Oran Park – March 30-31 - Report By Pat Gagal

Peter Finlay’s C3 Course

An event that I was looking forward to for sometime, the C3 course at Oran Park.  With the current house building activities, I was looking forward to a break.  Boy, what a shock to the system, I’ve never worked harder in my life.  On the way, I stopped at Narellan to pump the tires up to the required 45psi, although, the servo pump struggled to get to 40psi, so I just ran with that.

The course started with basic double clutching exercises, a little bit different from what they showed me at the previous course I did, so it took bit of an effort to change my technique.  At the end of the session on the short northern figure 8 track (over the Bridgestone Bridge) the clutch cable decided it had had enough.  A quick call to Barry, who luckily had just changed his clutch over to a hydraulic set-up saw me only missing one session while we fitted the new cable.  Barry & Ken you were lifesavers.

Back into it, and onto the emergency braking manoeuvres.  I’d missed the straight line braking, so it was into the more advanced, swerving, braking, accelerating moves.  At this point I found out that the LH’s have a predominance to locking up the rear drums, which according to the instructor, Peter Finlay, looked very spectacular.  The other instructor, Daryl Cullen who was part of HDT in the Torana heydays, i.e. the 70’s, advised that with the rear drums on the Toranas it was necessary to chamfer the leading edge of the drum brake shoes.  Will try that sometime in the future.

I was sure looking forward to lunch.  After lunch, we proceeded with more braking and cornering exercises on the North Track, including a free drive in the afternoon, where we pegged it around the track, with the instructor’s assessing how we were going with our racing lines.  It was a blast.

The day ended, and I went to Barry’s mum & dad’s place for the night.  Norma had cooked a great lamb roast, and I got to meet Barry’s wife, Melissa, and kids, Connor and Lindsey.  I was pretty stuffed from the days activities, so I don’t know if I was the best company.  The car was filthy, and all I wanted to do was go to bed.  We had a look at Barry’s Torana, trying to work out what was up with his new hydraulic clutch setup.

I rose early in the morning, and adjusted the clutch, which wasn’t quite right from the previous days repairs.  I wasn’t sure how the brakes were holding out, so I had ideas of putting in new front pads, however, time was running out.  I made my farewells to Barry and his family, and to Norma and Ken, and headed back for Day 2.

Day 2 was on the Southern Track at Oran Park, which incorporates the main straight, the esses, the flip flop, and back onto the straight (not the V8 Supercar track which incorporates both the North and South Tracks).  What an awesome track.  Again we started with emergency braking exercises, although today it was at much higher speeds, and around the corner at the end of the main straight, braking from 100km/h, 120km/h, 140km/h and then flat out.

Following this, we then proceeded to analyse each corner, with cones placed on each apex, and the lines in and out of the corners.  In doing so, we did heaps of circuits of the track, with limited overtaking opportunities, unless of course you cleaned up some cones.  Daryl used my car in doing the flip flop, in which I got to ride shot gun.  That was most useful, fully riding the ripple strips up to the corner before the straight.  It was a most useful ride.  This part of the circuit is done just about flat out in fourth, with the second corner on the flip flop largely done on a wing and a prayer, as you can’t see the apex.

Lunch followed, and we were instructed to ensure that our tanks were full.  Having a drop tank, I didn’t really see the need, but filled the tank anyways with 120L of premium unleaded.  It was a good thing I did, in one ½ hour session, the ole rana quickly consumed $35 of fuel, roughly 40litres.

It was time to put together all we’d learnt in the two days.  With the instructor on board, I clocked a 59.15s lap, although the new double clutch technique while coming together, still wasn’t at all natural.

The final stage of the course was race starts, taking the engine to 4,000 revs (higher for four cylinders, bout 6,000 RPM), and trying to maintain as much traction as possible.  Then it was time for qualifying.  In my qualifier, after one dirty corner, I qualified at 60.19, eighth on the grid for the dummy race.  The best time, a Lotus Elise race prepped was 53.55s.  This wasn’t bad, considering I was up against 4 race cars, a 5.0L V8 BMW, a Clubman, and a WRX.

I was looking forward to the dummy race, and by this time I was well and truly out of holiday mode, and into full concentration mode, the world could have been exploding around me, and I wouldn’t have noticed.  Anyways, after a quick warm up lap, we reassembled on the grid for the start.  Blasting down the straight to the first corner, one dude hesitated going in, so I took him on the inside, meanwhile the clubman took the corner wide on the exit, so I took him as well.  From here on in, it was just a matter of focussed driving, taking Ole Yella to 5,000RPM in every gear (well 3rd and 4th anyways), till the finish of the race of 5 laps to finish in sixth, which I was happy with.  Although I didn’t have time to look, the rana was reaching speeds of about 190km/h by the end of the straight.  Last time I dared to look it was fastly approaching 180km/h, but had to look up on the corner approaching at speed.

Well it was the end of the day, and time for the trip home.  Ole Yella was the dirtiest I’d ever seen her, and at this point I’d noticed that the front left brake pads were down to the metal.  Given the drive home was largely highway driving with minimal braking I pushed on home after giving the car a wash at Cambelltown, giving two young lads amazed by the rana a club card in the process, and a splash of fuel, Ole Yella was empty.

Oh well, it was all good fun, although I really hate giving Ole Yella a hard time.  Given the circumstances, she has proved again what a capable car she is.  The ole boys in the 4 bangers commented on how good it sounded roaring down the straight, and all was good.

Peter Finlay was a pretty hard dude to please, but given that I went there in holiday mode, I prolly needed his harsh criticisms on the day.  All in all, I’m happy with the bucks I spent, and what I got out of the course, and I ended up getting a B+ which is a pass of the OLT for my C3 license, woohoo.

I was so busy, that pictures/video footage of the event are sparse, the course is just so full-on.  Anyways, back to building the wife’s castle.

Ole Yella in the pits at the end of Day 2.

Close up of pic above, in the pits, just packing up to head home.

Picture courtesy of Barry, fixing the damn clutch cable. 
Rally course in the background (No Ole Yella didn’t venture out there).

Refreshed, in front of Ken and Norma’s place at St. Mary’s.  Pic courtesy of Barry. 
Don’t know if you can see the blackness of the front wheels, but they are absolutely covered in brake dust.