The Festival and the Races: Clipsal 500 Part 1

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (85)Adelaide. Our fair little town cops a lot of heat as being a bit of a backwater sometimes, but all that changes in late February when the heart of the city becomes the epicenter of national motorsport for four days. What makes it even more special is that the racing doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it joins the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Adelaide Festival of Arts, the three major events all happening within a literal stones throw of each other to create a melding and mashing of cultures that is completely unique. There is truly nothing like the East End of Adelaide during race week.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (22)There’s a common dichotomy in Adelaide that the different events are somehow pitted against each other – a showdown of the bogans versus the arty’s. But having experienced both sides from within, it is my personal experience that ‘the Clipsal’ is nowhere near as bogan as the arty crowd think it is, but also that the arty crowd are, in general, far more tolerant than the race crowd believe.

05_15_AGR_Clipsal_Sunday (1)Okay, so I’m not for a moment arguing that this chap is a Lowndesy fan, but there’s a definitely a happy medium and for 2015 I set out to find it.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (38)Any Given Reason once again jumped on board with Brenton Griguol’s Koala Motorsport team, who were campaigning their Ferrari F430 GT3 Kessel in the Australian GT support class. A post has already been made about the team’s practice and qualifying efforts – read that story by clicking here.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (37)There was a nice (and unintentional) tie up to my story as well, in that for the first time our team had the support of Bank SA, who are also a major sponsor of the Fringe festival and the Garden of Unearthly Delights venue.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (3)With practice and qualifying out of the way, I had a chance to get out and have a look at some of the off-track action. Yep, that’s a Giallo Fly Ferrari F50. I’ll just leave this here.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (4)Keen eyes would have spotted the F40 LM in the background there, and it pretty much stole the show. Just look at it.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (14)If you could have any one car, what would it be? This is it for me. The F40 LM. If by chance the owner happens to be reading this, on behalf of the Adelaide enthusiast community I thank you for bringing these out.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (15)Joining the pair on display was the forerunner to the F40, the 288 GTO. It can’t quite match the drama of the LM, but I think it is more classically beautiful than either and provides a fascinating insight into how Ferrari interprets Group B.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (12)Oh, and there was a LaFerrari too, this one relegated to static dislpay only.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (10)The rumor I heard was that this red example was a non-functioning display mockup, but it certainly looked realistic enough to me.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (83)The black example doing demo laps of the circuit was definitely the real deal, and everyone I spoke to was universally impressed with both the sight and sound of finally seeing one in person.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (1)Like all of the Ferrari hypercars before it, the LaFerrari is not complied for road use in Australia so seeing one being put through its paces on the street circuit is about as good as it gets. This particular example is from New Zealand and was brought out specifically for the Clipsal 500. I believe it will also make an appearance at the Formula 1 GP in Melbourne while it is in the country.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (56)There was a large collection of 30 or so Ferrari road cars on display, and these were let out for a few parade laps each morning. It wasn’t the case for all of them, but it amazed me how slowly some of these guys were driving given they were behind the wheel of a Ferrari and had an (almost) open race track at their disposal. This F12 was on pace, though.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_SaturdaySaturday was a big day for us as we had the honor of both the first and last races of the day. Even at 7am it was warming up, and we were already dripping in sweat carrying out the morning checks on the car.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_FridayWe were lucky that we had no real problems with the car after practice and qualifying, but preventative maintenance is king.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (1)Racing may seem a carefree endeavor by its nature, but the key to success is meticulous planning and preparation and we had a detailed checklist to complete before every session. Tyre pressures cold and hot, amount of fuel added and a list of everything that had to be done. Nothing was forgotten.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (25)Mario has invested heavily in purchasing the proper Ferrari diagnostics computer…

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (26)… and at the start of every day he would plug it in and have his ‘morning chat’ with the F430, checking for fault codes and trying to identify any potential issues.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (23)Around us, teams were still tuning changing their setup, but we were happy with how the F430 was handling so left it alone.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (9)We had a quick team photo (absent: me, behind the camera) and piled into the support van for the trip around the circuit into pit lane.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (34)The phrase ‘hurry up and wait’ is often applied to motorsport, and regularly the call would come for us all to drop everything and race into the van, only to sit stationary for 20mins in a laneway. But I guess there’s a lot going on at a meet like Clipsal and it relies on everything running to military precision, all the time.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (35)We did get to do a quarter of a lap of the track before each session which was pretty cool. When you’re on the track everything surrounding you looks a lot closer than it does from the grandstands, and as you go by you can easily make out individual faces and people. Brenton later confirmed that this is the case when you’re at racing speeds, too.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (13)We qualified 24th (from 34 cars) which put us in a prime location to be caught in first lap carnage. Luckily we managed to escape unharmed and set into a comfortable race pace, lapping quicker than our qualifying time.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (10)Mario was in constant radio contact with Brenton, giving him tips and advice as well as warning of any incidents on the track.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (17)The race was largely uneventful for us. A safety car was brought out when the Erebus AMG SLS crashed at turn 8, and the entire field decided to make their mandatory pit stop at once.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (19)We joined them and filtered back out onto the track in largely the same order as we pitted.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (31)Despite some close battles after 30 minutes of racing we kept our nose clean and finished 26th with a best lap of 1.30.01.

03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (32)We checked over the car (running flawlessly), and with eight hours until our next race I had some time to check out our competition.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (53)The livery on Ross Lilley’s Gallardo was particularly effective.

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01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (27)04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (54)03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (6)03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (4)03_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (3)04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (16)There was even a little bit of time to catch some of Saturday’s V8 Supercar races. A lot has been said about V8SC and their future, but you can’t deny that the series does produce some extraordinarily close racing.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (14)To my ears, the Volvo’s sound the business.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (47)The other big news was that the Scuderia Ferrari demo team was in town, and they had brought with them a 2009 spec F60.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (54)Actually, there was two of them. I guess it always pays to come prepared, right?

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (52)Jean Eric Vergne, past Toro Rosso driver with 58 races under his belt and official Ferrari test driver in 2015, was on-hand for driving duties. The F60 chassis used for the demonstration was driven by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella in the 2009 season and won that year’s Belgium Grand Prix.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (57)The F60, so named to celebrate Ferrari’s 60th straight season of competing in Formula 1, is fitted with the 2398cc V8 and KERS.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (60)Seeing it up close, with the engine covers off, was a special privilege. These machines really are a true work of sculptural art, and it is such a shame that the technology is so guarded because nobody ever gets to see this stuff.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (59)It’s a mastery of packaging. The whole car is designed around airflow, and every single component is built to be as light and strong as humanly possible, whilst creating the minimum impact on aerodynamics.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (49)The F60 is just about the only machine on this earth that can steal the limelight away from the LaFerrari. It might as well have not even been there.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (84)Seeing, hearing and feeling the F60 take to the Adelaide Street Circuit was a special experience. The sound of that V8 at 18,000rpm sliced through everything – I had friends who were out shopping and could clearly hear it from Rundle Mall.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (86)Vergne was visibly light years quicker than anything I’ve seen around this track before. On a demonstration run, in a six year old car, on a track he doesn’t properly know and in a car likely not 100% properly set up for the course, I timed him at a high 1.11 lap.

04_15_AGR_Clipsal_Saturday (3)That’s more than ten seconds faster over 3.7km than the quickest ever V8 Supercar lap. Insane.

01_15_AGR_Clipsal_Friday (50)This demonstration has stoked the imagination about a possible return of F1 to Adelaide. It’s unlikely at best, but it’s fun to think about. I mean, the race is costing Melbourne tens of millions a year, the people don’t want it and all of the drivers and crews rate Adelaide as the best circuit and race there was. C’mon Burnie!

Words and photos by Andrew Coles.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming shortly!

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