Story: Murray Seymour
Not long after submitting my online MX-5 Club membership registration request and answering positively to the question regarding any interest in motor sport, I received a phone call from (then) Club Captain – Motor Sport, Robert Downes.
He suggested I come down to Sandown Park racetrack and have a look at the proceedings at the next AROCA Sprint day. I did and I was interested but there was an issue. Oil left on the track from a car with a failed engine (not an MX-5) led to incidents that resulted in panel damage and I considered that my NC was too good to put at risk on the race track. As this car is my daily day drive, I didn’t really want to walk to work either.
I had always wanted to drive a race car and, although my primary school dream was to be a Peter Brock or Allan Moffat, I had never driven a car on a track. A standard MX-5 may seem a world away from GTR XU-1 or a GTHO but getting out on the track in a 140 horsepower car would release enough adrenaline for a bloke suffering from a mid-life crisis and looking for a hobby.
So how do I convince the wife that we need another car (an older, cheaper NB) with the sole purpose of being used on the race track?
Father and son bonding!
Every father wants to spend quality time with his son but you need to find a common interest, and sometimes that’s not easy …
Fishing? Fish swim away when the rods come out.
Sport (the type that doesn’t involve turning petrol into noise)? Seymours are genetically programmed to avoid sport.
Music? Definitely no common ground there.
Driving a car to the limit in the relative safety of a race track?
Bingo! What 17-year-old boy wouldn’t jump at the chance? Even a reserved person like my son Jacob would have a go!
Car purchased, and readied for the track. I dip my toe into the motor sport events in December 2011 and in April 2012, Jacob hits the track at Sandown Park followed by Phillip Island. Wherever possible, the Club puts an experienced Club member into the car as an instructor for a newbie; this was arranged for Jacob and I know it wouldn’t have been an easy job. After all, I spent many an hour with “L” plates on the car and although in my opinion the public roads are a whole lot more dangerous than the race track, being in a car with a 17-year-old novice stranger at high speed requires nerves of steel. The dedicated AROCA Winton Circuit Training day in August was a must do for Jacob.
On arrival at the Phillip Island circuit on the morning of Saturday, 17 November, our new Club Captain – Motor Sport, Daniel White, suggested that I act as Jacob’s instructor for the day. My response: “You don’t have teenage children, do you?”
He knew where I was coming from and a fellow Club member was nominated. Alas, Jacob finally scared an instructor so much in the practice session that he didn’t want to get back into the car for the first official Sprint session. Looks like I’m the instructor today.
What did Jacob do that was so scary? Turn 4, also known as Honda! Way too fast into the corner and we end up sideways and after a couple of corrections we managed to come off unscathed. Of course a father’s reaction is to try to grab the steering wheel, which resulted in some fiery words from the driver’s seat about not touching the controls.
Instructions were given about approaching the corner at a slower speed. The next lap and we come into Honda quicker, not slower and a spin results. Now I know why instructor #1 for the day wouldn’t get back in the passenger seat! Another few laps and the corner is still an issue. Session ends, lap times checked. Not flash … 2 minutes 18 seconds.
Next session and I get back in the passenger seat. This time, Jacob must have taken on board some of my rantings from the passenger seat. Honda was approached at the correct speed. His confidence was up and so was mine. Hurtling down the main straight towards the high-speed Turn 1 at 180 kmh I was starting to relax – no longer clenching the dashboard as I realised that he had half an idea how to handle a car at speed.
More importantly he was taking on some of my general advice. Session ended and times checked: 2 minutes 12 seconds, and this was with a 100kg weight penalty – me!
After a few jokes about the timing equipment being faulty it was smiles all round. Whilst 2:12:54 is no Club record, the improvement in time was substantial. More importantly he was closing in on my best time of 2:09:18.
Looks like there might be some father son competition happening in the future!