Saxon had a 2nd in class and came a whopping 54th overall out of a 160 entries in this year’s ADAC Zurich 24hr Race at the Nurburgring on 25 – 28th May. This was driving in the BMW 135D GTR.
Congrats to team owner and driver, (from left to right) Nick Barrow and drivers Jamie Morrow, Clint Bardwell and Martin Gibson.
Also congrats to Jon Taylor, Chief Engineer and the entire Saxon team for a fantastic result.
Hereford based endurance racing team Cotswold Saxon Motorsport has been awarded a prestigious award from motor racing’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). Competing at the infamous Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in their Hereford-built diesel powered BMW 1Series 130d, the team, consisting of owner Nick Barrow, Jamie Morrow and Clint Bardwell was victorious in the Alternative Fuels class against teams from all over Europe. The annual event takes place in June each year and Saxon has had various wins over the years, however this is the first time they have been recognised for
their results using environmentally friendly Bio Diesel.
The team hopes to repeat the achievement again this year as well as competing in other endurance events at Silverstone, Barcelona and the SlovakiaRing.
Pictured : Team owner / driver Nick Barrow and Chief Engineer Jon Taylor with FIA trophy.
If you've never been to a 24 Hour race, this is the one you should have attended with Saxon. From the highs of Thursday testing and Friday practice to leading the race to breaking down in sight of the end, it had it all.
Saxon started the event on Friday with a solid performance in free practice which was obviously watched very closely by competitors and race organisers alike. Soon after practice, the team was informed that no longer would they be allowed to take on board 100 litres of diesel at each pit stop but that the quantity was being reduced to 80 litres. In addition, the balance of performance rules were being adjusted so that the minimum allowable lap time of 2 minutes 18 seconds was being increased by one second. This had the effect of negating the diesel powered 135d BMW 1 Series' economy advantage by introducing a possible additional 4 pit stops during the race and also limiting the ability to regain lost time.
Team owner Nick Barrow and team Manager Clare Fryer were involved in heated discussion with the race organisers who were not penalising the petrol powered cars in the same class to the same extent. Eventually, agreement was reached that the 2 minute 19 second minimum lap time would stand and the fuel allowance increased slightly to 90 litres.
The team and drivers, whilst disappointed to have the main reason for building a competitive diesel engined race car severely hampered were determined to work within the new limits and prove the quality of the race car built by chief engineer Jon Taylor. Qualifying proved the ability of the car when Dave Robinson put in two laps, each of which would have placed the car 7th on the grid, much as anticipated by the team.
Race day dawned bright and sunny and the team were made aware that three cars ahead of them on the start grid had been penalised for technical infringements and so Saxon would start in fourth place. Dave Robinson elected to start the race and was soon challenging the cars ahead. As the afternoon and early evening wore on, the car led the race for some 19 laps before the weather intervened and further reduced the cars' competitiveness as others were able to match the lower fuel consumption in those conditions.
Drama then struck during Dave's second stint at around 1:10am when the gearbox developed a fault and became stuck in first gear. The Saxon team of mechanics carried out a swift and impressive gearbox change and the car was returned to the track after 40 minutes, having dropped to 23rd position from 7th prior to the breakdown.
The rain and wet track conditions continued throughout the hours of darkness, with Nick and Neil Primrose struggling to gain places. However, towards the end of Neil's dawn stint, light started to show at the end of the tunnel as the rain eased and daylight began to break. As Dave Robinson began the dawn stint, lap times began to fall and car No 117 started to set fastest sector and lap times lap after lap. Bringing the car in for a driver change, Dave had literally driven the tread off the wet tyres but the track had still not dried completely and those on slicks were still not faster than the 135d BMW! However, after a further 10 laps, Clint Bardwell decided that the time had come to change to slick tyres and immediately showed the choice to have been timed to perfection by continuing to set fastest sector times all around the track.
At this stage, the team was rising through positions 17 to 12 and continued to climb as the excitement mounted. Nick and Neil continued the push with a sixth place finish well in their sights as the final stint, with Dave Robinson again scheduled to be at the helm for the finish when disaster struck at 14:45 - just one and a quarter hours from the chequered flag: Neil Primrose reported a sudden loss of power on the back straight and drove the car into the pits for Jon Taylor to diagnose a faulty turbo charger and the end of the race for Saxon!
The team and supporters who had begun to gather in the pit garage in anticipation of the final battle for places were heartbroken. The car and team had proven capable of competing with the best cars entered, having been the fastest throughout dry daylight hours and in different circumstances could well have triumphed. Instead the team were left to pack up and head back to Hereford, rueing what might have been but at the same time looking forward to the next opportunity to prove themselves in the knowledge that so much more is achievable.
Since their initial conception in 2012, Saxon Motorsports two BMW 1 Series diesel race cars had always been fitted with the M57 3.0 litre diesel engine from the road going car range but early last year the team considered the engine was reaching the end of its development potential.
But during 2015, proprietor Nick Barrow became aware that the then new N57 engine promised significant improvements, not least in overall power output. This proved to be the case when early units with 440bhp and 750Nm of torque were installed. However, these first units suffered from various teething problems which have now been addressed with the fitting of a competition oil pump into the sump as the standard pump was unable to cope with sustained high revs in an endurance race car. The latest engine has also been fitted with modified pistons and now records figures of 455 bhp and 780Nm! The modified engine, developed by chief engineer Jon Taylor performed perfectly on Saxons in-house rolling road at the end of January. The team then needed to know that it would perform without any oil surge problems on track so the car was transported to Llandow recently for a track test.
Llandow is little more than a 1.5Km oval track with two chicanes but it is reasonably close to the team’s Hereford headquarters, reasonably priced and is generally available and suitable for this type of test. Despite its limitations, it soon became apparent that the new engine was performing well on the predominant right hand bends but that there appeared to be an oil surge issue on left handers where the oil pressure was dropping immediately. As the team were the only ones present at this time, they were hopeful of a dispensation to run the track in reverse; however “Elf ‘n Safety” intervened and prevented such a test.
Undeterred, the team returned to their Hereford HQ and formulated a plan to generate some data and in order to not to waste track time, to prove the problem had been rectified. Thus, the traffic island on the team’s industrial estate was attacked late one evening, after dark! Several clockwise circuits, followed by several anti-clockwise, high speed laps proved sufficient to replicate the problem and so they are hopeful that they can repeat the test when suitable remedies have been incorporated into the sump.
Saxon are pleased to announce that they have a new partner for the 2016 season in the form of Cotswold BWM Group. Cotswold are the largest BMW Group in the West Midlands with branches in Hereford, Cheltenham and Gloucester and Saxon are excited to be forming a new relationship with them. To reflect this arrangement Saxon are currently re-designing and applying new livery to their cars and transporters and look forward to showing off their smart new colour scheme for the season.
Preparations for the Silverstone Hankook 24 Hour race in April continue apace. All Saxon drivers are looking forward to driving the new, more powerful car with optimism, particularly after the team’s success in the Barcelona 24 Hour race with the previous engine. Meanwhile our Italian driver, Luca Demarchi, who contested the Britcar Series with Saxon last year, finishing in second place, is preparing to contest the GT Cup series in the updated hybrid diesel / LPG car.
However, one driver – Neil Primrose, drummer with the rock band Travis – who will be driving in the Silverstone 24 Hr race, is posing some interesting scheduling and driver rota challenges: Neil will be rehearsing for Travis’ tour of Japan and departs on the Monday following the race! This means he will leave London rehearsals on the Saturday morning, arriving after the race start, complete his scheduled driving stints and return to London before the race is completed! Everyone’s hoping he can play the drums in his sleep and catch up on the flight to Japan!
Our Italian driver Luca Demarchi is still in negotiations with the organiser of the British GT Championship about allowing our Hybrid Gas Diesel car to run in their championship.
He is still optimistic. I, I’m afraid am less so. We have however gained approval to run the car in the GT Cup Championship which in many ways is a better option anyway.
We are also committed to entering the Silverstone 24 Hours on the 2nd and 3rd of April, the Nurburgring 24 Hours on 28th and 29th May, the Paul Ricard 24 Hours on July 16th and 17th and the Barcelona 24 Hours on September 3rd and 4th.
The drivers for Silverstone are confirmed and are:-
Neil is the drummer with the Rock Band Travis. He is an experienced racing driver who has raced with us several times in the past.
Clint is the owner of a building company in Essex. He again is a very experienced driver who has raced with us numerous times and actually won this race in 2012
Dave is an engineer with Jaguar Land Rover and has won the highly competitive Caterham Championship for the last couple of years. He also won with us last year at Barcelona.
Finally myself. I’m a veteran of over 30 24 Hour races having won at Nurburgring, Barcelona, Silverstone, Spa etc.
On the technical front we made a decision after our last test of 2015 to proceed with a development programme of the newer N57S engine.
This engine has various advantages over the extremely reliable M57TU that we have used in most of our previous races.
The N57S is more powerful, 440 BHP. It is lighter and it cools better. But it also has some weaknesses. It has an inherent vibration, the oil pump is suspect at continued high revs and the head bolts stretch when exposed to the level of boost that we run.
To this end we have just finished building an engine into which our chief engineer Jon Taylor has managed to fit a racing type oil pump in to the sump. This development motor also has some piston modifications that we believe will increase our power even further.
Whilst this is going on we have commissioned Arrow to design and manufacture some new crank shafts for us to cure the vibration issue.
We have also commissioned ARP in the States to design and manufacture some up rated head bolts to handle the high cylinder pressures.
Our fabricator, Charlie Pennington, has been manufacturing some new exhaust manifolds. We have managed to source some 321 stainless steel in the size and wall thickness that we required and also someone who could bend it to the tight radius that we need.
Last year we had issues with exhaust manifolds cracking probably due to the vibration when we tried the N57S engine but we don’t want to take any chances.
Alongside these projects on our diesel and diesel-hybrid cars, we are also progressing with the V10 version of our 1 Series race cars. Following a season of development, sorting teething issues such as big end bearings and pulley alignment whilst racing in the Britcar series, we are planning an assault on the Nurburgring Nordschliefe circuit in the VLN Series.
This car has the same bespoke suspension, sequential paddle-shift Drenth gearbox and Drexler differential as the diesel cars and should be a formidable machine around the 14 mile track. I am looking forward to putting it to the test, with various drivers expressing interest in joining the team throughout the year.
Our graphics man is working on a layout for the 2016 cars but we are still talking with some potential sponsors so we don’t want to finalise it until those talks are resolved.