Phillip Island

September 9, 2007

We made it! Taking with us almost every tool in the shed (prepared for any contingency) and 4 interested onlookers (who provided a symphony of drunken revelry all Saturday night), we made it to Phillip Island for the MSCA Sprint.

After an uneventful trip down the Sth Gippsland Highway, we were prepared for anything once the sun rose on Sunday. It was my first track meeting, so I was on a steep learning curve, where to be at what time, etc. Friends in the Fiat Car Club who had only heard about our project got their first look at it and i’m relieved to say that they seemed to approve of our efforts. We sorted out some numbers and passed the scrutineers checks the first time (the suckers!). Julian was to be the first bunny on the track.

Jack and I looked on from the pit roof as he took off on the warm up lap, but we were heart-broken when he coasted past us on the straight, engine off, coming to a stop just off the track by turn 1, causing a red flag. I didn’t want to say it then, but I thought the day was over before it had begun, that the worst had happened and we’d seized the block or blown a head or were suffering from some other form of warstopper. A quick check revealed that the leads had vibrated loose off the fuel pump, and starved itself dry. This was the only problem! They were crimped and taped back on, ready for my session. There was another moment of panic also when we thought we saw hydro fluid in the foot well, indicating a leak from one of the pedals, but nothing was found.

Since I’d never been on Phillip Island, nor driven a car around any track in anger before, I was a bit nervous heading out for my first session. The car was still an unknown quantity to me, having never driven it before. It’s a very easy car to get used to. The gearbox still has synchros so the shift is easy (no need to double de-clutch) and the brakes have good feel to them (Julian still managed to lock them up twice over Lukey Heights with warm tyres).

The upshot of the whole day is that Julian and I were bettering each others time by about a second every lap, until I had a rush of blood in my last lap and managed a 2:25 to Julian’s 2:30 (provisional iPod/Jack stopwatch times). Hardly a scorching lap time, I’l be the first to admit, but for a stock 1300 with 2 green drivers, it’s a starting point.

A great thanks goes out to everyone who supported us, both from the start and on the day and a big thanks to Cliff for letting us overheat his transmission in order to tow the car down there.

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