Sometimes entering a motorsport event might have nothing to do with the competition aspect, but everything to do with sorting out a car’s behaviour or testing the effect of fitting some new components. The RAAF Auto Club of East Sale (RACES) conduct three or four sprint meetings each year at the RAAF Base, utilizing sections of the airfield’s runways and taxi ways to create a racetrack. It is an ideal venue to conduct such an activity and once you become familiar with the track layout delineated by marker cones, plastic barrels and old tyres, you can concentrate on getting the best out of your car or trying different setups to improve your times. Up to eight competitors are on the track for each session, where they complete a three-quarter lap warm-up followed by three individually timed flying laps. Drivers can decide to hang back on the warm-up to create space between them and the other cars, or to battle it out in close quarters. The latter really gets the adrenalin pumping, but is probably not the best option if chasing ultimate lap times.
Three Sporting Register members entered this final RACES event for the year. Ray Youlden has been champing at the bit to try out his new Focus RS on a track and as he is still awaiting the arrival of another set of wheels with sticky tyres, this gave him the opportunity to enter in the ‘Factory Standard class’ where competition-rated tyres are prohibited. It only took Ray a few laps to come to grips with the turbo-charged, all-wheel-drive RS in ‘Track Mode’. The handling is quite different to his old, rear-drive M3, but by the end of the day he was pushing it hard and exploring the limits of adhesion. Ray was by far the fastest of our trio lapping consistently in the 61 second bracket and winning his class into the bargain.
It was nice to catch up with Rick Dathan at this event. His previous competition cars have been a VW Golf GTi – powered Bolwell Ikara and a Peugeot 205 GTi, but he is now punting a 2-litre Renault Clio Sport to which he has recently fitted a handling kit which included new, stiffer springs and matched Bilstein shockers. This was the car’s first outing at East Sale and it didn’t disappoint. By the final track session Rick was lapping in the 65 second bracket.
Steve Schmidt returned to East Sale in the 1968 Fiat 124 Coupe after a major rear axle oil seal rupture at the previous meeting. The cause of the rupture was traced to some foreign matter in the rear axle housing damaging the seal and becoming lodged in the wheel bearing. Both the seal and the bearing were replaced and road tested without issue, but the big test was always going to be on the track where the loadings on wheels, bearings and housings are more extreme. This time the seal performed as intended and the rear discs weren’t soaked in oil. The Fiat broke into the 66 second bracket and can now be put away in preparation for the Fiat Nationals at Wakefield Park early next year.