Archive for October, 2009

Drive NZ Classic – Day 7 – Akaroa to Dunedin

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Rebecca and I managed to get up early and have an hour wandering the town as the sun rose. Akaroa is a really nice place and I suspect we will return, probably without an entourage of motor heads and a death march schedule.

We used the coast road to exit Akaroa and head off on our long journey. It’s hard to make every day interesting and this was is really just a transport stage. 500 odd Km. Today marked the demise of the second of Rogers support vehicles. It’s lucky the competitors are more reliable than the support cars. The v12 jag lead car has also eaten all it’s oil so it may be on the way too..

Arriving in Dunedin is no great tonic for the soul after a big day in the road. The hotel is tired, food poor and the greyness crushing. The hotel staff were actually the high point and tried to be cheerful but you can only do so much

Drive NZ Classic Day 6 – Ruapuna trackday

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Hamner Springs is such a pretty little town with so many possibilities that it seemed a shame to arrive at 6pm and leave again at 7am. Such is the schedule on this trip.

We did a couple of hundred Km over the beautiful high country roads in drizzle to Ruapuna Race track mostly in convoy with Andrew in his S1 and Keith in his S2.
After a couple of dry orientation laps the rain set in. Unlike Manfield where I had to find my way again, this track was very familiar after an absence of 10 years.
I am progressively dialling in the suspension of the Exige to try and eliminate the low speed understeer. I can’t recommend the Ohlins dampers enough as although Lotus give you a pretty narrow range of adjustment it is enough to change the car quite a lot without making it lethal. The wet track at Ruapuna was good for having an explore and the odd spin. It’s great track with plenty of complexity. I remember being totally exhausted at the end of the GP.

We had a quick stop in Christchurch for a display in the cathedral square and after a quick bite I finally got to a shop where I could grab a local Sim for my phone so I can get a data pack. Now I might get some of this blog down.

In the afternoon we did the drive that Keith has been talking up so much to Akaroa via the back ways and the high pass. It is a great road and we did most of it maggot free (white camper vans). The high pass over to Akaroa is one to try for sure. There was only one section of grit still from the ice and a quite foggy section but it was a great drive. We paused at the top to admire the view and the temperature was still pretty cool.

Akaroa itself is quiet little spot at this time of year with a strong French background. We had a great meal at Bully Hayes Restaurant and collapsed into bed exhausted.

Drive NZ Classic Day 5 – Drive to Hamner Springs

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Yikes – a 5am start!!! So much for holiday. We got going on time but not without some grumbling. Todays physical exercise was pushing Grants MG out to the road so not everyone in the Motel had a 5am start!

We had a dash down to the Picton Ferry through the Wellington traffic. Wow that starts early. Luckily the crossing was smooth and sunny.

The drive down the Kaikourou coast is truly wonderful. We commented that it way outclasses the great ocean road.

The ‘closed road’ sections out to Hamner Springs through “Sound of Music” scenery will only be undestandable when we get some pictures up here.

I also now have an NZ Voda account so update will be more frequent.

Drive NZ Classic Day 4 – Manfeild Raceway Track Day

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

A track day every day is my definition of heaven. We made a quick jaunt down to Fielding to the track where we did the disastrous (for us) 2001 lead up to the GP. I was hoping for a non repeat of the major blowup we had in the FHolden.

The dry weather made for a fun morning but we had few engine concerns with a strange noise being heard at tone stage. We did find a minor missing bolt and replaced it and there was no recurrence.

The Raceway Motel at Feilding is basic but well run, functional and clean. It’s a good example we wish some others had seen and copied.

Drive NZ Classic Day 3 – Taupo Raceway Track Day

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Today was a full track day at Taupo Raceway, an excellent track with modern infrastructure in an absolutely beautiful setting, surrounding by mountains, forests and steaming hot springs.

This was a new track to me and I was quite looking forward to it. The weather forecast a day earlier had been for snow…luckily it was completely inaccurate, and we enjoyed bright sunshine all day.

The track is great fun and the team that runs ‘playdaysontrack’ there did a great job. I can’t say enough good things about this track; it suits the Exige but is also safe and challenging so get there if you can.

I had one huge spin but only broke my pride. One of the highlights of my day was tagging along with a local driving an M3CSL in a very neat and fast fashion. I followed for a couple of laps and learnt a bit.

Another thing that is becoming a standard feature is jousting with Grant (V8 MGB) on track. This time I was right behind while he was giving Rebecca a ride when he had a spin. Rebecca had a big grin on when she got out.

In the evening our “minder” Doug (a new Zealand police officer) cooked an awesome barbecue and we watched the sun go down over Lake Taupo over a few beers until the temperature plummeted and drove us inside to review the days video footage and photographs.

We had an early night as I had picked up Rebecca’s chest infection.

Drive NZ Classic Day 2 – ‘Closed Road’ Sections around Rotorua

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Day 2 began with the establishment of our new ritual, the ‘Morning Coffee Hunt.’ Luckily the rally includes two veterans of the hunt, Boyd and Igor, and they are usually hot on the trail of all things gastronomic. On this day we actually found our own barista and he got us going in the right style. I’m sure our hunters will be back on form soon.

We had a great drive on the way to petrol with Grant in his very British liveried V8 MGB on some absolutely gorgeous road. We weren’t pushing too hard but had a lot of fun. We got scolded at the petrol station by a fellow motorist (in form if not in spirit) for ‘not staying inside the lines’!!

From there the traffic got really heavy and it wasn’t too much fun to Rotorua where we stopped for lunch before setting off to Taupo via two of the erstwhile “closed road” sections of the event.

The Waimangu Thermal Resort road is very nice indeed and the Waikite Valley Road is a little more open so you can sit on the speed limit pretty much the whole time. The only scare we had was when we came over a brow and there were to figures standing by the road in the distance. Of course we were proceeding at a legal pace but I hauled a lot of speed off very rapidly just in case. It turned out to be just a couple of looney Lamborghini pilots filming the cars going by.

After a quick stop to look at the awesome Huka falls we went into Taupo to find our accommodation. We had a beautiful place by the lake shore and had a lovely meal in their restaurant. The Millenium motel is recovering from a fire but is doing a very nice job in spite of it. And there are still two bottles of 04 Basket Press left at what can only be described as a bargain price. The price isn’t on the menu but you should ask.

Drive NZ Classic Day 1 – Track Day Pukekohe

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The unseasonal weather made this a really cold and soggy start. It also chased away many of the casual entrants we were expecting for the day! I was looking forward to driving the track again after some years since I last competed there in the Reynard during the NZ GP.

Pukekohe was at its wet weather best, with most of the track workably grippy, but the front straight was pretty slippery. We had the dampers backed right off to chase some grip but it wasn’t fun.

The big lesson of the day for me was the letdown of the pagid RS14. They make lovely fast road pads but were not up to track work. You couldn’t get them to bite and I was losing quite a lot of braking zone as they came on. It will be interesting to see what happens on the shorter tracks where the temps stay up.

Rebecca did a several lap session that was only her third drive in the car since we bought it. She had fun in spite of the cold and rain. This was our first track excursion with the Exige and was a great learning experience.

We had a pretty drive to Whangamata. The highlight was when we finally blasted past a slow car we had been stuck behind I turned to Rebecca and said “Now we have a clear road, a great car and it has stopped raining” but then we crested the next rise into solid fog!!

After the track day at Pukekohe we did 120km in convoy to the delightful surfie town of Whangamata for our overnight stop at the Cabana Lodge Motel… just say no!

The forecast for Taupo tomorrow is max 11 and snow down to 400m so who knows!?

Arrive in NZ

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Big thanks to Qantas at Sydney airport who lost our luggage. A busy day just became impossible. The people at Auckland airport were very helpful and explained that Sydney loses lots of luggage. The luggage finally arived at 1030 pm so we missed out opportunity to install the camera in the car before the event began

New Zealand roads closed by snow

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

It’s lucky A048 semi slicks are good in snow and slush eh?

Here is the road status for NZ. South Island looks ok, just need to find my chains for the exige.

Final preparations

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

We picked up Rebeccas new helmet from our old friend Chris at Revolution Racegear. The bags are packed and I’m just working out what tools we are taking. I think I should take a third SDHC card for the smartycam. I might borrow a go-pro as well for some outside shots.