Retrogarage Track Day Mallala

DSC_0057Fierce competition is good, and from motorkhana to Australian GT it’s often the tick of the stopwatch and the heat of the moment that provides that last bit of drive and incentive to shave every last tenth. Strong competition breeds the best and whilst there’s a definite joy in competing to your limit, it’s often far from relaxing.

DSC_0612That’s where a bloke named Roger Dutton – barbeque extraordinaire and mechanic for Adelaide based Formula 3 and Carrera Cup outfit Team BRM – comes in. Roger is involved in motorsport at a far higher level than most, but also knows the value in relaxing and enjoying it from time to time, and has pretty much built his own personal Mk1 Escort around this ethos. Through his sideline business Retrogarage, Roger has started organising track days at Mallala where the focus is very much on enjoyment.

DSC_0030Any Given Reason was invited to join the fun by longtime reader Tom Gilbert, so with instructions to meet up with the gang at the BP on Portrush at 630 on a Wednesday morning, I threaded my way through the dawn of peak hour traffic, knowing something far more interesting than a desk would be waiting for me at the other end. These suspicions were confirmed when an immaculate 356B and a throaty 964 Carrera 2 pulled onto the forecourt as if on cue. 

DSC_0038A few trailered cars arrived, their owners doing the ‘double fill up’ that seems to precede any good day at the track.

DSC_0010We stood around for a while, drinking coffee and discussing the huge variety already present in the small group of cars that had assembled. The fact that it was raining did not escape our attention, either.

DSC_0063Tom would be driving his Toyota 86; standard apart from a set of Work Emotion’s wrapped in some slightly better rubber. I had a steer on the way to the track, and was happily re acquainted with just how much fun these basic little sports cars are. A revvy engine, a slick gearshift and a grippy driving position is all you really need.

DSC_0441With a field of only 15 cars there was no shortage of track time, further adding to the relaxed nature as you were never rushed to make a session.

DSC_0905By far the fastest car on the day was Grant Perryman’s Ferrari F430 GT3.

DSC_0176The chassis has Le Mans and British GT Championship history, and benefited from a significant rebuild before Grant purchased it in London last year.

DSC_0032It was unfortunately suffering from a minor glitch which saw power temporarily cut down the back straight, but on a good day it’s capable of low 1.12’s. Grant noted, however, that power cut or not it was still huge fun to fling around the track.

DSC_0075You can really pick these factory built racecars as they just look more complete and finished than something constructed in someones back shed. Although, I’m sure most amateurs would come up with something pretty nice if they had the resources and experience of Scuderia Ferrari backing them up.

DSC_0219There were plenty of tarmac rally cars out, including Andre and Mitch Lukasz in the S14 200SX. Unfortunately their day ended early with a holed radiator.

DSC_0939Targa veteran Craig Haysman was out in his thumping Triumph TR8, giving it a run before Targa High Country in a few weeks time.

DSC_0192It looked good on the track, with a delicious V8 soundtrack to match.

DSC_0072The car arrived at the track complete with pacenotes from the Basket Range stage of Targa Adelaide still sitting on the co-drivers seat!

DSC_0633Another crew shaking down for Targa High Country was the Sims’ in their Burns for Blinds R35 GTR.

DSC_0693Their day ended pretty quickly with a blown turbo after just a handful of laps. But I guess that’s the value of the shakedown run – better for that to happen here than on the first stage of Targa High Country.

DSC_0836Hamish Gibson brought out the Rover that he and Adrian Akhurst campaigned recently in Targa Adelaide. It just looks like an old Rover, but the sheer lap speed of the thing blew me away…

DSC_0935… and a quick peek under the bonnet revealed why. That’s a seriously tuned Rover K series motor putting out “well north of 200hp” (said with a grin). That, combined with a dog box, huge 330mm AP brakes and a sub-ton kerb weight delivers a 1.24 lap time, with a lot more to come. And apparently there’s a Judd built K Series on the way with about 270hp. Whoo-boy.

DSC_0924Targa Adelaide didn’t go flawlessly for the pair, and I’ll leave it to you to deduce what happened from the dents and scratches. Gibson’s upside down name is a hint, though.

DSC_0871But for every serious crew using it as a test and tune day…

DSC_0857… there was someone out there just to enjoy the rare privilege of a brisk run, such as Scott Elvish in the gorgeous 356. Listening to music while track driving should be avoided, but an exception has to be made for the 356. How could you drive this thing and not listen to Dizzie Gillespie or Count Basie? The 356 is built for jazz music.

DSC_0542The pit wall was a hive of activity all day as we timed the cars on the track, discussing their attributes and being awed at the lap speed and braking points of the brave into turn three.

DSC_0889 Roger reckons that a huge hassle at most track days is lunch – the track canteen is, well, lets say it doesn’t have a Michelin star, and it’s always a pain to drive back into town to grab something. Rog was adamant that lunch be good, and as a result the spread of Bratwurst and salads was excellent! Highlight of the day.

DSC_0512After lunch the action resumed.

DSC_0887Tom was enjoying the 86 in an environment where you don’t have to be constantly looking over your shoulder for police and you don’t need to worry about trees on the edge of the road.

DSC_0362And it struck us that the 86 is the perfect car for someone like Tom. He’s not a dedicated track guy and can’t see the point in the hassle of owning and maintaining a dedicated track car given its limited use. He just likes cars and likes driving and the 86 is the perfect partner, equally up for a hills blast or the morning commute whilst still being able to take the odd track day in its stride.

DSC_0558Tom was even kind enough to graciously let me have a few sessions in the 86, and you can expect my track impressions in a dedicated story soon. Thanks Tom, it was a blast!

DSC_0089 (1)Unfortunately the mechanical toll on the day was high, with both Sean Bennet’s RX3 and Ben Angel’s WRX going down in rather spectacular ways along with a litany of other unpredictable failures amongst the field.

DSC_0456It was not lost on us dedicated Euro fans that apart from the 86, all of the Japanese cars broke and at the end of the day it was the old Porsche’s, the Triumph and Rover (really!) and the Ferrari that were running like clockwork.

DSC_0530Read into that what you will, but the conclusion I’m drawing is that if you want a reliable track car, buy something old and European.

DSC_0127The day ended with a collection of nice cars parked outside the Mallala pub…

DSC_0136… and a group of tired and sunburnt yet laughing and smiling blokes inside it. By all measures an ideal way of avoiding the desk on a Wednesday and a successful day at the track.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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6 Comments

  1. Scott Elvish October 25, 2013 Reply

    Hi Andrew, some fantastic shots, and a great reminder of a day that I still have a grin remembering!

  2. James Kennett October 25, 2013 Reply

    Andrew, great words and pictures. Thank you for capturing my first track day so well.

  3. Tom Gilbert October 26, 2013 Reply

    Fabulous write up Andrew. Sums it up perfectly. Great pics and once again you manage to relay perfectly the "feel" of the day. And thanks for your company. Wonderful to be able to have you on board and quiz you about your recent trip.

  4. Hamish Gibson October 26, 2013 Reply

    Brilliant to meet you at Mallala last Wednesday Andrew and what a fantastic page you produce!! Big fan..big fan....

  5. Greg Schultz December 2, 2013 Reply

    Sounds like a great day Andrew, how do I get to take my trackday X1/9 to one? Cheers Greg S

    • Andrew Coles December 11, 2013 Reply

      Hi Greg - I'm not sure if the next day is planned yet, as this first event was a bit of a toe in the water exercise. Google for 'Retrogarage' and email Roger Dutton. He has a mailing list and I'd say that would be the best way to keep posted. How's your X1/9 shaping up? I'm keen to see it one day!

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