Motorsport: Car and driver prepare for 2k Cup

By Eric Thompson

Driven's motorsport writer Eric Thompson puts his skills to the test in preparation for race day

The Driven 2k cup Corolla. Affectionately known as 'The Purple People Eater'.
The Driven 2k cup Corolla. Affectionately known as 'The Purple People Eater'.

We're well on the road to getting both driver [me] and car ready for the big 2K Cup adventure at the end of the month. It's been a few weeks since I last updated the progress of the Driven Albany Toyota purple people eater Toyota Corolla race preparation.

I can confidently say the car will be in better shape than the driver. It's been cleaned and liveried up and has now been sent off Lyall Williamson's International Motorsport outfit to have a 'ruler run over it'. Apparently this is to check all the nuts and bolts, fluids, exhaust, compression ratios, etc, etc to make sure it's not going to fall apart, or some strategic and very important component doesn't fail and fire me off into a barrier.

I'm actually quite confident if, god forbid, something does fail it won't be a car component - it's more likely to be a failure of driver skills. And, because the car is a 1996 hatchback 1.6 litre Corolla, I doubt it'll be able to go fast enough to get through the gravel traps to actually hit a wall.

I reckon it'll get beached well before then.

The main object of getting Williamson to cast his vastly experienced eye over the car is to ensure something isn't about to let go and cause chaos and carnage to anyone slower than me following behind. Yes, I can hear the derision and laughter, but I just might not be the slowest driver on the track.

I did in fact manage to coax Jono Lester out of driver training retirement and spent a morning with him recently at Hampton Downs, so there. Surprisingly enough, he didn't seem that scared, but I stopped breathing when he drove the damn thing. I had no idea a purple Corolla could go that fast. However, I don't think the rest of the 46-car field should be too bothered as it will in fact be me in charge of the wheel and pedals, so not too much of a threat I imagine.

More of the driver training later and now back to car prep.

It is strongly suggested for anyone wanting to enter this new series, organised by the New Zealand Racing Drivers' League, and the Historic Racing Club in particular, that you do get the car looked at by a mechanic.

Williamson has been fiddling with race cars since Noah was a teenager and so knows his way around things, and the stresses put on a car being punted around a race track. The 2K Cup rules don't allow for any modifications to the car other than upgrading the brakes and only to the point of replacing the standard disc pad material to a race compound.

This is a nod to safety as standard pads cease to work after about five laps as I found out to my own dismay - and the smell of hot brake fluid is not pleasant at all. John Arkley of Race Brakes in Auckland have come to rescue and have supplied a set of standard pads re-surfaced with Mintex race compound.

Now the car is being fettled by International Motorsport, I've had a bit more time to try and digest what Lester was saying about the art of racing. I learned two very important things that morning; the first is I'm a crap driver and not in fact the reincarnation of Juan Manuel Fangio. The second is that this racing lark is bloody hard - there's a hell of a lot of things to remember all at the same time.

Even at the snail's pace I was going, if you get it wrong the car can give you a nasty nip in the but checks. I'm not going to give too much away here, as some as my competitors may be reading this, but suffice to say Lester told me one very important thing to always keep in mind.

Put simply, he said to get all the stopping and gear changing done heading into a corner before starting to turn the car in. After that it's all about 'hitting your apexes', or something, and then apparently 'letting the car unwind' on the exit. Undoubtedly it's the correct advice but some bad habits are hard to kick.

By the end of the morning I was getting the hand of it, and had according to Lester, got one corner just about right. Only another nine to go, then. What's slightly worrying me, is that while I may have a rough idea where to point the car now, there'll be another 45 cars also trying to find their way through the same corners.

Check back for a further update before the day out at Hampton Downs as a support class at the opening round of the V8 SuperTourers endurance series, September 28-29.

- NZ Herald

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