WE GET A SNEAK PEEK AT THE HECTIC LIFE OF ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S MOST SUCCESSFUL RACE DRIVERS
I WAS really keen to put the after effects of the big crash at Winton behind me to be able to get behind the wheel of the Torana again for the Hidden Valley Touring Car Masters (TCM) round. Interestingly, once I fired up the engine and headed out onto the circuit the pain from my slowly healing ribs disappeared entirely. ‘Ribs.
What ribs?’ Adrenaline is a marvellous thing… When TCM fans have talked to me about what makes the series so attractive to them I haven’t been really surprised that as a driver it’s more or less the same things about TCM that appeal to me.
Compared with the headline Supercars series, that runs highly sophisticated cars with closely matched characteristics, driven superbly by professionally polished drivers, TCM is what you might call a more mixed bag, with an almost raw quality to it in some ways.
TCM cars can be anything but uniform in size, shape and even engine capacity. As well as looking different they’re different on the track in their handling and their strengths and weaknesses. The talented TCM drivers come from various backgrounds and bring varied driving styles to the track. This ‘mixed bag’ aspect of TCM produces spectacular looking racing with quite a bit of unpredictability in the mix. This sort of competition is enjoyed by spectators and competitors alike.
TCM includes its share of ‘characters’. ‘Cusso’ in the Mercury Comet comes to mind.
At Hidden Valley after a spin in practice, he delighted the crowd by performing a couple of donuts before getting on with the job. People love him.
Gary O’Brien’s team at Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars did a wonderful job in repairing the Torana after Winton.
Good enough to give me pole at Hidden Valley. Sadly the gearbox let go in Race 1. Third gear had failed and ventilated the gearbox. Hindsight reminds me that it was in third when I got thumped, so perhaps that impact led to its failure. But how good a crystal ball would you need to have thought of crack-testing the gears after the crash?
I got a great second behind Stevie Johnson in the faster Mustang in Race 2 and managed to slipstream him for a pass under brakes to take Race 3 (in his slipstream the Torana was 10km/h up on its usual top speed, touching 264km/h).
By the way, I highly recommend that you see McLaren the movie about the life of the gifted individual Bruce McLaren. A great story, well told, about a man whose life ended way too soon.
AS I WRITE this I’m looking forward to a good day out at Sydney Motorsport Park thanks to my good mate Hammo at Sinclair Ford.
One of his customers has kindly agreed to let me put his his genuine Trans Am Mustang through its paces around the circuit.
They’re a serious kind of car with a Mustang body wrapped round a tubular-steel chassis.
The Ford engine is a 6.0-litre V8 with SVO heads and enough other enhancements to make about 700hp. Considering that it’s a lighter car than a V8 Supercar, I’m expecting it to be a pretty lively performer.