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.

A look at John Bowe’s On-Track achievements

Rare Spares Brand Ambassador and Australian Motorsport icon, John Bowe, was recently inducted into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame, joining names such as Brock, Webber and Brabham on the illustrious list. Throughout his hugely successful career, Bowe’s resume stacks up against some of the greatest in the history of the sport. In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at a few of the highlights on Australian shores throughout his career (so far!).

Back-to-Back Australian Drivers Championships

In the mid 80’s Bowe went on a tear through the 1984 & 1985 Australian Drivers Championships behind the wheel of a Cosworth powered Ralt RT4, winning 9 of a possible 12 races across the two year span. The two championships really kickstarted a career that would result in him becoming the only person in history to win the Australian Drivers Championship, Australian Sports Car Championship and Australian Touring Car Championship.

Bathurst victories with Dick Johnson

Bowe joined forces with Dick Johnson to take victory on the mountain on two occasions. First in 1989 behind the wheel of the light switch powered Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, and the second occasion in 1994 in the Ford EB Falcon. The Sierra was so hit and miss that the DJR cars were almost guaranteed of victory provided they made it to the finish line. The duo qualified on pole and led almost every single lap around the mountain to earn Bowe’s first Bathurst victory. In 1994 the team came from 10th on the grid to victory after Johnson had a mishap during Saturday’s Top Ten Shootout – a very impressive performance!

1995 Australian Touring Car Championship

The 1995 ATCC driver lineup reads as a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s most talented racing drivers with names such as Brock, Seton, Perkins, Johnson, Skaife, Crompton and Richards gracing the starter’s flag each weekend. None were a match for Bowe and his Shell Racing DJR EF Falcon, who went on to win four events to win the title by an impressive 27 points over Glenn Seton at years end.

2014 Bathurst 12 Hour Victory

In 2014 John Bowe joined forces with Craig Lowndes, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards to win what as at the time the fastest Bathurst 12 Hour yet. Behind the wheel of their Ferrari 458 GT3 the team completed 296 laps to beat out a number of highly touted local and international teams. The win came in Bowe’s 29th consecutive year racing at the famed circuit.

What do you consider John Bowe’s greatest motorsport achievement? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

2017 Motorsport Year in Review

2017 has been a year to remember in motorsports worldwide, with champions crowned, rising stars established and the rest going back to the drawing board hoping for a more successful 2018. At Rare Spares we’ve been glued to our TV sets throughout the year keeping track of all the major forms of racing around the globe. From TCM to Formula 1, in this article we’ll take a quick look at the categories that caught our eyes in 2017.

Touring Car Masters

Touring Car Masters produced another classic racing season as Steve Johnson stormed his way through the second half of the season to take out the Pro class. John Bowe and Adam Bressington rounded out the podium, while a huge crash at Winton captured headlines when a no less than 12 cars were caught up in a pile up at the second corner. The TCM category is going from strength to strength attracting a number of ex pro’s providing the ultimate challenge to the amateur participants.

Supercars Australia Championship

What a season for Supercars, Jamie Whincup took the title for the seventh time, with the fight between himself and Scott McLaughlin coming down to the very last lap of the season. The eventual margin of victory was 21 points after McLaughlin was penalised 25 seconds for squeezing a hard charging Craig Lowndes into the wall on the last lap of the season. David Reynolds and Luke Youlden were popular Bathurst 1000 winners while Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen took out the Enduro Cup. The category’s first female driver Simona Di Silvestro finished in 24th place, but produced a few moments that suggest 2018 could be an exciting year for the Swiss native.

Bathurst 12 Hour

Taking place way back in February, the Bathurst 12 hour was won by Marinello Racing with Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Toni Vilander behind the wheel. Shane Van Gisbergen and his Scott Taylor Motorsports teammates put up an incredible fight before SVG put the incredible AMG into the wall while trying to chase down his Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup. The 2018 edition is fast approaching, and catching our eyes is the inclusion of a classic car event at this year’s 12 hour. Group S cars will be taking to the grid, with everything from Austin Healy’s, MG’s and Porsche’s taking part in a support race.

Formula 1

British superstar Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth World Championship and Mercedes claimed their fourth constructer’s championship in a row. Ferrari regained some level of form in 2017 as Sebastian Vettel held the points lead for much of the first half of the season. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was left frustrated due to the lack of pace and reliability in Red Bull’s 2017 power units, meaning only one win was recorded for the popular West Australian.

NASCAR & IndyCar

Martin Truex Jnr took out the premier class of NASCAR in 2017, winning the final event in Miami to round out the ‘playoff’ series with a lead of 5 points over Kyle Busch. IndyCar headlines were dominated by Fernando Alonso in 2017 as he began his quest to conquer motorsports ‘Triple Crown’ (Monaco GP, Indy 500 & Le Mans). Alonso impressed in his first IndyCar outing at the Indy 500 and even led the prestigious race at one point before an all too familiar Honda engine failure left the Spaniard stranded. Takuma Sato won the event while Josef Newgarden went on to take out the title.

What was your favourite motorsport moment in 2017? Or maybe you have some predictions for 2018? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Bucking the Trend - How Australia fell in love with the 240z

When Mr Yataka Katayama was employed by Nissan Motor Company back in 1960, he was tasked with marketing a car to the lucrative US market that strayed from the company’s roots of producing no-frills transportation to the local Japanese market. After failing throughout much of the sixties to produce the car that would penetrate the US market, in 1966 development began on a project named ‘Z’.

The aim for project ‘Z’ was to produce a car that was powerful, comfortable, had great handling characteristics, looked nothing like a typical Japanese car of the time and it had to be affordable! After 3 years of development, the Datsun 240z was released to the US public in 1969 featuring a SOHC 2.4 litre six-cylinder power plant, disc brakes upfront and independent suspension. Whilst none of those features individually were particularly ground-breaking at the time, the 240z was the first car to include all of these features in an affordable package

After any initial problems were ironed out, production of a right hand drive 240z commenced in 1970 before being distributed around the world. The Datsun 240z proved immediately popular amongst car enthusiasts in Australia and has developed somewhat of a cult following in the decades since. Powerful rear-wheel drive cars have always proved popular in the Australia market, and the 240z was a way for the average punter to own a car that was quick, even by today’s standards. The 240z was capable of achieving 0-60mph in 8 seconds before accelerating to a top speed of 125mph (201kph).

The 240z was immediately well received in Australia, despite being more expensive than both the Ford GTHO and Cortina. The Japanese 240z benefitted from favourable magazine reviews that in many cases compared the vehicle with miss-matched competition such as the Triumph TR6 and four cylinder offerings from Alfa Romeo and Lancia. These outdated and underpowered cars were no match for Datsun’s comparatively modern 240z.

Datsun’s focus on performance during the production process meant that the 240z proved immensely popular in the aftermarket industry, with the car ultimately proving to be a competitive racing package. Although racing of the 240z in Australia did not take off immediately, it was in the Sports Car Club of America meetings where seeing a 240z leading the pack was becoming all too common. Datsun’s involvement in racing in Australia eventually came in the form of the national Australian Rally Championship, with Ross Dunkerton driving the 240z to a series victory in 1975, and the incoming 260z in 1976 & 1977.

To this day, the Datsun 240z remains a popular option for car collectors and heritage racers alike, with mint condition, un-modified examples selling for north of $50,000AU.

Have you ever owned or driven a 240z? Let us know about your pride and joy on the Rare Spares Facebook page and below in the comments section.

Falcon Farewell – Saying Goodbye to the Aussie Icon

When Ford introduced the XK Falcon to the Australian market back in 1960, not many would have predicted the impact that the ‘Falcon’ name would have on the Australian motoring landscape. Production of the Falcon came to an end in 2016, although along the 56 year journey Ford was able to produce a number of iconic Australian cars. Here we take a look at six Falcons that will forever be remembered by Australian motoring enthusiasts.

1965 XP Flacon

The original XK is remembered as a car that unfortunately wasn’t built with local conditions in mind, resulting in the model receiving a poor reputation amongst consumers. Ford went back to the drawing board; with build quality issues being quickly remedied and by 1964, the XP Falcon was the car that kick started over five decades of manufacturing of the Falcon in Australia. In order to overcome durability issues faced in the original Falcon, Ford conducted 70,000km of around the clock on-road testing at their You-Yang’s facility. The end result of this arduous testing was a car that proved to be capable of handling everything Australia’s harsh conditions could throw at it.

1971 XY GT-HO Phase III 

Arguably Australia’s most iconic car, the XY GT-HO Phase III was originally built in order to homologate the XY Falcon for racing. Only 300 units were built. The 351 cubic inch that lay underneath the bonnet was a true fire breather, non-standard heads and valves with an increased compression ratio of 11.5:1 coupled with a 780 Holley carby. It was capable of a top speed of 142mph and 14.4 seconds down a quarter mile which propelled it to the fastest four door sedan in the world at the time. The HO also came couple with  These days a very good example of one of these cars would set you back a bit south of $500,000.

1973 XA GT RPO83

In 1972 the XA Falcon range was introduced, with arguably one of the biggest body styling changes since the introduction of the Falcon it certainly made an impression in the car park. With the Supercar Scare and the cancelling of the Phase 4 program hope was not completely lost for a hero car beyond the GT staple.1973 gave rise to Regular Production 83, a performance package option with 250 units scheduled 259 were eventually built. The package included a big 780 Holley carby and extractors along with some other rumoured extras. Not all were fitted with the same equipment supposedly and this has led to many theories as to what was factory and what wasn’t on the limited run cars. They now demand a substantial premium with a recent Lime Glaze RP083 Sedan said to have sold for $240,000.

1980 XD ESP

1979 brought another body styling transitioning from the XC range which marked the introduction of side intrusion bars and the forever iconic blue oval grille and bootlid badges. The XD was more reminiscent of the XY styles with sharper body lines and was heavily influences by the European Granada Mk2. With the departure of the GT name in 1976 the public now were deemed ready for another substantial sports package, the European Sports Pack (ESP) option in 1980. Option 54 – ESP, included “Scheel” fornt seats, Red lit instruments/clock, Bilstein shockers, dual rear radius rods and Bathurst Globe rims. Ever since the introduction of the ESP they have been a sought after vehicle with XD and XE ESP’s demanding between $15,000 and $45,000 in most cases depending whether they were 6 cylinder’s or fitted with the highly desirable factory T code 351ci engine.

2002 BA XR6 Turbo

In 2002, the BA XR6 Turbo brought upon a step outside of the Falcon’s recent conservative comfort zone. This turbo charged engine package option utilized the new Barra I6 4.0L with a Garrrett GT40 Turbo, it was able to produce a lively 240Kw/450Nm whilst giving its 8-cylinder counterpart some serious competition. The new look BA design with the XR6 Turbo offering went a long way to erasing the memories of the largely unpopular AU range.
 

2014 FGX XR8 Sprint

The 2014 FGX XR8 Sprint will go down in the history books as the most powerful Falcon ever produced. The brochure will tell you that the XR8 Sprint produces 335Kw/570Nm, although as a result of its ‘transient over-boost’ feature, maximum power figures will read closer to a whopping 400Kw/650Nm. The FGX brought in a number of cosmetic changes compared to the outgoing FG, although the interior stayed much the same. Whilst some may deride the fact the interior is a little plain, and that the car is lacking a few common technical features, it still remains that the consumer had access to unbelievable power figures at a very competitive price point.

The Ford Falcon will forever hold a special place in Australian motoring enthusiast’s hearts, and with a number of other Falcons arguably being capable of making this list, we’d love to hear which have been your favourite Falcon’s over on the Rare Spares Facebook page and in the comments section below.