NSWRRC Ladies Development Program

12 April 2016 / Words by Steph Katz

My partner, Guy, saw a post for a Lady’s Motorsport Development Program run by NSWRRC and sponsored by CAMS, he jumped and said “this is great, this is EXACTLY what you need Steph”. I agreed nervously after seeing that two of the event were at SMP north circuit. How many times at our MX-5 club days have I heard discussions about the dreaded turn 1 and how unforgiving the turn is!!!!!!

The general feeling was that this course was for people that had done a driver training with the club at Marulan but were interested in going the next step and asking themselves “can I do this….” And I have to say the answer is a definite YES.  When I discussed this with other male drivers they frequently said “I’d wear a dress for that…”

First session:

Driver training at MDTC with Barton Mawer (who won his class in this year’s 12hour at Bathurst)

First session we met the organisers and Barton Mawer. We started with what you need to know about prepping your car for scrutineering and the track, this included the importance of tyre pressures. I have always heard our MX-5 members discuss this and had no idea why this is so important on the track. I now understand why this is such a discussion topic and how important your tyre pressures are and the importance of checking them and making the adjustments at the start of the day and after several sessions on the track.

We then headed off onto the track where Barton rotated amongst us to observe our level of driving knowledge. During the following sessions on the track, Barton gave constructive advice and explained the rationale behind them. After having many sessions I was having a ball and feeling very confident.

During our lunch break Barton delivered a whiteboard training session, initially he discussed apexing. He showed us the different start and finish lines in corners and how this affects the outcome of your race line. Next was how to hold the steering wheel at all times and why this is so important. Last subject was about braking on the track compared to out on the street and how massively different the attitude is between the two.

After lunch we went back out for a few sessions and applied some of the classroom learning. Barton noticed that we were all a bit scared to fully apply the brake so on the last session he organised a special braking session down the main straight running downhill (against the normal track direction). He stood about halfway down the straight while we approached him (one at a time on the track) doing at least 60km, he yelled stop and waved a yellow flag and we had to hit the brake as hard as we could at that point. This allowed us to feel the car at it’s absolute limit and see how the ABS reacts in the car. One of the ladies did not have ABS and Barton coached her through the technique of preventing wheel lock up.

Session 2:

SMP North Circuit Regularity and official training

Day 1

“OMG North Circuit - Turn 1”

I was excited but terrified at the same time, I thought I can’t do this, I love my car too much to hurt her.

First up we were given pink L plates to put on our cars and told to prep our car for scrutineering as we were taught in session 1. We then headed over to scrutineering, it was noticed that I was a bag of nerves so they organised a veteran driver from the WRX club to come and talk to me. We had a little talk and I left scrutineering feeling much more relaxed. It was practice day for the NSWRRC 6hr regularity so all the practising cars were pulled of the track around 10am so the four of us could have the track to ourselves for 30 minutes (phew).

I was assigned a NSWRRC veteran driver, Peter and sent to the staging grid, then the nerves came back (grrrrrrr) it was panic stations. Pete calmed me down and explained how we were going to learn the race line and not go above my limit until I was ready. That was music to my ears. Clearly my worst enemy was my own Demons.

We were then let out onto the track, I was told that first we need to warm the tyres and brakes but at the same time shown the race line and braking points. After a few laps I thought this is not scary, it’s actually fun. We both identified that I need to use the gears more as hitting the rev limiter was not the ideal thing to do and my current inability to heel & toe coming down the gears was not doing the gearbox any favours. After a few leaps of faith (some took 3 laps to implement and many “NO’S !!” said to Pete) I was fully engaged with my instructor and followed every instruction.

Then the red mist came in.

 I was having a ball, not every lap, there were many incorrectly applied gear changes and many profanities escaping my mouth. But when I got it right and the car just grabbed the tar and stuck to the corners, I was on fire – Wooohooo!!!!!!   First session over and I was buzzing and running on adrenalin.

Second session was to start at 3:45 and ok the nerves are coming back. I decided to find a quiet area and hydrate and eat half a packet of Jubes to get my blood/sugars back up about 30 mins before the session. Waiting in the staging grid again Pete asked if I was nervous, I said “Yes a little” but nothing like the first session. I then asked him if he feels this when he is about to go out, he answered “Yes a little”. That was great to hear, I am normal and like everyone else.

We started to enter the track and Pete explained that in this session, the first 10 min our laps will be timed and after the 10min are up we will be flagged into pit lane to find out what our regularity nominated time is. Then we go back out and beat it [Guy’s note -Regularity ??]. I was doing 1:30 with 2 x 1.83m plus people in the car “Woohooo !!!!

What I learnt from the two sessions is that turn 1 is not scary it is actually a nice corner to have after such a long high speed straight. When you line the car up correctly with the right race line, gear, acceleration and braking points it is amazing what the car can do.

Day 2

This session I was placed with professional flag marshals on the track. My first position was start finish line where I got to green flag the start of the 6hr regularity, Yay! I was shown the correct way to black flag a car, I would like to say no one from the MX-5 club was black flagged, well done ! My second position was on post 16, this flag marshal explained the passion that the flag marshals have and how they try to give the drivers the best communication that they can.

 What I learnt from day two with the Marshals was how committed they are to the drivers on the track and how to understand what they are trying to communicate when I am on the track to keep me safe.

There are another 3 rounds in the development program yet to go and I will report on those in a later post so this report is to be continued………