In their words ….
King of France 2016
King of France 2016 was our second ULTRA4 event of the year following an epic 7th place in Modified 4500 Class during
King of the Hammers week some time back in February. Pier and his team put the final touches together on my (Will’s) RHD Jeep Wrangler named Matilda on the Wednesday night, before Pier left for the 700 mile drive across the European Alps to a motorsports complex near Paris in France.
The car was built by JS Customs to the rules in the 4500/modified class of ULTRA4, and following a long upgrading session at
Acerni Custom Engineering with key parts from team sponsors,
Yukon Gear and Axle, VisionX Lighting, Ruffstuff Specialties, Pakelo Lubricants, Raceline Wheels,Spidertrax Offroad, Gigglepin Winches, Odyssey Batteries, Goodwinch, Damar Stops and Webbing, Tireballs and D&G Tuning.
I was super keen to see how the car turned out. When the car arrived in its new glowing white ACE livery I was stunned at how Matilda now looked.
Friday 20 May 2016
Friday was soon upon us. Having met JT Taylor and passed tech we lined up for a parade lap around the prologue course. It was gonna be a fast lap with lumps and bumps around an arena type area. Once again the drivers were asked to vote who they thought the 7 fastest teams would be for the European version of Power Hour. We were voted 8th! A great accolade for the little 4.0 Jeep amongst some of the gnarliest V8’s that are competing in Europe. This meant we started last of the main competitors, and so we waited our turn.
As we sauntered up to the startline, I asked Pier what the plan was….he said just drive and enjoy it. I remembered back to KOH where we had had a bit of a week leading up to the start and all we wanted to do then was just get out away from Hammertown and enjoy the experience, Pier didn’t let up at the start there, so I carefully grabbed the “Oh Shit” bar ready for what I suspected would not be a leisurely amble to the shops around this little assault course in front of us….. I wasn’t wrong!
The French start flag dropped and we were away. The Yukon Grizzly locker was doing great work on the back end, unlocking in the tight corners but locking up when we needed traction the most. The D&G Tuning 9″ air locker also giving us extra traction at the flick of a switch. About half way round we missed a gate and had to back up costing us a few seconds.. The car really is set up great and she drifts beautifully across the freshly mown French field, that straight 6 sounding beautifully smooth, a quick Swedish flick to set us up for the last stretch home. We had watched a few of the teams back off over a drop round the back and Il Capo (Pier) was having none of that so it was pedal to the metal as the suspension soaked up the drop off. Coming in to thefinish was a violent little up and over, which you could either up and over or jump….guess which we took!! Needless to say the “Oh Shit” bar was fully tested at that moment!
Pier had also been working very hard to make sure that the Ruffstuff Specialties axle housings fitted at every angle and with the car built with a low ride height it was crucial everything fitted on upstuff. I was glad he took the time to make it right.
We cruised across the finish line to be told we were in 1st place from the main bunch with the fast guys yet to go. With all the prologue runs completed, we ended up in 6th overall, 1st in Modified class and 1st of all the Every Man Challenge cars (Legends, Modified & Stock classes). Great going for a little 4.0L
Saturday 21 May 2016
Race day was finally upon us, and having sampled a lovely French Breakfast at the circuit restaurant it was time to don the race suits and see what we could do. We started in super short fire gaps of 15 secs between competitors. We had a prescribed 10 laps to be done of the 7km course in the modified class. We set off like a scalded cat, the slightly smokey (due to an earlier error on my behalf) 4.0 giving us as much as it could using all 5000rpm’s per gear. We run a RA Designs Winters shifter on an AW4 4 speed auto from a Jeep Cherokee in the car and had fitted the Transgo hot rod kit over the winter to firm up the shifts further. Wow just like the Fast and the Furious except with only 4 gears not 128!!
The course took us through part of the prologue course, then through a faster transit stage over to the assault course part of the track, this laid host the the King Shocks zone along with the Maxxis Tyres rocks and the Euro4x4Parts zone. Clearly someone had been very active with a digger digging out some trenches which we had to cross. It was clear with the soft French soil this was going to become a bit of a problem being on smaller class fitting tires after the big boy U4 class had been through.
Soon enough we were at a traffic jam at the Maxxis Rocks area, with the line not being worn in yet it was slippery as hell. I jumped out and soon found a point to attach the Gigglepin GP84 winch to via our Goodwinch Bowrope and Damar strop.
Vera, the USA car was running the same combination but without enough time to add a 24v system it seemed a little slow. On Matilda however we had the full fatboy over volted 24V winch system in place and our Odyssey Batteries PC1500’s made sure we had enough grunt to make light work of the winch assist.
The car was going great and we had caught up and over taken a good few of the front runners, however in the 2nd lap at the Maxxis rocks, we suffered a drivetrain issue. This meant that we only had three wheel drive for the rest of the day. From previous experience once one thing goes wrong it’s a steady downhill spiral until something else gives way. Not to be deterred we battled on. In 3 wheel drive it meant I had to get out a lot more often to put our trusty winch in to action, not being the slightest fellow around, I knew that this was going to be a long day. We eventually retired from the days racing following a hub breakage having completed 5 of the prescribed 10, three more than our nearest Modified class competitor had managed.
With the night stage not starting until 2200hrs we set about assessing the damage and making a plan to get us back out competing.
It transpired that with the hub failure, this had then in turn damaged the yolk ears on our inner short side axleshaft. These were 4340 steel and with no furnace and no spare it was going to be an almost impossible job to repair. It had also taken out the caliper on that side.
We had a spare Caliper but unless we could find a 35 spline shaft in the pit about the same length we were stuffed. I had learnt from previous experience that it was wise to run similar kit to your competitors and although 9″ cases and 35 spline chromoly shafts may seem a little over specced for a 175BHP Jeep Wrangler, it turned out it was a shrewd maneuver! Our friend and fellow competitor Axel Burmann happened to have one, which was a bit of a surprise as he uses RCV shafts with CV’s rather than U-Joint style axle shafts, however he regularly hauls his vast spares package around European events and told me that the shaft I could use was a spare spare spare…just in case like!
Happy that I had found an axle shaft that would fit, Pier set about making the slightly different caliper also fit whilst I set to work on the drivetrain issue. I sourced some parts from our team sponsor Dieter from D&G Tuning and went to work. Hell we sure missed the pit support that we had in the states with Valentino, Fabrizio & George, but with Springsteen singing about the new world order in the background we cracked on. With 5 mins til the start line for the night stage closed we popped on the VisionX LED lightbar and sauntered up ready for our go.
We cantered round into 5th place overall for the nightstage and 2nd in the Modified Class, glad we had the work done and the car was back up to full speed again. It had been a long night but I managed to rustle up some pasta for us both, plus some of that amazing Parmesan cheese that Pier seems to have readily available at any time! (a first for Pier I am sure to be cooked pasta by an Englishman!) before bed and more racing the next day.
Sunday 22nd May 2016
We were told that a huge storm was set to rage over where King of France was being held, and sure enough at about 0300hrs on the Sunday morning the breeze filled in. I had elected to sleep in the Marquee next to the Jeep, however It was becoming clear that I needed to take the roof off the Marquee before the wind did. Taking the roof off a 6m x 4m marquee in your boxer shorts in the wind and rain at 0300hrs is no fun, so with as much of it as I could grab I woke Pier up from his deep Italian slumber. Having got rid of the Marquee presented a new problem for me….. exactly that…no roof. I did have a waterproof liner for my sleeping bag so with the rain belting down on my al fresco sleeping arrangements I tried to get some shut eye before the dawn.
Due to our poor finish Saturday meant we were right down the starting list on the Sunday. The conditions were minging, wet is the understatement of the year this soon meant that the front runners were really struggling to find traction and by the time we were set to start there was a huge queue at the first rock pile. There was an option of going the easy route or the hard route. The blockage of about 10-12 cars was on the easy route.
The hard route traversed a side slope rock garden with boulders about 1m cubed in size, Pier elected to take this route and see what happens. The combination of Il Capo driving Matilda was something else, the car taking it all in her stride as we overtook the entire front runners! It was a masterful display of skill and just made me realize what Matilda is capable of.
However, as the day went on the conditions worsened and my TJ is renowned for hating the wet. We picked up a misfire and were popping and sliding all over the place. We had also taken the wind screen glass out and as we had open face helmets visibility was a nightmare! Knowing that all we had to do was finish in order to win our class and with the car firing randomly we slowed right down to do just that.
We finished all our prescribed laps for Sunday and happily finished for the day. The car had been fully tested, we were worn out but elated to have won the Modified 4500 class at King of France 2016.
Huge Thanks to all our supporters and marketing partners for helping us make this happen: The Acerni family, Amy Overton & the Fords, Acerni Custom Engineering, VisionX lighting, Yukon Gear and Axle, Pakelo Lubricants, Ruffstuff Specialties, Goodwinch, Raceline Wheels, Gigglepin Winches,Odyssey Batteries, Tireballs, Damar Strops and Webbing, MaxiCar Racing, Jimmys4x4,Spidertrax Offroad, JS Customs UK and D&G Tuning.
Thanks also to Simon Miskelly.
Next up I will be racing Matilda at King of Italy on June 18th 2016, that’s right! a change in the driver’s seat, let’s see if I have learnt anything all those hours sat next to Il Capo. I will be joined by my co-driver Ed Webber from the UK and looking for a podium in the 4500 Modified Class. Keep an eye on the ACE Racing & 790 Facebook and Instagram pages for updates on how we do. Wish us luck!