This morning we headed out to Symmons Plains raceway – maybe 20 minutes from downtown Launceston – to give hot lap rides to sponsors. I was assigned a couple of Vodafone people.
But first up, a few laps to familiarise myself with the track – it's a basic loop. At one end a cranking left hander, almost a U turn, the other end is a long left sweeper. No issues with the tight left, but the long one had me bluffed, and I managed to do some gardening on the first lap (a small off). No obvious damage (other than my ego).
I've driven on race tracks plenty of times, but always mixed in with traffic of similar speed. A very different story when the track is full and there are put put cars like mine and brand new EVOs and a GT3 997 Porsche or two.
A couple more laps, I was getting used to being passed VERY quickly and time to go back in to collect my first passenger.
The cabin of a race car is not very roomy and it took a few minutes to get the big fella strapped in and comfy. If his breathing (we were using the intercoms) was anything to go by, he was a little nervous.
I was explaining everything as we went around, calling the speeds and telling him what gear we were in. On the second lap, heading up the back straight I asked "have you ever had a Lamborghini pass you when you were doing 160K? No? Then watch it as it passes us on your side". And it did, like we were standing still. And then they threw out the anchors for the end of the straight and it shot a massive burst of flame out of each exhaust. I reckon he'll be telling that story for a while!
Back in to the pits, got one big guy out and started trying to get one very big guy into one very small race seat. He was bolted in and we were about to head out when I noticed steam leaking from the bonnet and the gauge was almost off the scale.
Not a good thing.
Cut the engine, opened the bonnet and it was obvious that the radiator was cooking.
A group of experts gathered and the consensus was that I'd done the head gasket, although there were none of the usual signs, like milky oil.
As the car was cooling down we found the chief scruitineer who gave us extended time to get back to Launceston.
We finally tracked down a tow truck and while we waited we refilled the radiator and decided to start the car. And it seemed fine. So we cancelled the tow car and headed back to Launceston.
Temperature gauge exactly were it should be the entire time. Into a servo near the Silverdome, who flick passed us to the auto electrician.
I run a second radiator fan – the car tends to overheat on hot track days, probably because it never gets proper cool down time.
Mark at Carswell Auto Electrical (I can highly recommend them!) worked out that one of the fans was tripping the fuse. No problem we were moving, but a big problem when we were stopped. We've decided to run with only one fan – I'm not worried about overheating, especially with the weather we're expecting and we can sort out the dud one back in Melbourne.
So from a head gasket (which would have put us out of the event) to a minor fan problem and we're now ready to go for the Prologue tomorrow.
And I don't need any more excitement like this!