Adelaide 2019 Race Report - Adam Marjoram

Adelaide is now done and dusted we had our best overall result yet and below is how it unfolded.

Wednesday 27th February

I arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday morning for the usual day of set up, scrutineering, track walk, team meetings and review data and vision from previous years. Now for the un-initiated in Supercars or Motorsport, I will use these race reports to take you behind the scenes of Supercar racing as understanding some of the intricacies of the sport will make the race reports more interesting.

Although I am still racing for image Racing this year, the support from Erebus Motorsport this year has stepped up to another level. Combine that with the fact that Dunlop Super 2 Supercars and main game Supercars are now identical except for main game will use a soft tyre at some tracks where we are restricted to hard tyres at most events (2 events will be soft tyre).

Just to cover the track walk and why we do it, every driver walks every track before practice to make their driver notes as things change from year to year, track surfaces and grip levels change, bumps in braking zones, curbs, even track signage or other landmarks that drivers may use as a pointer as to where to brake for a corner may move. Can you imagine if last year’s track notes tell you to brake at the Fosters sign and this year they moved it 20 metres closer to the turn, it would get ugly very quickly. Once the track notes are made the engineer and driver use them as a guide during the meeting combined with the car data to quantify if the driver is actually braking and accelerating where he should be or whether he can gain time by braking later and accelerating earlier. Everything done it was time to have dinner and get an early night. 

Thursday 28th February

Today I get to drive the car in anger for the first time at a race weekend this year. The format for Adelaide is two practice sessions on Thursday, qualifying and Race 1 on Friday, Race 2 on Saturday and Race 3 on Sunday.

For Practice 1, we elected to put on a very well used tyres as being a street circuit the track was dusty and dirty, and the first session is really all about getting you eye back in and finding out how well balanced the car feels so there is no point wasting a new set of tyres. With that said numerous teams actually bolted on a new set which are obviously faster so we finished well down the order in P12 about 1.5 seconds off the pace. The car had a fair bit of understeer during the session, so we made some adjustments before practice 2 to find more balance.

You will hear the word “balance” used a lot in Motorsport as that’s what every team and driver is chasing, the better the balance, the faster the car. A car that is well balanced will brake in a nice straight line, transferring weight to the front wheels to aid in turn in without trying to swap ends, it will then rotate when steering input is made, and will then squat down and transfer the weight to the rear wheels as you accelerate off the turn giving you great drive. 

A racecar that wants to go straight when you turn the steering wheel has understeer, a car that slides in the rear when the throttle is applied has oversteer. Too much understeer or oversteer will be slow, as you can’t direct it and transition the weight perfectly through the different zones of a corner .  With some set up changes made it was time for Practice 2. We started the session on the same old tyres we used for practice 1 and the car felt instantly better. Half way through the session we elected to put on a green set (new) tyres to see how the balance is on new tyres as this is what we will qualify on. On the first flyer we were in the top 3 in times, however the end result was not that good p15 as we went early on the new tyres and the track got faster and faster so those that left it later to put on greens were rewarded with better times. We used this to make sure the car was good for Qualifying rather than set a good lap time.

Just talking tyres for a second, depending on the track surface and the track temp a new set of tyres will only produce their fastest times for between 1-3 laps, after that they drop between 2 tenths to half a second a lap. After that they level out a bit and slowly lose time over the next 20-30 laps. So if you have not set a good time in qualifying with two flying laps you may as well pull in and save the tyres because you will not go any faster as the tyres have lost their best bit.

After each session we viewed the data, debriefed with the engineer as to what changes we need to make to go faster.

At 7.00pm I was a guest speaker along with Steven Johnson at a corporate function held in the city, where I was interviewed on stage and did a question session with the audience and shamelessly dropped some great sponsor plugs. It is always good fun being able to share my stories and experiences with guests, and love meeting new fans! 

Friday 1st February

Qualifying was scheduled for a 12.30 start, with the ambient temperature being 40 degrees and inside cabin temp being about 20 degrees hotter than ambient it was going to be a tough session.  Regarding tyres, each team is allocated 3 new sets of tyres to use through practice, qualifying and three races, so tyre conservation is always part of the strategy, otherwise by race three you have nothing good to race on.

We rolled out on our best used tyres to set a banking lap just in case a red flag is pulled ending the session. Our strategy was to do two flying laps on our two remaining sets of race tyres and sit out the rest of qualifying. With the first set, the car felt great and I had lit up two green boxes on my second flyer only to brake a little too deep in turn 14 locking the rears costing me about three tenths and that would have put me in the Top 5.

I then boxed and sat in the pits for a few minutes counting the clock down before my last run. With new tyres on I set about ragging the hell out of the car to put me further up the grid. Unfortunately as the track temp was still rising not many went any faster so my qualifying lap was the one set on the first set of tyres. As the chequered flag waved I had Qualified 9th for Race 1. Although not a bad result if I had not made the mistake in turn 14 I would have finished 5th fastest.

Race 1 was scheduled to start at 5.40pm and it was still close to 40 degrees so 19 laps in this heat was going to be gruelling. As a driver we have a few driver aids to help us deal with the heat stress from the high in-cabin temperature. We have a cool shirt that pumps coolant through an ice box and then through capillaries in the fireproof undershirt we wear. We also have a helmet fan that forces cooled filtered air through a tube connected to the top of our helmets onto the top of our heads and via a manifold on the helmet for us to breathe. 

The problem for me was that on the roll around lap before the start of the race my helmet fan decided it was way too hot to work so it gave up.

As the lights went green, I did not get a very good start, I simply did not hook the car up properly and lost two positions before the first corner. It was then “elbows out” to get those positions back which I did by going around the outside of cars on the first lap. We had two safety car periods during the race due to accidents, but in the heat this only makes the inside of the car hotter as you get heat soak from the engine and brakes but very little air flow to remove it. 

After the second safety car period the gap I had made had disappeared and I had to fight for the rest of the race to rebuild the gap behind me. My brake pedal had got so hot that it had burnt and started to blister the bottom of my foot through my race boots.  The final few laps were quite painful as you can imagine applying 100kg pressure on a burn each time I hit the brake pedal. By the time the chequered flag waved I was 7th across the line, a great way to open the account for the year!

Saturday 2nd February

Our race start today was not until 3.30pm so there was plenty of time between corporate box visits, driver signing sessions and pit tours to review the data and race set up from race 1. To alleviate some understeer problems I had in race 1 we decided to change the rear roll centre, and put on our other set of new tyres.

Race 2 Starting P7, this time I absolutely nailed the start, as I went to pass the car in front down the middle, he blocked me, so I flicked it left and passed him on the inside and made it 3 wide into the turn 1-2 chicane. The set up changes we had made had still not fixed the understeer problem which made me very vulnerable to dive bombs at turn 9 as I could not hold mid corner speed through turn 8. The cars behind me were putting immense pressure on, so I backed them up a little into each other working their rear tyres harder than they wanted also whilst they were fighting each other it gave me a bit of a break.  At the end of 19 laps I crossed the line in 6th, with a nice straight car – more points for the championship.

Sunday 3rd February

Once again only one race today with Race 3 starting at 2.00pm, after reviewing the data, my engineers decided to change front springs and rear anti roll bar to fix the understeering problem I had had during the last two races. This has been a problem we battled all weekend, and to move forward we needed this fixed. But at least the weather today was a bit cooler – a nice change, but it became very humid!

I again got a good start, but by the end of the first lap I knew we had gone a little too far with the changes and my understeering car was now oversteering quite badly. As a drivers we can trim understeer or oversteer by stiffening or softening the front and rear anti roll bars. As a general rule if you soften the bar you give more grip, if you stiffen the bar you lose grip.  By about quarter race distance I was maxed out on bar adjustment and still oversteering to the point of having a couple of scary moments through the high speed turn 8 that ended my race last year. I tried everything I knew to keep my position but unfortunately lost three positions during the race to finish 9th.

All in all we had a great start to the Championship with me taking 6th overall for the round and Championship.

I would like to once again take this opportunity to thank all my sponsors, Penrite Oil, Rare Spares Fabcon, Altrex, Carplan, Little Tree’s, Industrial Chemical Supplies, Bremtec Brakes, CoolDrive Ultima Shock Absorbers, Supercharge Batteries, Wesfil, Tridon, PK Tools, Nova and DB Connect.

Until next time.

Adam Marjoram 

 

 

 

Craig Lowndes Motorsport Career

His Mum calls him Craig. His mates call him whatever they want. Fans call him CL, or Lowndesy. We know him as Craig Lowndes. During his racing career he would become known for not just his talent, but his ever present smile, a great sense of humour, and a deep appreciation for his followers.

In a (V8) Supercars career that started in 1996, the year of his 22nd birthday, Lowndes became a winner at Bathurst seven times, including the memorable win in 2006 where he and Jamie Whincup became the first to have their names etched on the Peter Brock Trophy. He’s a triple V8 Supercars champion, and, as of the end of 2018, no longer a full time competitor in the Supercars championship.

Born in Melbourne on June 21, 1974, Lowndes trod a path many others have followed when following a motorsport dream. Karting was the weapon of choice, and at the age of nine he was likely to be found at the Whittlesea karting circuit, some forty or so kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD.

It took less than a decade before racing success came his way. In Formula Ford Lowndes found a kindred automotive spirit, gaining valuable exposure in the Motorcraft Formula Ford “Drive To Europe” series in 1991. Other drivers that found fame in this series were Russell Ingall, Tomas Mezera, and Cameron McConville.

1993 and Lowndes wins the Formula Ford championship, propelling him into the vision of Formula Ford in Europe. The championship title eluded him, but not by much, with third being notched up.

Come 1994 and he’s in Formula Brabham, winning the Australian Silver Star. Also known as Formula Holden, the series itself was short-lived. The Brabham nomenclature was part of the series for just five years, from 1991 to 1995. V8 Supercars were coming and the bright lights beckoned.

Lowndes was added to the test team crew of the Holden Racing Team and competed, in what was meant to be a one off appearance, alongside Brad Jones for the 1994 Sandown 500. The drive was successful enough to impress team principal Jeff Grech enough to offer a seat that had become vacant to Lowndes.

The 1994 Bathurst 1000 race cemented Lowndes as part of the Australian racing landscape. Ballsy driving, a rookie error or two, and a second place in 1994 set him on the path to become a full time member of HRT, winning the championship with them in 1996. On his first full season with them, mind. It had Lowndes drive next to Greg Murphy, with the win making Lowndes the youngest driver to win “The Great Race” at the time.

Although Australian success was his, the call from his heart to return to Europe was strong. 1997 and the International Formula 3000 Championship saw Lowndes sharing team driving duties with Juan Pablo Montoya. The candle was alight but the success proved elusive for the Victorian, with just one season completed and Lowndes returning to Australia.

By this time the V8 Supercars category was established and in full flight, with Lowndes quickly returning to form on Australian circuits. The 1997 Sandown 500 was added to the trophy cabinet, with “Murf” his co-driver. The next year Lowndes and Mark Skaife co-starred throughout the year, and Lowndes took out the 1998 championship. 1999 promised a lot inside the new VT Commodore and consistent performance had Lowndes on track to win that year’s championship by the time round eight arrived.

The location? Calder Park. The result? A car written off, one of the most spectacular rollovers seen in Aussie motorsport, and one very lucky CL. Although the crash gave him just minor injuries and being forced to miss the Sandown race that year, his lead was such that the championship was yet again his.

Australia’s automotive brand rivalry was brought to the fore at the beginning of the 21st century as Lowndes went from a red lion to a blue oval on his car. Further colour changes came in the form of his AU Falcon being a combination of black, silver, and green, the latter on the headlight covers and giving the car the affectionate nickname of “the green eyed monster”.

As much a talking point the car was, it didn’t deliver for Lowndes. It wasn’t until 2003 when a move to FPR, Ford Performance Racing, that his first win with Ford and the first since 2000 came along. The tenure with FPR proved short in time, with Lowndes signing with Team Betta Electrical, or Triple Eight Racing, for 2005. This was partly spurred by a 20th place finish for the 2004 season.

Again his tilt at the championship was looking good; he’d taken the most victories, and the most pole positions, but incidents such as a wheel smashing his windscreen at the 2005 Bathurst race had him place second behind Russell Ingall. However, there was a highlight for Lowndes in the form of the Barry Sheen Medal. Voted upon by motorsport writers, former drivers, and commentators, it was a recognition of Lowndes in that he’d won without being the year’s championship winner.

Perhaps the most memorable of wins for Lowndes was at Bathurst in 2006. Just weeks after the tragic passing of his friend and mentor, one Peter Brock, Lowndes and Whincup muscled their way through for the win to finish just a half second ahead of second placed Rick Kelly. Lowndes capped off that year by winning the Barry Sheene medal for the second year running. 2006 would also see he and Whincup take the first of three Bathurst victories in a row, making them just the third pairing to do so, with Brock and Larry Perkins, and Brock with Jim Richards the others.

In a flagging of what was to come, Ford Australia cut their motorsport sponsorship. Lowndes made the move back to Holden, with whom he would become the first driver to reach 100 wins, win his fifth Barry Sheene medal, and his third most popular driver award. 2015 saw him win his sixth Bathurst 1000.

2017 would be perhaps his career lowlight, with no wins to his name. Although this spurred talk of retirement which was denied, in mid 2018 Lowndes, CL, and Craig to his mum, along with his ever present smile, announced he would retire from full time competition.

What was your favourite Lowndesy career highlight? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog! 

History of the Ford Falcon in Supercars

Born in the early 1990s, the category originally known as V8 Supercars (and now Supercars) came from a decision by CAMS to revamp the Australian Touring Car Championship. 

One of three classes originally put together was Class A, which comprised 5.0L V8 powered Ford and Holden cars. The first Falcon to take part in what would become V8 Supercars, was the recently released EB Falcon. This model in road going trim, was the first to feature what were called “cannon barrel” headlights for the sporty XR6 and XR8 variants. Officially known as Group 3 A, Glenn Seton would take out the 1993 championship. The updated version, the EF Falcon, would take John Bowe to the championship in 1995. 

1996 saw the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company, AVESCO, come to life. This was a joint venture organization and effectively formalized the category as being the V8 Supercars. 1996 had Ford producing the EL Falcon, the last version of the fifth generation Falcon.

Ford Australia moved into the short lived AU Falcon. Perhaps best described as a failed design study, the AU would quickly be redesigned into the BA Falcon. Wins for the Falcon in the V8 Supercars championship would be sparse between 1997, with Seton again taking the championship in an EL Falcon, to 2003. Tasmanian born Marcus Ambrose piloted his BA Falcon, under the Stone Brothers umbrella, to the flag in that year.

It would also see a “threepeat” for the team with Ambrose repeating his win in 2004, followed by Russell Ingall in 2005. Ford revamped the BA into the BF in October of 2005. However it would not be until 2008 that Jamie Whincup would bring one to the forefront of the championship with the Triple Eight Race Engineering team.

A substantial facelift for the Falcon would bring the FG series into the championship. The road going versions had a streamlined model range and a raft of under the skin improvements. The road going FG range also saw the deletion of the 5.4L V8 that was part of the engine range and was replaced by the 5.0L “Coyote” engine. In a twist that brings in the future, that engine is the one to be found in the Ford Mustang, the body shape that will take over from the now discontinued Ford Falcon in the Supercars series.

Whincup would take a FG Falcon with Triple Eight to the championship in 2009, with the Ford “Blue Oval” also winning the championship in 2010 in the hands of James Courtney and Dick Johnson Racing.

The next generation of Supercars brought in a chassis specific design from 2013, meaning Holden and Ford would build to a base design, not off a production car. Since that era started, and finished in 2018, a Ford Falcon has won the Supercars championship just twice, with Mark Winterbottom and Prodrive Racing partnering in 2015 whilst Scott McLaughlin wrapped up the championship in Newcastle in the final FG X Falcon with Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske just a few weeks ago.

The Falcon is now replaced by the incoming Mustang and will be missed on the grid by the blue-oval enthusiasts. What was your favourite Falcon Supercar racer? The Green Eyed Monster or maybe one of the many iconic Shell Racing DJR liveries? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below this blog!  

The New Mustang Supercar

In motorsport’s evolution in Australia, the category known as Supercars, formerly known as V8 Supercars Australia, has opened the door to cars not of a four door body shape. With the success of the Ford Mustang in a retail sense, it makes sense to have the “tudor” as the first to be built under the new guidelines.

But first, some history. The Gen 2 design regs mandates a common chassis for any team entering the category. Builders are open but have to build a chassis and cage to the pre-determined specifications. It’s this bit that has caused some consternation and raised eyebrows, as the end result may have a car not of the same physical dimensions as the one it’s based on.

The V8 engine is located 100mm further back and down to the preceding chassis style, for weight balance and safety. Wheels must be 18 inches in diameter and thanks to the upward change it means bigger brakes can be fitted. The drivetrain is a transaxle, meaning the drive axles and gearbox are in one case.

For extra safety the fuel cell has been moved forward and the windscreen is now of a polycarbonate build, which is 250 times as strong as glass. Specific to Gen 2 also is being rear drive, right hand side drivers’ seat, four seats, and based on a car available to the public, meaning it must reflect the look of the car accurately.

What this means for the Ford Mustang Supercar is proven strength and reliability. It also means that thanks to the common chassis and cage, only a slight rejig of the Mustang’s familiar profile has been required.

There will be a little piece of history when the car makes its debut in 2019. Chassis DJRTP 02 or Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske 02, which was used for Supercars’ tyre and aerodynamic testing last year, will become one of the first Mustang Supercars. It will be used for testing and is set to be the team’s spare race car. DJRTP will build one brand new car and convert another.

It is currently the team’s second spare, last raced as a Falcon FG X in Fabian Coulthard’s hands during 2016. Work began on converting the chassis in mid 2018. Tickford Racing will also build a pair of new cars and convert two cars to the new body style.

Anticipation from teams was seen in 2017, with Cameron Waters driving a car whose chassis was earmarked to be a Mustang. After a point in time had been reached where the signoff was past to have a Mustang run in 2018, the car was built as a Falcon. The chassis’ build commenced in March of 2017, such was the timeline teams were hoping for in order to see the Mustang body run on Australian circuits this year.

Specialist graphic design outlet ssMedia, headed by Scott Yorston, has produced 3D visuals of many V8 Supercars and the current Supercar designs. Working from concept drawings and with a livery idea from the US, Scott has also produced his view of the Mustang Supercar which has been greeted with acclaim in the Australian motorsport fraternity. It shows, as much as Scott is able to produce due to legalities, a car very close to the road going version. With panels placed around the control chassis it appears a little taller in height and perhaps a little shorter than the road goer as a result.

Testing of the 2019 Mustang Supercar is underway, and we can’t wait to see it hit the track in anger! Are you looking forward to having the Mustang back on the grid of Australian race tracks? Let us know in the comments section below this article on our Facebook page!

 

Blast from the Past – The Supercars tracks of yesteryear

In two weeks’ time the 2017 Supercars season will reach fever pitch as the championship comes down to the wire at the brand new Newcastle street circuit. The Newcastle circuit is undoubtedly going to prove to be one of the more picturesque racing locations on the circuit and a worthy replacement for the at times dull Sydney Olympic Park race. The Olympic Park location isn’t the first track in Supercars history to make way for a new and improved location, in this article we’ll take a look at some of the rounds that are no longer on the Supercars calendar.

Calder Park

Calder was staple on the ATCC and V8 Supercars throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and along with Sandown was one of two championship races within a stone's throw of Melbourne CBD. The Supercars utilised the ‘road’ circuit at the facility, bypassing the iconic Thunderdome, a feature which many feel could have added to the variety of racing on the Supercars calendar and potentially lead to a NASCAR style duel format of racing. Unfortunately racing ceased at the venue after the 2001 event when the racing surface and facilities were deemed not up to scratch. The circuit was also the scene of one of the biggest touring car crashes in recent memory when a young Craig Lowndes and his VT commodore went cartwheeling down the front straight after making contact with Steven Richards and Garth Tander.

Oran Park

Another iconic Australian racing circuit, Oran Park played host to battles from Brock and Moffat through to Ambrose and Skaife before closing down in 2008 to make way for a housing estate. A favourite of many drivers, the short and narrow circuit included one of the only ‘over-under’ bridges in Australian racing. Now unrecognisable to the average racing punter, the only remaining indicator of racing ever taking place on the site is the motorsport related street names.

Hamilton Street Circuit

Running between 2008 and 2012, the Hamilton 400 took the place of Pukekohe on the Supercars calendar and provided a happy hunting ground for 6 time series champion Jamie Whincup, who took 2 of the 5 race victories at the venue. The racing itself at the track was interesting enough, however bubbling away behind the scenes was a massive debate within the Hamilton City council when it was discovered the event had been operating at a significant loss in its final 2 years. Subsequently the event was relocated back to Pukekohe where it remains today as the Auckland SuperSprint.

Mallala

Mallala Motorsport Park flew the South Australian flag in the ATCC right up until 1999 when it was replaced on the calendar by the incoming Clipsal 500, which itself was also filling the void left by the Adelaide iteration of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The track received mixed reviews from competitors with Dick Johnson openly criticizing the track’s lack of facilities and bumpy racing circuit; however such remarks were uncommon from Johnson who was renowned for being not much of a fan of any tracks outside of Queensland. On the other hand, Jim Richards suggested the tight track would even the competition up, ensuring close racing at a time when the RS5000 Sierra’s were dominating the competition. Racing at lower levels still takes place at the circuit; however with the passing of longtime owner Clem Smith earlier this year, the future of racing at the circuit is unclear.

With a number of other circuits coming and going over the years including trips to Bahrain, Texas and local circuits such as Amaroo Park, Lakeside and the Canberra Street Circuit the Supercars championship has spread its wings far and wide, we’re just scratching the surface!

Which former Supercars or ATCC circuit was your favourite? Which would you replace on the current calendar? Head over the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.