2016 - F1 at Albert Park with Porsche Cars Australia, Exotic Track Days Experiences, Lamborghini Huracan Drive in Sydney, F3 Racing and another Porsche GT3 Cup Car Track Day.
Porsche High Flier 2016
The F1 season 2016 opened in the usual manner at Albert Park. I was keen to see the revised cars and how they fared against each other with new upgrades the the start of the 2016 season.
In the two years preceding 2015 I went to Albert Park with Porsche Cars Australia under their High Flier Program. The deal with this is that you go to the helipad on the Yarra River in Melbourne where you board the Porsche Cars Australia helicopter for a 20 minute flight to Phillip Island racing circuit. Once there you are briefed and given the opportunity to drive their newest cars on the track for two hours.
The format this year started with some figure 8 work in the Boxster and Cayman "S" on the skid pan. We then progressed to the new 3 litre turbo Carreras on the track and finished in the GT3 on the track.
After that it was "back to the chopper" to fly to Albert Park where we were greeted by our hosts and taken by minibus to the Porsche corporate facility just on the outside of turn 2.
Days involving high performance cars and F1 don't get much better than this!
I must say that driving the GT3 on the track was a very important learning experience for me. It showed me the importance of setting the car up at corner entry and nailing every apex. Throttle control is of vital importance. As Tomas Mezera says "There's no such thing as a small crash at Phillip Island".
The road going GT3 is a terrific high performance car. This experience gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast it with the GT3 Cup Car. There's no comparison really. The Cup Car is a purpose built and uncompromising race car. It is awesome on the track and a much sharper tool. The GT3 road car is a good road/track compromise but not a patch on the Cup Car.
Exotic Track Days - Norwell
I was browsing Facebook when I came across a post from Exotic Track Days offering the opportunity to drive a range of exotic high end cars at Norwell Driver Training Circuit at Norwell QLD. I made some enquiries and discovered that the person who owns a fleet of exotic cars offers them as available for the average punter to drive them accompanied by an instructor at various circuits in Queensland.
The cars on offer for Sunday 8 May were the Porsche GT3, a brand new Ferrari 488, a Lamborghini Huracan and a Mercedes AMG GT. Well, I didn't take much convincing so down I went.
I had no idea of what to expect. I was very impressed by the professionalism under which the day was conducted. I chose the Ultimate Experience package that allowed me three laps in each of the four cars.
I drove the GT3 first, having recently driven it at Phillip Island. I followed that immediately with the Ferrari, then the Lambo and finally the AMG GT.
I was very impressed by all four cars. The GT3 is a thorough high performance workhorse. It does everything asked of it and just keeps delivering. The Ferrari is an absolute delight to drive. It was exceptionally gentle even in "Race" mode. There was no way it was going to let me embarrass myself with too much throttle on corner exit. The Lambo was totally exciting to drive. It snarled and crackled and popped and felt terrific. The AMG GT felt a bit like a hefty Bavarian but showed itself to be a high performance car that you could live with day to day.
Whilst my pick of the day was certainly the Lambo, the huge surprise for me was that the AMG GT was actually the quickest in my hands of the four.
Thanks Exotic Track Days for an awesome experience! I'll be back for more for sure.
Lamborghini Huracan - Prancing Horse Sydney
Mary and I decided to take a short break in Sydney. What to do? OK, how about we contact our old friend Matt Thio of Prancing Horse and go for a drive in the Lamborghini Huracan for a couple of hours. That was a great idea. We had a terrific day. A huge "thank you" to Matt Thio and Prancing Horse for the experience. We'll be back for another experience in their new Ferrari F488 soon and in Queensland in 2017.
Video to follow!!
Porsche Cars Australia GT3 Cup Car - Queensland Raceway
In early October I was able to join Porsche Cars Australia again to enjoy another GT3 Cup Car experience at Queensland Raceway. It is an exceptionally well organised day run by Tomas Mezera and supported by instructors Daniel Gaunt and Steve Johnson and Andy McElrea and his team of mechanics and data Engineer Lee.
It is a day that I use for practice and coaching and always benefit from greatly. I do OK but to be really quick I just need to compress my braking. That is, brake later and harder. Otherwise my minimum corner speeds and exits are OK.
The video shows one of my laps but my quickest was not recorded. My quickest was a second quicker and would have been great to have here but this lap gives you the general idea.
You might also notice the new driving suit courtesy of the Cosmetic Medicine Centre creating a new logo and colours.
A huge "thank you" to Porsches Cars Australia for making these experiences possible and to the guys on the ground that make it a truly great day.
My Formula 3 involvement for 2016 included racing at Queensland Raceway in July, Phillip Island in August and Sydney Motorsport Park in November.
R-Tek Motorsport Services again provided me with a reliable and quick car supported by a great team of mechanics and data engineers. A huge "thank you" to Ian and Meryl Richards, data engineers Andrew and Michael, my car engineer Drew and team members Sam and Adam.
Of course also the biggest "thank you" to my principal sponsor and darling wife, Dr Mary Dingley, principal of the Cosmetic Medicine Centre.
One thing I did achieve at Phillip Island was a personal best lap a full second quicker than my previous best. I achieved that through carrying more speed into turn 2 and turn 4 (Siberia) and also turning into the left hander over Lukey Heights with the throttle pinned to the floor and lifting a little and as late as I dared over the top.
VALE - Michael Santomauro
There came a very sad time in November 2016 when my dear friend of over 40 years, Michael Santomauro, passed away as a result of a severe short illness.
Michael and I met at engineering school in the early 70's and remained, what I've come to realise only now, the very best of friends possible. He was a magnificent man, supremely intelligent, of tremendously even temperament, quick to laugh and always great company. A very sad loss to us all.
Final Round F3 Championship - Sydney Motorsport Park 12/13 November 2016.
What a great way to end the motorsport year. Again I was privileged to drive the R-Tek Motorsport Service Dallara F307 Opel Spiess for the weekend. I was targeting my previous PB set in 2011 but fell just short of it. Conditions were mixed and ultimately a bit of a bump in race 1 and a CV joint failure in race 2 put paid to a good result for the weekend.
None of that, however, stopped me having a terrific time with everyone in the F3 Australia family.
A huge "thank you" as always to Dr Mary Dingley of the Cosmetic medicine Centre for making my dreams possible and to everyone at R-Tek Motorsport Service for making the dream a reality.