Clipsal 500 2013 – a flaming day 1

DSC_0221After the relaxing day that was Wednesday, we approached Thursday with a great deal of excitement. Everybody was sick of waiting around, and just wanted to get out on track and get the event proper underway.

DSC_0003Yesterday’s post highlighted that we were one of the few crews who made the driver take his own tires to the Pirelli truck. This morning we even made him clean his own windscreen!

DSC_0014But before we could get out on track, we had a drivers briefing to attend. It was actually a bit of an interesting experience. The only circuit racing drivers briefings I’ve been to have been for low level club events, and they seem to feel the need to go through everything in the most minutest of detail. This one was different – the race officials assumed a basic level of competence and experience to be racing at this level, and kept the briefing short and sweet with just the points relating to this specific circuit.

DSC_0013However it was still a drivers briefing, which by default means the drivers have to show at least some level of boredom.

DSC_0019The briefing was finished by a talk from driving standards observer Steven Richards. Most of his talk focused on the notorious Turn 8, which has been responsible for more than its fair share of wrecked vehicles over the years. You can really only go single file around that corner, so it was decided that whoever has the nose in front at the 150m braking marker gets the corner, and the other has to back out.

DSC_0021After the briefing I took the chance to have a quick sit in the 360. In hindsight it was a bad decision, as it was extremely difficult to get out – both metaphorically and physically.

DSC_0040Goober fits in here much better than I do!

DSC_0047Goober was understandably nervous as he belted up and got ready for the first practice session. I guess trying to drive as fast as you can around a concrete lined circuit with 20 other cars attempting to do the same can get a little hairy!

DSC_0083Cameron Wearing, aka Martin Whitmarsh, is the final member of our crew and joined us today for the first time. Cameron, a defensive driving and racing instructor, has done his fair share of racing and rallying and will be advising us on strategy, and helping Goober out with tips and suggestions to improve his driving. Cameron is in radio contact with Goober while he’s out on track.

DSC_0079Cameron and Fred chat to Goober while he’s waiting on the dummy grid to help out.

DSC_0086We parked on the dummy grid behind the 458 GT3 of Andrew Taplin. I heard a rumor of what it actually costs to lease a 458 for the Clipsal weekend. I won’t divulge actual numbers, but I will say that it makes a very interesting comparison to the value of used 360 Challenge’s.

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DSC_0465The blow of the official’s whistle indicated it was time for us to go, so we packed into our little tipper truck/service car and zoomed around to pit lane.

DSC_0474DSC_0481This may be my only chance to drive on the Clipsal circuit on race weekend, so I did everything possible to pretend we weren’t in an Isuzu light truck.

DSC_0295Practice 1 went without a hitch, and for Goober it was more about getting back into the swing of things more than anything else. A lot of these guys race every weekend and are into the groove immediately, however Goober only does 2-3 competitive outings a year, so it does take a little time.

DSC_0587This guy on the right started yelling at me. I turned around to see it was my Dad, who works in pit lane as the pit entry official. This is his 15th straight Clipsal officiating in pit lane!

DSC_0198Here’s an interesting little factoid. You may remember how the Erebus Motorsport AMG SLS’s were done in a stunning chrome wrap last year, and this year they’ve gone for a satin black wrap. The reason? Because the satin black vinyl is 3kg lighter than the chrome vinyl.

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DSC_0404After the session we retired to the GT Lounge for lunch and discussions on how the session went. Goober didn’t like the new spoiler on the back, so the decision was made to revert back to the old one.

DSC_0398We threw around the idea of making a bi-spoiler out of the two, but decided that probably wouldn’t fit within the rules. You can actually see here just how much wider the Ferrari 430 spoiler is, however it just didn’t work properly with the 360.

DSC_0444DSC_0447It was soon time to head back out for P2, and it seemed like half of Adelaide’s school kids had turned out to cheer the GT cars on as they left the paddock.

DSC_0515With the smaller spoiler on, we were back out.

DSC_0271There seemed to be a lot more traffic in this session

DSC_0148And then the call came over the radio… “I’ve been hit….”

DSC_0168Rob Salmon in the Skwirk Audi R8 LMS tried to duck down the inside on turn 4, and ran wide into the right hand door of the 360 (damage not in this photo). It put a big dent in the door, and slightly creased the rear quarter. A smart move in a practice session, hey.

DSC_0625But that wasn’t the only problem in P2. Walking back from the pits, I received a phone call from Michael Busby, who is away at the Canberra ARC rally round service crewing. He’d seen a photo of a 360 with an engine fire at Clipsal posted on Facebook, and was calling to see if it were ours.

I didn’t actually believe him, and no matter how hard he tried to convince me, I thought he was joking. After all, I’d just seen the car in the pits at the conclusion of practice and everything was fine. It wasn’t until I got back to the paddock and I saw the car that I realised he was right – Goober’s 360 had caught on fire as it got back to the paddock!

DSC_0624Luckily it was swiftly put out, but there was fire extinguisher dust everywhere, and Goober had detonated the cockpit fire bomb. We had no idea how much damage had been done by the fire.

We decided to tow it to the guys at the MTA, who run a tent where their apprentice mechanics can help fix major problems and crash damage. We hooked it up to a golf buggy and towed it over there, and I got the job of sitting behind the wheel and steering. As I mentioned the cockpit fire bomb had been detonated, so driving the car was a very sticky, dank and somewhat unpleasant experience. To be honest, I thought my first time driving a Ferrari would be a little more special!

DSC_0642An army of MTA apprentices immediately jumped out and began work. Qualifying was due to start in 2 hours, however it was looking unlikely that we’d make it. We still had no idea how bad the damage was.

DSC_0635First job was to get rid of the caustic fire extinguisher dust before it did any further damage.

DSC_0644DSC_0646DSC_0651While they were at it the MTA guys even launched into knocking the dent out of the door! Being aluminium, it was reasonably easy to work it, and now from a distance you can hardly see the damage.

DSC_0675Once clean, we carefully inspected everything and found the only damage to be this coolant overflow hose! In the end we determined that the overflow hose had come loose and rubber on the exhaust, igniting the rubber. The firies in the paddock had stopped the fire before it spread to anywhere else, so with a quick bit of replacement hose we were good to go!

DSC_0657DSC_0664We started it up and ran it, and carefully looked for any more flame. It was a nervous few minutes, but everything was fine. We couldn’t believe our luck.

DSC_0673The MTA team who got us going again – thanks guys!

DSC_0679With almost an hour to spare Fred threw some fuel in the 360…

DSC_0488… and there we were, sitting on the formation grid for qualifying! Just an hour beforehand we honestly thought we were out, and to have made it was the best feeling.

DSC_0574Goober ended up qualifying in 20th place out of 21 cars, with a 1.33.56, nearly a second quicker than his best time last year. More than anything, that just shows how far car speed has come in the last decade and a half since the 360 was new. The pole time for this weekend is a 1.20.69 by former F1 driver Christian Klien in the Erebus AM SLS GT3. So Goober is nearly 13 seconds off the pace of the front runners.

But take this into consideration. Mark Noske raced this very car for Prancing Horse Racing, and in 2001 qualified in second for the Nations Cup race with a 1.30.42 (pole was 1.29.55 by Paul Stokell in a Diablo GTR). Now remembering that Turn 8 has been redesigned and is now a lot slower than it used to be, so it means that Goober is pretty much on-par with what the professionals were doing with this car 12 years ago.

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About the author

andrewcoles.eighteleven@gmail.com:


7 Comments

  1. Robert March 1, 2013 Reply

    Yet another great read, thank you!
    What a huge sigh of relief when everything fell into place!

  2. Alvin Chua March 1, 2013 Reply

    Great read, Andrew! Have a fantastic weekend and hopefully no more dramas for Brenton!

  3. KEEN AS RACING March 1, 2013 Reply

    Where was my invite I'm like pit crew keen!!

  4. Brenton griguol March 2, 2013 Reply

    Pit crew are welcome, wait for pics with koala-ettes on the bonnet

  5. Busby Motorsport March 5, 2013 Reply

    I liked the bit where you got the phone call from canberra

    • Andrew Coles March 7, 2013 Reply

      Hah yea... and I like the bit where the author calls the person making the phone call a dickhead :)

      I actually thought you were joking - I saw the car just 10mins before you called, after its track session, and everything was fine! Sorry... my bad :)

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