Competing in Australia's fastest racing series - Formula 4000

Video on conrod(windows media) 225 before the turn

Bathurst April 2005

Bathurst? I guess some explanation is in order. Our plans for 2005 are in disarray for a number of reasons external to our team and our car was stripped awaiting a decision on the new engine, fitting kits and the 2005 series when fate stepped in.

Well actually Bob Hill, a Sydney based Art Director stepped in by selecting our car to feature in a television commercial to be shot at Bathurst. The TV commercial is for the chemical company BASF and will be used in the US market. It sounded like a great idea to us, apart from the fact that the car was in thousands of parts and midpoint on some technical changes.

We had about ten days before the scenes involving our car were to be shot and some major jobs were unfinished. Carlo Lunetta of CL Composites (08) 8234 6854 and Robert Berriman of Robert's Crash (08) 8447 3743 made miracles happen and finished the new carbon fibre parts and the paint job respectively in no time flat but I think I used up all my outstanding favours.

So all we had to do was rebuild the car to reliable running condition in a week. We made the project fit into the available time by eliminating useless activities like eating, sleeping and working. Rebecca worked really long hours and my father Dave helped out by reinstalling and improving all the electronics that had been stripped out pending the new engine. Steve Davis also made time to reassemble some major components in record time.

We finished the car on the Saturday evening and loaded up ready for the long trip (exactly 1200 km door to track). I have to say the car looks absolutely fantastic in its new paintwork and with all the new carbon fibre components on. I was going to be by myself for the travel so I had a long drive to Bathurst that took 14 hours. I don't usually do these trips by myself and am now convinced that 14 hours solo is too long. The first part of the trip was pleasant enough but the last couple of hours in the dark dodging kangaroos was really dreary so when I got into the hotel room at Bathurst I had a good sleep. I mean a REALLY good sleep.

Next morning I went to the track really early and managed to do a couple of laps in our Ford Transit van with the Reynard on a trailer behind!! The track is smaller than it looks on TV and the camber change through the corners on the downhill section is wicked. It was certainly not going to suit our very stiff car.

The crew from Film Graphics Productions started to arrive and Dru and Garrett arrived from Sydney to help with the car. The first part of the day we concentrated on getting all the logos on the car covered to prevent later litigation in the US. So we covered OZ racing, Sparco (so many times) Personal, Racetech, Willans, Simpson, Holden and LA designs. It seemed never ending. Afterwards we got the car set up and on trestles by 10 am and we warmed it up. It sure sounds nice and seemed to be running a little better than last year so our wiring modifications might have helped.

During the morning another scene was being shot using a street luge. Patrick the luge rider was quite a character and has had his kit painted in a matching blue to our car. He shot his scenes mostly successfully on the dowhhill sections without incident but the raised centre of gravity of a six kilogram film camera made the device uncontrollable. Of course the notion of ever having control over something that is effectively six castors on your back is debateable. I may be getting soft but I'll stick to the carbon fibre safety cell thank you (I also quite like the extra 160km/hr over their 130).

I was very impressed by the professionalism of the TV crew, and there were a lot more personnel than I had expected with very strongly defined roles for each member. We rigged an external camera on the side of the car and I drove around to Conrod Straight behind Garrett where our first shots were to be taken. It was quite fun up the hill and across the top it was nice and smooth and you could tell that an F4000 would work nicely there. I killed the engine so I could drive downhill very slowly (minimum speed with the engine running in our car is about 90km/hr). At times each front wheel would be three inches off the ground at walking pace. I can't imagine what the car would do if the downforce was on. It's pretty clear that high downforce cars will never race on this section of track.

We shot a couple of on-car sequences down Conrod, through Caltex and down to Murrays Corner with some spectacular flick turns at the bottom. I can't wait to see the footage. We then shot some sequences with a chase car. This was really challenging as the filming vehicle would only be travelling at about 50 km/hr so I would have to drive the car on wide open throttle and use constant left foot braking to achieve the manoeuvres the director wanted .If you consider that we had stone cold tyres and brakes and a totally green road surface you'd see that it was pretty testing, the tyres ended the day with huge flat spots. He kept trying to get me to go closer to the filming vehicle but I think he wouldn't have been so keen if he knew what was going on in the cockpit. Finally we did some pit lane shots using the rather impressive Bathurst race control facilities in the background and the chase vehicle. It went rather well as far as I can tell but I screwed up one take by not putting my visor down (I'm so embarrassed!) but we ended the day with all the shots in the can (that's film lingo!).

Dru, Garrett and I had a pleasant evening out and a beer or two and the next morning I departed on my 14 hour jaunt home. By Wednesday night I was home again after three full on days (and the 10 days leading up to it) for a well deserved rest.

So ends our first TV production outing. It makes an interesting adjunct to our previous work in photo studios and other marketing outings such as trade shows. We'll have a much better idea of how this works next time and look forward to doing it at a less frantic pace. I feel we were quite lucky to be doing it with Bob and his team as they were highly organised and have a very professional attitude both before and after the filming.

Thanks Andrew Lydon and Garrett Gerhardt for coming on this adventure. Who knows what we'll do next!

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