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.

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.

Five Close Motorsport Finishes

Parity has become an increasing focus across almost all forms of motorsports in recent years, however close races are still few and far between. As motoring enthusiasts there’s not much we love more than watching two drivers go toe-to-toe over the distance of a race with the end result coming down to the thousandth of a second. In this week’s blog we’ll take a look back at a few of the closest and most memorable motorsport finishes in history.

1986 Spanish Formula 1 GP

In a race between two of racing’s most famous and well respected racers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, the end result will be remembered as one of the closest in the history of Formula 1. Mansell elected to pit in the closing stages of the race for fresh tyres while Senna elected to stay out on older, worn out rubber. Mansell took increasingly bigger chunks out of the late Brazilian’s lead as the race wore on; eventually falling only 0.014 seconds short of victory after Senna successfully covered his lines in the final corners.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400

The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 came down to the wire between eventual winner Ricky Craven and the hot-headed Kurt Busch. As the two cars approached the line the two traded paint, with Craven eventually holding of Busch by 0.002 seconds at “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” Subsequently, the race was voted as the best NASCAR race of the decade by members of NASCAR Media.

2013 Freedom 100

Commentators at the time were calling it the greatest finish in the history of the Indianapolis Raceway, as four drivers from the IndyCar support category; Peter Dempsey, Gabby Chavez, Carlos Manoz and Sage Karam went toe-to-toe on the final lap. The resulting finish looks as though it had been staged as the drivers finished four-wide with Dempsey making a last straight dash from fourth to first. The final result; first and second were separated by 0.0026 seconds, with the gap to fourth totaling 0.0443 seconds.

2006 Portuguese MotoGP

2006 was an interesting year for Moto GP, as multi-time world champion struggled with an unreliable bike and struggled to reach the lofty heights of seasons past. This left the late Nicky Hayden to take out the championship under thrilling circumstances. In hindsight the Portuguese GP would prove to be the race that potentially cost Rossi the championship as a hard charging Toni Elias came from way back to snatch victory by 0.0002 seconds.

2016 NHRA Summit Southern Nationals

This race went about as close as you could get to a dead-heat, with NHRA Top Fuel Drag racers Doug Kalitta beating teammate JR Smith by a miniscule 0.0001 seconds, or about an inch. You would be forgiven for thinking that results like this are a foregone conclusion in drag racing, with similar cars racing over such a short distance. However, the more you watch top level drag racing, the more you realise that the chances of both cars having a perfectly clean run are slim to none. This race truly was an impressive spectacle.

Do you know of any other close racing finishes? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your favourites in the comments section below.

Roaring Heart – The Aussie Powered Alfa

In 1986 Paul Helstead and Formula 1 engineer Barry Lock set about building one of Australia’s first supercars; a rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo Sprint. The initial plan was to pair the Sprint body with a mid-mounted 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo V6, coupled with a ZF 5-speed transmission and Brembo brakes. This hot coupe was to be named ‘Giocattolo’, which translates in Italian to ‘toy’. Shortly after testing began, the Giocattolo team was to face issues in guaranteeing a steady supply of engines from Alfa Romeo, thus the search began for a replacement power source.

Halstead and Lock were to eventually decide on the Holden Walkinshaw 5.0 litre V8 Group A engine as the new power plant. Producing 220Kw/500Nm, the new engine package was a rocket, capable of powering the Giocattolo to 0-100kph in just 5.4 seconds, whilst having an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. As a result of the upgraded tires, brakes, transmission and a high tech Formula 1 style rear suspension setup, the Giocatollo possessed handling characteristics not dissimilar to a road registered go-kart on steroids.

The interior of the Sprint was also modified in the Giocattollo build process. The standard seats were replaced with leather Recaro’s, a Momo steering wheel was added and the dash was modified to fit the extra gauges. Other interesting features were the new centre console with integrated handbrake lever, power windows, air conditioning and even central locking.

As a result of the $80,000AU price tag, the Giocattolo did not sell particularly well, with only 15 of the Italian-Australian supercars were built, including 3 prototypes. In 1989 the Giocattollo closed its doors after 3 years of production, finding that it was not the right time for such a car in the Australian market.

Of the 15 built, car number 007 was destroyed in an accident in 2001, whilst one other is unaccounted for. Car number 007 was originally owned by the Brisbane Bears Australian Rules Football Club and was painted in the club’s colours; with a gold exterior and maroon interior. Car number 011 is also believed to have been owned by Lindsay Fox at one point in time, whilst the Queensland Police were even considering using Giocattolo as their pursuit car! All known remaining cars are reported to be in great condition and have been known to change hands for well over the original $80,000 price tag.

What is your favourite uniquely Australian car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.