British Off-road Championship is a national event run over 10 rounds in 5
locations across the country. With many different types of vehicle competing they are spilt
into standard production, super production and specials – broadly speaking!
overall position is determined by the teams 7 best scores from the year’s
events. 7 must be completed in
total. There were around 30 entries
Freelander we race is a 1997 1.8 Petrol pre – production ‘R’ reg. Racing
in standard production means that you are allowed to do very little to the car. The ABS, traction control and hill descent are all
have had a bit of a play and have replaced the front with a 2004 bumper and
headlights (courtesy of Bearmach)
sunroof has been replaced with aluminium for safety.
have removed the standard mud guards and replaced with plastic.
have a battery cut-off on the passenger side wing – this will be changed to an
electronic system to comply with 2005 FIA regs.
inside of the car is stripped of rear seats – but must retain interior trim
items such as headline and dashboard / door cards.
We have been allowed to remove the carpet due to the fact that the car
lives outside and gets wet.
front seats are replaced with lightweight Corbeau racing bucket seats and 5
rear window is replaced with Perspex as we must have high level brake lights -
these are fixed into the Perspex.
is a full racing spec Safety Devices FIA Roll cage fitted, this includes bracing
along the door areas and strut bracing.
- provided a bespoke exhaust
system. This is utilising the
original down pipes as per rules, and the cat is of the same dimensions – but
is a racing cat.
exhaust also has 2 small boxes – as it must remain as the original number –
but these are small and the whole system is bolted securely and protected by the
belly protection and exhaust guard.
benefit of this – the marshals say they can now hear us coming – previously
we had the p$ss taken as they reckoned we were driving an electric car it was so
great deal of investigation 12 months ago brought to light the fact that no-one
makes an uprated suspension for Freelanders.
Since then Monroe and Old Man Emu have brought systems out, however
neither of these are adjustable or strong enough for our racing needs –
although they could be raced on.
spoke to Ohlins and also to M-Sport – the company responsible for the
development of the LR racing Freelander. Ohlins
wanted serious money for the development of a racing strut – however M-sport
pointed out that the Freelander McPherson strut mirrored the ford focus strut.
They were using Reiger, and had a reconditioned set we could buy.
Knowing the Mitsubishi team used Reiger and spoke highly of them – we
decided this was the way to go, despite the cost being almost as much as we paid
for the car!!
visit to the Autosport show in January 2004 introduced us to PTP (recommended by
scrutineer Robbo). They are part of
the Trinity group and were hugely helpful.
We were very restricted to what we could reasonably do.
The regs state that the valves must remain standard, as with pistons and
porting of the head is not permitted. The
throttle body must not be enlarged. After
discussions with Robbo and PTP, we went for a 140 head kit – as this was all
that we could do. An ITG air
filter has also been fitted.
we run on the rev limiter at 7500 revs, there is an odd pattern to the power and
it livens up at around 6000revs. In
an ideal word we would drop the gearing much of the time we are running in 1st
/ 2nd and could do with more gears.
run factory standard 5 spoke 16” alloys (we are always looking for more if you
find any cheap ones : )
had to put 25mm spacers on to allow for the suspension.
control tyre is in place, a Goodyear MTR. We
run 225/ 75 / 16.
have replaced with an OMP steering wheel and a Honda civic hub
Peltor which is great as we don’t have to shout too much at each other!
been uprated to Polybush red – this has considerably firmed up the ride to
match the suspension and they have done well over the season with no problems.
belly guard was fabricated for us by a friend - Mark McFarlane using the
original Safety Devices framework, we started with 6mm aluminium
but uprated this to 10mm high
grade aluminium as we put a socking great bend in it!
Round 1 + 2 Radnor
Forest – Wales
fantastic fast site with horrendous pits! This
site is used for the WRC rally GB and is characterised by its firebreaks and
scary drop offs. Being the first
round we weren’t sure what to expect but everyone told us how fast it was. We arrived on the Friday – to find that the pits consisted
of parking at the side of the gravel track – not ideal in a camper with
trailer! As it was raining
constantly the mud was also deep and unforgiving!
walked part of the course, the first hundred metres were fine – then a cut up
through the forest looked rough and dark – you couldn’t see much at all and
while racing it rutted out really fast so we spent most of our 16 laps over the
weekend, plonking the freebie into the ruts and relying on the belly guard to
get us through!
gravel straights were interspersed with the firebreaks which dropped you off
down into the next gravel section – one of which you decelerated from about
90mph to 0 and dropped about 10 ft straight down a hill with a huge washout on
one side (definitely a scary one for the co-drivers!) Helpfully the organisers
decided to put a jump in over night, for the TV cameras!
Closely resembling a ski-jump it caught a few out despite the pre-start
quite a few vehicles having close encounters with trees, a couple of rolls and
an engine fire – we thought we did quite well – only blowing the seals in
the steering rack and losing the water bottle cap.
Due to the fact that the course was so slippy we also had to wait for the
brakes to stop glowing between laps.
times improved over the weekend as we got used to the new suspension and engine
tweaks- and got braver on the straights! With
12th overall we were pleased with the result.
Round 3+4 Ellesmere
rounds are held near the Camel Trophy museum in Shropshire – so it was good to
catch up Mike Robson while we were there!
course was to be quite punishing with open grassland, woodland tracks, and an
adapted motocross track to contend with. The
grass was slippy, the woods rough and the motocross track awful for us!
Basically a washboard track which was a couple of foot deep with soft
kind of mulch material – yump after yump after yump. Great if you have the power and long suspension travel to go
over it – which looks very good in the footage we have seen of the buggies –
not ideal for the production class cars.
went ok with little trouble and OK times. We
replaced the left hand ball joint at the end of the day as that went – but
generally it was going quite well….. Famous last words.
We were luckier than some as the Bartlett’s Mitsubishi Pajero had an
altercation with a big oak tree – 1st lap – and looked a bit
banana shaped and not quite as watertight after that!
Not ideal when your auto box is cooled through your radiator.
They did soldier on though using a ridiculous amount of ATF and water,
only giving up after hitting another tree – they came to the next event in a
Bowler, having scrapped the car!!
lap Sunday morning –and the wash board had been re-raked.
Vic said – your driving well today – and then about 2 seconds later,
we broke it……we managed to finish the lap with the gear stick just poking
out the hole – and flapping around, super.
had snapped the IRD unit housing clean in half and when we stuck it on the ramps
of the trailer, we were able to pull the little bits of gear out.
Hmmm – so the decision was made after a quick consult with the guys
from Trinity (who were wonderful all season) to just go out without it attached
and see what would happen. It would
have been fine if there wasn’t a bit of a steep hill with really sticky clay
coming out of the woods – not ideal without front wheel drive – so a quick
trip back to the pits by the quickest method – a rope – was in order.
couple of interesting moments by other competitors – one managed to roll, in
the middle of a perfectly flat field on a straight – in front of a cameraman
– who was looking the other way. Ryan Cooke in his gorgeous 100” TMC Land Rover Special
ended up doing a spectacular roll whilst being urged by his co-driver to push it
a bit harder. After a quick
re-build (mostly using a sledgehammer) and the removal of the windscreen Robbo
the scrutineer let them back out – in record time.
Second event – second roll for Ryan who was to end up 3rd in
the championship, and win the Driffield stage with some cracking driving.
20th overall position was disappointing – but not a huge surprise!
(And not last!)
Round 5+6 Forest
was the Scottish leg of the championship. As
we drove in the darkness having done an overnight run up from Southampton we
thought we would never get there as we went further and further into the
mountains! We just parked up and
passed out when we got there at 4am.
beautiful view of the Scottish countryside greeted us in the morning, much to
the delight of the dogs who were off investigating as soon as we got up.
Caroline and Steve were on their way so we set about looking for a good
spot that wasn’t subject to the gale force winds!
Having gotten settled the boys set off to walk the course.
Again quite a fast track but really slippy and with no allowance if you
ventured off piste. A few
chicanes were in place to keep the speed down a bit and there was quite a lot of
heavy ruts. This was most
noticeable towards the end and the Clerk of the Course Selwyn Kendrick was
keeping a fairly close eye on how the Freelander was getting on in this part –
as we had the least power / ground
clearance etc. We actually did ok
– as Tim Oliver and Bill Murray will vouch.
But on our last lap we warned that it was becoming quite dangerous as it
was throwing the vehicle all over the place and you had really little control
but had to nail it to get through. The
next 3 vehicles either rolled or got stuck (Ok we were quite smug about that and
did make sure they knew a Freelander had gone through before them : )
this reason they took the last part of the course away on Sunday as it was
dangerous. Our friend Steve also
managed a pirouette and roll on the Saturday – but we got him on his way again
with a bit of gaffer tape and a hammer (funny how it’s always a hammer!)
night was great fun with an impromptu birthday party for Vic – and a few
beers! This was after the drivers
briefing in the morning where Caroline had organised a cake – and everyone
sang happy birthday – much to her HUGE embarrassment!
first lap was going well, until a comment from the co-driver – 10 metres
before the finish line – and beside a big water splash – those immortal
words “Give it some” resulted in a broken engine mount (Juls also blamed
this entirely on Vic)
– what should we do, we certainly didn’t want to lose another round.
So, three rackets straps and a breaker bar later – suspending the
engine from the front valance to the strut brace – we were off!
Some horrific clunking and a bit of a concern as to just how damage we
were doing –we still managed some decent times and a finish.
was quite pleasing with a dodgy engine mount, the 4.6 90 we like to compete
against was 19th, with some other quality vehicles.
Round 7+8 Eridge
Park, Tunbridge Wells
local event, traditionally a fast track, we were looking to put in a serious
result as Julian won the clubman section in 2003.
were also being filmed for Meridian TV so were quite keen not to break it!
Hunters Land Rover in Southampton (cheers Bob) had been kind enough to
check over the truck fully for us prior to this event – and had replaced the
broken engine mount. Great – we
thought – that should last as the last one did a whole season.
However we were to have another frustrating weekend.
Saturdays lap times were getting quicker and a bit of tuition from the
Mitsubishi co-driver, Chris Eade, had Jules taking 45 seconds off his time
(clearly his normal co-driver is rubbish…)
was a superb course, there were long hill climbs where the freebie was
struggling a wee bit, but the downhill sections were flat out with serious
sideways bits round the corners. The
bumps we were getting better at and hitting hard as she seems to like it, the
faster we go the smoother it gets.
“unbreakable” shock broke Saturday morning second lap – great – however
– Trinity to the rescue and it was welded back together within an inch of its
life!! Using a 7 ½ ton
trolley jack and a 7 ½ tonne lorry
to push it back into shape J
we went again and it was going great ….. We were flying….. Until Sunday
first lap…when the engine mount went again.
Some swearing and shouting later, and the engine was strapped back into
place – having tried various things to no avail.
It has now been web welded as we are not allowed to change the position
or number of mounts and it is definitely a weak spot, it actually broke
differently this time – much to our disappointment.
Again we struggled a finish in round 8 – having finished well up the
order in round 7. But everyone had
a difficult weekend and we were not alone in our problems – finishing 11th
overall, many did not finish at all.
Round 9+10 Driffield
worried were we about this! At Tunbridge all everyone said was…. It’s a car
killer…. You’ll have to rebuild it afterwards – still – what the hey –
it’s the last round!!!! Prior to
the event we jacked her up all round – 30mm.
The suspension was also set soft. The
landscape at Driffield has been described as Lunar – a tank training ground it
was deceptive – it looked great in places – for those in the know – think
Sidbury at its very worst : )
we took it fairly easy needing a finish for points.
The most entertaining part being the flying!
We took off so many times, and a couple of the big hills were soooo scary
as you couldn’t see the other side at all, leaving the top going fast and then
landing 2/3rds of the way down – hoping that you wouldn’t hit the ruts or
the side of the track! Colin in the
Mitsubishi took a nose dive early on and removed his bumper and rad grill – no
matter, we saw the bumper by a big puddle / hole and he stole the grill off his
tow vehicle, well when needs must!
were ok – laughing a lot when Steve came in looking white as a sheet – his
co-driver leapt out of the car going WOW that was brilliant…. As it happens
Steve took off over a big hump – the size of a house – a touch too fast –
and landed at the bottom, about 30 foot away from where he took off!
“I thought I was going to die…” said Steve, “I think I’ve had a
heart attack” - “Check his
pants” came the good natured response!
we decided to thrash our little Freebie to see what we could learn – and it
goes well! It’s much stronger
than we ever thought. Have a look
at the caution over crest website for some good pics of Driffield – they do
give a good impression of its capability.
took minute after minute off our times – 14:32 our best time on Saturday,
Sunday started with a 14:03 and ended with a 12:25.
To put that into perspective – the Bowler Wildcat only beat is over the
weekend by 3 minutes. The 4.6 90 – never made it into the 12 minute zone.
We were hugely surprised, as was the TMC co-driver who jumped in for a
season finish of 11th overall was great – and we learnt an awful
lot on the way.
camaraderie is definitely such a big part of the racing, Colin Read (Mitsubishi)
Tony Walmsley (90), Steve and ourselves generally ended up camping together and
supplying each other with wine and beer (and chocolate) over these long
weekends. It’s always a bit of a
shame when the season comes to an end as you really do miss everyone!
what are we going to do next year? Enjoy
it first and foremost – secondly carry a spare IRD (Vic will shout if I
don’t), and thirdly push it a bit harder.
We would love to get into the top 6, as we think the Freelander is more
If anyone else out there fancies converting their vehicle – give us a call, we are always happy to help!
Here is the freelander racing this season with Vicky at the helm
And at Drifeild
Extras added to the Freelander
In this months in Lrm there are more pictures and details on the freelander
Cover pic Part of the article
And a special thanks to our sponsors
Hunter Land Rover (Southampton)
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