After coming into the Mini Sport Garage to run his Mk1 Mini Cooper S  on the Rolling Road and discuss performance Mike Garstang went on to do the Barbon Hill Climb and promised to update us on how it went before he comes back in to discuss the possibility of fitting a new Mini Sport Camshaft. And true to his word here is the update on his weekend:

“With the car set up on Thursday morning, thanks to the two Rob’s and the team at Minisport, I set off home over Waddington and Lythe Fell (Oh! the joys of classic Mini motoring) and things were going well until I crested the top of the Fell and, with home in view, the water pump gave up. After topping up with water I coasted carefully home and removed the offending pump. Early Friday morning saw me back in Padiham and Rob met me with a replacement pump. So, it was back over the Fell and after fitting the pump I was out testing to make sure that all was well  for Saturday’s Jubilee National Championship Hillclimb at Barbon.

Saturday morning was damp but with a good breeze the track started to dry out before 1st Practice. I was running in the recently established Historic and Race car class (the alternative is the modern up to 1400cc Production Car class where my 1965 “1275 S” is outclassed by all sorts of modern “chipped” machinery) and my main competition was going to be an early 1950s single seater with a supercharged V8 giving 300bhp! Perhaps I should have stayed with the moderns.

Last year I suffered oil pressure problems early in the seasion at Harewood so competition in 2010 was curtailed while I stripped and rebuilt the engine. With the engine out I fitted some original BMC “S” flat top pistons and replaced the fast road cam with a Kent 286. Together with the previous mod’s (big valve head, 2×1.5 SUs, LCB, roller rockers, etc) I was hoping for a good power boost.

For years I’ve been sourcing most of my parts from Minisport (I’ve been running early “S”s since the late 60s) and I’ve always benefitted from their advice and some great craique from fellow club level enthusiasts. After running in the engine during a snowy 2010-11 winter, Minisport helped with some final dynamic tuning on their rolling road. A session on the rolling road is invaluable because the multiple checks and graphic readouts are very revealing. For example, I was reassured that the rebuilt engine was very healthy but the “road” did reveal that there was still some scope to improve the valve timing.

However, I decided the final timing tweak would have to wait until after Barbon and to my great delight the first practice run was just quicker than my previous personal best timed run up the hill. Wow! On the 2nd Practice run I was down into the 34s well inside my previous best and I matched that ascent to the 100th of a second on the first timed run of the competition.

Inspired, I was under the car and tweaking the SPAX adjustables for my second timed run. I even decided to give it plenty of welly in the tyre warming section before lining up at the start beam – not sure my 10″ Yokohamas really warm up much but it sounds great.

Green light on…3K on the tacho…GO … struggling for grip … whoosh… 2nd gear and into the 1st bend … inside front wheel struggling for grip under full acceleration after the apex …… 3rd and we are flying into the long left with very big trees to either side …. more revs and we are out across the contour of the hill and accelerating hard well into the braking zone for the final tricky hairpin …. I can just see the marshals staring at the Mini as I anchor on…the back end goes light, I’m drifting a bit sideways into the apex and simultaneously grabbing first gear … we fly through the finish beam. Exciting stuff, but two tenths slower than the first run – that drift in the hairpin was spectacular but untidy and dropped valuable tenths. I ended the day with a very satisfactory 2nd in class. The car ran at a good temperature all day and we ended with very healthy oil pressure … and a lot less rubber!

To put our 34s in context the National Championship boys in their modern V8 Goulds and Pilbeams were doing 22s; the quickest Evos and Scooby-dos were in the 26s – but the 1965 “S” still attracted lots of interested well wishers and it seemed to put a big grin on their faces as well as mine.

A little bit of thinking time now and some further tweaking to the inlet/exhaust timing and/or choice of camshaft and then off to Harewood in July, August and either the Bo’nesss Revival Hillclimb (Scotland) or Harewood again in September. Watch this space.

With a little help from my friends at Minisport (thanks),

Mike Garstang.”