Eastern Creek FF State Championship Round 5

Friday July 14, 2000

Jack and Tim went testing at Wakefield Park before the race at Eastern Creek.  Tim had some new suspension updates for my car and tried them out.  It's a fairly proven modification to the '92 Van Diemen and widens the track to the later specs.  Unfortunately, he only had parts for the rear suspension, the front hadn't arrived yet.  When Jack drove the car, he reckoned it was an improvement so that's the setup I tried on Friday.  I really liked the way the car felt in the first session, and was able to turn some quick laps right away.  We checked the ride height to make sure it was legal, and we had to raise it quite a bit.  The rest of the day, I fought a severe understeer in the slow bits.  The hairpin, turn 9, was especially bad.  I had to turn the wheel to full lock and modulate the throttle just to make it around the turn.  We tried all sorts of things to solve the problem but never really dialed it out.  At one point, we had changed front springs, shocks, and swaybar springs to reduce the push.  We tried stiffening the sway bar at the rear, but that just added an oversteer in the fast stuff.  In 20/20 hindsight, we should have gone back to the original setup.  By widening the rear track, it was apparently sticking much better than the front and caused an imbalance that couldn't be adjusted.  It was interesting that lowering the car made it more balanced.  Formula Ford in Australia has a minimum ride height, in the USA there's no limit so I could have run the setup we had in the morning.

    The carb problem I had at the last race was solved.  Tim had completely rebuilt the carbs on both cars and that must have fixed whatever the problem was.  It was nice not to have to worry about going flat out in turn 1 and having the engine cut out.

Saturday July 15, 2000

   In the first qualifying session Jack and I went out together to try some team tactics.  Eastern Creek has a long enough straight to make drafting a good way to gain speed and lower lap times.  Somebody had said that we go through turn one quicker than the V8 Supercars (almost 200 Kph) and our average speed at Eastern Creek is 140 Kph.  We were going to follow each other and alternate a slingshot move across start/finish to increase our top speed.  Plans like this seldom work out because of the unpredictable nature of racing.  This was no exception.  Lawrence Burford's '87 Van Diemen wasn't as quick as us, but he must've had a killer motor.  We came up on him and got stuck there.  Every time one of us got by him, he'd pull us going into turn one and power past going to turn 2.  Jack pitted after a couple of laps of this, and I should have followed him.  I stayed behind Burford most of the session and wound up 9th with a 1:41.7.  Jack was suffering from a lack of power and clocked a 1:40.4 which put him in 5th.

    We went out separately in the second session which was run very late in the day.  The sun gets right in your eyes at some points of the track and you have to just hope nobody is sitting in the middle of the road in the blind spot.  I got into the dirt a couple of times coming onto the straight because I couldn't quite see where the edge of the track was.  The track probably wasn't as fast as the morning session, but almost everybody bettered their times.  Jack got down to a 1:40 flat which is his PB here.  That moved him up to third behind Clayton Pyne with a 1:38.9 and Justin Watt with another 1:40 flat.  I stayed in 9th with a 1:41.5 but was still having handling problems.

    Brent Lyon is a friend who works for Leitch and is in town for the Olympics.  He took the photos here and spent Saturday watching the racing.  We were pretty amazed to see the hillsides on fire, kind of reminds me of Sears Point grassfires ...

Sunday July 16, 2000

   Tim fitted a hand brake on my car so I could keep from rolling forward on the starting grid.  As we lined up for the start, the officials warned us about oil in turn 6 and 7.  I used the hand brake and just nailed start.  I hugged the pit wall on the inside and went by the row ahead of me.  I got somebody else coming out of turn 3.  Turn 6 was indeed very slippery but everybody got thru okay.  Halfway through the second lap I realized I was in 5th and staying with the leaders.  Apparently there was a big accident behind me which brought out the red flag to stop the race.  I remember thinking what a good thing this was because now I could start from 5th and maybe move up again on the restart.

    When we pulled up to reform the grid, the officials were very confused.  They finally told us the race would be a total restart and we were to take our original positions, putting me back to ninth.  I was seeing red and couldn't understand why the first two laps didn't count.  I later read the CAMS rules regarding red flags and it basically leaves it to the officials at the track to decide how to handle the situation.

    While the marshalls were trying to figure out what to do, a lot of guys kept their engines running and were overheating.  Burford was in the row ahead of me and had a bad starter.  He kept the engine running a long time and I could see fluids starting to spew out.  I got another blinder of a start and again scraped along the pit wall to pass the row ahead of me going into turn one.  We were two rows of 3 wide going into turn 2 and I remember seeing Jack's car directly ahead of me as we went to the inside.  I had two wheels in the dirt going in and climbed all over the rumble strips to get through the turn.  I was taking no prisoners and there was all sorts of attacking and blocking going on.  As we went down the hill towards turn 6, Clayton Pyne's overheated engine apparently started leaking and made turn 6 even more greasy.  I got a little wide entering the turn and my right rear tire got into the oil.  I did a lazy half spin and wound up sitting across the middle of the road.  I could see everybody getting by behind me, but Burford opted to take the inside line.  His right rear clipped my left front and I saw his rear suspension fold up like a pretzel.  I pulled to the inside of the track to get out of the way and we both climbed out of our cars.

    I knew the accident was my fault and dutifully looked at Burford, raised my hand, and said "My mistake".  He wasn't amused.  He said, "That's the end of my season, thanks mate."  I said "Sorry..."  We jumped the safety barrier and sat on the wall to wait for the end of the race.  We stayed apart, and just for safety sake, I left my helmet on.  This race was full of incidents and there was actually a report of fisticuffs in turn 2.

    Clayton Pyne led for a lap but his engine finally seized.  Jack got the lead a few laps from the end and held it til the checker.  When I went to my car after the race, I expected to see bent bits on my left front, but it looked okay.  I climbed back in and drove it to the pits.  The only evidence was a slight toe change and a mark on the tire.  Burford's rear suspension was destroyed so I had expected a lot more damage.  I beat myself up pretty bad while waiting for race two.  Shouldn't have spun ...should've kept going after the spin ...what the hell am I doing here ...etc.

    I finally talked myself into just trying to have fun in the second race.  I was in grid spot 21 right behind Matt Howard.  He had crashed out of third and was the one rumored to have thrown blows with another driver.  I got yet another bitchin' start (is it always this easy?) and went to the inside.  Matt went to the right and we both passed a couple rows going into turn one.  I followed him through and we both passed a couple more going into turn two.  Jeremy Braithwaite had spun out of the top five and was getting back on the track when we arrived.  Howard went right and got by, I went left and got stuck behind him.  The rest of the race we battled each other while moving through the field.  I would draft past him on the front straight, then he would power past me between one and two.  A couple of laps from the end, I looked up and could see the lead pack- Braithwaite and I were fighting for 6th!  On the last lap I got by him and did the last few turns perfectly to put a little distance between us to keep him from drafting past at the line.  We were only a couple seconds behind Ashby and Ward who were 4th and 5th.  I'm usually quicker than them, so figure this was my best opportunity to finish on the podium and take home some hardware.  Oh well.

    Jack had missed a shift on the start and dropped to 4th.  He had to nurse the gearbox but set fastest lap chasing down Justin Watt for the lead.  He said one more lap would have been enough, but he finished second.  He finally broke through the 1:40 barrier with a 1:39.9- another personal best.

    My next race is at Oran Park at the end of October.  I'll miss the next round at Wakefield in September.  Tim should have the suspension bits for the front by then so I hope to get the new setup dialed in for Bathurst in November.


POSTSCRIPT---  September 17, 2000 - Rookie FF driver Jack Lynch clinched the 2000 FF NSW State Championship at Wakefield Park with a 2nd and a 3rd place.  Clayton Pyne was the only one within striking distance on points but lost another motor.  Grant Ashby won both races.  (I slipped to 7th in the points by not running.)

Complete Race Results

Shane's V8 Supercar, Oz's premier racing category.  Similar to our Trans-Am division.

In the office of a V8.

Another big weekend at Eastern Creek.

Several grass fires were burning on the hills surrounding the track around turns one and two.

Of course, they kept racing ...through the smoke.

Our home in the paddock.

Both cars ended up on the hoist this weekend.

Tim was working 'til way after dark.  It got pretty cold.  He's spray cleaning the cars with pressurized/atomized gasoline.  I suppose it would warm up if somebody lit a cigarette...

2000 NSW state champ Jack Lynch.

2000 NSW state chump.

We had hoped to draft each other during qualifying.  It didn't work out that way.

Charging up the hill toward turn 4.

Shifting to 3rd in turn 3.  Trying to use all the road.

I got stuck behind Larry Burford in qualifying.  He had gobs of power and I couldn't make a pass stick.  Jack pulled in to avoid being held up.  I should have.

Still behind Burford.  A Vili's meat pie would have good about now.

Even if I got around him in the twisty bits, he would catch me on top speed between turns one and two.

Showing my frustration by waving my hand at him, as if he could see ...

At the end of qualifying, waving at the turn workers, as usual.