Competing in Australia's fastest racing series - Formula 4000

Mallala Round 1 - May 6th to 9th 2004
Round 1 at our home track was an auspicious start to our title defence year. We had done quite a lot of work on the car over the break and it is now fitted with our second-generation lightweight engine. We have also made a series of changes designed to go along with our revised set-up for slow corners from last year. This meeting also marks the beginning of the Australian Premier Racing Series, which is run by the circuit owners on fixed racetracks around Australia.
Practice 1
Well, there are green tracks and there are very green tracks. The car was all but un-driveable. We settled for bedding in a set of pads and disks and getting the aero set-up ready for the next session by which time the track would be more relevant to what we might see on Sunday. I was obviously well out of practice after a few months off, so we weren't too upset - yet.
Practice 2
Here is where it started to go wrong. The track was much ,much better but the car was very nasty. I was getting front brake lockup even with the brake bias set to full rear. We gave up on the rest of the session and put the crew to work finding the culprit. I felt it was likely to be a seized damper of something causing a lack of compliance in the front suspension. After quite a few hours work we hadn't found anything so we adapted our set-up to try and mitigate the problem.
If I had a list of things I don't like, trying to qualify well in a nasty car is way up there. Luckily we had a home track advantage and didn't qualify too badly but the car was ugly to drive. I managed to hold onto eighth place but wasn't looking forward to turn 1 in race conditions with a car that didn't brake nicely. I was suffering a number of handling problems too as we had massive (more than normal) understeer on slow corners and power down problems too.
Race 1
Maybe it was the worry over turn 1 but I fluffed the start and got passed by everyone. Terry then lost it and went off, and we were back up to 7th and just trying to keep the car on the black stuff. I ran wide on the north hairpin and let Terry back past but settled down to try and run down Rohan Carrig. By lap 10 I was on his tail and applying some pressure. He ran wide on the north hairpin and I tried to go out-side but was obviously unsighted and had to back out or go to grass. I still managed to get a better run down the straight and, as usual with Rohan, he gave clean racing room. We entered the esses in a classic braking duel side by side. What with my braking difficulties and being on the dirty side of the track I almost spun and had a huge smoky lockup and ran wide. I worried about Rohan but when I looked he was gone! He'd had his own lockup a little earlier than me and ended up in the kitty litter. This bought out the pace car for two laps. After the cars were cleared we got back to racing and I set out to hunt Terry down (not likely with this car!) but he had a loose and we inherited sixth. A good result but certainly more luck than speed.
Race 2
This was more like what we needed with a sick car. Inherited fifth when Mark West went off and although Terry applied some pressure for 5 laps held him out until he went away. I spent the rest of the race just pacing myself to Mark West who was about 5 seconds behind, and although the braking problem remained we were able to finish in fifth and first in Silver Star for the meeting
40 Silver Star points and 16 Gold Star points. A good way to start although we had spectacularly failed to find our handling problem.
Thanks to Peter Duldig, Kevin Hill, Steve Davis, John Mahoney, Garrett Gerhardt and Rebecca Peters
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