There aren’t too many opportunities where you are provided with the chance to compete for a fully backed drive in a National Level Motorsport Series. The team at the Shannons Nationals, Australian Swift Racing Series and TransTasman Motorsport have come together to provide one lucky driver with just that chance.
13 of Australia’s top up and coming drivers were given the opportunity to contest for the drive. Bringing together drivers from across Australia, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to compete for this fantastic prize.
The contest was broken up into three days. Friday and Saturday saw us coming to grips with the cars at Lakeside Raceway with the drivers being provided tuition from Allan Grice the Bathurst Winning Legend and Allan Jarvis who has won the Australian Swift Racing Series for the last two years running, Jarvis will be giving it a crack for a third year in his Achilles Tyres backed Swift.
Sunday saw the drivers head out to Norwell at the Holden Performance Driving Centre for our final pieces of assessment including one-on-one driver training from some current greats in Australian Motorsport. Paul Stokell, Ryal Harris, Steve Owen and Steve Robinson were all on hand to provide us with guidance and fix up any errors in our techniques. Personally I found this invaluable. Having taught myself how to drive, they picked up on issues and fixed my errors instantly, dropping my lap times.
The team at TransTasman Motorsport were on hand to maintain the vehicles and make sure the drivers settled in comfortably. To their credit there was not one major issue for the entire weekend. One split radiator top tank which was quickly replaced was the only vehicle issues for the entire weekend. So far in the series not one engine has had to be replaced. As far as National Level motorsport goes this is by far the cheapest and most reliable way to go racing.
The contest was not decided just on who set fastest lap times. The weekend was broken up into further assessment. The Australian Swift Racing Series and Shannons Nationals are looking for a face for the series. Drivers were tested on their general knowledge of motorsport and interviews were conducted with Rob Curkpatrick the manager of the Shannons Nationals. The Swift Series is also managed by Liam Curkpatrick, the son of Rob. It is really a family affair at the track. Liam was on hand all weekend and the pair did a fantastic job managing all of us and helping us to feel as relaxed and comfortable in what was a pretty nervous time for us all.
The Series and Cars
The Australian Swift Racing Series is in its third year and is quickly growing to become a stepping stone for drivers who want to compete in V8 Supercars. Morgan Haber competed in the 2011 Australian Swift Series and has now secured himself a drive in the V8 Development Series after progressing through Kumho Tyres V8 Touring Cars which is also a part of the Shannons National Series.
The cars are based off the Suzuki Swift Sport RS416. These may seem like a bit of a girly car to some but they are cheap, reliable and a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Understeer is not as apparent as you may think and I can tell you right now, getting the rear end out is quite easy to do.
The cars were selected as Suzuki built them solid from the factory. Everything has been over engineered which has allowed the cars to remain relatively unchanged as you can see from the spec sheet below.
Engine: Factory 92kw @ 6800 rpm with 148Nm @ 4800rpm
Brakes: Factory brakes Competition disc pads (category controlled) Braided brake lines
Suspension: MCA adjustable competition shocks (category controlled) King springs (category controlled)
Driveline: Factory standard fitted with Monster Sport LSD Diff (category controlled)
Exhaust: Extractors factory standard with catalytic converter removed Exhaust system from engine extractor pipe collector rearward (category controlled)
Interior: Factory floor coverings and hood lining removed fitted with FIA approved race seats, drivers with head restraint pro and passenger seat club FIA approved seat mounts FIA approved race belts, drivers 6 point pro and passenger 4 point club Driver and passengers window nets CAMS approved roll cage FIA approved roll cage padding CAMS approved hand held fire extinguisher CAMS approved isolator switch
As you can see from the spec sheet the cars are relatively standard and the key to driving them fast is momentum. All the cars are identical which is what makes this such a fantastic series. It all comes down to driver talent and there was plenty of that on display, which we will get through to later!
In the scheme of National level motorsport it doesn’t get any cheaper. Rounds can start off for as little as $4,300 (assuming you don’t break anything), with a full season costing as little as $35,000 for the year if things go well. You also have the ability to purchase a car outright and run it yourself. If you are unsure if it is the thing for you, you can contact the guys and arrange for a test drive.
Not only is it a cheap form of motorsport (the next cheapest costing close to double), there is television exposure through Speed Week and Speed TV with live broadcasts through itvlive.com.au.
Getting onto the Racing!
Saw us arrive at Lakeside nice and early for our driver’s briefing. Everyone was clearly a little nervous, the inclement weather probably wasn’t helping everyone’s nerves, it had been raining for most of the week around the Eastern States of Australia and it looked like Friday was going to be no different. Fortunately it held off, minus a few drops across the windshield from time to time.
Friday gave everyone the opportunity to settle into the cars, with pretty much everyone on the pace straight off the bat. Straight from the get go I could tell that it was going to be a tough competition, with the likes of Ben Grice (son of Allan Grice) settling into the car and busting out sensational lap times from the start. Callan Sayers and Reece Murphy both competed in the Swifts in the previous season, and Reece narrowly missed out by one point on winning the championship last year. Luke Fraser, Keishi Ayukai and Mitch Lukasz also were right on the pace. Bronte Michael also stuck it to many of the boys pumping out laps that were right up there with the best. No timing was available on Friday, but it was clear everyone was hauling ass.
Here are a few pics from the Friday session that I snapped, excuse the quality as most of my concentration was going on the driving and not taking photos.
Everyone quickly evaluated where they needed to improve on and you could see that when Day 2 came around everyone had upped their driving.
Surprisingly we were greeted with blue skies over Lakeside. Unfortunately that also meant it was hot. Friday had been a relatively mild day, but Saturday saw drivers having to come to grips with tyre fade. The Achilles 123S did a fantastic job all weekend but with air temps reaching 34 degrees it was going to be tough on any tyre. I have to say tyre conservation was one area I needed to improve on. I quickly discovered that the driving technique I had developed from time attack did not conserve tyres well and it was something that I wanted to work on. After a relatively disappointing afternoon session for myself I took the time to sit down and identify areas that I needed to work on and discuss with the instructors the following day.
Sunday saw us head to Norwell. Living only 10 minutes from the track, I woke up with a little bit of dread at 5:30am with a torrential downpour. I was sure the track was going to be covered in water. To our surprise by the time we arrived, the track was dry and the cars were lined up waiting for us to hit the track. My first session saw me head out with Ryal Harris in the passenger seat. We discussed some of the issues that I had faced at Lakeside, went out for a few laps and he instantly spotted those issues and helped me address them. After about 10 laps the rain started coming down and turned it into quite an interesting session.
Second session saw me out with Steve Robinson on a wet, but slowly drying track. We continued to work on what Ryal had commented on. Improving my braking and working on my throttle control out of the corners. This was invaluable in wet conditions. It really highlighted the need to be smooth. It was fantastic having the encouragement from the Instructors. The cars are so fun, nimble and easy to control. The cars move around more than enough to make it a very fun class to race in.
The final session saw me in with Paul Stokell who raced in the Mini Cooper series and is a bit of a FWD guru. Paul further helped me develop my driving skills working on lines, braking points and changing up my gearing through one of the corners.
Media interviews were being held throughout the day as well by Amanda at Jigsaw Communications. Now that all the driver assessment was out of the way by the instructors, we were onto the money laps. We had one practice lap and then a hot lap in one car and a further hot lap in the second car. Everyone was in the same position. I was first out and managed to put in a banker lap that I was happy with as a backup. The second time out saw me trying to put in a flyer. This was the time that all of our training was to be put into practice. The one lap to make it or break it.
With the pressure on, I managed to pull out a respectable time that ended up giving me the 4th fastest lap time out of a very competitive bunch.
That was the end of the day. After a quick de-brief we all shook hands and parted ways. Everyone took so much away from the weekend and we all made new friends and contacts that we’ll hopefully continue to nurture throughout our racing careers. The results though were still to come.
I must say I’ve spent the two day nervously awaiting the results. Finally on Tuesday morning we received the results. I’d love to share the news that I won the challenge. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. I finished up in fourth only a few points behind the winner Callan Sayers who will be competing in the Australian Swift Racing Series and will be the face of the Shannons Nationals for 2013.
Myself, I will be going away looking for some sponsors to get a run in the series. Fingers crossed we can find some support for the season to continue with the challenge.
If you are interested in supporting me throughout the 2013 season feel free to contact me on 0431 627 841 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are able to offer competitive packages with the support of Downshift. This is a fantastic opportunity to have your company branded across the side of a race car to receive coverage on Speedweek, Speed on Foxtel, Print Media and events that you may be holding.