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LUNAR RACING

Lunar

The

experiment

The start of the season is finally here for the student

mechanics of Lunar Racing. We follow the build-up

to the all important first race at Donington Park.

Words: Adam Sloman Pictures: Simon Goldsworthy

itting alone on the windswept

S

tarmac of Bruntingthorpe proving

grounds, the Lunar Racing MG ZS

cars cut an impressive figure. These

are clearly machines with purpose,

a million miles away from the roadgoing

variant that got me here. This

is something very different.

As reported in earlier issues, Lunar racing was

set up by teacher Paul Kneeshaw to give students

at his college, the Sir Harry Smith Community

College in Whittlesey, a science project that

would provide real hands-on experience of the

most exciting kind. The plan for today’s testing

session is a simple one – a full spanner check on

both cars and then to get as many laps as possible

into their two-hour track slot.

I was soon met by Pete Burchill, one of Lunar

Racing’s drivers. Pete owns the black car and

today was the first opportunity he would have

to get behind the wheel since buying it and

36 MGE June 2008

www.mgenthusiast.com


handing it over to the student mechanics for

preparation. ‘Other than a few mobile phone

pictures, I’ve not seen it since thework started,’

he said. ‘It’s like being a kid at Christmas!’

With the arrival of Paul and the students

imminent, Pete took the opportunity to

introduce me to his team mates for the coming

season. Kevin Williams and Ewart Kitson will

share the blue saloon, with Ewart competing in

the Pete Best Challenge and Kevin in the MGCC

Cockshoot Cup. Kevin is new to saloon racing,

having previously competed in motorcycle

events, while Ewart has, like Pete, competed in

the Drayton Manor MG Metro Cup.

Kevin echoes Paul’s ethos of what Lunar

Racing is all about: ‘I have great hopes

for Lunar Racing and the spirit in

which Paul Kneeshaw has tirelessly

tried to forge ahead with limited

resources for the good of the project

and the children involved. I hope to

Below: Students

and drivers

Kevin Williams,

Ewart Kitson

and Pete Burchill

(L to R), with

Paul Kneeshaw

(centre).

add to that enthusiasm and help develop the

team in such a way that many more kids can

benefit and get pleasure from the enterprise.

‘Our association with Barnados particularly

interests me and perhaps it is this that may give

us the direction in which to take our endeavours

forward. Children simply having a good time

and hopefully taking inspiration from what we

are able to offer them at our race weekends

seems like a very good thing to me. It’s early days

yet but I’m sure as time goes by the ingredients

will come together.’

Ewart,with his experience in saloon racing,

has a more traditional outlook on the coming

season: ‘I want to be successful! We all have

ambitions of racing with the team in

Europe at some point, and I just want to

get out there and win.’

The rest of the team were soon on site

and work on the cars began. The

students set about checking over the

blue ZS. Pete was also soon at work on his car,

keen to see exactly what the students had been

up to and declaring himself ‘chuffed to bits.’

With the checks completed, the blue hatch

was first out onto the proving grounds, the

gremlins from last year with the ECU finally

banished and no sign of further trouble from the

engine mounts that cost them so dearly inthe 24

hour race at Snetterton.

The test day served an entirely different

purpose for Pete and the black car, however as

this was the first time the saloon had been run

since being built. It is a very different animal

from its blue brother too, reflecting Pete’s

commitment to motorsport on a budget and

very much in the spirit of the club racer.

‘I’ve always believed in keeping it as cheap as

possible,’ explained Pete. The air filter, for

example is the biggest one I could get from eBay

and cost me 20 quid – if it works, great!’ Pete

was very happy with the saloon, and after a few

www.mgenthusiast.com June 2008 MGE

37


LUNAR RACING

sedate laps to get used to the car, was soon

putting in some good times until a leaky brake

pipe meant that although Pete could go as fast as

he liked, stopping was another issue!

Paul was pleased with the cars after their

initial run-out, and things look good ahead of

their debut at Donington. ‘The blue car ran

really well,’ he commented. ‘The rear tyres aren’t

getting enough heat into them, but I’m going to

have a chat with GAZ, Eibach and Lola to see

how we can improve this. That aside, both

drivers are really happy with the car and more

importantly confident of some good results.

‘Pete’s car had a good day, but the hydraulic

leak is annoying. Unfortunately the braided hose

kit was not designed for the car and so 3/8th

UNF fittings needed to be put onto the pipe.

Flaring pipe in confined spaces is never the best

thing to do, so really the fact that only one of the

four failed is a positive. Fortunately that is one

of the reasons you have test days.’

Pete was equally pleased with his car, the

‘getting to know’ you session meeting his

expectations: ‘The brakes, while they worked,

LR1 2004 MG ZS MkII 180 Hatch-back

Drivers: Ewart Kitson and

Kevin Williams

Engine: MG Rover KV6 2.5

litre with Emerald electronic

management system.

Power output: 190bhp @

6750rpm

Gearbox: Rover PG1 5 speed

H-pattern gearbox, TORSEN

limited slip differential

Chassis: MG ZS 180

Hatchback. Tornado Motorsport

6 point weld in rollcage

Suspension: Fully

independent, front double

wishbones with Powerflex

bushes, rear rose jointed

wishbones. Monotube fully

adjustable dampers with remote

reservoirs

Brakes: 330mm front discs

were superb – it feels as if you could stand the

car on its nose.’ And so, with the day winding

down and the students retreating from the

freezing Bruntingthorpe winds to the warmth of

their minibus, the cars were loaded for their

journey back to College for repairs and that all

important livery and sponsorship branding

before the focus could shift to the end of the

month, and Donington Park.

That event was the MG Car Club’s 75th

Anniversary Race. For their debut in this year’s

championships, Lunar Racing’s MG ZSs were

supported by nearly 80 road-going examples of

the ZS after the internet forum ZS Central.com

had organised a meet to cheer them on.

With a full day of racing ahead of them, the

blue hatch was soon called upon for its first

qualification session. Kevin took it out on track,

and despite putting in a respectable lap time of

1:32, Lunar’s newest recruit was not a happy

man. ‘It’s bloody scary, there’s just no grip from

the car at all, you can’t put the power on at all,’

he reported. Kevin’s concerns were echoed by

Paul: ‘The tyres we are using are from the World

with six-piston calipers, 260mm

rear discs with single piston

calipers

Fuel System: Dual fuel, E85

Bio-ethanol or unleaded fuel.

ATL 100 litre fuel cell, two-litre

swirl pot.

Weight: 1150kg

Safety: Lifelines four-litre fire

extinguisher system. Corbeau

seat. Luke five point harness

Touring Car Championship, great tyres but

unfortunately not designed to be used in these

sorts of low temperatures. We’d be fine if we

were in Bahrain!’

With Ewart sharing the opinion that the

WTCC tyres just weren’t right for Donington,

the team’s modest resources were raided and the

hatch swapped over to Toyo rubber for its debut

in the Cockshoot Cup. With Kevin’s confidence

suffering after qualifying, the relief at the change

of rubber was immediately apparent: ‘I’m glad

we changed those tyres after qualifying,’ said

Kevin. ‘I can’t believe we actually qualified as

well as we did (1:32.639), it really was a handful

and far from confidence-inspiring at that point.’

Meanwhile, Pete was already enjoying the

benefits of Toyo tyres – with his car competing

in a lower class, Pete was running on road tyres

that got up to race temperature in a fraction of

the time required by the WTCC rubber.

The qualifying was still interesting for Pete as

it was the first chance he had had to get the car

amongst race traffic. ‘Track days and test days

are great fun,’ he told us, ‘but with 35 other

“I want to be

successful. I just

want to get out

there and win.”

38 MGE June 2008

www.mgenthusiast.com


drivers fighting for space through corners this

makes you concentrate a little harder. The car

pulled well but we have some work to do on the

handling. The main aim was to get on the grid

for the race, as I have only been to Donington

once before in 2003 so I spent time learning lines

and breaking areas.’

With qualification complete, the serious

business of racing could now begin. The blue

hatch was soon into the holding area and out

onto the grid. Starting from 22nd and up against

a strong field of well sorted ZR and TF 190s,

Kevin certainly had his work cut out. ‘My first

ever race, into the unknown on rubber I didn’t

have a clue about and only my fourth time

sitting in the car – I never thought my heart rate

could get so high without breaking a sweat.’

Fortunately a good start saw the hatch climb

several places with Kevin gaining vital

experience, averaging 75.09mph and battling

with Charlie Brown in the No. 5 MG ZR 160.

‘He got the better of this one, but I finished safely

with a best lap of 1:30.901 with my family

greeting me excitedly and full of praise; I felt I

Above: Testing

at a windy

Bruntingthorpe

was the black

car’s first outing,

with the racing

livery yet to be

added.

www.mgenthusiast.com

did a good job and deserved the first signature

on my licence. Paul was very complimentary

and I appreciated that gesture and felt a little

more at ease.’

Ewart was next in action, starting from the

third row on the grid. With the tyres successfully

scrubbed in during Kevin’s

race, Ewart was able to

push that little bit harder,

keeping close to the front

runners before eventually

bringing the car home a

respectable fourth.

‘I’m pleased, but also a

little disappointed. I really

felt I could keep up with

that Midget (race winner

Simon Hutchinson, in car

no. 43) but he just edged ahead of me. The car

has come a long way since it first ran last year,

and I think it can get better.’

While Ewart was making his way back into

the pits, Pete and the black saloon were

preparing for their debut. Annoyingly for Pete,

Driver: Pete Burchill

Engine: MG Rover KV6 2.5litre.

Power output: 180bhp @

6750rpm

Gearbox: Rover PG1 5 speed

H-pattern gearbox

Chassis: MG ZS 180 Saloon.

MG Sport and Racing six point

Above right:

Highly modifed

on the insode,

but still

recognisably an

MG ZS.

Below right:

Students

effected a quick

change of tyres

that helped

save the day.

LR2 2001 MK ZS MkI 180 Saloon

weld in rollcage

Suspension: Fully

independent, front double

wishbones, rear rose jointed

wishbones. Fully adjustable GAZ

springs and dampers

Brakes: 282mm front discs

with single piston calipers,

260mm rear discs with single

piston calipers

Fuel System: Unleaded pump

fuel

Weight: 1150kg

Safety: Fire extinguisher.

Corbeau seat. Five-point

harness

June 2008 MGE 39


LUNAR RACING

Above: Kevin

Williams found

new confidence

and greater this was to be all too brief, as after

speed in the

four laps Pete and two others were

Cockshoot Cup

after a change

black-flagged for jumping the grid.

of tyres. ‘I was gutted, as were the three

other drivers who did the same. On

the fourth lap the boards went out, on lap five I

saw it and came in on six. There was no-one in

the pits to explain, so we went to scrutineering

and then got sent to the clerk of the course. The

whole experience marred a good day.

‘What had happened was that due to practise

over-running, most of the drivers missed the

briefing as it was moved and we had only just

returned from practice when it started. As a

result we missed a section on the split grid which

meant that we should have waited 15 seconds

between the start of the combined race. The mad

part was that cars from our series were in the

first section of the grid!’

Pete felt the race had started well and, given

the opportunity, he could have challenged the

front runners in his class. ‘My aim was to catch

the Montego which was 13th. A ZR span into

Redgate so I had to almost stop to avoid it and

then get hard on the gas. We had adjusted

pressures to get some more positive feel from the

car and grip from the rear tyres. I caught the

Montego and passed it, but was gutted to see

that I had been black flagged. The clerk of the

course gave all involved a thorough explanation

of the situation. It’s annoying, but that’s racing.’

With the daylight beginning to fade, Kevin

was back out onto the track for the second

“Six places

gained and joy at

finishing the day

on such a high”

round of the Cockshoot Cup: ‘I had the great

advantage of knowing what to expect and with

the tyres now scrubbed in. The red lights went

off and I got another flier and picked up another

couple of places. An incident in front of me in

turn one developed, but I kept the power on and

was through, even though the next lap was

compromised slightly under waved yellows.

‘I was on it quickly and started building the

lap times; lots of action all around but my

confidence was high and I got stuck in. I had a

brilliant race from lap four with a gentleman

racer by the name of Peter Bramble in his MGB

Roadster. I was pleased with my pace putting

the next five laps together consistently, with the

best of the bunch being a 1:29.746. The last lap

was exhilarating; Peter and I were flying into the

chicane at the end of Hanger Straight on the last

lap. Peter couldn’t quite turn in; I passed him on

the inside and just beat him to the line by 0.122

of a second.

‘Six places gained and a feeling of sheer joy on

successfully finishing the day on such a high and

with everything and everyone in one piece. The

team were thrilled, too. Peter made a point of

shaking my hand in the paddock and

congratulating me on my first race meeting

efforts for which I was very grateful and which

concluded a very good day indeed.’

With a busy few weeks behind them, Lunar

were now able to enjoy a brief respite ahead of

the next round at Oulton Park in May. Paul

summed up what was a very successful weekend

for Lunar Racing and its student mechanics:

‘The students were fantastic. It was a

wonderful weekend. Exhausting on Sunday

night, but even that was a pleasure. Leaving

simple work to race weekend also worked quite

well as it kept the students busy. However, tasks

have to be kept simple enough so as to ensure

that there is no risk of missing the race.

‘It was great to see the car run well. It not only

keeps the students’ heads up (which is vital), but

it also shows what they can do. If this project is

to expand, we need to have a product which

drivers are willing to pay for. If our cars are slow

and unreliable, we’ll run out of people willing to

pay to drive and the project will die.

‘On the same note, there will be a non-Lunar

MGZS joining the championship later in the

season and we need to be faster than that. We

have to show that the student-built cars are the

best of their type and that Lunar Racing is

genuine value for money and not simply cheap

and cheerful’

Pete was also full of praise for the students

and their hard work: ‘The students did a

cracking job. They survived camping and

worked hard to get the car out on time, as the

blue car ran in three races and the black in one

on the day. I hope they all enjoyed it as they had

put a lot of work in over the past 18 months and

should be proud of the achievement they have

made. Hopefully the MG fraternity will take

them all a little more seriously and embrace

some new blood into the club, and appreciate

what the project is about.’

Paul concluded: ‘The main thing is that we

have shown that a group of students can produce

two quick cars and keep three drivers happy. A

next step would be to try some longer races to

show that the quality of work is sufficient for the

car to be reliable as well. However, we have an

exciting season with the MGCC ahead of us and

everyone is looking forward to the next race.’

On the basis of their showing from

Bruntingthorpe and Donington, Lunar Racing

has already proven the success of education

through motorsport and we wish them well for

a most successful season.

Thanks to:

Paul Kneeshaw, Pete Burchill, Kevin Williams and

Ewart Kitson, to the enthusiasts of www.zscentral.com

and to the MG Car Club.

DETAILS HERE ON SPONSORSHIP

OPPORTUNITIES ETC???

40 MGE June 2008

www.mgenthusiast.com

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