FOSC Easter Bathurst

FOSC Car Club Regularity event – Easter 2010

When the team at FOSC announced in 2007 their intent to recreate the true Ester meeting at Mount Panorama, Bathurst among other thoughts as a 23 year old was – wouldn’t it be great to drive the mountain!

We owe a lot to our volunteer officials who watch us drive around in circles and share their enthusiasm for this sport in that way, but for me 2010 took a dual role as part of the commentary team on the weekend and hitting the track as a driver come Sunday afternoon.

I’m sure this thought crossed many amateur motor sport fans minds.

My chance finally came in 2010 with the creation of the car club regularity event. The background to our team is that all 6 drivers are second generation MG Car Club of Victoria members, and all of us under, or around the age of 30. Paul Vernal (22 years old) and son of David (who many of you will know as Clerk of Course at Historic Sandown) instigated the idea of the Abingdon Boys to me in November 2009, and without hesitation I became an “Abingdon Boy”!

The remaining members of our team included the Herlihy brothers – Sean and Brett, Gavin McHugh and Trent Price. Unfortunately for Trent he was a withdrawal prior to the meeting having broken his arm in a motor bike accident seven weeks prior. Trent was there with father Ken as spectators, Ken keenly watching the Isuzu Gemini in the Group C & A race, a car which he raced with the Late Ian Wells in the Hardie Ferodo 1000 events.

Planning ahead that the 9-hour drive from Melbourne in an MG could prove unreliable I chose to have the car transported up and drove separately in my trusty road car, a Fiat Punto. I arrived with passenger Brett Herlihy on Friday at lunchtime at what was dubbed “Abingdon City” to see the sight you don’t want to see. The car was a couple of feet in the air. I was told that almost every bolt rattled loose on the way up from Melbourne and when they started the car to get it off the trailer it was running on 3 cylinders.

Good way to start the weekend!

Trusty work by travelling amateur mechanic (but a highly recommended one) Paul de Kretser and co-driver Sean Herlihy got the car to running stage shortly after lunch. Then it was off to scrutineering where the car was cleared and a signed sticker affixed, but the scrutineer showed some concern about the return spring set up on my single weber carburettor. Although the car had been cleared for racing our team manager wanted this issue to be remedied more as a duty of care item. Thus, the car was back up on stands.

An eventful time in the lead up to taking the car for its first lap.

Like all other competitors in the club regularity event we too took part in a masters session on Sunday afternoon. We were also privileged, however, to be taken around with two legend Masters for citing laps with Mal Brewster and Garry Willmington. Two great experiences, both with their unique way of describing the best driving lines. I think my fastest laps for the event where in the passenger seat of the Jaguar XF courtesy car!

Some of this clearly didn’t sink in as I was the unfortunate competitor to have a camera in both the car behind and the car in front pointing at me during the masters session Sunday arvo, which showed all the flaws of taking the wrong line. At the other circuits in Australia that I have competed at you can take slightly different lines and get away with it, but not at Bathurst.

On Sunday evening our team sat down for a talk from the two fathers travelling with us, Dave Vernal and Mike Herlihy. They discussed the cliché lines of consistency, braking points, gear change points, and of course watching the mirrors.

The practice session finally arrived – you will all agree the worst thing about being a competitor has to be the amount of time between events, so much standing around! We had a half hour session of practice; i got in about 6 flying laps. This gave me the adequate time to sort out that fine line between a comfortable lap and an all over the place lap. Not that I was out there to set any records, but I managed to clock a 3 minute, 40 second lap, which for a relatively standard MG with a very standard driver was rewarding.

That was Monday – 30 minutes on the track and about 7 hours of standing around! Tuesday I had my two regularity sessions. The morning one was excellent, although a bit concerning was Geoff Pike walking along pit lane talking to each driver – initially I thought he was wishing us luck, which was the case the day prior, but no I was wrong. He was coming to inform us that should we break down, not to do so near flag point 2 as an official had to abandon his post as a snake took over!. I started at the rear of the pack, looking at all the high horsepower machinery out there. By the end of lap 2 I had managed to pass not one, but two cars, both Triumph TR3a, and was closely following a little Alfa. I finally held my breath going into the chase, braked a little later and pulled off the most satisfying pass of my time as a motor sport competitor. I was settling into an amazing groove, whilst at the same time recalling the words of my co-drivers fathers – consistency, gear change & braking points.

In this session I managed to knock 10 seconds off my lap time, virtually from the outset, clocking a 3 minute, 30 second lap. As other members had the red midst come down and went out chasing I just did what I was told and was instantly the most regular in the team – always a first as my usual regularity results prevail in laughing matter.

As Tuesday afternoon arrived the splendid dry conditions of the past four days finally came to an end as a severe weather front arriving and saturated the track. Paul Vernal and Sean Herlihy, like me had one run to go, but after a few minutes away from the tent city I came back to find both cars on the trailer.

I knew as the owner of my car that anything that happens on track is my own cost. The likelihood of incident is a lot higher when it’s a wet track. The organisers announced that the next event would be the final, although mine was a couple of hours away. After a minor hold up in getting on to pit lane to line up (I had to remove a sticker at the top of the windscreen that was likely to ruin my wiper blades had I not taken it off) and a few minutes later was on the wettest race track I had ever driven on. Mountain straight – wet glasses and pants from the rain coming in sideways, Conrod straight and a Falcon GT driving at race pace, virtually losing my vision. After about 4 laps I decided that I had got my monies worth and pulled in, drove the car straight on to the trailer and tied her up for the journey home.

My journey to Mount Panorama was now complete – I conquered the Mountain.

Report by: Charles Rogers

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