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.

Targa Tasmania Event Wrap-up

Targa Tasmania has wrapped up its twenty seventh year and caps itself yet again as Australia’s premier tarmac rally series. It really is an event for any driver as there are ten distinct categories to choose from. There’s the Rookie Rallye, Vintage and Classic, Early Modern, and GT Sports Trophy, just to name a few. Combined with these categories is the ability to show up in approved cars that can date back to 1900.

This year’s event was also round two of the CAMS 2018 Australian Targa Championship, with the first, Targa North West, also held in Tassie and is intended to give drivers a “taste” of the Targa Tasmania. The next events are Targa Great Barrier Reef before heading south to Victoria for Targa High Country.

TT as some call Targa Tasmania, covers close to five hundred kilometers and is run across thirty-three special stages. The overall winners were once again Jason and John White in their Dodge Viper ACR. Jason and John have raced in twenty-one Targas, and have also moved into second place of the all time overall winners, sitting behind former Australian Touring Car Championship driver Jim Richards and long time ally and former V8 Supercars commentator, Barry Oliver. Oliver had also announced his retirement from motorsport prior to the event.

The win placed the duo first in the Wrest Point GT2 class (cars made from January 2008 and two wheel drive, minimum 500 made). Second outright was a Subaru WRX STi, co-driven by Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis. This had them win outright the RDA Brakes GT4 class (as per GT2, but with four/all wheel drive) and now lead the modern car section of the CAMS Targa Championship.

Local honours were taken by Hobart doctor Michael Pritchard and co-driver Gary Mourant. They placed third outright in a Porsche and claimed second in the GT2 class.

Former GT Championship driver Paul Stokell folded his lanky body into a Lotus Exige, one of many that competed and finished this year’s event, with co-driver Erin Kelly.

The Whites were concerned about their tyres as co-competitors Matt Close and Cameron Reeves had been pushing them very hard prior to the final six stages. Jason White said: “We were actually having a lot more sweat about what was going on with the tyres. It really forced John and I to be at the top of our game.” Relief came for the Whites in the form of Close and Reeves’ Porsche GT3 losing traction on cold tyres and going off-road, damaging the car enough to stop further competitive driving.

The third round of the CAMS Australian Targa Championship is the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef to be held in Cairns from August 31 to September 2. 

Have you ever competed in Targa Tasmania? Or is it on your ‘bucket list’ to get down south and have a crack? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us all about it in the comments section below this article!

Rare Spares D’Alberto Car Collection

With great wealth comes great responsibility. That’s what Bill Gates said. He should know, having been one of the all time wealthiest people. But define wealth? Is it purely a monetary value? Or can it be a little philosophical and be of something untouchable, like the love a parent has for a child? Perhaps that wealth can be something others covet and envy.

If it’s this, then the D’Alberto family certainly had wealth. This came in the form of a collection of motor vehicles that, in some cases, had barely a thousand kilometers worth of driving. The Echuca, Victoria, based family owned a car dealership group, spread across four locations in Victoria and New South Wales, and had amassed a considerable amount of cars over the past decades, including a 1927 Chevrolet ute, a 1927 Buick Tourer, a 1921 Model T Ford, and an absolute gem in the shape of a 1988 VL Walkinshaw Group A SS. Build number 333, if you don’t mind.

Never registered it had still somehow covered some kilometers, but just 1308 of them. Part of the collection of cars that was auctioned off by Mildura based auction house Burns & Co, its new owner handed over $305,000 plus auction fees.

The auction itself wasn’t just about moving rolling metal however. Plenty of boxes full of marketing material and posters were available, such as the evolution of Holden from the 1960s to the 1970s, Peter Brock and Holden Racing Team items, driving lights, user manuals for vehicles, trim pieces, and spare parts.

It’d be fair to say, however, that it was the astounding collection of cars being offered that attracted the most eyeballs. Cars such as a 48/215, a Corvette Stingray, even a Sydney Olympic Torch Relay fitted out Commodore were there for the asking.

A 48 year old LC Torana GTR went for an eyewatering $165,000, a similarly aged HT Monaro with a naturally aspirated 5.0L engine lightened the wallet for $170,00, while some more modern muscle in the form of a 1992 VN Group A SS saw $210,000 against its name.

The D’Alberto brothers certainly had an eye for quality and made sure that as many as possible of the cars were in as best a condition as possible. Hence the responsibility part of the opening quote. A quick look through the online catalogue showcases shiny and well maintained cars, including a lovely 1970 Monaro GTS with a 186ci straight six cylinder. With the speedo reading just 313 miles travelled, it sold for $240,000.

Do you have your own piece of Australian motoring history in your garage? Tell us about your pride and joy in the comments section on our Facebook page.

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Rare Spares Holden Torana GTR-X Concept Car

Holden has a very strong history when it comes to designing and engineering concept cars. Of recent years there’s the immaculate Efijy, and the reborn Monaro. Both two door cars, interestingly enough, as two other concept cars were also two doors. There’s the Hurricane, and the Torana GTR-X.

The latter came oh so close to being put into production, and the chassis itself was based on the LC Torana XU-1. The low slung, fibreglass bodied, slinky looking, machine even had the same engine, the then potent 186S.

Exterior design was eye catching, with a long bonnet that started with a flat, shovel-like nose, pop up headlights, a steeply raked windscreen, and a sharp tail with hockey stick tail lights. These were design elements that were later seen in two of Italy’s best from Ferrari and Maserati.

Inside the cabin featured laid back bucket seats, milled aluminuim sheeting, a plethora of gauges for oil temp and pressure and the like, and a short throw gear selector for the four speed manual.

That was connected to the straight six which produced 119kW and 265Nm. They’re hardly groundbreaking numbers now but for a car built in 1970 that weighed under 1050kg, they provided more than enough punch. Unique at the time were the disc brakes to be found at each corner.

It’s unclear exactly how many versions were built; some say three, some say four, but it’s known that just one example of what could have been an inspirational car survives. Holden has a museum at its Melbourne based headquarters, where the sole survivor lives in cosseted luxury.

Why wasn’t it ever sold? The population of Australia in 1970 was just over twelve million and Holden’s numbers indicated that wasn’t enough to justify what would potentially be a low volume seller. Considering how well received the Datsun 240Z was when it was released just a year before, and how it’s perceived still after nearly fifty years, one could say this was a somewhat shortsighted view.

Have you seen the Holden Torana GTR-X? What do you think of the car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Aussie Motorsport Classic: The Channel 9 Camaro

October 3, 1982. Reid Park, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Lap 27. Kevin Bartlett. Camaro. A time, location and car that are forever etched into Australian motorsport history.

KB is up with the leaders in the famous Bathurst 1000 when one of a batch of fourteen wheels the team had bought for the Camaro fails. It’s the rear left. Instantly, the tyre deflates, pitching the Channel 9 branded car’s rear into the concrete safety wall. The left front bounces off as the nose swings around and it’s just on a right hand curve on an uphill run.

Unsettled, there’s momentum enough to cause the Camaro to roll over to the right, landing on its roof. The car skids to the other side of the track and quickly a trackside official is there to assist a shaken Bartlett out of the inverted Camaro. He’s ok, points at the clearly ruined wheel and tyre, and walks into the crowd.

In context, it was a miracle that Bartlett and the Channel 9 sponsored car were in the race at all. In practice just a couple of days before, co-driver Colin Bond was at the wheel when a ball joint nut on the front left wishbone came adrift. The front left suspension collapsed and flung the corner into the wall. The location? Almost exactly where the wheel would fail two days later.

As KB says: “it was a miracle that my crew and the TAFE smash repair team had it back together in time for qualifying.” However, there’s more to the story in getting the car on track in the first place.

Bartlett bought the car, a brand new 1978 built machine, from an American dealership and imported the car into Australia. The intent was to race it in what was then the Group C regulations. Once the car landed, Bartlett says, a lot of work was needed to get the car down to the weight as stipulated. The leaf spring suspension was replaced with fibreglass units, super strong Kevlar for the front guards and spoilers, but CAMS insisted that the car use drum brakes at the rear, instead of the optional disc brakes.

In case you’re wondering why the car looks different to a 1978 model, it’s because CAMS also said the car had to run with bodywork from the ’74 to ’77 models. Bartlett still shakes his head in disbelief. But there was a hidden benefit as it turned out. The earlier bumpers were aluminium, not steel…

Is the Channel 9 Camaro your favourite Aussie Motorsport classic? Or maybe you're a GTHO or Torana sort of person? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and tell us about your favourite cars to hit the Australian motorsport scene!