Competing in Australia's fastest racing series - Formula 4000

Oran Park Round 3 June 25th and 26th 2004

I think this weekend will be seen later as a watershed in Australian motor racing. F4000 is back with a vengeance. Representatives from the China Development Corporation were present and they showed strong indications of what this category will be like in the future. There was a real buzz in the pits with many promotional activities taking place and lots of commercial visitors.

Mark West at Fleetwood Print Group in Geelong designed pit signage for all the teams and the new signage has given pit row a more professional look. Gil Gerhardt has organised a uniform deal with Alan Tutt at Canberra Clothing Company ( to support F4000, which has also helped to raise the bar. They also did the clothing for our wonderful grid girls Vanessa and Belinda from Mark Edwards Agency who had a great weekend promoting the class. The girls will be wowing the crowds at Eastern Creek on the first of August.

As for the racing, we left wet, miserable Adelaide and travelled through rain to Sydney, which although cold, put on a fantastic sunny weekend for the large crowds who saw some really top class racing.

Our weekend was very busy with sponsor commitments and we were only denied a really fantastic result by some self-inflicted technical mistakes of the type we rarely make.

Friday Practice
We only had one session on Friday so the gremlins could really get their aim. We had about five laps and our car was pretty evil and I was trying to see if it was just a really green track or if we had set the car up wrongly. When the red flag came out we stopped and the crew discovered a slow leak in the rear left tyre. We rectified that problem and went out again but really never got another hot lap, as there was a series of red flags and long delays that used the entire session. Apart from finding the tyre we achieved nothing. Spare a thought for Rohan Carrig who ended up in the kitty litter at turn 1 a couple of times and then got the front wing of his car torn off by the recovery crew. He was pretty upset, as indeed we all would have been. A wing main plane costs between $2-3,000 and with some fittings and strain wires that would be $4,000 of damage. These wouldn't be the last offs and red flags for the weekend - the theme was set.
Saturday Practice
We circulated well concentrating on trying to get the car to go over the horrendous bumps at Oran Park as well as we could. The dip through turn 1 is savage when you hit it a 2.5gs lateral and 230 km/h. It is so savage that sometimes you have trouble getting your feet back on the pedals in time to brake down to 60kmh for turn 2. The track is also a real mess at turn 4 onto the bridge and all the f4000 cars struggle trying to get the cars round here. This session was red flagged multiple times, with many incidents at turn 4. I really drove the car hard to try and warm the tyres (including a really big power-slide towards the wall caught on camera by James Smith) but we couldn't make it happen on the cold surface that was still very green. Because an F4000 uses ground effects and generates so much down-force we tend to lift dirt out of the track surface that other race cars leave there and drive over happily, so until we have done a number of sessions, the track is still poor for us. It doesn't help at all that some of the race meetings include truck categories as support and they run them so rich that they literally rain diesel all over the track. They also spend so much time off the track that they bring tons of dirt and grass back onto it.
I don't seem to be able to take a trick in qualifying at the moment. 20 minutes of sheer frustration as I caught car after car. It's really great to have new entrants in the class and I don't begrudge them being there at all but I couldn't find my way past. There were also three red flags so it was a pretty sizeable mess. I was pretty disillusioned at the end and was surprised to find we were fifth fastest. Obviously there was plenty of difficulty to go around. Fifth on the grid and an inside run to turn 1 - I could live with that.
Sunday race 1
Didn't make a great start from the dirty side of the track but slotted in behind Steven Borness and settled the car down for 19 laps of fun. I was obviously faster than him in a few spots and although Terry Clearihan was closing up from behind I was confident I could get by but after a few laps I felt something loose in the foot well around my feet. The terrible pounding the car was getting had broken something loose. Sometimes it was under my heel and I couldn't get my foot on the clutch, and sometimes the brake or accelerator pedals were jammed. It was pretty scary at times and I ran off line and got rubbish all over the tyres which made it even worse. I had to let Terry go by but when another silver star competitor started to catch up I gave it everything to keep ahead. On the last lap the accelerator wouldn't go down at all in turn 4 and I tried to wiggle the car to move the obstruction sideways (under the brake - what was I thinking? ) and then I was able to get some go and stroked the car home for seventh. Certainly not what is expected from fifth on the grid. After the race my crew found one of the fire extinguisher brackets had broken off. There had been a few very nasty moments when the brakes had been jammed so it was very satisfying to get to the finish at all. We had lost an opportunity here to get a few more points up on Terry but as they say "that's motor-racing".
Sunday race 2
Now I was back in seventh and on the dirty side again. Oran Park gets really dangerous at turn 2 on the first lap as all the cars try to funnel through. Sometimes at the back you just about have to stop while some track appears for you to use. I got a mediocre start and went through turn 2 without trouble. I was keeping touch with the cars ahead while waiting for the tyres to pressure up as they warmed. The car hits the ground for the first few laps until the pressure rises and the car gets a little higher. This race had two safety car periods while various cars were retrieved. The first was when Paul Trengove and Terry had a fight over one patch of track and Paul ended up off the outside of the dogleg(very nasty spot) and another when Stephen Borness looped it with only a few laps to go. By keeping it on the black stuff we were able to get up to fourth place before the last safety car came out. I misidentified the car behind and got caught out when Rob Nuygen slipped by on turn 4 on the last lap. Unfortunately I lost a couple of car lengths to Terry that prevented me from having a last lap lunge so I had to settle for fifth and second in Silver Star. So we now go to Eastern Creek with an 8 point lead in Silver Star. Luckily our car is fantastic there so we have a good chance to get this championship finished. We have some exciting news re China coming up. The series is taking shape and we are preparing furiously.
30 Silver Star points, and 12 Gold Star points. This leaves us in the lead of the Silver Star with 100 points and equal fifth in the Gold Star
Thanks to Garrett Gerhardt, Gil Gerhardt, Peter Duldig, Dru Lydon, Rebecca Peters and Peter Black
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