, keep storming!

Festival of Power 2021

After the Springspeed Nationals in May we looked closely for the source of the misfire and found that the fuel pump was severely worn and unable to supply the pressure we run. With a good used spare in place we looked forward to putting in a decent performance at the three day Festival of Power meeting, postponed from its usual Easter date, but it was not to be.

A water leak from the ice tank, fuel leak, and an unintentional lane change in front of Jiri Lukes (sorry Jiri!) took care of three of our six qualifying chances. We missed one due to working on the bike, and pulled a red light when hot methanol fumes from the earlier fuel leak forced Lorcan to leave early. Which left us with one chance, at the final qualifying session of Saturday evening.

A decent burnout, wait for the green and get to the end of the track would see us in the eliminations, right? Wrong. On the launch a clutch component came loose (actually stripped the bolts holding it in place) depriving the clutch of CO2 pressure which holds the clutch pack together. Lorcan eventually limped the bike slowly over the finish line, but the Santa Pod timing gear had already timed out at 30 seconds and the run didn’t count.

It wasn’t all bad though, despite not making the eliminations. The red light run was something in the 6.7-6.9 range at 200+mph with turbo speeds encouragingly well under control and on only 45psi boost (compared to 60psi on our PB 6.56 run). Clutch slip was evident at the end of each gear too, due to the loose/leaking clutch component, so it would have been even quicker if everything had been functioning correctly.

Stu Crane was fast and consistent all weekend, a winning combination and a worthy winner! Congrats to Stu and Team Warpspeed! We know the Warpspeed team supported by Dan Wagner in the USA will be tough to beat in the Funnybike class this year, but we also know what we need to do for next time and look forward to it. Until then, keep storming!

Springspeed Nationals 2021

Over the winter and during lockdown Mick and Dave tackled many jobs on Storm including replacing a damaged sprag in the gearbox, making a new flat undertray for the fairing and also making a distinctive front mudguard to further improve the aerodynamics based on recommendations from our friends at UWTSD. New recruit Simon Campbell joined us as soon as virus restrictions allowed, and the bike paid a visit to Mark Harrison at Horsepower Factory UK to check a few things over. Finally ARP Bolts stepped up as sponsor for our fasteners for the new engine which Mick is building. Thanks to Nigel Atkinson from ARP UK for arranging this.

A test day quickly revealed that one of the sprags was in back to front (oops, hard to tell apparently) so our first proper outing of 2021 was the Springspeed Nationals, which usually takes place in April but had been postponed until May due to the obvious. Dale Leeks of Warpspeed Racing and Leeks Landscapes had put up £200 contingency to the funnybike class winner at the event in lieu of entering the meeting as his bike was not ready, so we were doubly enthusiastic to win and take his money!

A few days before the event, Race Engine Technology magazine published an article by renowned American Tuner Shane Tecklenburg about a 4 cylinder compound turbo, EFI, methanol drag car he had been tuning. In the article Shane describes how he had been struggling to control the turbo speeds on the dyno (sound familiar) until he realised that the low pressure wastegate should be linked not to the inlet manifold, but to the pipe exiting the low pressure turbo. According to Shane, this simple change made the compound system much easier to control, so Mick immediately copied it, as we had been struggling with this same issue for some time.

We opted to try the test day immediately prior to the event on Friday 21st May, but it rained and no runs were made. Saturday was forecast by the Met Office to be dry all day, but it wasn’t to be. Between the showers and with “educated guess” settings in the boost controller we did get one test launch. The Pod crew sprayed the start area of the track for us with traction compound and the bike launched surprisingly hard, close to our best ever 60′ according to our datalog and making 45psi boost at the hit. Unfortunately we received a red light and no time, possibly due to full staging before Stu Crane in the other lane (who went on to knock a whopping 3 tenths off his PB, congrats Stu!) had pre-staged.

Encouraged by the limited data gathered we elected to make no changes at all overnight, but due to yet more rain it was not until the following afternoon that we could try again. Releasing the anti-lag button for the burnout the bike engine coughed back, but seemed to be ok apart from a very low idle. On the launch though a misfire was immediately apparent, so the bike was nursed to a 7.9 quarter. Soon after it rained again and the meeting was brought to a close.

3 days of effort for one and a bit runs doesn’t sound like much, but you have to accept some rainy days to enjoy the sunshine. Mick and Dave are now looking at the cause of the engine cough ans subsequent misfire, but a leakdown and compression test showed no damage to the engine so we are looking forward to the Festival of Power Unlocked on 25th-27th June. If the new wastegate strategy works as well as we hope, it could be a game changer for us.

NOT the Euro finals 2020

With Covid-19 curtailing most of our on-track fun this year Santa Pod managed somehow to put together a mish-mash National/Euro weekend featuring Top Fuel cars, a historic vs. contemporary Funny Car showdown, an electric dragbike world record attempt and all the usual bike classes.

As far as the Storm team were concerned though, we’ve had better weekends.

A depleted team of Lorcan, Mick H and Fredy set up on Friday morning with Kermit and Sarah unable to make it due to work commitments and newbie Mik B quarantined like a rabid dog by his employer…

On start up the bike sucked one of the half-moon rubber cam cover bungs inwards, ejecting oil into the blow-off valve and from there down into the large turbo compressor housing. This caused us to miss the first qualifying session. With the bung replaced and the oil cleaned up, the bike was pushed out of the awning but felt like it had run over something. We didn’t realise the significance of the this at the time, but at the burnout the clutch had no drive. We later found that a loose airline had got mangled by the drive chain, ripping a fitting out of the pressure regulator.

Team Warpspeed pitted next door came to the rescue with a replacement fitting (thanks Stu!) so we reset for the next try. The next run we managed a burnout, but immediately shut off on the run as the CO2 hose to the clutch had also come loose, again resulting in no drive.

Meanwhile, Stu was having his own problems…

Stu Crane – Sarah pic.

Further inspection also showed a broken bolt on the alternator idler gear mount so the primary drive assembly was stripped down to replace the bolt.

We then noticed a crack around the weld around the clutch cover, so Mick took it away and welded it in the evening.

With Kermit and Sarah joining us for Saturday morning we tried again, running a 10.2 with spring pressure boost only. A switch under the seat, installed to allow programming of the AMS1000 boost controller, had inadvertently been switched off. We were qualified 4th, out of 4, at this point.

The next run launched ok, but the engine hit the turbo speed limiter at the end of 1st and 2nd gear, then the additional fuel rail supplying injectors 9-12 came loose at half track, spitting out an o-ring and spraying a fountain of methanol fuel out the right side of the bike. A time of 8.08 would be the best we would manage all weekend.

Pic from Ian Squeaky Giddings.

With the o-ring replaced and fuel rail secured by a jubilee clip from the Pod Shop, we faced #1 qualifier Mark “Smithy” Smith in round 1 of eliminations.

Pic from Fredy.

At the hit the clutch slipped, allowing the engine to rev to the moon and Smithy to get ahead, but he headed for the wall. The resulting crawl to the finish line by both bikes saw times in the 12s, with Mark crossing the line first to proceed into the final against Louis Davies.

Smithy – Sarah pic

Thanks to all the long suffering Storm team for all their efforts this weekend – we did try, but it was not to be this time. Congratulations to Louis Davies for the event win and a great riding job that did not go unnoticed! We’re finished with events this year but will run a test day soon.

Team Storm.

Green Light Nationals August 2020

The Green Light Nationals was our first race meeting since October 2018 and our first race without Barry Eastman.

Long time friend of Lorcan’s Mick Bisson stepped in to help with clutch duties and we set up our pit on Friday night in strong winds. As the M&W ignition box had failed at the test day in July we elected to run with inductive ignition instead of CDI.

Saturday morning the wind had not eased and was variously reported as a 20-35mph headwind with stronger gusts. There was no scrutineering and limited spectating due to virus restrictions.

We put in 3 runs of 8.4, 7.6 and 6.92 @ 195mph, with a couple of other starts aborted due to rider error. The last run did not count for qualifying due to a previous false start, which left us qualified as #2 with the 7.6 behind Stu Crane’s 7.1.

After the first run we found that some bolts had backed out of the clutch pressure plate and worn their heads away allowing the plate to warp. The two Micks worked on a solution throughout the day, including Mick H taking the plate home for skimming which he completed around midnight on Saturday.

Sunday morning the wind had eased somewhat, but the inlet cam broke on the first burnout, bending two inlet valves and putting us out of the running. The cam was about 30 years old, being one of Brian Johnson’s old ones.

Overall though we were happy with the bike’s progress as the turbo speed sensors are now working properly, their speeds are where we want them to be and we can dial them up each run until we reach our previous performance level.

We are out again at “Not the European Finals” 11th-13th September which in the absence of the Euro Finals is a national meeting, so we will be in the Funnybike class instead of Top Fuel.

Sarah White pic.

Sarah White pic.

Sarah White pic.

“Back on Track” test day 5th July 2020

A successful day’s testing for us yesterday at a very windy Santa Pod “Back on Track” day. After nearly 2 years away it was good to see the team again and some of our fellow competitors, blinking in the sunlight as we gradually emerge from virus lockdown, and to get our first runs under our belts since October 2018.

A number of small issues were corrected during the day with the help of Mark Harrison from Horsepower Factory UK.

First run was a launch and 2 seconds of power, the clutch pulled the bike through the beams for a red light and the turbo speeds were reading high.
Second run the bike pulled through the beams again, left hardish with a little hesitation, 1.18 to 60′ and shutoff at 2.5 seconds for a 3.05 at 330′. A hose had come off a wastegate causing a 50psi boost spike. The small turbo was saved by an rpm limiter we have installed to prevent it overspeeding. We fixed the hose and the turbo speed readings.

The third run was more controlled, another red light though, with a low (for us) 38psi launch and run shutoff at 1000′ for a 7.27 @ 171mph, which was a the quickest run of the weekend at that point. Stu Crane later pipped us with 7.24 190mph on his new turbo bike being tuned remotely by someone in America. Donald Trump maybe? Who knows. Anyway good work Stu!

We went to the startline one more time. It was completely empty but the bike would not start so we called it a day. We later found out that the M&W CDI ignition unit had switched the ignition off on the previous run when it failed due to a corrosive substance attacking the circuit board. Most likely this was the fire extinguisher fluid used on the bike in 2018.

Pics from Julian Hunt, Mike “The Crow” Kraaij and our Sarah.

Julian Hunt photo.

Mike Kraaij photo.

Sarah White photo.

Straightliners 2018

As we did in 2017, we attended this late in the year meeting to get some much-needed track time before the winter lay-off. Unfortunately though, we suffered an incident which did some damage to Storm and me (Lorcan). Both are repairable but will take a little time.

While tuning the turbo speeds a burst panel in the inlet manifold let go at around the eighth mile mark (165mph), sending flame under the seat and into the area that houses most of the wiring, the batteries, sensors and boost controller.

I don’t think I saw the fire immediately but as soon as I saw it on my right side I hit the brakes and scrubbed off as much speed as possible before the fire got too intense and I bailed out on the left side, hitting the ground at a speed we will find out later from the datalog.

My left shoulder blade is broken and there is a small burn on my right leg. My leathers were cut off by the ambulance crew and crash helmet will also be binned.

Storm continued upright after the bailout, clipping the wall on the right side. It has fire damage to the wiring loom and sensors, batteries and boost controller.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the Santa Pod medical team for looking after me so well and getting me to Bedford hospital so efficiently, to the Straightliners crew, the Storm team and especially Sarah for looking after me, running around with cars etc. to enable us to get home last night. You are all awesome! Thanks also to my boss, Chris, for his patience and understanding when it comes to his least risk-averse employee!

Here are some pics from Sarah and Kermit, and a little video. Time for a regroup and repair over the winter and we’ll be back stronger and faster next year.

Lorcan

National Finals 2018

Having secured the national championship at the Redline Rumble double-header event in August we went to the finals with hopes of improving our PBs and going some rounds, but it was not to be.

Rain all day on the Saturday meant a one-shot qualifier on the Sunday morning, but our ice tank leaked on the line, putting us out.

Congrats to Kars Van Den Belt on the Funnybike class win and for running an oh-so-close 7.005 in the semi-final! That little Blackbird will be in the 6s next time! Congrats too to Steve Woollatt on a PB 6.14.

Highlight of the event for us was seeing Storm on the cups in the Santa Pod bar!