From the Pit Wall: MSCA Peter Hall Memorial 6-Hour PDF Print E-mail
Motorsport
Written by Colin Brassington (aka Brash)   
Monday, 15 May 2017 22:27

I don't write about my own racing here much. Let's be honest, outside of club level motorsport nobody really cares about club level motorsport. But it's a great thing, and in South Australia at least it seems as though it's as strong as ever.

KFury162

And the event that I competed in over the weekend just gone is quickly becoming my favourite event to be a part of anywhere in the country. And with good reason.

The format is a Regularity competition. The concept is that you pick a number and you drive to that number. Drag racers call it bracket racing and it's a very fair way of allowing vastly different vehicle combinations to compete against each other. In the eyes of some purists it's not really racing, but many of these so-called purists are so pure in their beliefs that they never hit the track themselves. And the 6 hour relay format enables us amateur racers to participate in an endurance style team event, just like the big time racers do.

The event is named for Peter Hall, a member of the Marque Sports Car Association of South Australia who was killed in an incident at the Phillip Island circuit in 2013. While I never met Peter, the way those who knew him talk about him tells a story of a passionate man who would help anybody at any time.

We began planning for this event the week after last year's event. Last year we heard about this race and thought 'that sounds like fun' and went from there. It was a huge amount of fun, and we resolved to be back every year as much as possible. But in the weeks leading up to this event, I still didn't know what car I would be racing. The white Excel known as KFury had been sitting dead in my driveway since November after dropping the timing belt; I had torn the cylinder head off to see how damaged it was, and that was as far as we had got. Eventually, a replacement head was sourced, new timing kit fitted, new cylinder head bolts and other consumable stuff, and the car was running again. I had planned on running at Track Time Motorsport’s opening round of their Modern Regularity series three weekends prior but the head didn't arrive from the machine shop until after that event. Oh well.

KFuryCollingrove

The next - and in all reality final - opportunity for a shake down was at the Collingrove Hillclimb event, 7 days prior. With the engine fired and a fresh tank of fuel, KFury in its new #poweredbyadrian guise ran flawlessly despite having only a handful of road miles since the rebuild. Additionally any concerns about the power the rebuilt bullet produced were put aside once I had gone up the hill quicker than I ever had in an Excel. So a good day all round.

Another week of road testing and we arrived at Sunday, race day.

First (and only) practice opened at 0900 Sunday morning, and OLB (pronounced "ol-bee") was first out. As the only one of the five on our team not driving an Excel, and having the least amount of laps around Mallala in his car (read: none) he was allowed most of the practice time. Matt followed him in Eva, then me. I drove 3 laps as a final shakedown before pulling back in and letting Ado head out in Dennis. The session was red flagged unfortunately when a competitor went into the wall at the Northern Hairpin. Thankfully the driver walked away, but his car was a mess. A timely reminder for all that motorsport is a dangerous game, and that things can go wrong at any time. With the wreckage removed and the track cleared, practice recommenced and Jordan took to the track in TinaToo. (Yes all the cars are named. No this isn't weird)

6HourPitGarage   6HourTinaToo

Driver's Briefing and final checks and preparations complete, the field headed out to the grid for the commencement of the event proper. As our team's most experienced driver Jordan was starting the race, and on the exact strike of 1100, the green flag dropped for the first time. We were racing!

As competitors, this event is taken much more seriously than a regular Sprint or Regularity like those we would normally participate in. We set up the laptop in the pit garage, set ourselves up on the pit wall with information boards and stopwatches and snacks, and a bunch of shenanigans too. We like our shenanigans :-)

Jordan's first stint was great with a bunch of good laps and when he handed over to Ado we felt we were in a good position. (The published results confirm that at this point of the day we were in a very good position) Ado also put in a good stint, but missed the sign telling him to pit in, so ended up doing an extra 3 laps over what we had planned. It wasn't his fault, the first time he was being passed on the inside so probably missed it, the second time we thought he was coming in so didn't show it, and he saw it the third time and came in.

But his stint wasn't without its drama, as when he stopped there was a suspect oil leak. OLB was on the track now, but Dennis may have been wounded. The oil cap had come off and sprayed oil all over the underside of the bonnet. Oil levels were checked and topped up while the car cooled down, and excess oil was cleaned off. But what happened next stunned everyone.

A mate and regular competitor of ours, Gear Knob Richard had run out of brakes and gone into the sand pit at turn 7, bringing out the Safety Car while they retrieved him. We jumped to attention with our shenanigans.

As a driver in an event like this, Safety Car periods are boring. Sure you need to keep tyres warm but otherwise you're just circulating slowly. So we put together some joke pit boards to show the field during Safety Car periods. "HAVE YOU SEEN THE TORQUE WRENCH?" was the first one. It's funny because people are always looking for one. The next lap, we showed "DO YOU WANT MAYO ON YOUR SANDWICH?" and quite a few drivers acknowledged us with yes or no gestures from inside the race cars.

Ado, fresh from his stint realised that the Safety Car was out, and went straight to the track’s canteen and spent WAY too much on ice creams. 'Worth every cent!' he told us as he arrived at the pit wall. We removed the packets and held out the next pit board "DON'T PIT NOW WE'RE EATING ICE CREAM". (Anybody who has seen Days of Thunder will get the reference)

6HourPitWall

We held that one out for two laps, and it was great watching many of the drivers have a chuckle inside their helmets. Actually, quite a few racers came up to us after the event and thanked us for the comic relief. One in particular was telling us that they were incredibly nervous, because despite having a reasonable level of experience on track with similar events had never done this one before. They began their stint behind the Safety Car and after four laps of seeing our amusing pit boards the nerves had settled and they were able to focus on driving.

So there you go, shenanigans helping out!

The race continued, and it is hard work out there. Think of it like this: there was 26 cars on track at any one time, and all of them trying to drive to their own numbers. But when you drive an Excel, probably 20 of the 25 other cars are faster than you. Most of the remaining 5 are other Excels so are relatively closely matched. It's fun and hard work at the same time. You're out there trying to keep out of people's way, but trying to run your own race as well. And then things happen.

Like on my second stint, a classic Alfa Romeo Guilietta passed me down the inside at turn 3. I knew he was there and gave him plenty of room, but he then out braked himself and spun the car around - right in front of me! Of course I had to basically stop before driving around him, and I went ahead with my lap. But 5 corners later, he caught me again and I had to yield again. This time it wasn't an easy pass though, and the other driver made a lunge that stopped me from turning in where I wanted to. In effect the same driver delayed me twice on a single lap. Which I suppose is better than doing it over two laps, but frustrating nonetheless.

Another challenge that this event provides is the amount of track time available. I mean using simple maths shows that 6 hours divided by 5 drivers potentially gives each of us over an hour on track each; which we broke up over 20-30 minute stints. Compare this to most of the other events we run where competitors are on track for 12-15 minutes. The opportunity to do extra laps is both a blessing and a curse, we get to see what it's like to compete in an endurance type event, but the extra time on track does take its toll on the cars. Brake pedals get longer as the fluid gets hotter, engine temps slowly increase as they spend more and more time at wide open throttle, tyre grip starts to go off as tread temps climb, drivers start to make mistakes as they think about needing a drink or a toilet break. And that's just the issues that we faced!

Of course we brought spare wheels and tyres, brake pads and fluid, oils, degreasers, shift cables and all manner of other things with us; just in case we needed to rescue a car. Thankfully most of the tools remained in their respective toolboxes during the event. We like to think that we've never used the things we've brought as spares, so that means we won't need to in the future. It's a nice thought that has served us well so far...

The six of us that made up the team for this year's event often compete at the same events, but while we're all good mates we tend to be competing against each other. The 6 Hour Relay format by its very nature allows us to compete as a team, again something that we don't often get the opportunity to do. It's another of the things I really like about this event.

So how'd we go?

Our team finished 12th this year. It's hard to know how to feel about this, as we scored better than last year but ended up four positions further down the order. So while we improved by approximately 3%, the rest of the field (well, half the field) improved by more than this. Our 2017 score for example would have given us 5th position in the 2016 race. Not only that, but having seen the full results breakdown a few days after the event we know that had we been a little cleverer – not even changing the way any of us drove – a top 5 finish was on the table. But as a consolation to all of this, we were awarded Best Presented Team. No doubt this was helped by our novel approach to pit boards and our insistence that the pit garage be decorated appropriately. This of course meant that we beat some teams twice - both with our on track and off track results - a fact that we wasted no time in telling some of the mates that we regularly compete with.

I'd say that we're not good enough to win - that kinda goes without saying when you look at our results. Last year we turned up thinking "that looks like fun" and ended up in the Top 10 and I don't think any of us realised at the time how much of an achievement; or how difficult that was. We'll be back next year. We plan on being better prepared on track, but no doubt with better shenanigans. Because not only do we think that we are not shit at this, but we also have more fun than most.

Like I said, as an event, the Peter Hall Memorial is fast becoming my favourite event to be a part of. And that's saying a lot I think. Hell, I started writing this three days after the event and I still haven't really recovered physically from it. :-) This gives us so much opportunity to pretend that we are big time racers participating at major events. When talking about events like the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama or the 24hrs of LeMans people often say things like "to finish first, first you must finish". And while that sounds like a well duh type statement, events like this give us an understanding of that.

Preparations for next year will start in a couple of weeks. New pit boards will be planned and we'll head back ti Mallalla for more track time to improve. And I'm really looking forward to that.

KFury6Hr1

Want to join us? We'll need a crew...

 

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