Under darkish skies, we met in Doncaster for a route briefing (with supporting maps) and an overview of the proceedings for the day. By departure time, I was brave enough to drop the top of the Boxster and enjoy the fresh air. The look on Robin's face indicated she wasn't in total agreement... The roads were good, and the hilly terrain gave the cars a thorough workout while not needing to use excessive outright speed.
The first stop was to be in Wallan at 'Hogans', a tastefully renovated pub, where we consumed some HUGE freshly baked scones with jam and cream and good coffee before heading out again.
Lunch at Mt Macedon was at a very cosy cafe, set in a gorgeous garden with scattered cabins as the property also acts as a B&B. We partnered with a lovely couple, Martin & Denise, who like us, had lived and worked overseas so we had lots in common. And more in common when finding out that Martin is a member at The National Golf Club.
The food was good and was delivered at a relaxed pace which meant that from the 1PM start we didn't leave until after 4PM. Local wines were available and from memory I had a Macedon Ranges Reisling which was very tasty.
As always, the event was superbly organised and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
My technical team at NinePlus in Richmond (Stuart, Mathew and Dean) gave the car a comprehensive once over.
A complete spanner / safety check, levelled the fluids, replaced the rear pads with 'gun' Project Mu pads (the same as previously fitted to the front) and the brakes bled again. I previously reported a loose / swivelling accelerator pedal which was also replaced. The cost of the pedal was more than $A420 excluding labour, GST and the tissues used to wipe the tears from my eyes! Thank you Porsche Cars Australia... The fuel and air filters were cleaned to improve flow and breathing. And the bonnet tie down catch was replaced with a more sturdy apparatus in the expectation of much higher terminal velocities!
I picked the car up with high hopes for the weekend...
A fellow GT3 friend and competitor had invested in a data logging and video system which was very impressive. This technology seemed to give him a unfair advantage over me! Therefore the next major addition to help my driving performance had to be the installation of a Video VBox Lite, Data Logger and Dual Camera system, developed by Racelogic in the UK. My local distributor, David Stannus, Director of ProTech Developments (less than 30 minutes drive from home) oversaw the custom installation of the control unit, one forward facing and one driver facing camera, two mono microphones, a CAN Micro Data Capture Module and a Predictive OLED Lap Timer.
VBOX custom integrated installation by ProTech Developments
Both cameras and the lap timer are solidly roll cage mounted, all wiring is hidden and the system is vehicle 'mains' powered with a discrete On/Off switch and the design and fitting of custom under dash cradle for the control unit is an outstanding piece of work. All backed by great technical support. Many thanks to David & the ProTech team!
Video VBOX Lite - (Image courtesy Racelogic UK)
Friday was a published 'Test & Tune' day (really an Open Practice session) at Winton Raceway. The format was 20 minutes for sedans, 20 minutes for open wheel cars and twenty minutes for bikes. Perfect! A solid driving session followed by a 40 minute break repeated five or six times a day for $120. Great country value IMO. So what was the outcome? In my defence there were a number of cars on the track, at varying speeds, so getting into the groove to nail a 'gun' lap escaped me, I'm afraid. My best timed lap was a 1.41.9 on Lap 6 of my third session. My exciting new Video VBOX Lite captured it all for your enjoyment on YouTube below ....
Also calculated by the VBOX, was my best 'optimal' lap of the nine laps on that session (made up of the best times from each of the six timed sectors on each lap), a 1.37.2. This 'ideal' time would make me 'mid pack' in our club events for GT3s, so now I just need to find some ability to harness those sector times into a single lap on Saturday. The data says I can do it!
Then during my last session on Friday, the clutch in the GT3 cried 'Enough'. No amount of resting between laps or sessions was going to refresh it.
So, sadly, I had to sit out the club event on Saturday, which was both a blessing and a curse given my potential speed and the wildly varying temperatures and track conditions on Sunday. The heavens really did open at one point. This weekend was Chris's first outing at Winton and he got quicker and quicker across the two days and enjoyed the track while The Baxter's finished 1st and 4th in Class B. An impressive effort!
Not wishing to make this a total boys weekend away, some effort was made on the social side. Pre-dinner drinks with cheese were had al fresco in the delightful surrounds of the carpark of the Comfort Inn each evening, dinners were arranged at various venues in Benalla (Raffertys, The North Eastern Hotel and Georginas) where the food, local wines and service were all excellent. The girls did sneak out one day for a spot of shopping and high tea in Beechworth as well.
So, apart from my mechanical failure, it was a great weekend and I look forward to our next outing.
Out of Turn 12 - Photo by Julie Mason 2010
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Map
Yours truly at Sandown in August (Photo by Niko 2010)
These days follow a standard procedure of walking / driving the track, especially the corners t determine braking points, entry cones, apexes etc. Then some slow-ish familiarisation laps on your own. Then the instructor jumps in with you, observes for a few laps then provides feedback when back in the pits. Subject to agreement, the instructor can then take you out in your car to demonstrate the feedback at a more practical level. Timing is conducted in the morning and in the afternoon to determine the students rate of improvement.
The day dawned cold (remember it is Phillip Island, once famously described as the Gateway to Hyerthermia!) but warmed up progressively and there was no rain for the day so apart from a strong wind, conditions were pretty good.
My areas for improvement on the day were deemed to be finding the correct lines through Southern Loop and Siberia, raising my vision to make the car 'flow' more around the circuit and being a bit more aggressively and hustling the car around rather than just be a passenger.
Overall, I improved about a second on the day, but there is a lot more left for me to go after if I can just get my act together.
Thanks to Dean from the John Bowe team for his invaluable advice and support on the day.
Our first stop was at Creswick where we enjoyed a tasty morning refreshment while enjoying the architecture and history of this old gold mining town.
PCV Creswick invasion (Photo by Felix)
Enjoying fine weather, the route then took us to the winery via some pretty narrow single lane roads towards Avoca. The pace was steady and we duly arrived at the winery for some wine tasting and a BBQ lunch. Other club members enjoyed a couple of nights at a nearby B&B and in total some 120 people attended the event.
After lunch, we took the short way home back down the Western Highway.
Some 29 folks met at McDonalds in Flemington at 9.30AM before a brisk run up the highway to the cafe on top of Mt Macedon. Surrounded by fog and very cold, hot coffee and home made cakes and scones were most welcome.
On the northern side of Macedon the skies cleared and we followed the superb roads that were planned for our couple of hour drive to Harcourt.
On arrival at Harcourt, Lebanese finger snacks were consumed while mingling outside in front of a glorious open fire.
Lunch was a Lebanese BBQ and salads. including a regional specialty version of 'Boerewors'. We ate inside, enjoying the estate wines (bot red and whites were popular) and the volume of conversation in the 'vat room' indicated that a great time was had by all.
Cars & Wine - Harcourt Valley Winery - 2010
We decided to take the long way home until we had to hop on the freeway to complete the return journey. Another super PCV outing!
I told you it was cold!!!
Saturday evening we enjoyed a delightful meal at The North Eastern Hotel. Excellent staff, great produce cooked with great care and attention to detail. Snapper for him and chicken for her. The wine list has a good spread of local wines. We (I?) chose a Redbank ' Early Sunday Morning' Pinot Gris. Excellent.
The Porsche Club competition event at the tight and testing Winton Raceway on Sunday was a great day.
All drivers got a minimum of five sessions (one warm up lap, four timed laps and a cool down lap per session, and the smart ones got six, however I was snoozing somewhere... I was just 0.2 seconds off my Personal Best so just a bit disappointing. I was probably being a bit conservative and not enough aggression. More about that later.
A nice dinner at Georgina's in the heart of town followed the track day. This is a regular haunt for us and it lived up to it's usual standard for local produce, both food and wine. Sadly, Jade, the jovial hostess, was limping around in a moon boot after a slight accident. The injury did not affect her 'entertaining' perceptions of Benalla, tourists and the world in general. Following a decent nights sleep, we headed out for a day of King Valley wine country touring on Sunday. After some morning tea and a wine tasting in Milawa / Oxley we headed off to towards Whitfield where we enjoyed a delightful minestrone soup & Margherita pizza lunch washed down with some pleasant Redbank wines. Dinner was an OK pub meal at the Bridge Hotel. Dodgy wine list though...
A rare apex... (Photo by Robin Humphries)
I had heard that there was a Peter Fitzgerald Driver Training Day scheduled for Winton on the Tuesday and it was under-subscribed. Given my performance, and with Robin's blessing, we stayed an extra day and under clear skies again, I participated in this event. Absolutely fantastic. Only four cars, with Winton Raceway totally to ourselves. Two Porsches (mine and a 997 C2S) and two BMW M3s, who were Fitzgerald Racing Services customers. Peter was great, took an hour or so with a white board discussing racing strategy & planning, describing / studying the Winton layout where to be quick, which kerbs to avoid, lines & braking points, aiming point through the sweeper (gold!) and other details.
At the start we went out for a few slow sighting laps (no helmets) behind Peter in the 997. One of the M3s spun right in front of me on the sighting laps! Then we each did five laps and our best time identified. Mine was a 1.43. Peter then drove us around in our cars, two 'hot' laps to set a benchmark time. Not car breaking pace and very smooth, about a 1.36 in the GT3, two-up. I am not a good passenger but I actually enjoyed it. As soon as he did his laps, we were instructed to go straight back out again and try and replicate what he showed us to set another time. Then he got in the passenger seat to instruct us around the track. He is an excellent and clear communicator. Then we enjoyed a tasty BBQ lunch, more white board / Q&A stuff, more timed laps then a challenge to beat Peter's estimate of how quick he thought each driver should go. For me that target was a 1.38.5. At end of the day, my best was a 1.39.2. Peter thought I should have gone faster so I let him down. And he told me so! But I was very happy as I had improved nearly three seconds from Sunday, and over 2.5 seconds from my previous PB, and I did many laps in the 1.39s, while still making plenty of 'mistakes'.
A fantastic day indeed!
For dinner we found 'Rafferty's' a popular Benalla bistro. It was our first time to try it and we left most impressed. A very comfortable room, great open fire with an excellent menu, if slightly too 'fishy' for Robin's liking. Surprisingly, it was chicken for her and snapper for me (again). After a hard day of driving and a great meal I fell into bed quite exhausted.
After one last breakfast at the Benalla Bakery we set sail for home after a really fantastic Queen's Birthday break.
The car and trailer were set up on Thursday morning and we were joined by another GT3 couple, Chris & Julie, for the trek to Bathurst. After checking & re-checking tie down straps, lights etc we set off towards our scheduled overnight stop in Wagga, NSW, some 500 kms north. With Chris in his Cayenne S, and Robin driving the Land Bruiser we made the trip with little or no fuss.
The final 200 km short leg to Bathurst the following day was punctuated by a visit to Cowra and the famous Japanese Garden. The day was gorgeous and the gardens were a very peaceful place to spend an afternoon. The Japanese-influenced menu in the cafe worked very well for a Good Friday luncheon. Julie, Robin and I gave the cameras a workout whilst Chris tried some meditation (looked a lot like sleeping to us). Some touristy pictures here.
Tranquility - Cowra Japanese Garden
The run into Bathurst was easy and we were excited to be at the famous 6.213 kilometre, 23 turn Mount Panorama circuit. For my 'Porsche Cars at Bathurst' photo gallery, click here.
Our hotel, the very new Mirvac Citigate, is situated right at the Caltex Chase corner overlooking the circuit in an absolutely awesome location. Our sixth floor unit gave us a superb base to watch the action from the balcony or take the short walk over the 'ArmorAll Bridge' to the paddock & pits proper.
It looks easier on Paper! - The Mount Panorama Circuit Layout
As a special treat, Porsche Cars Australia arranged for two 'Museum' cars to participate in the event, a rare road-registered RHD GT1 from the early 2000s, and a 935 Turbo in splendid Martini livery, circa 1985. Also the limited edition Boxster Spyder, the only one currently in Australia prior to it's public release later this year made an appearance. Outstanding!
The new Boxster Spyder
The format for the Porsche event was a CAMS approved 'Regularity'. With such a large number of cars participating, the timing was slightly changed to an 'average' timed lap deviation, rather than variance from a specified time. There were three cars to a team, and I again joined with Chris in his silver GT3 and Dennis in a slightly tricked out white 928S. Our team was catchily named 'Jive Torque', complete with a (supplied) Bee Gees soundtrack. We were ably supported by our pit crew of Robin, Julie and Team Manager Paul. The girls were decked out in fancy hats and seemingly had more cameras and stop watches than hands!
GT3 Pit Crew, Julie & Robin
We kicked off with a Masters Session (basically a guided tour, five cars at a time) behind a designated 'Bathurst Master' to learn the lines and get a feel for the circuit. Our next chance was an untimed session of 30 minutes to put into practice what we had learned in the Masters session, followed by three separate 30 minute timed sessions over the next two days. In total we enjoyed over two hours total track time on Australia's most famous race track. Bring it on!!!
Dennis & our intrepid Team Manager Paul
Be careful what you wish for. In my Masters Session, the 'Master' was driving a Skoda Wagon (!), with a passenger on board, and I was unable to keep up, slipping and sliding all over the place and seriously wondering what I had got myself into. I felt way out of my comfort zone. The practice session wasn't much better. I was getting passed by everybody, the car felt 'floaty' on the straights and 'taily' on the twisty bits. Joyous.... The serious Session 1 continued the trend of disappointment. So on Monday night I went to bed really upset that I couldn't even enjoy the circuit, let alone post a decent lap time. My mindset was not helped by the fact that Chris was some 12 seconds quicker than me...
Best to drive a Silver GT3 then ...
Following a decent night's rest and some soul searching, the final two sessions duly arrived on the Tuesday and I resolved to 'have a crack'. I was lucky that a guy that I had a problem passing was brought into the pits early and I had some clear track ahead. After a couple line changes, some different gear selections at a couple of corners, and a little more courage to drive through the floating on Conrod Straight I managed to improve some 13 seconds and post a time of around 2.56. Not fast but no reason to feel ashamed either. Chris still got me as he improved to a 2.50. Dennis' times improved significantly as he also got more comfortable with the track and his new tyres.
A bottle of Moet was on offer (thanks Chris!) if the 'Jive Torque' team completed the event with cars and bodies intact. We all did! So we duly celebrated the achievement over yet more wine, dinner and tall stories at 'The GT Angus Steakhouse' in old Bathurst town. A fitting end to a sensational week. Thanks team!
So PCV decided to run their own Four Hour Regularity event last weekend. Teams of four tackled Sandown Raceway trying circulate as close as possible to their pre-determined lap times. Chris in a GT3, Dennis & Adam in glorious sounding 928s and me in my GT3 made up team #18, 'Jive Torque'. Dennis was also able to recruit Paul, an experienced Team Manager and John, his capable pit lane assistant. They kept us well informed all day with relative lap performance which was indicated on a pit board. Excellent work, but trying to find 'our' board while under full power on the main straight, avoiding other competitors and keeping an eye out for the start/finish flag marshals was a bit of an added challenge!
The day dawned threatening but the 90 minute practice session was dry and the entire day was clear. With each of our target times set, we did a little bit of standing around waiting for the first group to grid up and head out. I was the lead car for us, so to the dummy grid I went, was duly waved away a little before midday to do two formation laps behind the Safety Car before the event officially kicked off at 12PM. See, I told you it was like real racing!
I can certainly see what 'red mist' means for racing drivers. The first half a dozen laps were a bit of a haze as the tyres warmed up and I was chasing down the cars in front. Except that I was not supposed to be chasing anyone, but circulating as close as possible to my target lap times. When I settled down, 'it' happened again.
Sad, very sad... (Photo by NikoFoto - 2010)
Braking for the Dandenong Road corner at the end of the back straight, I went to down change to fourth, and thought I missed the gear. So I tried it again (now running out of road) and still nothing just the gear lever feeling like it was stirring porridge, not connected to anything. And the 'kitty litter' and tyre wall were now looming large. With no drive to push me around I had to try to balance the brakes and steering to get me through the corner. Once done, I just coasted to a graceful halt. Not only disappointing for me, but the lost laps while I was being picked up and towed back killed our chances for a decent finish in the event AND while I was being picked up, the Safety Car was out spoiling the other drivers fun as well. Apologies to all.
I knew what the problem was as it happened to me late last year at Calder. Once again the gear linkage cables became disconnected from the gearbox under load / stress. It was a five minute temporary fix with cable ties to get me running again. Thanks to Dean from NinePlus Motorsports for stepping in to assist. Great job. So I was able to get out for my second session in the afternoon but I must admit to not brimming over with confidence every time I reached for the gear lever! I now have the car booked in for the fitment of a pair of GT3 Porsche CupCar gearbox linkage cables (ex Germany) which will fix this problem once and for all and also improve the feel of the gear change, which I thought was pretty good anyway. While it is 'on the hoist' a quick suspension check will also occur and adjust the settings so the car is corner weighted and balanced front to back, side to side. If it is OK now, fine, if not, it should drive better than ever after the balancing. Only wish I could drive better...
And to cap off a miserable car day, I got a decent stone chip right in my line of vision on my first lap out. Oh well...
In the final wash up, "Jive Torque' finished 18th out of 21 teams. Not a stellar result but mechanical disasters notwithstanding, we all enjoyed the day and especially the camaraderie of the our team environment. The structure and organisation of the day was superb and a real credit to all involved. Especially impressive considering this was the first time the club had run such an event. Provisional class results can be found here.
Roll on Bathurst!
The Wonders of Photoshop - Greg on Pole! (Photo by Julie Mason 2010)
I knew going into the weekend that I was many seconds off the pace for my car but hope springs eternal... Hope however doesn't beat the stopwatch. The bad news is that I am still about five seconds behind where I should / might be, but the good news is that I set a Personal Best, some two seconds better than my previous best time. And the better news is that I felt I could have gone even a second or so quicker on the day after a spirited (but un-timed) last session of the day. Also I was happy with the in-car comfort of my HANS device, and even given it's narrow range of designed movement, I would say it helped me improve my in-car stability and then, my times. An excellent investment in time and safety!
One of my GT3 buddies, Chris, improved some five seconds on the day following some tyre and brake upgrades and after encouraging words from his tuning 'guru'. Great driving mate.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention the outstanding job done my wife Robin, who was Clerk of Course for the event, and ensured that all 115 competitors ran safely and efficiently throughout the day. Great job sweetie!
Robin 'On the Job!' - (Photo by Julie Mason 2010)
Provisional results can be found here.