Phillip Island was a pretty special round for me. I had never raced outside of Queensland until Mallala. However this circuit is something special. An iconic Australian Race track with the Bass Strait as the back drop to the famous track.
A lot of the track is just foot flat in our little Hi-Tec Oils Suzuki Swifts. However the track involves a lot of commitment. Turn 1 (Doohan Corner Saw the Swifts thrown in flat out at 205km/h without lifting. Then hard under brakes for Turn 2 (Southern Loop) then foot flat until Turn 4 a tight hair pin where late braking can make you a lot of time and is a good passing opportunity and a potential place to lose time if you get it wrong. Back down towards Siberia where an exit out of the tough Hairpin is important as it is foot flat all the way back up to Lukey Heights were commitment plus is required. A fine balance of oversteer and understeer is required here. It is very easy to run wide and wash off pace or even worse run off thet rack or have the rear end slide out and also wash off speed. Then you are hard on the brakes into turn 10. TV or photos does not do justice as to how steep that braking zone is. From there you are flat all the way back around to turn 1 to do it all over again.
Friday Practice was good to me. Being up towards the top of the time sheets and topping the time sheets in the final session being the first to break into the 2:00.00 Region. I was positive for Saturday practice. Greg Cox from Trans Tasman Motorsport had made a suggestion as to the best way to setup the car for Phillip Island. I had made a change for Session 2 but immediately went back to the original setup and stayed that way for the rest of the weekend.
A partially dry and wet track (I thought it was all wet) greeted us on Saturday morning. I made a judgment call on Tyre pressures and it was wrong. We were back in 4th or 5th in the final practice but I was confident for Qualifying. Bump Drafting was something new to me where the following car pulls into your slip stream down the straight and due to the effect of Slip Streaming the car behind is able to catch up and effectively push the lead car along. I had teamed up with Allan Jarvis so that we could swap positions and bump draft each other.
Unfortunately coming across the start finish line at 180km/h about to start our first flying lap my bonnet let go. As it turned out an official had come in and inspected our vehicle between us closing the bonnet and heading out for Qualifying. They had placed the bonnet back down without putting the pins back through. At the end of the day it was our responsibility to check but it was frustrating. Fortunately Allan Grice went in to bat for us with the scrutineers and they let us run without a windscreen and rear hatch. That was certainly an experience, Unfortunately it meant we were almost 20km/h slower in a straight line. We did manage to walk away with some points though finishing 6th.
Sunday would be my first ever Mini-Enduro. 1 Hour around Phillip Island. I had a new Windscreen and the hatch was back on. I was feeling confident. The weather was patchy. The Track was wet to begin with and we took a gamble with our tyre pressures in the hope that it would stay wet. The Swift Race started 10 seconds behind the AmChamp Series.
I started in 6th and by the end of the Second Lap I was sitting in first position and creating a lead. Even better three laps in we had caught the AmChamp cars and had started to pass them. Unfortunately by lap 7 we started seeing a dry line and no rain came. After being held up by an AmChamp car Luke Fraser had managed to catch me and get back past me.
As the track started drying off our tyres over heated and we slowly fell back. With just 10 minutes to go we ended up in a fight for third place with Callan Sayers and Allan Jarvis. We ended up finishing the Race in 4th just behind Callan. At one stage we had run as high as 10th overall out of 27 cars in the AmChamp race.
So many positives from the weekend. We had been up the pointy end of the field the whole weekend and had lead the race for a number of laps. Although it wasn’t the best result it does give me confidence heading forwards.