The first race of the 2010 Victorian State Championship season was the Donald 500, held over the Easter weekend. The Donald 500 is based in Donald, Central Victoria…. Donald is a sleepy hollow that has a Recreational Reserve only 200m off the main road, which was the venue for the start and finish of the event. The locals are passionate about motorsport and get behind the event… Might have something to do with the money we bring to the town.
The terrain is a mix of saltbush, bulldust, clay, dirt tracks and gravel. The track was 60 km long and consisted of a bunch of local roads, access tracks, farms and tracks that were created for the race.
The event was split into 2 sections Saturday was prologue (Qualifying) and the first race 2 x 60km laps. Then on Sunday we lined up for another 3 x6 0 km laps in the morning and again in the afternoon.
In total 9 x 60km laps = 540kms. The name was Donald 500, maybe they are not so good at maths or I am overly analytical
We prologued 27th out of 34 cars. This is pretty normal for us as we don’t have the outright HP of the faster more nimble buggies.
Saturday afternoon arrived, the track was in top condition and the strategy was to find our pace, rhythm and speed then for the race to come to us. The whole point about endurance races is you need to use your head…people go to hard break their cars and the rest is history. The old saying is if you want to finish first, first you have to finish.
The flag dropped and we launched into the first section of the race, a couple of the highlights of the track were the 190kmh run a long a rail line. You have trees one side, rail line the other and a winding dirt track to navigate….Oh and 3 jumps along the way.
It was our first time racing on the Geolander AT’s. The big questions for us were; How would they hold up? What sort of steer or drip can we get from them? I am happy to say that we were backing off from 190kmh at the end of the rail line at 250 meters and easily getting around the next hard right. Kind of blows my mind really 2.4 tonnes pulling up from 190kmh in less than 250 meters on dirt….
The feedback across the rest for the terrain is like this…. When really pushed they slide really progressively, the steer is always consistent, and braking is awesome. On bull dust/sand they get up on top and you still have a good amount of control. In the 3rd Session, Jason a guy who is a Rally Instructor could not believe the amount of grip that we were getting from the tyres.
The second lap started and this is where we started to loose time…My Navigator/Wife Karen, started to get car sick. Not the right sort of lunch, small breakfast and a rough and demanding track had conspired to allow Karen to win the ‘Chuckey Spew’ award for the race.
I have never seen a person with more guts, she climbed out of the car and did the natural thing and then climbed in and said let’s finish this race….And to her credit we did.
The total loss was 20 mins.
Sunday came, the sun rose and we got ready for battle.
Based on the car sickness Karen had invited a couple of other club members to strap themselves in for the next 2 Sessions. Craig a guy from our local club had blown his engine the day before and was eager to strap on 2.4 tonnes for some fun over the next 180km.
The session was working well, we were keeping our speed and tracking really well, until I confused my enthusiasm and skill level and grazed a set of gum trees at 150km, heading into a right left combo on some ruts the right front was pulled into the apex early and we bounced off the bump on the apex shooting the car sideways into the trees. I managed to steer the patrol as we launched and when we landed to get us out of the trees.
We bent the bull bar and pushed in the rear quarter panel. So be it…. that is motorsport.
The rest of the session was entertaining as the track deteriorated and increased the difficulty. The bulldust/sand became deeper, larger ruts into/out of the corners etc.