PC 23 at Pistons and Props 2016
After a four and a half year restoration the PC 23 finally hit the track again in September. A brief shakedown and a thorough checkover showed no problems before the Sywell Classic - Pistons and Props weekend held over the 24th & 25th of September.
Asked what it was like to drive for the first time Patrick said “This car means a lot to me and I was very keen to drive it myself, more for sentimental reasons than anything else. I’ll admit I was extremely nervous before the first run, I’ve not driven a car like this for a while but once I got it moving everything fell back into place.”
After the first installation run things moved on quickly to tuning the boost control and bedding brakes. “The boost control was a bit of a concern, this car has both mechanical and electronic boost control and not having a clear starting point on wastegate springs vs. ambient atmospheric conditions is not ideal. We started low and worked up which is easier said than done when you are trying to acclimatise to the level of acceleration these cars have. But it was in the ball park and we got there without over-boosting it.”
With post shakedown checks complete it was onto the Sywell Classic. “It was a great weekend” says Patrick “I felt a lot more comfortable in the car, it’s an honour to drive and the Ilmor 265D pulls like a train. The whole event was just terrific.”
Asked if there were any issues - “No, none with the exception of the wind which was very high, over 30mph. These cars produce so much downforce that in the headwind initially it was grounding out at about half way down the runway on the return run which it was not doing on the outbound run down wind.” Asked if this was an issue in period - “Yes it was, particularly on the ovals. In my time (the late 1990′s) the cars would bottom a lot. I was an engine guy so I just listened to the drivers comments but having now experienced it, well it’s much more alarming than perhaps I’d considered at the time. During our research for Jade Gurss “Beast” Nigel Bennett had told us that he felt part of the failure (of Team Penske) to qualify for the ‘95 race was down to the drivers being spooked by the wind at the pre-month of May test. I can tell you the wind really affects these things even down at 170mph. You really feel it as it changes direction both in steering input, as in yaw, and with the ride height changing as the downforce level varies. In this case we had some tools to deal with it, the ride height is really easy to adjust on these cars and you have the monobump system as well. By Sunday we were going a good deal faster and the bottoming was pretty much eliminated.”
Asked if he had any other initial impressions Patrick observed “I’ve not driven it enough to really get an impression but certainly the drivability is very good, surprisingly so. There is turbo lag but the midrange torque masks it to a large extent, more so than say the PC 26 which is much more top end bias power curve. I’m sure the drivability is helped by the tractability of the PC 23 chassis which is outstanding. I couldn’t feel the monobump engage, which suggests it’s nice and progressive, but it certainly works. I’m not surprised Nigel Mansell thought it had traction control.”
Overall do you consider this restoration an achievement? “Yes, very much so. To go from the condition it was in on arrival to driving this car has been a huge effort from my team and our colleagues elsewhere. I don’t want to leave anyone out but the efforts of James Waddington, MCT on the carbon work and Ady Matthews at Historic Fabrication were huge. To top it all off Tom and Ian Castle did a magnificent job on the paintwork. I’d also like to thank our friends in the USA without who’s support we would never have been able to complete this car in the original condition it’s in - it’s been a real team effort and I’m very grateful to all who have been involved.”