This post is way overdue, I wanted to do it some time ago but got caught up with a few other priorities like study and work but here goes.
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the V8 Supercars… The racing is tight, the cars look and sound awesome and the drivers are so accessible to everyone. I’ve wanted to get a ride in one of those monsters for a long time, way back since Lowndes was driving for HRT and they were still racing at Mallala in SA. Through the Little Heroes Foundation, Jo and I were invited to the Travel Manager annual conference at Adelaide Oval way back in August. I spoke about our journey with Alex; the lows, the pain and fear that we have been through and also showed off his bravery beads.
Much to my surprise (ok.. Excitement!) as we were chatting to Chris McDermott from Little Heroes, another of the invited guests arrived and it was Nick Percat.
He was seated on the same table as Jo and I were for dinner and after spending a couple of hour with him, I’ve gotta tell you for a really young guy competing in a top end sport; he’s got his head screwed on straight and clearly hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from. He really is a top bloke, who during dinner was texting someone from the team and arranged at very short notice for a 2 lap joyride at Sandown. To sweeten the pot, he’s offered a pair of race gloves to the winner as well. At $500 (on the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport website) for me to get something like this is barely a pipe dream but hey, I’m sitting and having dinner with Nick Percat not something your average Supercar fan can say.
In the end Chris actually won, I thought that was kind of cool for Chris to buy it and have something for him to enjoy. It wasn’t until the 15th of September when I saw a message pop up from Chris asking if I was free on the 28th to fly to Melbourne and have the drive with Nick that I thought any more of it. I walked into my boss’ office and begged for the day off which was given (I probably would have been sick otherwise heheh).
Because of the timing of my ride first thing in the morning, I needed to fly to Melbourne on the Sunday which was fine since it meant I got to catch up with Scott a fellow writer and friend from Ausdroid who accommodated me for the night; thanks again Scott. The big day arrived and Scott kindly drove me out to the track and came in for a bit of a nosey.
I must admit to walk into this view, standing in the Sandown Raceway Pits got me a bit excited.
Just watching, listening, taking it all in and then I realised… They were about to do motor starts for the morning and my adrenaline levels started to build.
Once Nick and his team mate Tim had gone out and done a lap or two to warm up they started doing rides, I was only second on the list for Nicks car and given the pole lap at this years race was a 1:08.71 and race lap times were in the high 1:09 range I wasn’t going to have to wait long. After the first rides happened my chariot arrived.
So I got to live a dream on September and have a ride in a V8 Supercar around one of the my favourite tracks. There’s fast sections, some really tricky sections and when it all comes together looks amazing. What really blew me away on the approach to turn 1 was the lack of vision for the driver, I was sitting higher in the car than he does and my vision was restricted at best. That all seemed irrelevant when Nick asked “You ready”, a thumbs up and a very memorable experience began.
For anyone that’s unfamiliar with the Sandown track here’s a look around the track that Garth Tander did before this years race.
On TV and from outside the car the track looks quite wide, open and friendly but when you take a 90 degree turn at roughly 100kph they narrow out pretty quickly. All I can say is wow, the forces that go through your body are indescribable, banging up over the curbs is normal for these guys but it’s quite a surprise how high the wheels go when its your first time in the car but the biggest surprise is the brakes. The braking forces inside the car are mind blowing, I don’t know what G Forces we’re talking about but its astounding; I’m told the driver puts about 100kg of pressure on the pedal at every single corner; so that’s a 100kg, single leg press at every braking marker. For the first few turns it felt like we were braking waaay too late, yet still managed to stop and make the turn.
Turn 5 disappeared; so quickly we came up on the section of track that I was looking forward to the turn 6, 7, 8 and 9 complex. Go from 6th gear, back down to about 185kph from what I understand and through a really fast left, right, left combo braking along the way then stand on the brakes for another left and on towards the top end of the circuit. That bit alone was worth the trip, I could feel the adrenaline surge hit me after that. Seriously… what a ride and I was 3/4 of the way through the first lap.
As I got in the car, I handed my phone to someone and asked them to film the car going down the front straight. I got told that they thought they could hear me screaming “Yeeeeeee Haaaaaaa” as the car went past; you tell me?
On the second lap I decided to sit back and just soak it up. I must have had the biggest grin on my face for the whole time, I loved every second of it. On the second lap down the main straight Nick waved at me and pointed to the gear lever, was he serious? Yep, he was… I got to pull the gears on a V8 supercar! You need to whack a fair bit of force through that to pull the gears and I think I timed them pretty well on the shift lights; got the thumbs up from Nick on the way up the gears so I can’t have done too badly.
My grin widened as we came to turn 6 again, round the top end and into the pits. The total time I was in the car with the motor running was a shade under 3 minutes but an experience I’ll never forget. As I got out the car, I was so adrenaline filled my fingers were literally tingling and that stupid grin on my face seemed cemented in place. I can’t thank Little Heroes Foundation enough for sending me over or the team who made me feel so welcome on the day. Nick gave me an awesome ride and delivered on the promise of some race gloves (Thanks and I’ll find you at Clipsal to sign them Nick!) NB. this is not normal on the ride days, ref. the auction earlier in the post.
There was some more activities out the back of the circuit where guests on the day were able to drive Holden vehicles around various slalom style circuits. That was great fun, I think the theory was 1 or 2 turns then move on… I may have spend about 25 minutes in the Commodore Storm flogging around which just made the day that bit more fun.
If you’re thinking about going for a hotlap (presuming the funds are there, it’s not cheap sadly) stop thinking and do it. I would do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity arises, what an experience and what a ride.
It’s been a while since we posted anything about Alex and the reason for that is there’s little to report. He’s going really well; he’s happy, healthy, playing and doing “normal” things for a 6 year old boy. We’re just enjoying the time with him and getting on with life.
Thanks so much to everyone who continues to contact us about his health and ours, the support we have had over the last few years has been beyond anything we could have ever asked of our family and friends. You guys are all amazing support and have played a huge role in getting us through the really tough times, time to enjoy some good times.