Car Mats UK Race Car - Engine Change

It has been an eventful couple of months for the Honda Civic Type R. The trip down to Castle Combe over the weekend of the 12/13th August was definitely one to forget. The team had entered the Open Series race on the Saturday to get some track time and experience ahead of the Tin Tops race on the Sunday. Qualifying went badly as the session was red flagged after only 3 laps due to oil on the circuit and several cars spinning off on the oil. The race was scheduled for 6:00pm, so after a long wait, we formed up on the grid for the Open Series Race. A collision between a Caterham and a BMW M3 off the start line meant the race was red flagged before the first corner. As a result of the collision, the Honda Civic had passed over some debris on the circuit which would later spell the end of our weekend.

Sunday came and the car was ready to venture onto circuit once more for qualifying in the Tin Tops race. After a steady few laps behind a more experienced drive, Andrew pushed the Civic ever faster around the Wiltshire circuit to qualify in 5th place.

A few adjustments were made back in the paddock ready for the afternoons race. Come race time, the weather was bright and sunny and the cars formed up on the grid. After another great start, the Honda Civic settled into 4th place and Andrew was starting to close in on the leading cars. 7 laps in and pushing hard, disaster struck the team. Initially the car spun entering Tower corner, but with no apparent damage, re-joined the track and set off after the leaders. Then when entering Camp corner, the Honda started to slide again, but Andrew held it on the track. It was only now that a trail of smoke could be seen coming from the front wheel of the car. A few corners later and it was all over. Andrew pulled off the circuit to find oil all over the front of the car. This is the team’s first DNF (did not finish) in 6 seasons of racing!

The post mortem revealed that the debris hit the day before had caused the oil cooler to split which had then deposited oil all over the front brakes and the rear passenger side tyre, which caused the spin. The lack of oil in the engine also meant that the engine would have to come out of the car to be inspected for damage.

A week after Castle Combe and the team were deliberating whether to call it a day for this season or whether to fit a spare engine to the car and complete the last two races of the calendar. The decision was taken to fit the spare engine and see what it was like. The team now had 3 weeks to remove the old engine, recover the replacement from storage on a local farm and get it all rebuilt and ready to race.

The spare engine was from a road car that had 125,000 miles on it before being stripped for parts. Since then it had lived on a local farm in a hay shed! The engine was checked over and the timing chain guide was found to have broken up. During the checking of this, the timing chain was disturbed and jumped a couple of teeth. So, after rebuilding the engine and refitting into the car, when the starter button was pressed, a nasty clatter was heard and the engine shut down immediately.

Now with only 2 weeks before Donnington, the engine and gearbox were removed again and this time, the timing chain and tensioner were replaced and all 16 valves were adjusted. Now with only 1 week to go the engine was back in the car for a second time. It burst into life and sounded as sweet as the original result.

A trip to DG Automotive followed later that week so that suspension could be adjusted and the new oil cooler kit be fitted to the car. With everything checked and new brake pads and tyres on the car, the team was ready for Donnington with a day to spare.

With no expectations for the race, the team got to Donnington on the Friday night and set up. Saturday morning had dawned damp and there was to be intermittent rain all day. For qualifying, the team decided to go with a wet set up on the suspension and Andrew was instructed to take the first few laps steady as the engine hadn’t run for a while and the conditions were tricky. 4 laps later and the Honda Civic had posted 2nd fastest time and was on its way into the pits. Andrew instructed the team to firm up the suspension as the circuit was now dry. The engine was on song and Andrew wanted to push on. After a great session that saw the front running cars going quicker and quicker, Andrew and the Honda Civic qualified 7th. Not bad for a standard Honda engine!

The Tin Tops race was to second to last race of the day and started as the sun was setting over Donnington Park. A great start and a few cars sliding off on the damp track saw Andrew into 2nd place after lap one. The track, again, started to dry and the field started to close in on the Civic. Then it was time for the pit stop. Due to the very low sun, visibility on the Wheatcroft straight and in pit lane was virtually zero. As Andrew came into pit lane, the team was waiting, but Andrew couldn't see them because of the sun. At the last second, Andrew spotted the team, but slamming on the brakes and the car skidded to a halt. This was deemed unsafe by race officials and the team incurred a 30 second penalty. Andrew re-joined the race, but now with a 30 second penalty, the Honda slipped down the order. The rest of the race threw up a few more surprises, but Andrew bought the Honda home in a creditable 9th place overall.

Here is the race footage, which we hope you enjoy.

The next race is at Oulton Park on the 7th October.