At the limit

Holden V8 Supercar

After missing out on the Top Gear hosting job last year I thought I’d do some more work on my resume.

You see they did specify in the application forms that preference would be given to applicants with “motor racing experience” and I don’t think that they were impressed with my expertise with Scalectrix cars. And having heard that Charlie Cox has left the show I was going to give it another shot in 2009.

So the nearest thing that a novice racing driver such as myself could do to obtain the aforementioned motor racing experience was to roll up to my local motor racing circuit to do eight laps in a real V8 Supercar. For only $300 and a spare afternoon I could be coached in the fine art of staying on the track under the supervision of a real racing driver and there’d be photos and videos to prove to my colleagues that I’d actually done it.

On sign-in there was the obligatory disclaimer form to fill out and I wasn’t surprised that I would rescind all rights to sue the operators, but they also reminded me that I’d be responsible for the first $1000 worth of damage to their car. No worries I thought because how could I possibly lose control of a car I’d never driven before on an unfamiliar track with my right foot planted firmly to the floor going flat out.

So, confidently I provided my autograph then proceeded to the costuming area. The other drivers all looked so much bigger than me and when the instructor asked who wanted a Ford and who wanted a Holden the group split exactly in two with the former choosing the blue overalls and the latter choosing the red. Undecided where my allegiances lay I saw the obvious benefits of donning a lovely brown pair of overalls in what might yet prove to be camouflage colours. Not that I was planning to evacuate but my female colleagues had warned me about the pit-falls of wearing that style of gear.

My 30 minute briefing was mainly about the technical aspects of staying on the track with the most important take home message being that in the unlikely event that the car does go bush, that it’s best to keep the wheels straight ahead when you head into the sand-pit as to turn in the soft stuff will usually mean that the car will flip over.

Bristling with confidence it was then time to mount my steed. I must admit that at a short distance it is hard to tell Fords and Holdens apart as the outside is plastered with sponsor’s logos and the inside is bereft of any adornment. But as I’ve got an eye for detail I knew I’d be driving a Commodore because I noticed the slightly shorter rear door on the race car versus the road car compliments of the slightly longer wheel-base of a VE Commodore versus a BF Falcon.

You see the cars have to be cut down to be almost identical or homologated so that neither side have too much of an advantage. That’s why both have 5.0 litre push-rod V8’s putting out 460kW and are electronically restricted to 7500 rpm and those engines bear no resemblance at all to the engines in the road cars. Oh and by the way both Holden and Ford Supercars have exactly the same gearbox, differentials and brakes and they both weigh exactly 1355 kg with 120 litre fuel tanks.

All good news I thought because so much conformity would mean I’d stand a chance against the other drivers.

So how did I go? Well I did manage to stay on the track and my instructor did keep urging me on to go faster. And I did manage to hit 190 km/h on the straight which was the same speed I achieved cruising on the German autobahns in an old 2.5 litre Volvo 850. And the video of my effort did confirm that the correct placement of one’s tongue does help one to steer around bends.

Top Gear 2009, here I come!

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: Quick, very quick.

Against: Noisy and thirsty.

This car would suit: Obstetricians because they’re always in a hurry.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.