In my day to day business I get to talk to a lot of people. Most know nothing about cars and just want to drive a nice one. Rarer, but frequent enough are people who love and enjoy sports cars but have never had the opportunity to really feel what their car can do. My response is blunt “Why not?” to which I usually receive “I’d love to but I don’t know how,” “It’s too expensive,” or “Too hard basket.”
Despite our heavy handed approach to road safety or perhaps in spite of it, Australians love high performance.
We buy more performance cars per capita than anywhere else in the world. Our ratios of AMGs to Mercedes, M-Cars to BMWs is the highest in the world and we buy the most Golf GTIs compared to regular Golfs than any other nationality.
It wouldn’t be responsible or legal to scratch the surface of the performance of some of these cars. A BMW M3 or M2 only reveal their talents when pushed hard and truly cannot be appreciated on public roads. Even the performance level of normal, attainable cars like the Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST are well above legal thresholds. A squirt on the throttle here and there? Please, you’re not even getting started.
Having participated in and been involved with grassroots motorsport for a number of years now, I can’t fathom the number of people who own high performance cars and never truly experience them. Yet the gateway to experience is so simple, so easy and surprisingly affordable.
Photos by Jamie Lee
The first thing you need is a car. It can be anything – really. As you can see from the images, even the missus’ hatchback will do – if you are the missus, good on you! All you need to do is make sure it’s in good mechanical order, no oil leaks, fluids topped up, tread on the tyres and with good brake pads and brake fluid. The first hurdle I get to with most prospective participants is the sheer level of maintenance perceived. You’re going to wear parts on the car faster than normal road use, sure but F1 style car preparation is far from necessary.
Also, DON’T waste your money modifying your car. So many times I talk to people who say things like “Sure but I just need to upgrade my XYZ first.” Going to the track and gaining experience will inform a modification program – if any – and if you do any mods before hand, you’re likely just to have to do them again later on because you got them wrong in the first place.
There are some small preparation items that you need to take care of before heading out for the first time. Chiefly, you’ll need to mount a 1kg fire extinguisher within reach of the driver. Most car clubs have a forum where you’ll find how-to guides on how best to go about it for your specific make and model. Usually a bracket using the seat bolts is the way to go. Some clubs, like the WRX Club in Victoria, sell a complete bracket and extinguisher combo through their merchandise store. This also popped up in my Google Ads – it looks quite good.
You’ll need to make sure you have a tow point accessible. Most modern cars have a screw-in tow point in their tool kit – it’s a requirement on European roads. My GT-R has a factory fitted loop on the front of the chassis rail that does the trick. Thankfully I’ve never had to use it. Lastly you need a battery triangle. 150mm sides and blue in colour, it indicates to the track marshals where the battery is. Search it on eBay, they’re only a couple of bucks and you can get a magnetic version if you don’t want to leave it on and let the world know you’re enjoying yourself.
Down the track you may want to fit a 4 or 5 point harness to hold you more securely in the drivers seat but for now your standard road legal 3-point seat belt is fine.
The next thing you’ll need is a license. The Confederation of Australian Motorsport is the peak sanctioning body in Australia. To get a CAMS L2S license, you need to be a member of a CAMS affiliated car club. A search on the CAMS website will help you find the right one for you. Once you’re a member, you can apply for your CAMS Level 2 Speed with the form on the CAMS website. CAMS License Forms
Your attire when driving is important. You need to be covered by fire-resistant fabric from your neck to your wrists to your ankles. The jeans you already have and a cotton long-sleeve top from K-Mart or even our own motorsport top are fine. You will need a helmet that complies to Australian standards – any motorbike helmet will do. Entry level helmets kick off at about $150.
You’re good to go! Total outlay so far? If your car was already in good working order and you drive it every day out on the road so it damn well better be, you’re up to about $350 – $400 Time? 30 minutes to an hour tops.
Now get going and have some fun!
Your first step is the low-speed Motorkhana – article coming soon!