Scenery all the way down was fantastic as you can see for miles today.
We went back to the stand to watch the Toyota cars as by now we had come to appreciate the great battles going on and there was some great driving from these young drivers. We had not got into the Aussie Racing cars so went back for the Garth Tander signing session. Thankfully David wanted to meet Garth as we have watched all of his Utube HSV handling videos. I say thankfully as by now there was a very long line behind the desk of Gisbergen and Wincup who had been at the lead of the Supercars all weekend. Fortunatley these two from the Red Bull team get on really well - not like the F1 Mercedes team! Red Bull spend 30% of profit on marketing and really seemed to have faster cars. Then again these drivers are very talented. Gisbergen certainly had the kiwi crowd for support and a great roar went up when he miraculously found a way passed Wincup. They seem to have been given the go ahead from team mangament to go for it indiviually as long as they did not wreck the cars. All went well until the first race of the day. SVG was just ahead at the hairpin with Wincup breathing down his neck. They both entered too fast, Wincup tried for the pass but hit and they both spun at the same time - it looked like syncronized swimming on the screen as they were so close. SVG recovered to work his way amazingly trhough the field of around 26 cars to end up third at the checquered flag. The other interesting battle was between Garth ander and Pye - who has replaced him at Holden Walkinshaw next year. Tander started at No11 on the pole in the last race and was definitely going to get ahead of Pye by the finish. Great aggressive driving, and he achieved this and came in 7th.
The driving we saw was just amazing and David commented he would like to be out there. Not me. It is a dangerous, evil track with bumps and concrete walls and difficult corners! I would not even do a fast lap with a professional driver! Next year it is going to be upgraded so we will see what they do. Viewing is great as you can see quite a bit from your seat or move around. There are about 4 screens that cover the corners although it took a bit of working out where they were filming. Some more aerial shots would have enabled us to see the lines cars took around corners. They certainly covered the mishaps well. One of the most spectacular was a Toyota car failed to take a corner , started to roll, then rolled faster, then went end over end and jumped over quite a high fence before rolling again and finishing upside down! The young man walked away from it!
The final Supercar race was a bit ho hum as the Red Bull drivers must have been given a strong word! They did of course lead by quite a margin. Mark Winterbottom in his Falcon had raced away in the earlier race so a Holden win was very necessary. We left just after it finished and had positioned the GGRILA for a good getaway. All was well on the freeway until we got to Papakura and the bottle neck got us. We had planned ahead though and ate the left over pizza from the night before! There is a little food area by a BP station not far from the freeway entrance to Puke and if you dont want McDonalds there is a little Korean supermarket with dumplings and an Indian restaurant with a takeawy menu that includes pizza! Before you gasp, the Italian pizza was pretty good. Indians do find out quickly what customers want. A stunning weekend and although we felt guilty about leaving all our cruisers without info we really have got the bug and will be back next year.
We drove down on Friday in torrrential rain but it cleared before we got there and apart from a sometimes wet track, racing was not affected Saturday or Sunday - but did slow things down when the rain came. This event is the largest trans - Tasman sporting event so a good bit of rivalry pervades as well as the historic Ford v Holden competition.
It is not just the Supercars to hold your interest. We particularly wanted to see the NZ V8 Ute racing events as Paul Manuell who owns Eastern Automotive (where we often visit to get work done on the GGRILA) was racing in his very eye catching ORIX sponsored Ute. Holden of course. A great vehicle to watch and as the weekend progressed the results were a new lap record, 2 wins and and a third from reverse grid. (The race laps were reduced following an incident in this reverse grid race so he did not have sufficient time to get to the lead). The orange art work is really easy to see and has been there for 8 years - well ahead of the likes of McLaren! He has been a V8 champion and really drives the Ute amazingly - finding gaps where none seem to exist. It was exciting watching the rest of this group jockey for position. When 4 utes approach the fast first turn side by side you know that one will not make it and others will lose their rear vision mirrors!
Also of interest for us were the BNT NZ Touring cars as we had got to know young Tom Alexander when doing some training with Mike Eady. This is his first year in his new car. He previously did very well in the Toyota Finance TR 86 series, in fact won it last year I believe. Now 21 he has been mentored by a NZ racing guru Kenny Smith, since he was 17 and lives and breathes cars and racing.
Friday was mostly practise and qualifying for all events. Saturday saw the start of racing for all events. The Utes do 8 laps of the 2.9k circuit. The BNT N Touring cars do 12 laps, and the Supercars do 35 laps. All races are reduced if there is a mess to clean up. Both days went pretty much to schedule.
The only downside were some pretty grim food options and - trying to leave the car park took 1.5 hours as some idiot had decided to close off all but one exit because of pedestrian traffic! Plenty of cops around who could have helped but I guess it was not in their job descroption for the day. The GGRILA does not like to idle so we just stopped after getting nowhere for a while, and planned how we would handle it on Sunday!
Amazing organisation and a very enjoyable day although a bit chilly . We mostly sat at the hair pin and were itching to get in the GGRILA after watching all the different techniques for attacking it. One car lost its hood just at the apex which was a challenge as you cannot see the exit from the entry point as it drops about 8m.
Not much need for the fountains and sprinklers today as we got torrential rain making it very slippery. We had the GGRILA in performance mode for the first time as this gives quicker accelerator pedal response than in sport mode. The idea was. To learn how to slide around the corners. Lose the back end and correct. Good fun and we sure learned how to quickly stab the accelerator and then use the arms to take control without spinning. Well we did that a few times. But the real expert frequent spinner was the little Mazda sports car. 1500cc rear engine, 1100kg. It just loved the figure 8s!
We are staying in a motel at Pokeno which is just north of Hampton Downs so very convenient. We would never get to the track from Gulf Harbour by 8.30 because of the commute traffic.
Pokeno is a very tiny country town but much visited by those that love pork products or ice cream. There are three ice cream shops and the one shown has about 40 different flavours but the big draw card is the price. $2 for a huge scoop but we went for the $3 two huge scoops. Rum and raisin on the bottom and maple fudge and walnuts on the top for me. David sticks to chocolate but had a choice of four different types.
I also stocked up on bacon, pork schnitzel, lamb and beef. They will keep it in the cooler for me to collect tomorrow.
I don't know how we are going to have room for the steak and eggs and salad and chips and mushroom onion sauce we will have at the motel later but we need our energy! And we will have a good talk to the motel manager Gary who happens to be a super8 driver running a Holden Monaro. When he Is not at the motel bar. It is a very popular motel as Pokeno also has a huge truck stop across the road. And if you want a quick takeaway meal the Pakistani ex teacher who runs the little dairy cum supermarket across the road prepares good curries and other traditional meals.
Did I mention the spa bath?
Fortunately they had a set of HSV pads and we are going to get a whole new set of 6 pots and new rotors in a couple of weeks anyway.
The stop was quite short and in about half an hour we were on our way again. I think we should charge them for the entertainment we provide.
And the icing on the cake came when we decided to eat out locally. Less than 5 mins away is a local pub with the most amazing gourmet food. All produced in house from fresh ingredients which for an msg allergic person is great. I asked the owner/ chef where he got his venison from. "I shoot it" was the reply! Service is slow as we managed to be there both nights with a visiting rugby team but it was well worth the wait. And yes, the big groups are in an adjacent room! It is called the Mole and Chicken. No idea what is behind that weird name.
The day started with the briefing from Playdayontrack organiser, Gary. Just the usual. Pass on acceleration. Let faster cars past. If you go into the kitty litter, stay put and he will come and tow you out etc. it was a perfect day at last. A chilly SW wind but sun and a few artistic cumulus.
After that we all followed the GGRILA around the track at road speeds so that we got familiar with it. David then dropped the tyre pressures as advised. Patricia was first up and as usual took time to get as one one with car. It is a longer more technical track than Hampton Downs, and some faster cars went by as I got to grips with the nasty corners. More tyre pressure dropped before David went out.
The entry from the Pitts is at turn one. At the end of the start finish line straight. Like me he had a few things to sort out on his next run. Patricia had another 15 min turn before lunch and in an experimental attempt to do the hair pin in third gear went off the track at the start of the long back straight. Not seen by David. But a good reason for getting a new sway bar which will help the excessive under steer. Maybe it won't help poor driving!
Anyway, this second session saw much better lines through the corners but still areas where an increase in corner entry speed would see improvements. On my return we took off to fill up at the local gas station and on return saw a major problem.
The outside edge of the front right tyre was chewed up. This track is basically a left hand track and with the soft tyres, and they are very good road tyres, the edge got damaged beyond use. The centre and inside was not worn at all. It was a new tyre last week. Continental Sport, and not available in Taupo. One is on the way for us by courier so we will get home tomorrow. Now back to the pistol range to save the day!
They alternate disciplines and it was action shooting on steel today which was great as no patching targets in the rain. The first course had 2 square steel targets at 25m, plus 2 small round targets at around 10m plus a central round red steel at 12m to finish. You shot five times and got minus points for misses. The worst round was discarded. Then next door the course was easier. Two square targets to the right, two to the left and a central stop target. Theses were closer, about 8m with the red at 10m.
We are now into a new regime of medication. Patricia has a cough medicine which is 20% alcohol! And is trying olive leaf! Don't take notes as nothing has worked so far. Chicken soup, hot chocolate, rusty nails, decongestants, cough lozenges, Jamesons, ...., even lemon drinks with honey and Whisky.
We ended the day with nothing broken. And only a sway bar on the must have list. I am told it will reduce under steer! That would be good as when you brake too late after the straight, the car does not seem to want to turn the corner on the approved line! It seems that the extra speed you get on the straight is lost when you, just, make a very wide corner. We both have been advised to stop looking at the speedo and concentrate on using all the track width after corners, and driving the recommended line. Hmm. Hard to not look at lap times as the phone video replays tell you what they are and so of course you compare notes! We were lucky that the track dried off In the afternoon and it looks like we may have a dry day on Monday at Taupo.
By the way we did the first course here with Mike and Martin and this got us hooked on track driving. (http://www.tracktime.co.nz) It was a great course and got Patricia in particular more confident about the ABS, ESC, and all the other features of our new grunty car. Somewhat different from our cruising junker. We also did the skid pad course with them, turning off some of the stability features to get the car drifting around the cones. Scary with the concrete walls around it but it really taught me to hit the brakes! The biggest thing to get used to on the track is looking way ahead as in suburban driving you are looking not far from the hood to watch for kids darting out or cars leaving drive ways. I still need more confidence in ignoring the short view and looking where I want to go and lining up properly. The next track day at Hampton Downs is not until December as there are lots of other events on there over the next few months.
The middle picture shows david talking to Martin (one of the instructors) about corner 1 tactics.
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