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Otter Racing

So far...

We purchased the car from Essex as a complete car with engine damage, which wasn't a problem as we knew we were going to rebuild the engine anyway. We knew we wanted to race a Mini and this one fitted the bill perfectly - a R56 Cooper S with a John Cooper Works body kit. So the next day with trailer in tow, off we set, Essex bound.

The car was then completely stripped down to a bare chassis, every nut and bolt labelled and bagged so we knew what went where. The next part was the most challenging yet as we had to painstakingly weld the 6 point international roll cage in, which due to the tight space and different angles made it very hard work.

A lot of the car has had to be custom made as it was never intentionally designed to be a race car. The steering column was all fabricated as too were the pedals, seat fixings, petrol tank, brakes, dashboard, gearing and electronics.
We’re still using the same 1.6L Turbo Charged engine which originally produced 175bhp, however our engine has has a complete ‘nut and bolt’ rebuild with new pistons, con-rods, valves, springs, competition clutch, custom manifolds...the list goes on and on. The turbo has been re-designed and now incorporates 'hybrid' properties - combine this with the stand alone Life Racing ECU system, re-map and the car now has 312BHP with 293 Nm of torque.

The KW suspension was custom made in Germany and specifically designed for this car and the Castle Combe Race Circuit which allows us to change the ride height as well as the caster and camber. The wheels were also designed to allow us to run a certain offset that we require. We’ve opted for 335mm front brake discs with 6 pot High Spec racing callipers which do the business when the car needs to slow down from 130MPH.

As you can see from the photo above the car looks great but most importantly only weighs 822KG. The weight reduction took a massive amount of effort and meant stripping all the sound deadening off the floor of the car, cutting out the second skins from the bonnet and tailgate, swapping glass for perspex, cutting holes in the door edge for unnecessary weight and taking anything out of the cockpit we didn't need - the effort was more than worth it as we now have one-of, if not the, lightest R56 Mini in the UK.

As well as weight reduction this car really comes into it's own with the help of Life Racing electronics and ECU which allow us to have traction control settings for the dry, damp and wet conditions. The Life Racing kit also allows different calibrations for how much power is needed, for example we can turn the engine up for qualifying and then turn it back down again for the race, not to dissimilar to a modern F1 car. The aim of this is to improve the engines reliability which in racing is key.

If you would like any further information on the build of the Mini we had an 8 page write up in the 'Performance Mini' magazine in the September 2018 Issue which is available to download online from pocketmags.com.

We have now completed our first season in the 'Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship', but not without it's difficulties though...Like most race cars, mechanical parts are tested to their limits when on the edge and as the season went on we found ourselves developing the car in each race. The first noticeable change was the intercooler. When we were building the car over 3 years ago we opted for a 'cheaper' intercooler from Ebay, which for most road cars would have been fine but we found after several hard laps that the engine was getting too hot and thus meaning we needed some more 'cool' air. So we had a custom intercooler made for us which has made a world of difference and taken engine temps down from 70 to 30 degrees! This was also helped by adding a 'breather' into the air filter and the addition of some holes for air flow through the front bumper - the difference was very noticeable with laps times coming down and the car being able to stretch it legs without the risk of over heating.

The second change we made was to fit a double clutch, as the original single racing clutch couldn't handle the heat and stresses of more than about 4-5 laps in the race and it would then start to slip meaning retirement. The double clutch now does the job and can easily cope with the stresses that racing requires.

The car is currently at Northampton Motorsport having a 'freshen up' for this coming season. Once we are into the new year we will be back to testing ready for the first race in April.

For more information on the events at Castle Coombe please visit their website at
www.castlecoombecircuit.co.uk - Look forward to seeing you there.
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