Some big changes took place in 2017. After a couple of years with the Force PT the decision was taken to be one of the two launch customers for the new Force TA. This car was to be a full carbon tub (from SPA Composites) built to F1 standards, with new front and rear suspension and updated aero. Both cars were ready for shakedown testing in March and, after a few initial teething problems, the car ran well all year with Chris J winning the 1100cc HSA Class, setting a number of new British Sprint records and receiving some BSC awards to boot. Chris also made the Top 12 Run Offs at Blyton and Anglesey. I put new tyres on the Caterham to improve the car's competitiveness in the events I was going to do.
I had a really good season with four class wins. Three in the Caterham (Combe at Crystal Palace)and one in the Force (Combe - Jones not present!). I also took the Van Diemen to Snetterton for the Pre '94 FF Challenge events which were very well supported and a great group of competitors. Not having run the RF89 for a while I was rather uncomfortable in the car and didn't really get to grips with the car or track.
Talking of comfort one of the most troublesome aspects of the Force TA (and the previous car) was getting a well fitting and easily removed (to get at the battery) seat made. Having had a couple of goes ourselves with resin bead kits we decided to get in a professional (someone involved with one of the kit manufacturers) and this was better but still unsatisfactory and it never got properly fitted or finished. As a result we decided to do it properly and get Ian Fugett of Pro Seat to do the job right. And that is what he did - painstaking sizing and fitting together with a really good finished article. The diagonal split makes taking the seat in and out a doddle so job done! On another 'ease of use' point the rear engine mounting of the TA has made changing the gear sprocket the work of a moment. Well almost - about 20 mins and an easy job overnight at Anglesey for the longer Sunday track.
With the Suzuki GSX R1000 having done three and a half seasons without a rebuild this is the major winter task in preparation for the 2018 season. With many of the 1100cc class having their engines enlarged in the search for more torque and power this is likely to be the Cougar Engineering winter project for us.
March: March saw the first run out in the new TA at Curborough followed by a return to the factory for attention. With the TA not ready I entered the Caterham at Combe for the GWS on the 25th and came away with the Class win with my 150.01s (PB) being good enough to beat a couple of the over 1800cc runners and 28th out of 89 competitors.
April: We took the TA to Loton on April 17th and despite the car not being 100% Chris J took a good win on a wet/dry day with me on a 57.54s despite leading after practice (the benficiary of running in a dry group!).
May: To MIRA on the 6th and on my first run a near disaster as the steering almost locked solid. Fortunately I was running first and taking it easy so no great harm done but it turned out the the front wing mounting bracked had bent under aero load moving the whole nose assembly into the steering rack so back to the factory.....I had already decided to take the Van Diemen to Snetterton on May 13 & 14 but finding the seat a bit cramped (and on old tyres) I only managed a 106.50s for seventh on Day 1 and a 105.36s for fifth on Day 2.
June: We were at Pembrey on June 3 & 4 back with the repaired TA. After finding that the reduced rear camber worked but fouled the inside of the OZ wheels (!) Chris J would have qualified for the Run Off both days had he entered the full British Sprint Championship. Nevertheless he was the fastest 1100cc with me struggling with a 113.34s on another wet/dry day. The Sunday event was held on a 'new' track (a dog leg inserted after Dibeni) with similar result and me on a 125.55s. We ran the TA for Chris J at Prescott on the 24th and in the large HSA Class Chris won from Gary Thomas' 1600 Force PC by a hundredth!
July: The start of July saw us headed to Blyton on the 8th and 9th for a super week-end of Sprinting.
Day 1 I managed a 68.76s (just behind Eve and Mark) on the usual outer circuit while Chris J won the Class and finished an excellent seventh in his first Run Off.
Day 2 was held on the new and very tricky Eastern circuit. I managed a 72.54s (for fifth) while Chris J again won the Class and finished tenth in the Run Off after a spin on his second run.
On the 29th I took the TA to Combe for the Dick Mayo Sprint and came away with a Class win (63.03s) and 9th overall out of 144 competitors. Pleased.
August: Loton Park on the 5th with the Force. Enjoyed the newly re-surfaced and far less bumpy track for a 54.40s PB while Chris J finished second to the dominant Raptor in the hands of Kenrick.
So to Palace for the bank holiday week-end (28 & 29) to renew the battle with Dave Rayner's now similarly powered (200bhp) Sigma engined Caterham. A glorious week-end's competition with our times close all week-end. I just about managed to keep my nose ahead on Day 1 for a Class win with a 38.02s - just a hundredth off a PB. Day 2 saw a very satisying 37.18s PB and another Class win but, above all, great competition.
September: Shelsley Walsh on the 19th and still searching for a sub 30s run. Chris J took a good Class win but I was disappointed with a 31.06s.....
October: A late decision saw us take in Anglesey on October 14/15 with hopes of more Run Off success for Chris J.
Day 1 (National): I was happy enough with my 56.15s good enough for 13th and just miss out on the Run Off. Chris J won the 1100cc Class and seventh in the Run Off
Day 2 (International): The same again but I was happy with my 89.95s PB and Chris J went on for a best ever sixth in the Run Off.
Making it three 2017 Sprints at Combe I entered the Caterham in the Pegasus Sprint but on a cold and damp day with worse weather coming in I trailered the car after a 85.82s T1 for third in Class.