Gavin Watson 2012


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We have had the engine rebuilt over the winter at great expense. This process took three months and in the end turned out to be a bit of a rush as everyone seems to work on a just in time basis.

The net result is I picked up a beautiful rebuilt engine which included another cylinder head being gas flowed etc AND completely different valves, valve springs etc. Also four new bespoke pistons and a true compression ratio of 11.1:1. This engine gave 118 bhp on the dynamometer and had definitely much more grunt on the road.

This was really exciting for Castle Combe: we’ve got a load of oomph and it’s probably going to be wet where the Borgward has previously excelled and if I don’t crash we might get a really good result!

Unfortunately the engine was only great for two miles as the cylinder head gasket promptly blew! VERY annoying.

The engine has gone back to the builders and I am now waiting for a bespoke copper head gasket to be made. More fettling has been done to the cylinder head and fingers crossed it won’t happen again, so hopefully out at Snetterton on the May bank holiday.

PS also waiting for our limited slip differential. These guys don’t even bother with just in time. I’ll get it when they are good and ready!


2012 Racing News

As you know our new race engine blew a head gasket on an installation run before we were due to race at Castle Combe. It has been put back together and now has a solid copper head gasket. Hopefully, fingers crossed, it won’t blow again!!!

The slight downside is the gasket is a bit thicker than we ideally wanted, so the compression ratio has dropped from 11.1:1 to around 10.7:1 and the engine has lost a bit of it’s pre blow-up sparkle. We had 118 bhp on the dyno and I think is now more like110 - 113 bhp. Maybe I’ll get a thinner gasket in due course, but right now think will leave well alone.

We raced at Snetterton and slightly disappointingly there were only four other cars in our class entered. Also we raced on the lengthened circuit which is a pain and has five 2nd gear corners. These are not the Isabellas forte as whatever we do engine wise we are still miles behind the horsepower of the Riley and Hillman and we don’t have a limited slip differential so just can’t put any power down in these corners at all. So we qualified a distant third in class.

You may remember I told you about the prize policy last year. For this race the HRDC had come up with some really wacky trophies which were pig shaped! Lizzie had set her heart on these and my mission, quite simply was to get her one. For this, I would need to be third or better. As I qualified 3rd, this seemed quite achievable.

The race was pretty uneventful, I was running 3rd in class; the Riley and Hillman had vanished up the road. Then I spotted the Hillman parked up on the straight with an engine problem – excellent now I’m in 2nd. A while later, I noticed the Riley pulled over this is good, I’m in the lead! A little while later I noticed the two drivers had wandered down the straight a little and were now chatting. All I need to do now is cruise around and the wife will get her pig.

The excitement of all this was too much for Lizzie on the pit wall. He’s in the lead, I’m going to get a pig and I need to tell him! …….Put out a pit signal P1 !!!!

So for the remaining 20 minutes of the race, about a dozen drivers ahead me will have been confused by the strange signal being displayed on the pit wall to a driver who definitely was not in P1. And me, who every time I went past, said to myself “I know, I’ve been watching the drivers of the Hillman and Riley having a chat for the last half an hour!” Bless

Here’s her pig.

Our next race is at Spa and we are going to drive the car out. Hopefully it won’t shed too many parts on the way, so we can do the race.

If that goes fine we will head off to the Nurburgring afterwards as it is only about an hour away and get a few laps around there.

Gavin Watson

New bits on the car.

A limited slip differential is being fitted as I write. The differential is from a Formula 3 Dallara and allegedly quite “trick”. It has taken a few spacers to get it in the standard casing and modified splines on the drive shafts.
Have also fitted a bespoke aluminium radiator as cooling has always been a bit marginal, so you can have a picture of that! I think it’s a bit overkill, apparently this will cool about 400hp! But we should be able to turn the heater off at last.

SPA Race Report

Emboldened by our jaunt to the International Borgward meeting in 2011, for some reason we thought we’d forget the lessons learned from that experience and drive the car out to the race at Spa in Belgium.

So we ignored the fact that bits had routinely fallen off along the way; that the car has no sound deadening whatsoever, that earplugs are required, that the engine only really likes full throttle or no throttle and stutters along in any other situation, that the heater is permanently fully on and that we have a limited slip differential that clanks and bangs in the most alarming way.

Amazingly, nothing fell off the car at all on the drive out. So all of the Borg arrived and it’s occupants only lost their hearing and a little weight from the sauna effect going on inside the car.

We did have something of a drama after practice when we mysteriously and slowly lost drive to the rear wheels. It turned out to be one of our driveshaft couplings. And the reason it was “slowly” was our new trick diff gamely keeping us going on one wheel drive! These have been modified with different splines for our LSD and a weld had failed. Fortunately our “race team” were out there running some other race cars and were able to re-weld it, so we were up and running again.

What you hear about Spa is true. It rains there, a lot. But we like the rain; we feel it levels the playing field to some extent and offsets the fact that the race itself was something of an all comers race. We can’t compete with 3.8 Jags, TVR’s, Lotus’s and the like but we can definitely go round the corners as quickly as any of them, which is what we did.

It was a one hour race and we came 16th out of 27 finishers in our race which was won by a 5.0l TVR Griffith. Spa in the wet is just a high speed skid pan and brilliant fun and even with our limited horsepower can pretty much power slide around the whole track!

Our plan had been to go on to the Nurburgring in Germany for a few laps on the old Nordschleif. But we were worried we might have another driveshaft failure so we decided that to push deeper into Europe and into German territory had the potential to leave us with an even longer possible recovery to Blighty. Discretion is the better part of valour so they say, so we retreated directly to Calais for Moule Frites, a bottle of Muscadet and Le Shuttle home. Zut Alors

Race Reports Spa and Snetterton


There are a few things you need to know about the Goodwood Revival Race meeting.

Firstly, it is by invitation only, and to get an invitation you need to be either a famous racing driver or have an interesting car which ideally raced in period at Goodwood. The Borgward Isabella made a few race appearances at Goodwood back in the 1950's and early 60's notably driven by Bill Blydenstein so was always a car on Goodwoods "wanted" list as it were.

On the subject of famous racing drivers, this also means OLD famous racing drivers (if they're game) can also join in. It doesn't matter if they are senile, conveyed to their race machine by wheelchair or displaying signs of dementia. It's all about selling tickets, and famous racing drivers draw the crowds.

The other thing is, for St Marys Trophy Race (actually two races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday) a condition of the invitation is you have a famous racing driver drive your car in the Saturday race…………….So we are racing on one of the worlds' most historic race circuits, in the premier historic race meeting in the world in front of crowds over the weekend of in the region 150,000 people and it's on the telly! Also there are cocktail parties, a fantastic themed ball, champagne flows all weekend (a big plus) and it's all free! (a really big plus!)

The Borgward went really well in practice and was flying and we put the car on the 5th row of the grid. Unfortunately in the first race on Saturday there was something of a start-line drama and after the 1st lap the Borgward and my famous racing driver coasted into the pits with the engine stopped.

We did get the car going again for the Sunday race; it turned out the float valve assembly in the carburettor had detached itself so was just flooding the engine. But it was soon apparent in my race on Sunday all was not well. The engine had no power, and the "no power" was swiftly followed by the dreaded "engine death rattle". I had to stop, which was very disappointing.

The long and short of it was the engine went back to the builders and we missed the last race of 2012 at Mallory Park. The verdict "basically no 2 has smacked the head and bent a valve, and the crank is bent and it’s spun a bearing in a big end. It's been over revved."

So that was that for 2012. The engine was rebuilt with a new crank and gave 125 BHP on the dyno, and put back in the car with great expectations for 2013.


Gavin Watson

Liz Watson email address

Racing reports
2010 Season
2011 Season
2013 Season