Event date: 15-16 May 2021
Why not start something new and why not start car racing in your forties…
My journey so far entering the world of motorsport and getting me to this point has been challenging but that’s another article.
So Phillip Island and round 3 of the E30 racing calendar on 15 & 16 May 2021 was up and coming. With a car not that too far away from being ready, the itch to get out there was growing, after all its Phillip Island a circuit regarded as one of the best in the world.
With only a few items left to bring the car up to the category specifications, I booked the car into Bell Motorsport. On the Thursday the car was ready, the anticipation growing however the car trailer (ordered months and months prior) was still not ready for collection. A back up trailer was organised and used in the end (I’m still waiting for the trailer) to get me to the track. A big thank you to Anton Bergman for the use of his trailer.
The forecast for Phillip Island was less than ideal and when I jumped in the car to go to the track at 5:30am it was already raining. I arrived got through the Covid-19 requirements and unloaded the car, at this stage it had stopped raining, a good sign I wondered. As soon as that thought entered my head it started to hail and the wind was freezing.
“Go racing at Phillip Island” they said, “You’ll have a ball” they said, really…
Anyway time for the morning briefing and off we all went. On my walk back our DSO (driving standards advisor so I learnt later) was Dave Stillwell who took the time to explain all about the racing and what was required. A big thank you to Dave who guided and helped me the whole day.
Now what am I forgetting? Race preparation 101, so I went through the check list (the one I know which is probably far from everything) and went about getting ready.
Time to jump in the car for qualifying, a wet track, cold tyres and little experience I was second guessing my decision to go racing. Off we went, slowly bringing the tyres up to temperature and getting a feel for the slippery track. On about the third lap the car felt good and the speed increased. I went across the start finish line and looked for turn one watching the cars in front of me and when they were braking. I turned into turn one going close to the inside curb on the right when it all went pair shaped, the rear end got away from me and I headed toward the grass. After a bit of sliding and a spin the car stopped, I was facing forward and looked for a gear. I saw the car behind me go past and that’s when I heard that noise… the sound of locked tyres screeching toward me and then bang.
Well that’s not ideal, I thought. I again looked forward, checked around me and attempted to drive off. Was the car ok? Would I be able to continue to drive? I drove off carefully and got another feel for the car. It appeared that it was running ok and I couldn’t feel any major handing issues so I kept going.
The session finished and I headed into the pits. Would I even make my first race or was I destined to remain the 40 year old virgin? Graeme and Chris from Bell Motorsport came over to inspect the damage and away to work they went. Thanks so much Graeme (who was also racing) and Chris who went to work on the car to get me back on the track. I also need to thank the Richards family (Steve Richards) who provided some race tape which was required. As I stared at the car I got a tap on the shoulder and asked to report to the medical staff.
Jo Mawson was kind enough to accompany me to the doctors (I had no idea where to go) and I was greeted by the medics. They checked me over, asked some questions, gave me some pain relief and thankfully cleared me to continue with the day.
Upon my return (it did take some time) I was very surprised with Bell Motorsport’s hard work and return to see a patched car ready to go.
I was medically cleared and the car ready to go racing! A little rattled but eager to go, I jumped back into the car for race one. Where to now? Dave (DSO) stuck his head in my window and explained where to go and that a Marshall would direct us to a mini grid where we would wait to go out. I took my place in the mini grid and was just looking around (probably like a lost sheep) thinking about how to best get off the line when Chris Bell came over and took the time to put my mind at ease and run me though what to expect and what to do when racing.
So out we went for the warm up lap and to the grid we headed where I took up my position as guided by our DSO. I looked in my revision mirror and saw the Marshall waiving the green flag, now the adrenaline was really pumping. I looked up at the lights eagerly waiting for the lights to go out and they did, I got a surprisingly good quick clean take off and away racing we were!
My first race was really something else, awesome and with no expectations on my behalf as I was just happy to be finally on the track doing something for me and something I love. Before I knew it I saw the black and white flag and my first race was over.
As you leave the track you are directed to the weigh station where every car is weighed to ensure it meets the minimum weight requirement to enter the race. Anyway my turn and I was told that I was 20kg underweight… what the, what do I do now? Well time to stop my gym work and start eating take way food I thought. But seriously how do I add weight to the car at this stage and at the track? Without the additional weight I would not be able to enter race 2.
Instead of the casual time in-between races, perhaps even watching the other cars, I was again (first time with the medics) now busy trying to add weight. Well fuel was suggested so I put 20 litres of fuel in the car and back to the weigh station I went. ‘No keep trying’ I was told, so back to the park bay. What next, I took the jerry can to the fuelling station and refilled the 20 litre container. Would I even be able to fit another 20 litres in? How much did I need to put in to bring me up to weight? I filled the tank until it was absolutely full and back to the weigh station I went.
I got the thumbs up but was told that although it was fine now, how much fuel would I burn during the race? and if I used too much I maybe underweight at the end of the race and therefore disqualified. Never a dull moment. Determined not to let it distract me from the experience I stopped, looked around, took it all in and grabbed a coffee. After getting the coffee I noticed that there were no cars racing as the track was being repaired following a significant accident. This meant that our race 2 would have to be rescheduled to Sunday.
Day two, as we missed our race the day prior and with a full line up for the day, the E30’s were put with the Saloon Cars category. How does that even work I thought? Our DSO went to work arranging and then briefing us on the procedure. It ended up that the Saloon Cars would line up ahead of us on the grid, the lights would go through the sequence, they would leave and thirty seconds later it would start again for us.
The track was dry and the sun even came out, I was feeling excited. We again lined up in our dummy grid and again Chris Bell came over and talked me though it again putting my mind at ease and importantly really helping me to enjoy the experience.
Now this was cool looking down the straight seeing all the E30’s lined up and the full grid of Saloon Cars. The first set of lights went out and the Saloon Cars were off. The lights then went on and off and again we were off. There must have been a bit of rubbing with the Saloon Cars as there were a few spots where debris was on the track. I tried to be quicker and brake later this time around and enjoyed the race. After the weigh in (I made the weight) I went into the parking area to be told that my Dorian (lap timer) wasn’t working. Not to worry a trip to the timer people in the tower, grabbing a replacement and I was back in business.
This time I was then able to enjoy the time in between races and managed to watch some of the other racing. Time came around quickly and it was time for the final race, race 3. This was our longest race and with growing confidence I was looking forward to it. While in the dummy grid Chris Bell visited me again and we had our chat. Out we went and again I turned my mind to getting off the grid quickly and cleanly. Lights out and away we went a little eager this time, with the wheels spinning but nevertheless a good start. After the first lap and working into a groove the safety car came out and the field grouped while the track was cleaned. Well this was definitely a weekend with the lot and before I knew it the final race was over.
So that’s my experience of my first race meet. Under qualified, under prepared and over enthusiastic, what a thrill to be behind the wheel of a race car going flat out around Phillip Island.
Thank you to all at BMWDCM, Bell Motorsport and E30 Racing for all their support and all the little chats I was able to have with people giving me little pointers along the way in particular Alex Jory.
Adam Sleep | Member #421
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne