Formula 1 Racing at the V8 Track in Melbourne
Formula 1. That’s the one with those flat cars with the big wheels right?
I am the first to admit, car racing held no appeal for me. Why would I go watch a bunch of cars race around a track in a circle again and again? I could never understand why people would pay to go watch such a repetitive sport… this was until I was invited to the Gold Coast to participate in a hot lap or two in a Formula 1 car.
By this stage you are probably thinking, how unfair- this girl knows nothing of cars! I know that friends and family that watch the race each year certainly felt that way. Nevertheless, I had been given an opportunity and was determined to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
Start Your Engines
Arriving at the track we were greeted by the distant roar of V8 supercars lapping the track, for the first time, I started to feel nervous. We had to walk to the F1 tent on the far side of the entry gates, and along the way appeared the Jack Daniel’s wife beater singlets, XXXX stubby coolers and the pink cheeks of men and women who had spent far too much time in the sun! I did have a little chuckle as my mind’s stereotype came to life before my eyes!
There wasn’t much time to giggle, because we soon arrived at the F1 tent and with a flash of the VIP lanyard I was in meeting the racing team. Around thirty professional men in red jumpsuits busied themselves with a plethora of tools and gadgets I have no name for, and a plump friendly man approached us and introduced himself as the F1 Race Team Manager.
Being trackside meant each time the V8’s lapped, a deafening throaty roar filled the tent and made it impossible to talk. Given that chatting was out, we headed closer to the track to watch the cars pass. Positioned at the middle of the straight meant passing cars were travelling at peak speeds, and the pace shocked me. Not for the first time that afternoon, my heart started pounding!
Though enjoying watching the cars, it was time to suit up. (Cue rapid heart rate). Given that my only shelter between thirty race team members and myself was an F1 billboard, I changed into my race gear in record speed. Thermal socks, long johns, thermal turtleneck shirt, gloves, earplugs, special flame retardant rubber shoes and a full body suit later, I started to feel the part – as well as the Queensland heat.
By now, the classic muscle cars had taken to the track and there were some amazing cars out racing! For the most part, I couldn’t even label the make, but the tiny Porsche’s have a very distinguished shape, and it was great watching those shiny old things driven around at pace! One of my favourite parts of the day was watching these lovingly restored cars racing around – obviously owned by very dedicated people.
Looking the part, I shuffled over none to elegantly wondering how ‘The Stig’ does it, and met my driver for the day former F1 Driver and current V8 Ute Racer Cam McConville.
After initial introductions, Cam noted the classic cars would leave ‘oil and crap all over the road’. This was a little concerning, but given Cam’s casual attitude about the activity we were about to take part in I started to feel a bit calmer: that was before the liability waiver required my signature!
With only two people taking part in the hot lap for the day, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Tom Williams would be the other. (Note *he is taller in real life!) Arriving with a full film crew and video camera in tow, I scampered off to the sidelines to watch the classic cars race before Tom was geared up and ready to roll. I very generously allowed him to go first, partly to morbidly ensure the car wouldn’t blow up before my turn came, and partly to see what I had gotten myself into!
And They’re Off!
All of a sudden, an eerie quiet spilled over the track and it was with a little anxiety I realised that the classic cars were done, and time had come. Tom climbed into the F1 somewhat awkwardly being over six feet tall, and the team of ‘red race car worker ants’ sprung into action! Wheel covers and the unnamed machine that I later learned was keeping the engine and wheels over 60 degrees were removed. The engine cover was put on, belts buckled and helmets donned as the F1 was wheeled onto the track.
Once the car was wheeled into the centre of the straight, a flurry of excited activity spread across the gathering crowd and the engine was started.
Vumm vumm vumm! The engine started and everyone including me stopped dead in their tracks in anticipation, eyes glues to the car in wait for it to take off. Seemingly slow at first, the car appeared to fishtail slightly, then hit an imaginary sling shot and flung ahead and out of sight. We all stood behind the barrier, listening to the solitary high pitch hum relaying from the track and clinging to the wire fence in wait for the car to pass the check point. We didn’t have to wait long. The car zoomed past in milliseconds, screamingly noisy despite the speed.
Smiles and excited chatter spread and I now know why they make you do a medical examination prior to taking part in the race, weak tickers would have clocked out by this stage. I was also kicking myself for not making a quick trip to the bathroom pre-race, as I was now busting as well as out of time!
Here Goes Nothing
The car was wheeled back in, and Tom clambered out of the back with a huge grin like a little kid on Christmas day. I was busy enjoying his reaction when a frantic ‘red race car worker ant’ ushered me over to the car. My turn. Oh God. Oh crap. Oh no. Too late to back out. Oh God.
Ten efficient arms strapped, buckled, sealed and fastened me into place, complete with a ridiculously oversized helmet and lung constricting seat belt.
We were wheeled out onto the track, and Cam yelled back, “If you want me to slow down, just kick here!”
Handy information to know, more helpful if my legs were long enough to actually reach the ‘here’ referred to. In any case, I wanted to go as fast as possible: if you are gonna go out, go out with a bang!
Lined up on the starting grid, the engine started again, and I silently thanked God for the earplugs! We took off, and I have never felt anything like it in my life. The mesh fencing raced past so quickly, it blurred to grey, spotted with specks of colour that I assumed were spectators. Each corner the car slowed to 30kms, only to accelerate up into the hundreds between each corner. On the last bend into the straight, the car accelerated through and I could have sworn we were going to take off, and got up to 280kms. My neck strained on the corners as we slowed to round, the whole time hysterically laughing, screaming and trying to remember to breathe.
Through the second lap, the heat was intense, the smell of brake fluid, rubber and gears filled the tiny area and my head started to spin. We pulled into the pit and I was helped out of the car, legs like jelly, slightly shaking with a sweaty face and crazed grin I thought would never come off my face.
Before embarking on the ride, the F1 Marketing Coordinator asked me the most dare devil thing I had ever done. After thinking, I came up with Death Road bike ride in Bolivia. Should someone ask the question again, I know what my answer will be!
Though I won’t be running out and buying myself a Cougar singlet, or forwarding my application as a grid girl just yet, I can safely say that I no longer think of the V8 and Formula 1 Racing as ‘that big car race’. Being there in person compared to watching the race on TV isn’t even the same sport!
To experience the Formula 1 racing you have to be there in person. Smell the dirt, grease and burning rubber, feel the ground vibrate and feel how exciting the atmosphere is.
From converted hot head and YHA Victoria Marketing Coordinator, Jody Bennett.
To experience the Formula 1 for yourself, you will need to be in Melbourne on 15-18th March, 2012. Formula 1 Racing will take place at Albert Park, easily accessible via public transport from Melbourne, and will have trackside entertainment including the Crusty Demons, and thanks to the Australian Defence Force, all eyes will be on the sky when the F/A-18 and Roulettes buzz the crowd.
Stay at the following two YHA hostels in Melbourne:
Melbourne Central YHA
562 Flinders Street. Melbourne
P: (03) 9621 2523
Melbourne Metro YHA
78 Howard Street, North Melbourne
P: (03) 9329 8599