Safety Fast Newsletter August 2017
REFLECTIONS ON SILVERSTONE
My last notes for July, written in early June, were composed as I contemplated horizontal rain and remembered previous visits to Silverstone and the glutinous quality of the mud. The track there tends to hold water and so does all the grass parking. The F1 Grand Prix was moved to March one year, against all the local advice and, living in the area at the time, I watched with a certain amount of satisfaction, with all the other locals, as vehicles were still being recovered after two days. Even Bernie Ecclestone couldn’t overrule the weather. Living in the area, as we did for some 15 years, did have its advantages as well as some disadvantages associated with the circuit. I knew where to park to be able to get to a race and be home within 20 minutes of its conclusion; we could pick up Silverstone TV (i.e. what is transmitted to the huge trackside monitors) on our domestic TV, and we accommodated various soaked and muddy friends once they had given up the idea of camping; plus, it was always interesting to see personalities like Damon Hill or Eddie Irvine. He nearly ran over one of our dogs with a purple Ferrari whilst on his mobile phone. So, the MGB GT checked out, wind in the tyres and a fantastic weather forecast on offer, I set off from West Cornwall for our old stamping grounds around Buckingham with the promise of a bed for the night with long-standing friends, a good meal and some Black Sheep bitter at the Queen’s Head in Chackmore and an interesting Saturday at Silverstone with more old MG friends, of whom I don’t see enough.
I departed at 10.45am. I considered that even though it was Friday I should be past Exeter by 1.00pm and going around Bristol by 2.30pm. Oxford would be busy about 4.00pm but by then I’m almost there. My master plan came unglued almost immediately. After an hour and a half I had covered 35 miles instead of the nearly 100 I had assumed. Someone had dropped some hay bales in the massive road works on Bodmin Moor and the traffic build-up was solid. However, engine temperature 165° Fahrenheit and oil pressure 65 psi so all OK; what is that horrible smell and why does it feel like I have a puncture? Applying the brakes nothing happened other than the pedal going to the floor. The air turned a pale shade of blue as I examined my options. I was not far from home so turn around, go home and then think. I am not abandoning the weekend yet. Once I was heading back west in light traffic I aimed for a layby to see what was what and immediately noticed that the brake pedal was as it should be, I had full braking efficiency again! Having checked the levels of hydraulic MGB NEWSLETTER fluids and found them normal I continued home in 35 minutes. I now rang the technical guru, Roger Parker, who told me what had happened. I had managed to boil the hydraulic fluid. The brake line to the nearside front brake passes very close to the exhaust. In virtually stationary traffic on a hot day things were getting warm around that area. So why did it boil? Brake fluid is hydroscopic, it attracts moisture. With enough moisture content and a sufficient temperature brake fluid will boil and no brakes are the consequence. A subsequent test of the fluid with a meter showed three amber lights. OK for local pottering but not good enough for a protracted motorway journey with a high risk of encountering major traffic hold-ups. It was obvious that I could not take the MGB to Silverstone. I had lunch, went supermarket shopping with my wife and then, at 3.45pm, got in our MG3 and went. I was past Exeter by 4.30pm, on the M5 and up to Bristol. The rush hour traffic was, as usual, dire. I got to Buckingham at about 8:15pm. That Black Sheep and a rare rump steak were beautiful.
Saturday morning was, again, a glorious prospect. An easy drive up past old haunts of Stowe and Dadford and on to Silverstone. Neil Hyett was directing traffic to appropriate Register car parks. So odd seeing Neil. It had been Bernard Rennger for so many years. At least he had a straw hat on. I also felt strange parking with the MG3 contingent rather than the Bs. Everything else looked familiar. Stalls selling unknown parts, food and beverage purveyors, the Club marquee where I thought that I should report. Henry Cole used to delight in going to bother Don Bishop, when he was Registrar, with all his enormous files. The Register is on a laptop now, nothing like as cumbersome. It was good to see that guru for all things MGB, Danny Waters, there and have a natter. The Jean Denton Marathon car is coming on a bundle and raffle tickets were being sold to help towards the cost of the ongoing restoration work. Colin Goodey, Clive Wilday and John Watson were doing sterling work on the stand so, as I was scheduled to be on duty 1.30-4.30pm, I went and had a look at the new, small MG SUV to be released later this year. A quite feasible replacement for our MG3 eventually. Went and stood with Neil and tried not to interfere with his directing of traffic. At lunch Henry Cole and David Askew showed up, along with Roger Boys. The cold beer was appreciated and past Silverstone events remembered. We had a busy couple of hours on the stand in the afternoon. It was nice to meet with members, some of whom had come a long way, Australia and Canada, for instance. The MGCC Chairman, Ian Quarrington, and John Watson drew the raffle at about 4.30pm as Heather and Bill Charlton joined us to do a stint manning the stall. Regretfully, I said my goodbyes. It’s a long drive back to the west and I got home at about 9.00pm having eaten, at Taunton Deane services, what I was told was a genuine West Cornwall Cornish Pasty I bought off a stall at Silverstone. When I had bought it I had said to the man: “I will eat that on my way home to Camborne.” “Where’s that?” he asked. “West Cornwall,” said I. I don’t think he was from down here. My MGB now has new DOT4 brake fluid and replacement braided brake lines.