Oran Park FF State Championship Round 2

Friday October 27, 2000

    The second round of the championship was originally scheduled to be run at Wakefield Park last May.  There were problems with registration and the track itself so the organisers arranged another date.  Luckily for me (but not my bank account) the round was rescheduled for Halloween weekend at the Oran Park GP circuit, so I could run it before Bathurst.  I had thoroughly enjoyed my last race on the track and was eager to play there again.
    Tim had fitted the new front suspension pieces so I wasn't sure how the car was going to handle.  It had bad understeer in the last race but only the rear had been modified at that point.  We checked the ride height before the first session and had to raise the car some.  Guess I shouldn't have had those extra beers ...  It's been a few months since I had my butt in a race car, and most of the other guys have had a couple races in that time.
    It was a big anniversary National race for the Formula Vees with lots of entries.  They got more track time and had a separate practice session to themselves.  Unfortunately, they tend to leak a lot and blow oil gaskets; by the time we got out, the track was slick as owl snot.  The car was a little tail happy and I was making mistakes everywhere.  Tim had Shane change to a smaller rear sway bar to get the rear to stick again.  He set it about mid-range and I liked it in the second session.  I was in the mid 1:16's which was about a second off the quickest time.  The track was a good 1-2 seconds slower than normal.  I pitted and Shane softened the rear bar a little.  I felt a slight push coming off the bridge, but everywhere else was pretty good.  I only had one hot lap and turned a 1:16.1.
    In the third session I went out with Jack and Grant Ashby and could just keep up.  Grant got past Jack and the two of them were a few car lengths ahead.  Screaming down the hill into the 100 MPH third gear left hander I just noticed a big cloud of dust which was both Jack and Grant going into the dirt on the outside. That scene was brewing in my brain when suddenly I was face to face with a car sitting right in the middle of the line- backwards.  I dove off right and followed them through the dirt.  You're at the limit in the left hander so there was no way to stay on the track and go around him on the left.  The driver of the spun car was waving his arms wildly which probably made us see him just in time to avoid a collision.  We all pulled in to the pits to end that session early.  I was pretty surprised nobody hit the spun car but he made it out okay.  The fourth session was short as well and I managed to keep the times in the 1:16's with a best of 1:16.1.  Jack was having several little problems and just broke into the 1:15's.  National front runners Stewart McColl and Chris Dell were the quickest in the high 1:14's.

Saturday October 28, 2000

    The track wasn't as bad on Saturday for the first qualifying session.  I had Shane set the rear sway bar tighter because I was assuming the front tires would start to go off before the rears.  This set had a race weekend and a test day on them and it was pretty likely they'd start losing grip sometime before the end of the weekend.  I got in line first and waited to go out.  I saw Justin Watt and Grant Ashby behind me and let them go so I could follow.  They've been in good form lately and I needed somebody to chase.  I stayed behind them for a few laps and we were caught by a silver car.  It belonged to Michael Jones, and I was pretty shocked to see him going so fast.  Earlier in the year I had been much quicker.  He proceeded to pass me, then Grant, then Justin before he disappeared into the distance.  Turned out Stewart McColl was driving Michael's car this weekend and put it on pole with a 1:13.9.  Justin was second with a 1:14.4, and Grant with a 1:15.1.  Jack was in seventh with a 1:15.82 and I was a tick behind with a 1:15.83.
    The second session was greasy again so only a few people bettered their times.  Jack was in front of me for a couple laps but he pulled in to end his session.  He knocked a tenth off his time before he packed it in, but stayed in seventh.  I stayed out for a few more laps but finally gave it up when Shane signalled me to pull in.  He had been waving at me for a couple of laps and I just thought he was trying to make me go faster.  We decided it was better to save the tires for the races.  The last turn had a waving yellow flag for most of the session because Justin Watt had crashed heavily and destroyed the right side of his car.  Grant Ashby blew up his motor.  They were in a points battle for second in the state championship, so both would be up all night working on their cars.  Tim had a late night as well working on a suspected water jacket leak in Jack's cylinder head.  Jeff Senior improved his time and moved between Jack and I, dropping me to 9th.  I wasn't too worried about it because of the lack of recent track time, and I seem to always move up in the races.

Sunday October 29, 2000

    We pulled to the grid for the first race and I lined up directly behind Jack on the inside.  I got another terrific start and got past Jeff Senior and a poor starting Jack.  Unfortunately, I pulled to the outside to keep from running up the back of Jeremy Braithwaite, and got trapped there entering turn 2.  Jeremy got tangled with Steve Austin who got into the dirt.  I got by him but had to pull back in behind Jeff.  A few turns later my engine hesitated coming off the bridge and Jack got by going down the hill.  The engine kept coughing just past the bridge and Austin got by a couple of laps later in the same place.  He spun right in front of me in the last turn and I locked up all four to keep from spearing into him.  I started feathering the throttle over the bridge and it seemed to help the coughing problem.  I turned some quick laps and caught up to Jeff.  I was thinking about drafting past him on the front straight when his left rear suspension collapsed in a shower of sparks.  His car wiggled wildly and I backed off expecting him to veer left across my path.  He kept the thing under control and was able to pull off the track on the right past the pits.  I finished sixth behind Jack and Jeremy and turned the 4th quickest lap.  I could see them battling ahead of me but couldn't quite catch them before the checker.  Stewart McColl ran away with the lead, with Justin Watt and Grant Ashby some distance behind.  I had Shane pull the top off the carby and couldn't believe it when he showed me yet another broken float!  That's the third time this season, and it has never happened to me before.
    I lined up directly behind Jack again for the start of the second race.  We were on the outside this time in the second and third row.  Justin Watt was in front of Jack and smoked his tires away from the line.  Ashby got a bad start from 3rd and Jack and I both got by.  I pulled alongside Jack but was caught on the outside of turn 2 again.  I had to let both Ashby and John Behrens through heading under the bridge.  The first two laps I noticed Behrens lock up his fronts going into turn 3.  I pulled inside him on the next lap and was able to outbrake him entering the turn.  Grant was next and I drafted past him on the front straight.  The two of them hounded me while my rear tires proceded to lose more and more grip.  I got sideways everywhere trying to keep the two cars behind me.  On one lap, I got into the dirt in the flat-in-fourth dogleg, but Grant was so close to me he followed me off the track and couldn't take advantage of my mistake.  He finally drafted past me going into turn 1.  I stayed on his gearbox and we went three wide into turn 1 at one point.  He got wide in turn 2 once and we went under the bridge side by side.  He had the inside line going into turn 3 so I had to yield.  I almost bumped him several times but we managed to avoid contact.  Grant was 5th, I was 6th, Behrens was 7th across the line.  After a fun battle, I found out Grant had to finish 5th or better to clinch second in the championship, which explained why he was so keen to finish ahead of me.  It was also his birthday, and I told him I would have cut him some slack if I'd known ahead of time ...NOT!  The top four were McColl, Justin Watt, Jack Lynch, and Jeremy Braithwaite.
    By finishing ahead of Jeff Senior I moved back ahead of him in the final points total but I lost a spot to Braithwaite so wound up the year still in seventh place.  I should be happy with that considering I missed two of the six rounds.  Next stop- Bathurst.  I can't wait ...

Complete Race Results
        Photos and videos will be added shortly.  Until then, here's an AVI file of the second race finish.
        Right click and "Save Target/Link As".  It's a 5 MB zipfile so I hope you have a quick connection...