Kane Astin

Kane Astin

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Stalking Shayne and secret Se7ens

Photos courtesy Mini 7 Racing Club, Matthew Barrington, Stephen Colbran and Roald Rakers.

Zandvoort.
Having missed the last round at Snetterton due to work commitments I was looking forward to getting back into the car and heading to an awesome track. Not only is the track technical and fast the organisers are so welcoming.


We had a cheeky test on Friday PM which went well and felt I could get on the front row. Pole was looking unlikely as that orange car again had the nitrous and turbo fitted and #Deegs(sic) in it.

Qualifying day came and I was slower than the test day and could not work out why, but we still manged 3rd on the grid. Zandvoort is one of the very few tracks where it is a staggered start so gaining off the start is always harder, however we know #Deegs has not been the best at starting so there was still hope!!


Race 1. 
Well having given Shayne grief about his starts I had the worst one of all and went to 4th place. By the time I made my way through #Deegs had gone so it was left to Rupert and I to contested for 2nd place and what a great race we had. I manged to overtake him into turn one around the outside and held the place and then started to bridge a gap until I seemed to come across the Se7ens in all the wrong places and Rupert then gained again, going into the last corner I made a slight mistake and so it was a sprint to the line and sadly I missed out on 2nd by 7-thousands of  second.  

Race 2. 
I made a better start and the aim was to try and beat Rupert into the first corner to then get on the back of Shayne, this failed and off went the orange #Deegs car, so it was down to Rupert and I again. Another great race and Rupert certainly was quicker in this race compared to Race 1 - must have had a set-up changed. We swapped places a few times then I broke with a few laps to go to take 2nd place. 

Reflection on the season:
For me it was about retaining my title, started out well then came across a few problems, DNFs along with work commitments meant there was no chance and to be honest #Deegs was far too superior this year - hats off to him and a true champion. We did get close to having a race but he crashed into me at Brands, what more can I say!

And the worst thing about it all is the Club Clown (Rob Howard) won and all we hear now is “who was the only other person to beat Shayne this season!!” like a broken record.

After not being in a Se7en since 2009 I was given the chance to race Joe Thompson’s at Brands due to Tomo not being well so I jumped at the chance. It certainly brought back some memories and we did well to come 10th from the back of the grid. It was decided after Brands we would have another outing in the car at Oulton, and how glad was I to do that and what a weekend in the Se7en, a 2nd  and a win. 


The Future - 2017
I am now the proud owner of 1965 FIA Historic Mini so will be competing in a number of events next year.

The Miglia will hopefully be out at the first meeting and we will see how it goes from there. I am not committing to a full season at this stage as I also want to concentrate on some triathlon events and have entered a qualifying round in May for a GB age group place.

I would also like to have another outing  in the Se7en, if the owner allows me.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ditching Deegan

Photo: Matt Barrington
Test day
Having not attended the last round at Donington Park for personal reasons I was looking forward to getting back in the car. Having had a number of engine issues the engine was rebuilt and after testing she felt strong and times were good so we were confident to lock out the front row. Which way round it would be only time would tell.

Qualifying day
Knowing that test day went well we put some good times in but just could not get Pole. We made a few changes during qualifying but just could not get close. In fact even if I had nitrous I'm still not sure we would have got to Shayne Deegan's time of a 53.9s!


 

Race day
So Shayne and I locked out the front rows for both races and I know in the past when I have been on the front row with him I have always ended up in front, 😂. Lights went out and low and behold I was in front. Both of us were side-by-side going into Druids and both waiting to out brake each other meant sadly that we both ended up in the gravel. My in-car video can be seen on YouTube. 


We both managed to get out but I ended up a lap behind. Enjoyed catching back up but then the engine started to get right so pulled off. We later found the crank was at fault which was very annoying considering it had just been rebuilt.

Race 2 we were unsure if i would get out as I had no spare engine for this weekend. Tomo decided on the Sunday morning that I could race his car but it meant I had to start at the back. Once again great fun to come through the field to finish 5th.


Photo: Matt Barrington
I was also offered to drive Tomo's son's brand new 7 on the Saturday which brought back some memories. Starting from the back of a field of 32 I ended up 10th. A very enjoyable race and a good start for his 7. 


Sunday, 22 May 2016

A bad start gets better....ish!

Photos: Matthew Barrington

Cadwell Park
May 14-15

Testing:
With my Lincolnshire upgrades we were hoping for a good session but sadly the results were disappointing as we were much slower than last year. After being in a grump at the end of the day it was time to put it behind me and hope qualifying went well.

 




Hot on the heels of Shayne Deegan.
Qualifying:
I have always been one to try and get out first especially at such a small track like Cadwell. Sadly that bloody Orange car got in front and then to my frustration the Club Clown (Rob Howard) decided to push in, clearly not well educated! 

Anyhow after leaving the assembly area it wasn’t too long before we blew away the clown and we set out to do out laps. Having seen Shane switch the nitrous on in the Orange car I knew it was going to be hard to get on pole but the front row was the key. My pit board was showing the right signs but then went to P3 so came in to make some small adjustment but despite going quicker still ended up 3rd but a lot quicker than the test day, so happy…….ish!

Race 1
Great start to get behind Shane then cocked up and sadly created the accident with Bill “sorry Bill” and ended up in the barrier, thankfully it was an airbag so managed to continue, finished 10th. Considering all what happened I will take the points. 

Race 2

Again a great start, Mr Sollis once again must have forgotten how to start in his old age!! After that a pretty boring race but I tried and tried to put pressure on the orange car but did not succeed in passing it, although Shane did have a moment at the mountain.

Combe here we come.


Shayne Deegan took 1st, Kane (left) in 2nd and Bill Sollis in 3rd (right)

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Pre-season testing @ Snetterton

PHOTO: Joshua Barrett
Snetterton 4 March 2015
After following the forecast, and a minute by minute forecast by Charlie Budd, it seemed we were going to have to have snow tyres for testing!! So it was to my delight that when I looked out of the window on the Friday morning it was blue sky, cold and a bit damp, but not a bit of snow or rain in sight.

My car had been away for the usual winter checks and the usual Winter upgrades (by Paul Thompson) so we were hoping for a good day's testing.

We headed out after about an hour on a set of wets but the racing line was far too dry so came straight back in for slicks as we didn’t want to damage the wets.


With the new compound tyre we were unsure of how it was going to be and sadly we were still on old rubber on the rear as there were no rear tyres to be brought, so it was not going to be real test with the new rubber all round.

Throughout the day we made a few changes to suspension but nothing drastic and despite being a bit slow early on we came away with zero problems and headed a good time of 2.15.119.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Crash, Bang, rolling....

PHOTOS ©MBRacePhotography



Brands Mini Festival June 27th & never quite made it to the 28th

The Mini Event of the year a race weekend totally dedicated to Minis!

Friday Testing
Testing seems a distant memory now especially after the events of the following Saturday. We had been testing earlier in the week at an open pit lane test rather than the 'allocated timeslot' Friday test as we needed to try a few things out. As I have said before, sometimes when the 'test' is sessioned it can be a tad detrimental to what you are trying to achieve as you try something out then, when your session is finished, it could be 45mins+ before you are back out again - so you run the risk of losing genuine back-to-back testing.
 

So the Friday test this time was just in the afternoon and no more than a shakedown - a few laps to make sure the car was OK, nothing loose, no rogue temperature and/or pressure readings. All was OK so the car was rested and wrapped up then off to the bar for a good night’s rest… erm bed I mean definitely not the bar :o)
 

Saturday Race Day
Qualifying, was dry and not a rain cloud in sight, so slicks were easily the order of the day! Nothing spectacular in qualifying other than to say that with Brands Hatch Indy being a short lap, half a second can be the difference between pole and sixth. I qualified 7/20 for Race 1 and 7/20 for Race 2, with the top 11 cars being within a second of each other - so you could say it was quite tight! I'm not too disappointed, but less than half a second would have put me on the front row.
 

Race 1
Oh where to start! I got off the line OK maintained 7th place then had probably my most enjoyable race so far this season, swapping places with Drew and Burge before I finally managed to pull away from Burge just enough to not have to drive defensively and be able to take the quick lines. Now I didn't have to worry about leaving doors open and could focus on putting myself in 4th place and looking at attacking or at least trying to pull the lead three back in. Then disaster - a tangle when lapping a backmarker resulted in the car visiting the barrier at Surtee’s then partaking in barrel-rolling - I think the count was three times!! 

The car was a complete mess and is a long and expensive winter re-build however much more importantly for my wife and children (well children at least) the cages in these Migs, when built properly, are superb and I came out of a rather terrifying accident with no more than a bruised ankle and broken wallet.
 

Sunday Race 2
Never quite made it, the picture may help explain why!
 


Donington 25th & 26th July
Friday Testing
Firstly a massive and I mean MASSIVE “BIG-UP” to Owens Fabrications for building me a completely new Miglia from a bare shell in 3 weeks…yes 3 WEEKS! A phenomenal effort, thankfully at the time they had nothing else to do apart from chase sheep around the field so working on a car made a nice change for them!
 

I will admit though, I was a tad tentative in the car for the first time since taking Clearways on my roof - and the fact it was raining did not really help! Still, time in the seat is invaluable so we plodded on and racked some laps up, mainly to make sure nothing fell off the car and I’m pleased to say it didn’t!!

Saturday Qualifying
At least it was dry. It took me a little while to get back in a race pace groove and qualified 9th and 12th for both races which, after running up the front end for the early start of the season, was a little disappointing.
 

Race 1
A lightning start managed to put me from 10th place to dead last (note to self: you’re not driving the automatic A6 Audi - you need to actually use the clutch!) and things didn’t really improve from that point on. I managed to get back up to 9th but the gap between 1st to 6th was 13 seconds further up the circuit with the battle for 7th to 10th covered by one second at the end! The positive was to be back in the car at a race pace dicing with others and not having any ill effects from the previous outing.

Sunday Race 2

Again, as Saturday the race was dry as we managed to sneak our race in just before the heavens opened - which makes a nice change normally we are stuck before being called to the holding area in a “shall we” / “shan’t we” dilemma about putting wets on!
 

Another trademark lightning start left me in last place but one, so next year I’m campaigning for rolling starts or we all have to use auto boxes!
 

This race invigorated my racing juices - a great race and long battle with a final placing of 8th. It may have been a place higher had I not had to take evasive action when turning into Roberts/Goddards/Essess (call it what you like it seems to have 3 names) only to find a car alongside completely out of control with no chance of stopping resulting in me taking to the gravel to avoid a T-Bone - but then on the flipside it may have also been a place lower had a certain different driver been successful in trying to put me into the pit lane grandstand!! Still nothing a post race chat and handshake didn’t sort out!
 

Anyway, with the car packed up and on its merry way across the Severn Bridge it allowed me to indulge in my favourite pastime on the way home…… KFC!!!!

Friday, 29 May 2015

First race - Snetterton



Snetterton May 9th & 10th

Having missed the first round at Coombe due to a family holiday I was suffering from race withdrawal symptoms especially after seeing how good the racing was at Combe. As far as I was concerned my turn couldn’t come quick enough!

Friday Testing
We arrived about 7.30 Friday morning with the car all ready and prepared by the formidable Owens Motorsport, so a quick trip to driver sign-on and noise testing was the order of the day before we could take to the circuit. The test day was split into classes, however, fortunately the time slots were 45mins, this gives you time to do a few good laps, come into the pits make changes and then go straight back out to see immediately if the changes have had the desired effect. Sometimes if the sessions are shorter i.e. 15-20min sessions you often find you don’t have time to test, come in, make changes and go back out again, you normally test come in make the changes and then have to wait for the next session (normally about an hour gap) by which time conditions may have changed so you don’t actually get a good instant “back-to-back” comparison.


Anyway back to the test, the first session was spent learning the circuit again as it’s been a few years since I was last at Snett and I think the last time it was wet (?). I always find testing a trade-off between going as fast as you can to seek the limits and iron out handling issues but without throwing it off and ruining the weekend before it’s started - especially as I tend to have a lead foot!! The second session was a bit more fruitful with the lap times starting to come down by analyzing the recorded data and by that I really mean asking someone who is a better driver than me what gears I should be using!! Thanks Dan xxx
A quick engine change over lunch to the race engine for a quick shakedown proved beneficial but for the wrong reasons in that we found a problem with the race engine that needed resolving. So the engine was duly removed and remedial works started upon with haste - not the best way to end the day but still better to be found in testing than ruin race day!


By the time we had finished the engine change the circuit restaurant was closed with only the bar open which has (in my opinion) a very limited menu and as I had my young son Matthew with me and my race engineer Lee Jones. We decided to leave the circuit found a local pub and had a great meal consisting of a mixed grill, burger and chips and a healthy salad based meal for me!! On a slightly sad note this was the last meal myself and Lee will enjoy as a couple, as shortly after he rolled up his sleeping bag left my motorhome without even a backward glance and went to live with Dave Drew in the JD Motors /Minisport sponsored Coachybago. Dave Drew, who has recently lost his suspension guru, offered Lee more living space at race weekends so Lee basically sold out, at the moment I still feel I bit raw about it, it was a bit like when Mclaren lost Newey to Redbull ………actually it was more like when Kerry Katona left Atomic Kitten no one really noticed!!



Copyright Mbphotography


Saturday Race Day
We were fortunate enough to be given a free practice slot before qualifying which is a great idea for those who cannot test on the Friday as it allows a quick shakedown before qualifying, however - you DO NOT want to throw it off in this session as there is little chance you will be able to fix before qualifying and I’m thankful to say I don’t think anyone did!

Qualifying was a nightmare, everyone on slicks as it was dry but cloudy as we all sat in the holding area waiting to go out, when hey presto “red flag”  comes out for the session on circuit the resulting delay of about 30mins cost all of us dearly as it started to rain! Had we been out on time then it would not have been a problem, however as we sat in the holding area I made the choice as it was only 'spitting' to stay on slicks give it a couple of laps and see how it went. Anyway it was clear as soon as I left the pit lane and saw the dirty great big black cloud over the top of the circuit I had made the wrong choice as the heavens opened! I gingerly made my way around looking for off line grip but unfortunately didn’t find any on the grass! As I come around the pits I saw my new No.2 teammate had dived in before me so I stayed out, next lap I come around to find No.4 temporary mate in the pits so I stayed out for another lap which apart from warming the brakes up and getting a general idea of conditions wasn’t very fruitful (although it was funny when Mr Drew drove off the circuit in front of me) anyway I eventually came in and found that No.3 team mate was in front of me so I jumped up and down had a paddy and made them change mine first (these boys needed a reminder of who number 1 driver is !!......well apparently it’s not me anymore !!) back out on wets managed a couple of laps and qualified 8th & 6th but all very close, a second covered about six drivers. In hindsight we made a cock up here as we just stuck wets on and went back out when we should of taken another couple minutes and changed to a wet set up on the dampers at least but hey-ho you're never too old to learn and if Mercedes can cock up and ruin Hamilton's Monaco GP and they are an outfit worth millions then what hope is there for the rest of us!!

Race 1 was at least dry, even though it had been wet/dry/wet/dry in the couple hours prior. I hate it when it is like that it needs to be either soaking wet or dry, anything a bit between is a logistic nightmare! Got a good start, think I made a place up and by the end of the second lap I was up to the front pack consisting of Astin, Smith and myself with regular place changes due to the slipstream effect of the two longish straights, we were soon joined by Deeth in his rocket ship and a four-way battle ensued with very little between us.


Unfortunately the race ended on a sour note for myself and Smith as a collision at turn 2 took us both out of the race for the lead and we both limped home to 3rd and 4th respectfully. So although I claimed a podium it didn’t really feel that good. We both have our opinions on the matter and the MSA CoC’s decided no further action was required, still I had a chat with Aaron and hopefully all is well as when you are cornering in these little cars at 100mph+ you want to have trust and respect amongst the other drivers. And on the plus side the engine repair worked!!!

Sunday 
Race 2 again a dry race. I got an OK start, didn’t gain but didn’t lose, the first couple of laps I was fighting with Drew and Wheeler which in hindsight didn’t do any of us any favours as we were so busy attacking and defending we allowed the front pack to ride off into the sunset! Still, once things had calmed down we started to reel them in little by little and got the gap down to about two seconds but it didn’t get any better than that and we came home 5th. Still, not a bad for our first meeting of the season - a 3rd & 5th, but more importantly the engine is getting there in terms of pace so with a few handling tricks up our sleeves hopefully we can push on at the next round.

Next Race at Rockingham on the 30th & 31st May come and say hello!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Winter Diary of Miglia Refresh


Well it’s been a few months since the last race of the season which for me has by far been my most enjoyable and successful season to date, somewhat banishing all the negative memories of bad luck over the previous couple seasons.

Normally after the final race of the season the Miglia sits in the trailer/garage for a good few weeks before I can find the enthusiasm to look at it again knowing “that's it” for a good few months until the season kicks off again normally around April time.

However, this year was slightly different in that a number of Mini 7 Racers have entered the Birkett 6 Hour Relay at Silverstone which has been running since about 1950! (I also think a few of the gentleman racers out there this year probably raced in that inaugural race as well !!)

So no opportunity for any 'down time', after Croft the car was straight back in the garage up on its axle stands with all the normal post/pre-race checks carried out, mainly consisting of checking for play in bearings, balljoints etc and a general nut and bolt check, the engine was removed and the 'spare' installed for the Birkett event as to me the is no point in risking depositing the main engine all over Copse Corner for a 'fun event'. 

Birkett 2014
Those of you associated with the Mini 7 club will be fully aware of the Birkett exploits as there is a write up in this year's Pitlane for those of you not yet members... better join then you can have a read! But suffice to say it was not very smooth from my perspective which included a trip into the gravel trap at Club! However, that’s not to take away from a genuinely great weekend.

Anyway back to the close season shenanigans, it never fails to amaze me just how quickly the season does come around again, and if you don’t start next season's preparation in plenty of time March very quickly turns up bites you on the bottom and you’re not ready for testing. So this year I was on the ball and ready to start the close season re-build nice and early... in that I loaded the car up and dumped it at Owens Fabrications over the Bridge for some Winter TLC. Dropping the car off at Endaf's is always an enjoyable experience for anyone interested in motorsport a visit to his workshop is a must. Engineering at its finest and always time to talk cars and gossip. And if you’re lucky a nice cup of Welsh coffee (not had any biscuits yet though so perhaps I’m not spending enough!).

The big bonus this year on the chassis development front is a few suspension tweaks that we don’t think have been tried yet. It’s extremely hard to find new developments on a car that will give you a slight edge when you are limited with regulations but also to a car that has been raced for 50 years there is not much that has not been tried every which way you can already, so fingers crossed for the first test in March we will then be able to find out if we have been chasing shadows.

The engine is as it has been for the last couple years and has been shipped off back to the Mecca for A-Series engines - Swiftune Engineering in Kent. There is an old saying you get what you pay for in life and sometimes the cheaper option ultimately turns out to be more expensive in the end which is why I have no qualms about using who I think is the best out there. OK so you may get it cheaper elsewhere but considering the abuse these engines get I have never had a catastrophic engine failure to date (fingers crossed that continues) so to me it’s money well spent and not only that I think Swiftune have a few tricks up their sleeves this year as Mini 7 reaches its 50th year of racing everyone wants their name at the front end!

So that’s it for the moment on the Winter progress, the car is due to be ready end February, a Brands test has been booked in March to test the suspension updates, then once the main engine is back around end March we are rocking and rolling for hopefully an even more successful season!