“What man made, man can rebuild”, by Iain Rowley
I think it was way back in 2015 when my Delta Motor Sport crew man handled the wreckage of my Lotus 22 into the truck after the start line shunt that took out about eight cars.
I have a saying “what man made, man can rebuild”. This actually came from my lifelong friend and mentor Alan Baillie; the car was totalled!!
We are so busy with the team I get very little time to do any work on my own cars these days, so the wreckage was put down the back of the workshop and forgotten about until the winter. I could easily have repaired the car at work with me and the boys fitting the work in between customer cars but I decided I would take the Lotus home and take my time and rebuild her in my spare time. I also decided I was not going to set a date for a return to the track which actually turned out really nice and I have enjoyed rebuilding her at home.
When she was stripped it turned out to be a lot more damage and I then realised I was very lucky not to have been hurt in the shunt. The car got hit hard, first NSF wheel and then NSR wheel, if I had got hit in the cockpit area I think it might have been a different story but hey ho move on. Alan Baillie came to the rescue and repaired the chassis for me, I then set about making new suspension with the help of Peter and James Denty, then I also rebuilt the engine and gearbox. Sam Wilson had the engine on his Dyno and declared it ok and I must mention James Claridge too who is always so helpful with information and suppling parts. I made all my own suspension and had everything nickle plated to the very last nut bolt and washer. Christmas tree here we come.
The Saturdays at home over the past two winters have been very enjoyable, listening to the radio and sometimes working until late at night but I loved every moment of the rebuild. I then had less pressure to get her finished as Ian Robinson very kindly let me drive his Lola MK5 which has been just so much fun over these past two years. Winning the Copenhagen Historic GP in the car helped as well.
Winter of 2016/7 and the car was finished with just the new body work to fit. Move on to Estoril 2017 and Richard Wilson asked me to look after his E Type in South Africa this year. The decision only took a few seconds to make and also we agreed that I could take a car for myself. Ian suggested I take the Lola but I decided to get on and finish the 22. The cars had to be shipped by early December so very little time to get the body fitted and then painted and of course a sensible thing would be to test the car as well.
My good friend Paul Jenkins took the weekend off and we worked solid for two days fitting the new body work. Another very good friend painted the car and we decided to go for a very dark blue. I put him under pressure but after a week it was all done. I then asked him what the name of the blue was; “Denmark Blue” he says. Very fitting as I had done so well in Copenhagen last year. Time had now run out so no chance to test and as I loaded the car into the container heading for South Africa I pondered for a few minutes wondering had I done the right thing.
We arrived in Zwartkops in January this year. The cars had been unloaded and all looked in good shape. We had some free practice on the Thursday and as I went out on track with a bit of trepidation I was pleasantly surprised, and the old girl ran like a dream. Very cautious on track only doing a couple of laps each session and then pitting and spending time checking and adjusting the suspension.
I ended up P14 on the grid but Saturday morning turned out wet, yes wet in South Africa. I disconnected the rear ARB and went off for first race. Wow !!! she was brilliant and I soon caught up Richard Wilson and Richard Smeeton but then blotted my copy book and spun off. ”twit Rowley”. Back on track and I charged up to P5 just behind Richard Smeeton who had also had a spin. Jim Blockley also had a couple of spins and Jim Timms finished behind us but all in one piece. I was quietly pleased with myself as I was a second quicker than the two Richards who both had dominated the qualifying and were way quicker than me in the dry. The second race was dry but I had a bit of a drama as Richard had only just finished the previous race in the E Type and I was late getting to collecting area. The entrance was then blocked with all the sports cars coming off the track and I could not get out on track to take up my start position which was P5. Never mind I started at the back and had a load of fun carving my way through all the local Formula Fords. That pesky Alex Morton was just in sight but I could not catch him. Richard Wilson was 3rd ,overall and 1st Junior. He drove a great race with Richard Smeeton just behind him but suffering with a misfiring engine. I finished about eighth I think just behind Blockley. On aggregate I was 3rd FJ and received a pot to take home so was very happy.
We left the track after the prize giving and a few beers and reflected on a brilliant weekend. Later had dinner with Liz and David Piper and I chatted to David about his FJ days in his Lotus 20. Brilliant weekend.
Killarney was next and again we had some free practice on the Thursday evening. This track is very very bumpy and my little car was moving all over the place. I had some time Thursday evening and got the car up on jacks and gave it a good nut and bolt check and clean and changed the gears.
For Friday morning practice I went out again but this time realised there was something more than a bumpy track. I came in after one lap and had a good look around only to find something had been rubbing the OSR wheel rim. After a lot of head scratching I realised the top radius rod had pulled out of the bush. Penny washers sorted that and I did the same on the other side for safety as well. I changed the gears again and went out, with the car going much better but still a couple of seconds off the two flying Richards. We had 10 minutes qualifying on Saturday morning, putting Richard Smeeton on pole and Richard Wilson second. Then three Formula Fords and then me in P6 just ahead of Jim Blockley and Jim Timms a couple of places back but both going well.
This was my best race of the tour. Both the Richards disappeared into the distance with Richard Wilson winning and Richard Smeeton’s Wainer still with a misfire coming second. I had such fun and finished third after a great battle with Alex in his Formula Ford. For the second race I lined up P3 on the grid but got a terrible start and dropped way back. I managed to get back up to P6 but lost my third place on aggregate by 3 seconds which was a shame as I would have loved another pot. Richard Wilson won again and drove very well all weekend. Richard Smeeton again second Jim Blockley DNF with gearbox and brake issues and Jim Timms had a tangle with another car and also had a DNF.
I was chuffed to bits with my Lotus 22 and will now look forward to NZ in Jan 2019.
Thank you again to all that helped my with the rebuild and AB for all his help and advice.