It’s been a big week

The car has been really busy this week and it’s not over yet!

To start out with, I picked it up from Prestige Auto Dent Removal early in the week after having them remove the dent I put in the door of the car as well as complete a full detail. It was a big job to fix the dent as they had to take the whole door off the car but the good news is they were able to fix it along with a few other dents I had accumulated over the time.

To retain as much of the value of the car as possible I also asked them to do a full detail, excluding the engine bay. This combined with the dent removal meant that the car was away for much longer than I expected but I really wanted it fixed so was prepared to wait the extended time.

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So here’s the final results at my favourite petrol station and the location of many of the “antics” over time, including putting the dent in the car originally. I have to say that car looks fantastic thanks to Garry at Prestige Auto Dent Removal. No sign of any dents and the finish is immaculate. I can now sleep at night and no longer be haunted by the blemish I inflicted on my car.

I was at my favourite petrol station after taking the car for a run up to Brooklyn and back (as I missed out over the weekend) but I really needed to fill up the tank for the track event the following day.

I admit that I was very,very apprehensive participating in the track event for a number of reasons.

1. During a track event your insurance does not cover you. So have an ‘incident’ you are on your own.

2. Being a rookie and in an older car I am going to be taking it much slower than other more experience hands driving the latest rocket ship like a 458. Staying ‘out of trouble’ having never been on a racing tack before was what concerned me the most.

3. I had to navigate through peak hour traffic to Eastern Creek Motorsport park there and back. Luckily, it was school holidays so traffic should be much lighter but there have been a few major incidents on the roads of late that seemed to be occurring with far too much frequency for my liking.

Even as I sat in the car and turned it over first thing my emotions were screaming at me not to go. Stupid I know, but the fear of the unknown is a powerful thing.

I did however force myself to take the 30 minute or so drive to the track and parked my car in the garage on pit lane without incident. I then availed myself of a bracing caffeine fix and some sugary pastry. It is amazing how much energy your burn when you are petrified.

I then signed all my legal rights away indemnifying what seemed to be anyone even remotely connected with event from any and all liability. In understand why you need to do this but indemnifying people against my death certainly didn’t make me feel better.

Next was a drivers briefing where we all heard how the event worked, what the marshal’s flags meant and finally how the overtaking operated. Basically, when you approached a car from behind you had to wait for them to wave you past. The driver in front had to point out of the window to either the left or right hand side of the track to indicate where the following car should pass. Ok, easy enough I thought but must remember to leave the window down when I go out as I don’t want to be fiddling with that while attempting to break, turn and get out of the way.

I then needed to obtain a ‘loaner’ helmet, which also required wearing a very fetching (NOT) hairnet. I returned to my car to wait until my group was called. They basically divide all the drivers up into a number of groups and send these groups out for a 20 minute run.

It wasn’t long before my group was called to assemble at the end of pit lane. As I strapped myself into the car I discovered that the F355 is not really designed for wearing a helmet when you drive because the additional head protection now made me too tall for the car. I adjusted the seat back to allow some more headroom. I made enough room but only just enough to succeed in making my driving position just that little bit more uncomfortable and me just that little bit more apprehensive.

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However, I was now at the point of no return as I swung out of the garage and onto pit lane and joined the tail of the queue waiting to take to the track. Just before going out I was asked whether I want an instructor to ride along. “Yes, please” I replied. In a matter of moments I was hurdling away from the pits with some bloke I’d only just met, onto a racing track I’d never been round at speeds greater than what I have done before in the car. Piece of cake (NOT).

My driving instructor passenger pointed out that they had laid out cones at each corner to show you where to turn and where the apex is (that is the optimal point you want to get to close as possible to ‘straighten’ the corner out and reduce your time cornering. The only real thing that you need to work out is where to break and that depends on the driver, the entry speed and the car just to name a few variables involved.

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With my co-pilot on board I found it tough to make the optimal point in most of the corners but importantly I understood what I needed to do. More importantly I was able to wind the car up and give it a good ‘squirt’. I even managed to wave a few cars by so I was a pretty ‘happy chappy’ as I pulled back into the pits after my first run in the car on a race track. Although my apprehension had not fully dissipated, I was happy that I came.

For the next session I was in the car all by my lonesome but I was a lot more comfortable with what I needed to do. I still mucked up most corners but I was certainly improving from earlier on. During this session I recorded the following video on my trusty Go Pro camera (this time placed inside the car to prevent stupid acts of denting).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I45hRYkt2Vk

It wasn’t long before I was out for my third session of the day, just before lunch. However, this time, towards the end of session it began to rain quite hard. So being no hero I made a bee line for the pits and parked the car. Luckily, this was the only rain we had all day even though it threatened much during the rest of the day.

After lunch I did two more sessions before finally heading home, most satisfied with having a track event under my belt. The car performed flawlessly and it was great to be able to wind it up down the straight and power through the corners. The sound alone (even though through a helmet) was well worth it.

So what major things did I learn?

1. I need to break much earlier into corners. Brake in and accelerate out.

2. The faster your travel the greater braking you need. If you overshoot the braking point the momentum of the car won’t allow you to take the right line through the corner.

3. The standard car seats really don’t provide you any support during high speed corners. That is why racing seats are a good idea!

4. The car has far more grip that I expect. I’m sure there was even more if I had the guts to push harder but its ability to turn in hard and stay on line was eye opening.

5. The concentration required is enormous if you want to get the best result. Turning points, apexes, gear shifts, throttling, traffic, etc, etc, there is simply so much to think about it that I was pretty exhausted towards the end of the day. A couple of times I got distracted and found myself somewhere I didn’t want to be (i.e. wrong line). Driving fast requires extended focus and concentration.

So would I go again? Yes, but I’m not necessarily busting to do it again tomorrow because at the end of the day you are just going round and round and there is limit to how much you can concentrate. I am please that I have done an event like this, that car performed marvellously, I captured some video and I can write about it here.

Ah serenity at last.

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