Oran Park FF State Championship Round 3

Friday May 19, 2000

    The first round of the State Championship was just after the Australian Grand Prix, and I couldn't afford to make it.  Jeff Senior won the race, and my new teammate, Jack Lynch, was second on the weekend.  Jack is an 18 year old karter and has been racing for 4 years.  He spent last year racing in Japan and is now trying his hand at the larger cars.  His dad hopes to get the budget together to be able to run the national series next year.  He certainly has the talent to make a career of motor racing, it just depends on the luck and management of his $$ backing.

    Friday was an open day for practice of all classes.  There were a lot of cars since the Oran Park GP circuit is not available very often.  There is a FF national round here later in the year, so a lot of guys were taking advantage of the time to test.  Most of them only ran on Friday and did not race the weekend.  After the first 2 sessions, I pretty much knew where the track was going and was able to concentrate on lap times.  The 2.62 km course has a long front straight, followed by a hairy 4th gear left kink, immediately followed by a sharp 2nd gear left hander.  The road goes under a crossover bridge to a 2nd gear right hander, a short squirt, then another 2nd gear right hander.  Up a hill in third, OVER the crossover bridge, and a very fast, off-camber right hand bend.  The car gets light here and the key is to try to hold as much throttle as possible while skating the car to the edge of the track.  Very satisfying when you get it right.  Down a hill in third through a series of left-right esses.  At the bottom of the hill, a 90-degree left hander to throw you back up a hill still in third.  Into fourth just before a blind right-left chicane over a crest.  Flat out in fourth, you have to judge the line exactly right to keep from scrubbing off speed.  Down a steep hill to a 180 degree second gear sweeper, which climbs back up the hill onto the main straight.  The kind of track that keeps you busy and rewards aggression with lower lap times.  I'm finding that these tires tend to slide a lot, and the quick way to drive the car is to fling the car from corner to corner.  The quick guys tend to launch the car over the curbs.  There are a couple of places where you have to commit to sliding the car sideways, then rely on the next curb to bounce the car back under control.

    By midday, the quickest guys were in the 1:13's, Jack was in the 1:15's, and I was in the low 1:17's.  I was losing most of my time after the bridge, on the downhill dip section and the left hander up the hill.  The next session, I pulled in for tire pressure checks, and they discovered I had a flat left rear tire.  I pulled back to the paddock, thinking I'd missed that session.  Tim had a friend of his looking after my car this weekend and he came running back to the car.  I had already released my harness, but he said to stay in the car.  He proceded to change my tire in record time, and I went back out and turned a couple of 1:16 laps.  Shane helped me like that all weekend and also gave me tips on getting my lap times down.  He has run FF's here, and is currently sharing a full-time ride in a V8 Lite Supercar.  In the next session, I spun on the second lap, stalled it, and the starter packed it in, so I missed some more laps.  I spun in turn 1-2 trying to catch Jack.  I was quicker than most in this turn because I took a different line so I tried to gain more track than was actually possible.  Shane got to replace the starter before the next session; at least it's a lot easier on the Van Diemen than on my old Lola.  By the end of the day, I had just broken into the 1:15's and Jack was just into the 1:14's.

    In 20 years of racing, I think this was the first race weekend where it was possible to sleep in my own bed.  Oran Park is about a hour and a half away, and Eastern Creek is even closer.

Saturday May 20, 2000

    There were two 15 minute qualifying sessions to determine starting order for Sunday morning's race.  Because I had punctured one of the tires I had planned to run here, we decided to get a new set.  I'll run the old mis-matched set in practice on the Friday before the Eastern Creek race.  They run $1200 a set, so I'm not sure if I'll get another set for the second Eastern Creek round in July.  I will buy a new set for Bathurst.

    In the morning session, I was kind of stuck in the 1:16's, but managed a 1:15.8 on the last lap, which was 10th quickest out of 26 qualifiers.  There were a lot of cars going off and lying along the road.  There was a yellow in turn 2, my best corner, and I probably backed off more than I should have through the carnage.  Jack got down to a 1:14.7 and was in 4th.  When we got back to the paddock, Shane found my right front suspension had loosened and had a good 1/4 inch of play in the camber and toe-in.  I hadn't even noticed...

    On pregrid for the afternoon session I had a loud squeal coming from the gearbox area.  I've heard this sound before, and it was a failing clutch throw-out bearing.  My Lola was particularly prone to the problem because the clutch was open to the air and dirt.  Sometimes they'll last several sessions and sometimes they just disintegrate and you lose the use of the clutch.

    I pressed pretty hard and managed another couple of tenths for a 1:15.6.  The track was slower than the morning, so I had the 7th best time of the session.  Overall, I ended up starting 9th.  Jack matched his morning time, but dropped to 5th.  Shane slaved away all afternoon to pull the rear end apart to replace the TO bearing but got it done before the sun went down.

Sunday May 21, 2000

    On the warmup lap of the morning race I really flung the car around to warm up the tires.  Shane had suggested to also turn the wheel full-lock to plow the front tires along to warm them up.  It's kind of fun to slide around so much, but you're not far from throwing it off the track and being pretty embarrassed.  I did a couple of rear tire burnouts as well to warm up the rear tires.  I wonder what that does to the poor clutch?  The guy who qualified 8th didn't start, so I was pulling into his grid spot, but the marshall pointed me back to the 9th spot.  The guy who qualified 10th took the 8th spot, so I lost a position before the race even started.  The starter's stand held up a sign that said something about a stalled car, so most of us figured there would be a delay.  The starter held up his spread hand and I figured he meant "Hold".  He actually meant 5 seconds.  A light came on which looked orange and I thought it was supposed to be yellow.  It was actually red.  When it went out, I realized it was the start.  I took my hands out of my lap, put the car in gear, and drove off.  Apparently, everybody else was equally confused, so I didn't actually lose any places.  A couple rows back, two guys said they sort of looked at each other and shrugged before they pulled away.  I spent the whole race behind the guy in 8th.  At one point, I pulled alongside going into turn 1, but wasn't sure what he was going to do, so I backed out.  One of the leaders had a misfire and was dropping back steadily.  We both got by him and I wound up in 8th in the 8 lap race.  Jack got 4th and we both shaved off a little more from our lap times.

    The second race I was determined to get a proper start.  When the light went out, I had the revs just right and flew off the line.  I got by one car into turn 1 and saw Jack only a couple of cars ahead.  The car behind him spun coming off the bridge right in front of me.  The car ahead of me went left and I went right while the spinner was going backwards.  He turned toward my side so I had to dive into the dirt on the right.  I kept my foot in it and bounced my way back onto the track almost losing it down the hill.  I looked in my mirrors and realized the car behind me was held up and I had a decent cushion.  I could see the first four cars ahead but couldn't catch them.  By myself, I turned some very consistent times in the mid 1:15's and held position.  On the last lap, I got stuck behind a lapped car at a long yellow in turns 2 and 3.  The car in 6th caught up and I had to take a defensive line the rest of the lap.  He pressed a couple of times but Oran Park has few passing opportunities for equal cars.  I crossed the line .16 seconds ahead for 5th.  Jack set the fastest lap at a 1:14.28 and finished third.  Because the 2 cars in front were national regulars, they were excluded from scoring points, so we bagged championship points for 1st and 3rd.

    I had a great time all weekend and am pretty happy with the results.  I probably lucked into a top five, but the FF field is very strong, even in the State rounds.  In the US, you would have to look to a big national round to find a field this deep.  The race meeting vibe feels very similar to racing at home.  People try to help each other and everybody is a race fan.  Jack's dad and I got along really well and we could probably bench race for days.  He used to race and is very positive and enthusiastic.  We're both looking forward to the next round at Eastern Creek in two weeks time.

Complete Race Results
The 2000 Anglo-Australian Motorsports FF Racing Team.  From the left:  Jack Lynch, Shane, Tim, Jeremy Lynch, and me.

On the grid before the first race.  I got stuck behind the red car on the left.


Through the last turn about mid-race.  The Konica car is Alan Gurr, normally at the front, but he had a misfire allowing me to pass.


I think this is the warmup lap for the first race.  Car behind me is the one I finished behind in race 1.  Driver's name is Steve Austin and he does kind of look like Lee Majors...  Yellow car is points leader and round 1 winner Jeff Senior.


Car behind me is Mark McHenry, who caught me on the last lap of race 2.

Race central at Oran Park.  Timing system is all computerized with transponders on every car.  SCCA should take note...


Paddock side of same building.


Looking down at our compound from up at track level.


The Yokohama Bridge.  Cars race both over and under on the long course.  A car spun right in front of me on this side of the top part of the bridge.


A couple guys on the IBC install crew made it to the race.  Here's Jeff Hallman trying the cockpit for size.  Notice the mono-shock arrangement on the front suspension of the '92 model Van Diemen.


Picture in Oxford dictionary under "old fart"...