THE HIGHS & LOWS OF OUR MOUNTAIN; BATHURST
The Bathurst 12 Hour which was held on the weekend that just passed (2nd – 4th Feb) is becoming one of Australia’s biggest Motorsport events with teams from all around the world flying out to Australia to conquer the mountain. When you walk down pitlane, you walk past international factory drivers who are ex formula 1 drivers, 24 Hours of Le Mans winners, Blancpain GT Champions and our very own V8 Supercar Champions. The grid is filled with so much talent, determination and most of all the passion to add our mountain to their list of accolades.
My week at Bathurst actually started on the Tuesday as I was up at 6am for my last gym session before the race and then had to be at Sydney by 11am to do my last simulator session with EurOz Driver Performance based right next to Sydney Motorsport Park. I spent 3 more hours on their sim, simulating 1 hour stints in the car, tweaking all my driving techniques to make sure I was fully prepared for the 12 hours around Bathurst. Working with Oli from EurOz was a great experience, he always went above and beyond to make sure we got the best out both myself and the equipment.
Wednesday was the day dad and I travelled to Bathurst, we arrived at lunch time and began doing all the mandatory apparel and licence checks. On the Wednesday our B.O.P (Balance of Performance) was released, for anyone who doesn’t know what Balance of Performance is; essentially as GT racing has different classes and manufacturers each car is given its own B.O.P to try and make sure all the cars are equal in performance. For example, as our KTM XBOW GT4 is a light car we were given 200kgs of extra ballast to put in the car plus other restrictions. The boys from M-Motorsport (absolute legends) were working long hours on both KTM GT4’s on Wednesday and Thursday to make all the necessary adjustments to the cars.
Thursday was filled with radio checks, driver change/pit stop practice, drivers briefing, a track walk and team meetings to go over the plan for Friday. We all went out for dinner as a team and came back to the track Friday morning refreshed and ready to finally get started.
Practice 1 went for 30 minutes and my teammate Tim Macrow went out first for 3 flying laps to get a feel for everything as Tim has quite a bit of experience at Bathurst. It was then planned for me to finish off the session and get a good 20 minutes in the car but unfortunately the session was red flagged and I ended up getting back out but only for 2 flying laps. It was my first ever laps of Bathurst and I was hooked for more!
Practice 2 was shared by my 2 other teammates Justin McMillan and David Crampton. Tim and I went over data/onboard footage and again shared practice 3 where we both got a good session of 5/6 flyers each. I focused on progressing lap by lap and putting all of the advice into action. Practice 4 on Friday afternoon was again shared by David and Justin which was also cut short due to a red flag.
There was one practice left on Saturday morning which I shared with David, I went out second and got a good rhythm in the car to shave a good amount of time off to be on race pace with the boys. The team were all happy with my improvement as I had only done a total of 13 flying laps around Bathurst and was ready to race. Tim took to the wheel for our qualifying session and did a mega job with our B.O.P to qualify us P6 in the GT4 class.
That was it – we were ready to race. All of our practice sessions were over and we began prepping everything for the big one beginning at 5.45am on Sunday morning. All of us drivers went over the data and onboard footage together to try and make sure we all knew what we needed to do in the race. We then did a few more pit stop and driver change practices to make sure we were all comfortable with the process, it was already 7pm so I headed back to my hotel, had a big bowl of pasta for dinner and headed straight to bed as we had an early start Sunday morning!
I was up at 4.30am and headed straight out to the track to be there in time for the pre-grid and to watch Justin start the race for our car. The pre-grid was pitch black, and due to our GT4’s being in class C we were in position forty something overall which was all the way back at the last corner! We all wish Justin luck and head back up to the top of pitlane to watch the start. It was crazy watching all of the GT cars monster their way past in the pitch black for the start, Justin did a mega job in his stint staying out of trouble whilst setting some pretty impressive lap times.
After a one hour stint Justin comes in and they have a clean pitstop with David getting in the car for his stint. Unfortunately David only completed a few laps before he had quite a big crash coming down the mountain and ping-ponged down the walls. In this moment, watching this happen my heart sunk and I was absolutely shattered. My automatic reaction was to head out the back and straight into the trailer to make sure the media couldn’t see my cry. I couldn’t be seen on T.V as the ‘typical’ girl who cries, “I’m stronger than that” I would tell myself. Tim, Justin and I all regroup in the truck and then they head back out into the garage but I couldn’t do it because people would be able to tell that I had been upset.
You may think that I was being dramatic, but there is so many hours of work that goes on behind the scenes to make a race weekend possible, us drivers don’t get anywhere without our team. The engineers and mechanics work tirelessly to prep everything, thousands of dollars need to be found by the drivers to actually compete in the event, hours of training and preparation to make sure you are fit enough both physically and mentally… I could go on. So when these sorts of things happen, it’s not just a few laps that we lose. Now do not get me wrong, there are no hard feelings between David and I at all – he is not the first one to crash coming down the mountain and he definitely won’t be the last, it is a part of Motorsport. He is a great guy and it won’t be long before you see him back in a car, accidents happen. But for me it was the 3rd time in the past 4 race meetings that I have been unable to race due to my teammates crashing so it was a hard thing for me to swallow.
During the rest of the day, people would come up to me and say “Badluck, but you were the only female on the grid – that’s an accomplishment in itself!” and I appreciated their time to try and make me feel better but is it really an accomplishment? Just because I am a female it is an accomplishment to compete on the same level as a male? There were over 170 drivers from around the world on the Bathurst 12 Hour grid and the only thing that was different between me and the rest of my competitors were my body parts. I worked just as hard, I put in the same amount of effort – if not more and I have the same amount of passion for this sport.
Now that I have had the time to reflect on the race and what happened over the weekend, I didn’t need to hide my emotions or reactions – they’re natural. I didn’t need to be so scared of becoming a laughing point because I worked my butt off to be there and I deserved to be there no matter what anyone else thinks.
Hardwork does not have a gender.
I am now more determined than ever to show my full potential, they all say bad things come in 3’s so bring on the rest of 2018 – it can only go up from here!