Whilst the rest of us this past weekend were watching on eagerly to our TV screens watching the Bathurst 12 Hour, Raceonoz Member Motors560 got one step closer. Motors would be working as part of the R-Motorsport team who were fielding a two car effort with both a GT4 and a Road Going Aston Martin. However, his report from the mountain doesn't get off to the greatest start, with the mountain proving it plays no favourites once more...
Ok you guys who read this will have to understand that i'm very upset about what happened today. For people who don't know practice 5 started at 8am arrived at the track 6.15am prepped both cars for another long session ahead. 8am rolled around and it was time for practice. i remember very well going up to Jan (GT4 driver) and giving him a quick pat on the back and wishing him well before he got into the car. Once the cars left the pit lane i went to get changed into race gear presuming nothing would happen and how horribly wrong did i turn out to be.
Whilst getting changed one of the crew members ran into where i was getting changed and said one of our cars had hit the wall hard. I ran out with my suit barely on me to see what had happened and what i saw wasn't good. The car was backwards after the crest on mountain straight on the left hand side of the road. My first though obviously was if the driver was ok, My second though was how the hell did he end up here, I originally though maybe he got caught up in the path of an impatient GT3 car and copped a punt off the road but what i saw would confuse everyone in our garage. In short our car crested the hill and then sort of darted hard to the right and impacted both walls on the right hand side of the car. I had hoped maybe it was just cosmetic damage that could be fixed but as soon as the car arrived at the garage we knew it was done.
The car was put away and after the session ended we checked the car over however their was no chance of that car running tomorrow. I'll now explain how brutal of an accident it was but you'll have to understand certain things have to be kept confidential.
Firstly the right front copped the majority of the damaged the rim was smashed the tyre came off with the hub intact, The rotor was smashed into several pieces, the spring cracked in half, the air hose was ripped apart and heaps more however our downfall was that the chassis was badly bent out of shape and for people who know motor racing well that's game over.
The right rear was also bent badly but the concern was on the inside the dash had collapsed, The mounting to the seat was broken, Our cooling box had a huge hole in it which leaked all the water inside onto electronic wires and worst of all the bolts used to secure the ballast box were bent and also the windscreen was badly smashed. As i said earlier i have to keep certain things quiet but many more things were found that once again can't be talked about.
Sadly the driver hadn't fared well after the accident he climbed out of the car shaken and had the air knocked out of him but we would know the full extent of his injuries later on in the day. His helmet show clear evidence of being thrown around the car most likely when the mounting for the seat broke and after a few hours we found out Jan had been taken to hospital with chest pains. We later found out he had broken 3 ribs with 2 suspected more and a bad cut on his leg when the dash collapsed. He also had neck and back pain happily though this wasn't because of a major injury just because of the impact.
While the car is a right off and it being hard to accept the fact one car won't make the race i have to give respect to the safety that is in Motorsport. Despite the heavy damage the car held itself together pretty well. You have to look at the bigger picture yes it sucks we wrecked a car today but cars can be fixed/replaced whilst people can't be replaced i even said to one of the crew members thank god it wasn't a right hand drive car the injuries could have been similar to Chaz Mostert back in 2015. I ended up visiting Jan in hospital mainly because i wanted to sleep well tonight knowing he was ok he was in high spirits as he usually was during the week so i left happy.
I'll be back tomorrow to be the refuelling assistant on the #76 car and i'm really looking forward to it. I'll have to see if i get so TV time during the broadcast who knows. But that's it for saturday i didn't intend to write an article this long but a lot happened in the day. The only funny part of the day came whilst chilling outside the garage with my race suit on and ended up getting asked for a autograph. Ended up signing some random person's program who thought i was a racing car driver.
Race Day Report
The alarm rings loud and clear at 3am Sunday morning first thing you think of is “why am i up this early”. Then you realise your about to take part in the most difficult and challenging race in not only the country but maybe the most difficult 12 hour in the world. Arrive at the track at 4am to final prep the car before sending it out with 51 other maniacs and hoping it comes back in one piece. In recent past especially this year’s race has turned into the battle for manufacturer supremacy with brands trying to prove their machines by conquering the feared mountain. In total only 2 Aston Martins would take to the gird for the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour. Our GT8 and the Miedecke’s GT3 which qualified an impressive 4th place while we were starting from 42nd place out of 52 starters.
I can’t begin to explain what it’s like standing on the Mt Panorama grid at 5.30am in the morning 15 minutes before race start with all the cars and lights and the keen crowd who got up to watch the start. It creates an atmosphere like no other. The feeling of butterflies in the stomach normally hits shortly before the race starts in my case i just wanted to run up to race control and tell them to HURRY UP!! i was so keen for the race to start that you do start getting nervous not only don’t you want to let your team down you also have a pretty big manufacturer in Aston Martin watching your every move it can be quite intimidating but deep down you know you have a job to do and you have to do to the best of your ability in an extremely high pressure situation.
And before you know it the cars depart the grid for the warmup lap and then commence racing. Bathurst unsurprisingly is very brutal and fairly early in the race leading contenders starting having issues. My first stop to refuel didn’t go accordingly to plan, The thing with most of these gt cars is the angled refuelling system i was struggling to get my hose accurately in the correct position, As time whittled away the pit stops became more quicker and efficient like a well oiled up machine. A big hit came in the way of the Miedecke’s GT3 which hit the wall at turn one a ton, After that accident ruled them out for the rest of the day we became the only Aston Martin in the field and with that brings a lot of added pressure. Even the CEO of Aston Martin was watching us.
You get to a certain point in the race about 4-5 hours in when you start asking yourself “When is this going to end” and that’s the point of the race when you realise you haven’t even made halfway yet and it almost feels like you’ve defeated yourself so you have to pick yourself back up and continue the onslaught that is endurance racing. After half race distance we hadn’t really done to much. We successfully kept out of trouble whilst many other cars found out the hard way how cruel Bathurst can be. However our first issue would occur during one of our pit stops where a slight bit of miscommunication would lead to us spending 20 minutes in the garage fixing our mistake. Also we were the unlucky recipient of 3 front right hand punctures. Now my rule on punctures goes like this. If you have 1 puncture it’s just part of racing move on. 2 punctures could this be a coincidence. Kinda like the 3 strike your out rule 3 punctures you’re doing something very wrong. We had contact from a Porsche which may have caused one of the punctures but we are still not sure.
Apart from some small issues after 12 hours and a controversial ending (Yes SVG i’m looking at you) we greeted the chequered flag finishing 26th overall and 5th in class I. Now some people may say an Aston Martin just got beaten by a Ford Focus and a Mazda 3. You have to understand our Aston Martin is 100% road car with minimal tweaks required for racing. Those Marc cars are built the same as a V8 Supercar. We knew we’d need a bit of luck to contend for class honours however this was not mean’t to be. Saying that i couldn’t be more prouder of everyone at R-Motorsport for getting the car home. Our egos had been kicked after losing our GT4 car so getting to the end took away some of the pain. Nearly 20 cars didn’t finish the race and for everyone who did it’s a pretty major achievement to tick off the CV. I can now say my finishing record is 2 from 2 so still 100% finishing record. I have to say working with someone especially like Darren Turner (Factory Aston Martin Driver) was a real honour and a privilege. Hearing stories about racing at the Le Man 24 hour and all throughout Europe was a real motivator for me as i would love to work in Europe at some point in my career. I have to thank everybody involved for allowing us to work on the amazing cars again. They are truly beautiful cars to work on and i had a blast all week working on them. And also to everyone on RaceOnOz for the continued support throughout the weekend, It may not have seemed much but it was well appreciated and i hope you guys enjoyed reading this race report. We ended up packing up after the race and we left the track at 10.30pm so it's a long day for the crew.
Images Courtesy of Aston Martin.