A strip of narrow bitumen, bucking and bumping up a hill. 8 corners. Around 35 of some of the more intense seconds of your life. If it’s not challenging, you aren’t driving hard enough.
Don’t get me wrong. I love turning in laps on a traditional racing circuit, karting, love that too. But stuff up a corner there, maybe someone get’s through, no worries, I’ll get them back next lap.
Stuff up a corner on the hill? Well you can forget that run, it’s blown, there is no getting that time back.
You can sit there and stew about it for the next hour, until you get another go. That’s if you didn’t bin it in frustration as the red mist descended. For me nothing brings the intensity of hillclimb (keeping within the financial realities of club level motorsport here), it’s like the ultimate technical driving challenge, while trying not to fall off a goat track maybe one and a half car widths wide.
Just you, the car and the clock. Nowhere to hide. No excuses, ok, there are plenty of excuses (it wouldn’t be motorsport otherwise, right?), but the clock doesn’t lie.
I’ve raced here for over 10 years, first in my Mazda Familia GT-R, then the M3 and now I am lucky enough to partner in this beast (all homologation specials I’ve just realised, that says all you need to know about my taste in fast cars).
It’s owned by a good mate of mine, and we have had a blast seeing who can drive it the quickest the last couple of years. I’m sitting out this season, so I’ve had a chance to spectate, take a few photographs and criticize everyone else’s driving :)
Here are a couple of videos so you get the idea. BMW E46 M3.
Something a little bit quicker.
Where he falls off, just over the line. Yeah done that a few times, the car is sliding and you know you are going to run out of road, but what are you going to do, back off...? I’ve been backwards over the line a few times as well, suprising how little that affects your time... Not recommended though, there are some rocks, etc, off in that grass. Most of the ones that can be moved have been, but you still see damage done.
Adelaide’s best Land Cruiser mechanic my mate Ashley in his unassuming looking Nissan R31 Skyline, don’t be fooled, it puts out north of 500hp from the RB30-ET. Dude can drive too.
As a spectator perhaps the best thing is just the variety of machinery. Whether you are watching the racing or just wandering round the pits. There is always plenty to look at.
Ok, enough pictures of the support vehicles.
What is a run like to drive? Well to be honest each car needs it’s own approach. The Familia had 15 inch wheels, 205 section tyres, 3-400 very peaky hp (25psi of boost is like that), rear biased 4wd and a mechanical rear lsd, and only weighed around 1200kg (2650lbs). Oh, and standard suspension, it was a wild ride, but effective.
The M3 was not suited, lack of torque, peaky power delivery, not that great in slow corners. It’s a thing of joy on a normal race track, but not here.
The Evo TME. That’s a whole different kettle of fish. It feels very 4 square and the suspension very firm. You have to be quite assertive with it in the corners, otherwise it can feel like a fairground ride you have no control over. The torsen front LSD and the black magic torque vectoring rear take some getting used to if you are used to cars sliding with a mechanical LSD. Get it lined up right though, maybe 1/8th of a turn of oppo on and you can just feed in the power and it will just romp up the road, no more sideways, just charges for the horizon. It’s a headbanger.
It boggles my mind that this is ‘old’ technology now. I can’t imagine what a fully lit modern performance rocket must be like.
So you’re sitting there in the line up, still butterflies, no matter how many times you do it. There is a tyre ‘warm up’ section, worth it if you have two wheel drive or want to impress the bogans. Not much point in the Evo, not unless you are really going for it, better to give the transmission one less headache (says the man who lunched it on the start line. Gonna share a car? Make sure you are good mates and you outline the ground rules for accidents and mechanicals BEFOREHAND. We did). Trickle round to the start, roll forward, break the timing beam, roll back onto the starters chock. Light goes orange, light goes green, no big rush, the timing is tiggered by a switch in the starting chock. But by now you are giving the Evo a few good revs, get that turbo spinning. Now focus, you want 6000-6500 rpm for a dry launch.
Go! Slip the clutch just a fraction, saves the trans yes, but over the years I’ve decided it’s fractionally quicker than dumping it and spinning the wheels. You can load the engine more like this, more load, more boost. A touch of sideways off the line maybe, but you won’t notice. You are just focused on the 1st to 2nd change and the upcoming piece of nothing but sky that is the first corner, super daunting the first few times but pretty easy after that.
Fight the temptation to lift. It’s quicker to leave your foot against the floor till the last minute, then brake. A good confident brake before you turn in, then immediately start feeding the power in, probably a bit of a slide on the way out, don’t lift even a slight run on the dirt here won’t cost.
Now through the ‘The Dip’ holy hell it’s bumpy. The Evo’s suspension seemingly trying to smash the track into submission. Bang, 3rd. Beat the synchro. Another rush of boost launches you towards the wall, try to get the car square to the track before hitting the brakes, hard.
The car tips into oversteer (or you understeer off the track as seen in the above photos, a slightly oversteery car is faster than an understeery one here, in my opinion), give it a quick dab of correction, hope that’s enough. If so back on the gas, it very bumpy through this relatively straight section, seen some big accidents here over the years...
Now into the sweeping left hander that leads into the hairpin and the esses, this corner is positive camber, feels like you are on rails as the track loads the car up, tempting to keep piling on the speed, but here is the discipline, next is the slowest corner on the track, mess this up by 10 or 20% and it’s more costly than anywhere else.
So don’t push the limits on the approach, get yourself nicely positioned, brake well and turn confidently. Cut the corner, there is no track limit marker on the inside, until there is, take the advantage.
Feels like treacle on the way out, so slow, but tight. You can’t quite feed in as much power as you want. The track switches direction, starts to open up, more throttle, a bump upsets the already wayward rear end. 1/8th of a turn of oppo, now a 1/4, the tricky diffs do their thing and the Evo charges towards the line feeling like the worlds most demented crab, mind those track markers, mind the bloody grass, one wheel on there and you are a passenger. Wrestle it across the line. Hard on the brakes, there is no run off.
Coast down the return road. Have a chat with yourself. Wait an hour. Go again.