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.

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.

Demolition Derby – Taking a look at the Winton TCM Crash

Back in May at the Winton SuperSprint, motorsport fans witnessed one of the bigger crashes in the history of the Touring Car Masters series. At Rare Spares, we love watching our favourite cars of yesteryear wind back the clock and hit the track in earnest. However, we can’t help but cringe a little when we see these beauties on the back of a truck being towed back to the pits in a crumpled mess! But, it is motorsport and we all know the risks when hitting the track, so in this article we’ll take a quick look at the incident, who was involved and what has gone into getting these masterpieces back on the track.

Qualifying at Winton couldn’t have gone much better for Jason Gomersall who was able to place his Big Mate A9X Torana on pole for race 2, declaring it his greatest achievement in motorsport. The team was understandably stoked with the achievement, beating out racing legend John Bowe by mere two-one hundredths of a second. Unfortunately for Gomersall, the weekend became unforgettable for all the wrong reasons less than 24 hours later. Gomersall was off to a cracking start to the race, clearing his competition and heading into turn 2 with the track to himself. From here it all went pear shaped though, losing the rear end of the beautiful Torana he span in front of the oncoming field. What came next can be best described as complete and utter chaos.

Gomersall span into the path of Eddie Abelnica and his XB Falcon before being collected by Mark King’s Camaro leaving both cars with very heavy front end damage. The ensuing pack had nowhere to go, with a number of cars finding each other or the surrounding walls. John Bowe was also caught up in the incident, resulting in a few broken ribs and a short stint in hospital. When all was said and done, seven cars were involved in the incident and the race was suspended.

With a short turnaround to the Darwin round, many teams faced an uphill battle to get their cars back in racing condition. Gomersall’s Torana sustained extensive damage to the front cross member, steering rack and radiator, however the engine was largely undamaged and the rest of the car from the firewall back was almost unscathed. Incredibly the A9X was back racing in Darwin finishing in P4 for the weekend. Mark King’s Camaro wasn’t quite as lucky, however it’s well on its way to hitting the track again. In the meantime King has been behind the wheel of an incredible looking 1972 GTS Monaro.

The TCM series continues in 2017 with rounds remaining at the marquee Supercar events held at Sandown, Bathurst and Newcastle, make sure you don’t miss any of the action! Do you own a TCM worthy classic car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Dick Johnson and The Infamous Rock

Ford racing legend Dick Johnson was at the centre of one of motorsports greatest controversies in 1980. While leading the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 disaster struck when he encountered a rock on top of the mountain on lap 17, ruining both his car and any hopes he had of race victory. In this article we will recount the incident, the following outpouring of support from the general public and discuss just how the rock ended up on the track.

The 1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 started about as well as Johnson could have hoped. With main rival Peter Brock experiencing issues as a result of a collision with a back marker and going a lap down at the start of lap 17, the race was Johnson’s to lose. As any Australian motorsport fan would know, the mountain tends to strike in the strangest of ways, and only a matter of 30 seconds after putting Brock a lap down, Johnson experienced firsthand the ways of the mountain. After passing through the cutting, Johnson rounded the next right to be confronted with a tow truck on one side of the road, and a football sized rock on the other. With nowhere to go, Johnson hit the rock. The impact ripped the front wheel and suspension apart before sending the XD Falcon into the wall at high speed. At such an early stage of the race it’s hard to say it cost Johnson a certain victory, but with the lapped Brock going on to win the great race, it’s not too much of a stretch to say the race was Johnson’s to lose.

Later in the day Johnson was interviewed for TV, where he emotionally explained the incident, stating “I just couldn’t believe my bloody eyes. These galoots up there that just throw boulders... like it was enormous.” He went on to explain that to repair the car and have it back on track would cost him at least $40,000 and that until fences were installed around the track he wouldn’t be returning. The public responded with an outpouring of support, calling into the TV station to donate money towards the rebuilding of Johnson’s car. When all was said and done, $72,000 had been donated by the public, which was matched by Ford Australia leaving the grand total at $144,000. The amount reignited Johnson’s racing career, which still continues today as a key stakeholder in the DJR Team Penske Racing Team, which is currently dominating the 2017 Supercar Championship. Of course Johnson would return to the mountain, recording three wins in the great race, including the very next year in 1981.

But just how did that rock end up in the middle of the Mt Panorama racing circuit? Well the story goes that two hungover men had made their way to the side of the track to watch the racing after a big night on the cans. One of them was lying down with his head resting on one rock and his feet resting on another, using it to hold him in position on the steep bank above the track. While moving his feet, he dislodged the rock, sending it plummeting down the embankment. At this point the two men bolted and were never to be seen again and as for the rock… the rest is history. Johnson has since stated in interviews that he believes this story and even shares in the humour of the situation, having the rock on display in his office for the last 30 years.

What’s your favourite Bathurst memory? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.