Beginners Guide to getting into Motorsport – Part 2

In the first part of our article about how to enter motorsport, we finished with some hints about obtaining the relevant license to getting into entry level motorsport.

There are those that have both the time and monetary resources to drive their private car in track days. And here, setting a budget to get into motorsport should not be overlooked. Generally no license is required for some of these but a waiver is required to be signed before going onto the tarmac. There’s cost effective Formula Ford, Formula Vee, and HQ Holden racing, even the Excel racing class. There are also regularity events, where a time is nominated and the car is driven on the track to try and meet, as best as possible, that nominated time. A minimum license requirement is here. And for many, this is as far as they may wish to go.

There’s also a question of support. Not only does a prospective driver need to be aware that not always will there be obvious support, there may be, sadly, detractors that go out of their way to slow you down.

However there are those that have just started their journey, taken another path, or have raced in numerous categories and now race competitively in events such as the Phillip island Classic. We spoke to three such drivers: karter Hugh Barter, respected motorsports commentator Greg Rust, and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe.

Greg Rust.

Greg Rust, Rusty or Thrusta as he’s known, has the pleasure of being a motorsports commentator that’s come from a racing background. As is the case with so many, Rusty started off with go-karting, piloting an 80cc Tony kart. The powerplant came from Japanese motorbike maker Yamaha and had a manual transmission. Rusty says he remembers driving the little machine on the now gone Amaroo and Oran Park circuits, along with the existing Eastern Creek raceway track.

However it was rallying that bit, and bit hard. Along with some pals from high school, a warmed over Mitsubishi Galant from the late 1970s was bought. Sporting some upgrades in the form of twin Weber carbies and a sports exhaust system, the car was entered at Supersprints at Amaroo, rallied in the western fringes of the Blue Mountains at Oberon and the beautiful Jenolan Caves area, and lead to some silverware being proudly displayed in the Rust home.

Backing up the involvement with CAMS, Rusty says: “So I’m a BIG believer in joining a CAMS affiliated club. Get a license and, for not a lot of money really, you can get something for club competition. The best part is competing & socialising with friends around this kind of motorsport and tinkering in the garage on the car between events.”

Rusty also points out that getting into motorsport is just the first step, but which way from there? There’s no doubt that driver training with experienced and qualified drivers will provide plenty of assistance but if there’s no goal to kick at, what can this training ultimately deliver?

Rusty advises perhaps doing what Australian F1 driver Mark Webber did: lay out a plan to aim for the goal but look at paths to the side if that goal proves to be out of reach. Rusty himself followed those guidelines early in his racing and rallying career and is now “part of the furniture” when it comes to motorsport broadcasting. However starting at the bottom can take you into areas never thought possible. Greg is also an in demand host at corporate events and has a successful podcast.

He says: “Finally you need good communication skills. Media Training is a must if you are serious. And you need to understand the business of the sport too. Be self starting. Work hard....bloody hard! And while the focus is what you do in the car, what you do out of it may end being where you spend the greater percentage of your time and it will prove instrumental in helping to open the right doors.”

It’s crucial to note this final piece of advice. If you are looking to make a career out of motorsport, and the success comes from hard work, being able to deal with the media, such as Hugh, Greg, and John do, will need to be part of the plan. One bloke that knows both sides of the media fence is John Bowe.

John Bowe.

Our own Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe is a natural fit for anything to do with motorsport. Thanks to a career spanning thirty five years, “JB” is well placed for gaining insight into what a driver that wants to race should consider.

John is well known not just for being a talented driver, but for his approachability and warm personality. It’s this latter point that John encourages in drivers wishing to be seen. John grew up in a family that already had ties to motorsport, however he pointed out that this can mean very little. Another well known Australian driver was mentioned and John asked him if his 11yo son had shown any interest in becoming a driver. The answer was “not really”.

John uses this to point out any aspiring driver must have a love, a passion, for the sport. “I started racing because I loved it” says John. There were no plans at an early age to become a Formula 1 driver or Australian champion, he drove in motorsport because he loved it.

John in no way discounts the natural ability in drivers, saying that there has been plenty he’s seen that are very, very, good, however the fire that got them to where they were was, in too many instances, extinguished because of a few speed-humps that had occurred. His point here was that in motorsport the balance between the good and the bad must be taken, and not to let some downsides override the passion that’s needed. Resilience is a key factor.

Personality is one of JB’s strong points and this personality had one of the greats of Australian motorsport, Gary Cooper of Elfin fame, take John under his wing and provide some opportunities that may not have otherwise been available. JB was at pains to point that if this hadn’t occurred he would have been happy to have raced constantly in his home state of Tasmania due to his passion and love of motorsport and not have travelled overseas to race.

John used this experience to highlight an easily overlooked factor for new drivers: coaching. Unlike a potential tennis champion, swimming champion, or golfer, motorsport doesn’t really have that one on one approach. Data acquisition and the ability to work with that, says John, in categories such as Formula Ford, is very important. But as to advice? John recalls one such situation at Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway, formerly known as Wanneroo Park. John was a relative rookie at the time and was campaigning with Larry Perkins. JB asked Perkins about which gear he was using in a particular corner. Larry’s advice was simple: “Go and try it for yourself.” This backs up John’s point about having that inner fire and desire.

A unique point that John raised was about the European theatre. The home of Formula 1, there’s been numerous Australian drivers that have taken aim at cracking open the door to get a seat, however the burgeoning South East Asian race scene shouldn’t be overlooked for a driver’s overseas aspirations.

John wrapped up his points by looping back to personality. This came in the context of marketability. John’s presence in the Australian motoring scene and his association with Rare Spares isn’t solely down to his driving history. By being a driver that is friendly, greetable and meetable, and is able to be media savvy and aware, such as the points Greg Rust raised, there’s a higher probability of overcoming perhaps the biggest single obstacle in Australian motorsport, the funds to go racing. JB says: “There’s no such thing as a free seat anymore.” Sponsors are looking to maximize exposure to their brand and a driver that’s looking to make a presence will have more chance of sponsorship and exposure.

It’s easy to see that getting a foot in the door of Australian motorsport for a beginner driver isn’t complicated. But thanks to the input from three drivers at varying points in their career, a timeline for where you want that open door to take you is important, plans for where you may wish to go if the driving side doesn’t pan out need to be considered, and to take the good with the bad no matter your inherent ability can be crucial.

A big thanks to Hugh Barter, Greg Rust, and Rare Spares ambassador John Bowe for their time and assistance.

Beginners Guide to getting into Motorsport – Part 1

Lowndes. Webber. Whincup. Schumacher. Vettel. Ricciardo. Drivers that are involved in the top levels of motorsport internationally and locally. They all have one other thing in common. They all started at the bottom of the ladder in the competitive driving sense.

Around the world drivers of young ages are learning the basics of how to drive in motorsport. They may be in a basic single cylinder go-kart at their local outdoor track. They may be at a circuit listening in to their older brother or sister providing feedback on how the last drive in the Formula Ford or Formula Vee has gone. They could be an apprentice wielding the spanner in a team, talking to the driver of the Production Touring Car about how a change of shock absorber could help handling, or sitting in a seat, playing a race simulator in VR. 

Thankfully, a huge bank balance isn’t required to get into the driver’s seat in motorsport. In Australia there are Superkarts with single and twin cylinder engines, Formula Ford and Formula Vee remain a strong and cost effective entry point, and even the venerable HQ Holden has a category at a budget per year that would pay for a team dinner in an F1 team. 

 

But it’s not simply a matter of rocking up to a race track, strapping in, and going. CAMS have different entry methods including a temporary license for what’s called a “Come and Try Day”. They are a single use license and are designed to encourage those that wish to go further to progress to a higher qualification.

Come And Try Days are perhaps the best form of path into motorsport purely because some people believe they’ll be fine behind the wheel on a dedicated racetrack. Another option is to try a session with a dedicated category. Formula Ford is recognized worldwide as the best path and in Australia there are quite a few options.

There are companies that utilise race tracks to provide a driving experience and one example is Sydney Motorsport Park’s Formula Ford Experience. At varying costs a driver can start with five laps of the circuit, gaining experience and receiving tuition. Explanations on how the chassis works, the best points to brake and accelerate, are given by qualified instructors that more often than not are current or recently retired drivers.

Crucial to getting on any race track is obtaining the appropriate license. CAMS suggest this for starters.

There are two types of Level 2 licences - Non Speed (L2NS) and Speed (L2S).

  • A L2NS licence entitles the competitor to compete in events such as observed section trials, touring assemblies, non-timed road events, motorkhanas, khanacross and drifting events, up to International level.
  • A L2S licence entitles the holder to compete in L2NS events plus regularity trials up to National Championship level, single and multi-car speed events (not racing) up to International level, and touring road events that do not run over closed road sections.

CAMS themselves are based in offices around the country and can be contacted from here: https://www.cams.com.au/

Some circuits also offer meetings where a potential official or driver can visit the track and meet people that are employed to work with and assist drivers. Sydney Motorsport Park runs such a program and is called Startline: https://www.sydneymotorsportpark.com.au/startline-by-ardc/

However, getting into a driver’s seat from an entry level point of view needs an entry level driver to explain more.

In the second part of this look at entering motorsport, we’ll be talking to two more names that have had varying paths into motorsport. There’s the popular John Bowe, our Rare Spares ambassador, motorsport commentator and experienced competitive driver Greg Rust, but to kick off, here is a dedicated young driver and kart racer, Hugh Barter.

Hugh Barter.

It’s often said that to be the best driver, you have to be a young driver. Hugh Barter is an embodiment of this. Still a few months shy of his twelfth birthday, Hugh has more racing experience in a decade than many will have in a lifetime.

This Japanese born talent first clapped eyes on something motorsport related at the age of three. Attending a V8 Supercars round at Victoria’s fabulous Phillip Island circuit, a racing simulator caught his attention. Minutes later, and with some assistance to help his small frame fit the setup, Hugh was belting around a simulated Mt Panorama. When Hugh had finished the crowd that had gathered applauded, knowing that something special had just happened under their very eyes.

Flash forward a couple of years and young Barter, by way of a games console and driving rig, was ready to take the next step. A go-kart was a fifth birthday present and at the age of seven, a go-kart license was acquired.

It’s here that Hugh’s entry experience offers up two different looks at the same end object. Hugh says that he gained a karting license and a CAMS backed license. Hugh joined an affiliated car club and registered with CAMS for the non speed license as mentioned in part one. This was, says Hugh, more cost effective than the alternate route taken, with a difference of nearly $800.

Where Hugh follows the path that many successful drivers have driven is in setting out a timeline. With a clear hit rate in meeting his goals so far, Hugh’s eye to the future is on entering Formula Ford, with a move to Europe to race in Formula Renault penciled in as well. Next stop? Formula 1.

Hugh’s well on his way to achieving that goal with consistently high levels of results from racing in the Cadet series in go-karts. Spread across Cadet 9 and Cadet 12 (age requirements),the karts Hugh had raced were these however he has moved into the next level, called Juniors with the age group of 12 to 16. The Cadets are small in size and engine output at 8hp, with the Junior’s specs capped at 11hp but are ideal for the age groups and provide theoretically equal performance. And it’s that last word that brings in another aspect of looking into entry level racing: sponsorship.

Top end race drivers are covered in sponsorship thanks to their levels of performance, and here the budgetary aspects of motorsport dovetail with sponsorship. Not only will sponsorship help drivers like Hugh achieve their goals, it aligns companies with the sport itself which are then seen by prospective drivers.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog, which will be released in coming weeks. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your motorsport aspirations.

Phillip Island Classic Preview

Movies, songs, popular culture, motor sport. What do they have in common? Yup, it’s obvious, they all have something to do with time, specifically “the past”. But why should motor sport be involved in what happened, not what’s coming?

The Victorian Historic Racing Register doesn’t really care because they know that the Phillip Island Classic, to be held over the ninth to the eleventh of March 2018, pulls people to the picturesque Phillip Island race circuit in droves.

There’s something a bit extra special about this meeting. Along with a strong presence of members of the Group S racing family, the weekend will commemorate fifty years of Formula 5000 racing and with over thirty five sparkling examples of these thunderous machines expected. Legendary Australian touring car driver John Bowe will be in attendance and on the Sunday will showcase a 1974 March ex F1 car. He’ll be with fellow racer and noted collector Guido Belgiorno-Nettis in a Ferrari F1 car formerly raced by Italian driver Michele’ Alboreto. Both will be racing these historic machines against two younger drivers that have years of experience between them already, Tom Tweedie and Tim Berryman.

The categories include the smaller and fascinating Formula Ford and Formula Vee, Groups Q and R, and pre WW2 cars in the Group J and some Group K, with post WW2 cars in Group K also. WW2 itself will be represented, in a motor racing sense, with the inclusion of Group L, a category for cars built between 1941 and 1960. These cars are those built especially for competition, be they factory backed or one-offs. There’s a sub-category in the Ls, known as “square riggers”. These are primarily MG TCs sans mud guards, windscreens, and headlights.

But people don’t attend historic motorsport events such as this to just and merely goggle over the eye watering range of cars on track and on display. There are the personalities in attendance such as the aforementioned JB. This weekend will also have five patrons there.

Better known as “KB”, one of Australia’s most loved drivers, Kevin Bartlett, a two time winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship and a Bathurst 1000 winner, will be on deck.

Alfredo “Alfie” Constanzo, an Italian born, Australian raised, driver, a four time Australian GP competitor and four time Australian Drivers’ Championship winner, is there.

Alan Hamilton, who won the Australian Sports Car Driver award twice ,and along with Alfie is a four time winner of the Gold Star Championship, is slated to appear.

Two time New Zealand Grand Prix winner John McCormack, who also won the Australian Drivers’ Championship three times, is scheduled to be there.

And New Zealand’s MBE awarded driver Ken Smith, won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1976, 1990 and in 2004 and raced Formula Ford, Formula 5000, Formula Pacific, Formula Mondial and Toyota Racing Series. Ken has competed over 59 consecutive seasons on the motor racing circuit. He has won the Gold Star Drivers Award five times, Formula 5000 Revival three times, the Penang Grand Prix three times, the Selanger twice and the Malaysian Grand Prix once. In 1995 Ken was inducted into the New Zealand motorsport Hall of Fame.

Australian cars of note will be there. An Australian Grand Prix winning (Frank) Matich A50 and an MR8 Elfin 5000 campaigned in the US by Garrie Cooper and Vern Schuppan will be on track.

Rare Spares ambassador for eleven years, JB says of the event, “it’s the second best race track in Australia and there’ll be 550 classic cars at this weekend’s Classic.” John drove three cars in 2017 and for 2018 says: “I’ll be driving something that’s very rare, an Allard J2X from 1952 owned by Carroll Shelby that had raced in the American sports car scene.” This will be the first time this car has competed in Australia.

John acknowledged the support of his good friend Joe Calleja, current owner of the Allard, including the opportunity to drive his 1969 Group N Mustang.

Of Rare Spares JB said:” Without Rare Spares there would not behalf of the Aussie classic cars on the road that there is now.” John mentioned a recent club meeting he attended along with his great mate Dick Johnson and just how many cars were there that had used Rare Spares.

John’s relationship with the Phillip Island Classic goes back to 2000, and he’s driven a range of cars and 2000 first event, covering range of cars including a Le Mans style car to a 1970’s Porsche. John invites all Rare Spares attendees and fellow car enthusiasts to come and say hi!

Are you heading down to the Phillip Island Classic? Or have you been in years past? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and tell us your experiences in the comments section below.

Group S At The 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour

The Bathurst 12 Hour as an event continues to grow in both size and stature. After moving away from a production car based race, in a contentious decision at the time, to a GT based program, the success of that decision has been validated. However, man does not live on GT alone so there were a number of support categories including the Group S cars. Under the current regulations, Group S covers a period from the 1940s through to the end of the 1970s.

Groups S itself is an umbrella that covers three sub-categories; Group Sa, Sb, and Sc. Sa is for the more elderly cars, starting from early 1941 through to the end of December 1960. It’s this category that appeals to the drivers of British cars such as the MG-A, Sunbeam Alpine, or the “Bugeye” Sprite.

Sb cars cover a slightly more compressed timeframe, being January 1961 through to December 31 1969. There’s a vast appeal here to many marques, so Corvette Stingrays, Alfa Romeo GTVs, Porsche 911s, Shelby Cobras, and more will feature.

Group Sc rounds off with an inclusion of cars from January 1970 through to December 1977 (although we’ll see cars from 1979 racing) and Porsche stars here with the ever green 911. There’s the occasional De Tomaso Pantera, Datsun 260Z, and Triumph TR6.

Naturally, being historic car racing, there’s categories within categories, with engine capacity classes being applied. Group Sa has: Saa, Sab, and Sac, covering up to 1300cc, between 1300cc and 1800cc, and over 1800cc

Sb covers a larger range. Sba and Sbb are the same as Group Sa, with Sbc ranging from 1800cc to 3000cc, whilst Sbd is from 3001cc.

Sca is slightly different, covering up to 2000cc, then Scb just 2001cc to 2600cc, then Scc 2601cc to 3500cc before finalizing with Scd from 3501cc and up.

2018 has a pretty full calendar for these venerable machines with fourteen race weekends; March 2018 has the annual Philip Island Classic whilst mid April has the inaugural Shannon’s Nationals at the new South Australia Tailem Bend circuit. There’ll be visits to Morgan Park in Queensland, Winton in northern Victoria, and December sees the final round for the year at Sydney Motorsport Park for the fabulous Tasman Revival meeting.

The Group S cars are a production based category and the cars themselves do not have to have a specific racing history, unlike the Groups A and C cars which MUST be the original racing car. The www.groupsracing.org.au website says: “Group S cars are not historic racing cars; they are historic production sports cars, modified within the limits of Group S eligibility criteria.” 

Group S ran three races at Mt Panorama during the B12 event. Race 1 was Friday February 2 and was shortened to five from the scheduled seven laps. It was a fifty five car field that featured vehicles from all three sub categories with twelve different marques and it was a fifty one car field that finished the five laps.

Ian Ross in his 1966 Shelby GT350 managed to beach his classic machine at the Chase in lap one which resulted in a safety car being called out for three laps. Of the fifty one that finished race 1, sixteen were Porsche 911 and one of those, piloted by Geoff Morgan in the Sc class, took the chequered flag. In fact, the first three cars were Scc followed by two Scd. The quickest Sa car was in the Sac category, Zack McAfee in his tidy 1956 Austin Healey.

Unfortunately for Morgan race 2 was a fizzer on the final lap as his car’s distributor failed. This handed the win to fellow 911 pilot and Morgan’s good friend, Wayne Seabrook. There was a measure of carnage at the rear of field on the first lap with Colin Goldsmith’s immaculate 1959 Austin Healy being punted by a spinning Steve Constantinidis is his 1972 Corvette.

Race three was curtailed to five laps in a time critical finish. Seabrook again took the chequered flag. Doug Barbour in his 911 finished with a flourish by spinning on the final lap and managing to still snare fourth.

A sidebar here is just how quick and nimble some of the smaller engine cars were. Race three had Damien Meyer in a 1275cc MG Midget from 1970 finish in thirteenth position, ahead of cars such as a DeTomaso Pantera with its 351 Ford engine and a 928 Porsche with a 4.5L block. That was a great follow up to his 17th in race 1

Did you catch the classic car action at the Bathurst 12 hour? What did you think? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Ute Racing in Australia, What’s Next?

Over the past 2 decades, the V8 Utes became a staple on the travelling Supercars roadshow, with drivers jumping behind the wheel of modified production XR8 Falcon and SS Commodore Utes as a support card to the main events. The racing was fierce, fast and often akin to a dodgem car race as carnage often ensued! The category was used as a proving ground for young talent with well-known racers such as Warren Luff, Grant Denyer, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty cut their teeth against a host of series regulars like Ryal Harris, Craig Dontas and Kim Jane.

After well over 300 races, the category came to an end at the closing of the 2017 season, making way for the new SuperUtes category in 2018. To say the reception for the new format has been mixed is an understatement, as understandably many are upset at the prospect of aussie V8 powered utes being replaced by diesel powered duel cabs. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at everything we know about the new category and make a few predictions on how the racing will unfold at round 1 at the Adelaide 500 this weekend.

Based on the popular ute segment that is dominating Australian new car sales, the category is open to the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 with all bar the Navara slated to be on the grid in Adelaide.

The utes will require a minimum weight of 1800kgs, rear-wheel drive, turbo-diesel power and a control gearbox, rear axle assembly and ECU. Riding considerably lower than their production counterparts and producing power around 340bhp (250kw) and 500 ft/lbs of torque the utes will be lapping the circuit at a fairly brisk pace!

Past series champion Ryal Harris, popular competitor Craig Dontas and 2016 Dakar Winner Toby Price headline the driver taking to the new series with the latter competing in select events that don’t interfere with his international desert motorcycle racing commitments.

The big question all spectators are asking is “will it be exciting?” and with only short clips from testing gracing the Supercars website no one really knows. The utes are not alarmingly fast, nor do they sound particularly great, however all will be forgiven if the racing is good! Come quarter past two on Saturday afternoon all will be answered.

As for our predictions? It’s hard to bet against Ryal Harris although everything Toby Price touches he seems to be able to drive/ride the wheels off it. We anticipate the first of (hopefully) many battle royal’s in Australia’s newest racing category.

What do you think of the new SuperUte series? Who do you think will take the chocolates this weekend? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.