Bathurst 6 Hour Double Attack

Experienced race-car hire and motorsport services operation RaceAway Track Time has announced a double-pronged attack on this year’s Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour, running two Toyota 86s in Class D.

Last year, RaceAway Track Time campaigned a single entry for the father-and-son team of Graeme and Josh Heath; this year, they will also provide technical services for the Reynolds Auctions Toyota 86, to be driven by Newcastle auctioneer Gavan Reynolds, along with Chris Manning and Declan Fraser.

Josh Heath was one of the standouts in last year’s 6 Hour, leading Class D for much of the race and running as high as fifth outright at one stage.

“It was scary at first, but turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life,” Heath said.

“Dad and Phil were telling me about the blind corners and the steep sections of the track, but you don’t appreciate it until you actually race there yourself.

“For this year, I’m going to be a lot more confident now I know my way around the track, and we’ve made some tweaks to the car to make it easier to drive and more reliable.

“Having someone like Phil working with us is really valuable – he’s an excellent mechanic but his racing knowledge is just brilliant because of the amount of racing he’s done.

According to Alexander, himself an accomplished racer in numerous endurance events at Bathurst, overseeing two cars only adds to the fun.

“The two cars might be basically the same, but they’re driven by people with completely different experience levels and objectives,” Alexander said.

“Graeme and Josh have been very close family friends for a long time, and they certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to endurance racing.

“Josh has come on in leaps and bounds in the NSW APRA (Pulsar) Series. He was extremely close to winning the championship last year and was dominant in the long-distance races – he’s always been excellent at punching out consistent laps over the course of a stint.

“On the other hand, Gavan and Chris are fairly new to racing and Declan is still finding his feet in the Toyota 86 Racing Series.

“They’ve been doing some driver development sessions at some of our RaceAway track days, and both Gavan and Chris leased our Pulsars for a couple of race meetings as well, to get themselves more comfortable with wheel-to-wheel racing.

“Gavan and Chris are both very passionate about the sport, and they are dedicated to learning and improving. Declan is still very young, and for him it’s all about gaining seat time – doing a big endurance race like the Bathurst 6 Hour will teach him about strategy, and about teamwork.”

The Bathurst 6 Hour will be the sixth-consecutive weekend in which RaceAway Track Time has run cars in a racing event, having also campaigned entries in two rounds of the NSW APRA Series at Wakefield Park, the opening round of the Victorian APRA Series at Sandown, the first round of the new Mazda RX8 Cup Series at Winton and the NSW Production Touring Car Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park.

“All these back-to-back weekends of race meetings have made it extremely busy in RaceAway land, but it’s a sign that we’re catering to the needs of enthusiasts,” Alexander said.

“We’re all about making it easy for people to participate in motorsport, especially if they don’t have the logistics or mechanical expertise to run cars themselves, and it’s so satisfying to give people the opportunity to go racing, especially in big events like the 6 Hour.”

Pulsars Everywhere!

It’s no secret we own a lot of Pulsars, but on the weekend we broke new ground by running cars in two different states!

The scheduled opening round of the NSW APRA Series at Wakefield Park on the last Sunday of February was rained out… it’s the first time we can remember a race meeting being completely cancelled because of the weather, but we have to admit it was a sensible decision from the officials – the first two practice sessions (for other categories) were stopped due to incidents, and with rivers running across the track and ankle-deep standing water in some corners, the conditions were simply too dangerous to race a motor-car.

Full credit to the MRA organisers and Wakefield Park though, because they rescheduled the race meeting to the following weekend, albeit for a non-championship event.

We’re glad they did though, because it gave our drivers some valuable track time. Josh Heath continued the momentum from where he left off at the end of last season, winning all three races while our new driver Tim Colombrita scored a seventh-place finish in his first-ever Pulsar race meeting – a great effort!

Meanwhile, Andy Lawler also had a consistent weekend, chalking up a trio of 13th-place race finishes.

While that was happening at Wakefield Park, we also leased two of our Pulsars for the opening round of the Victorian APRA Series at Sandown, as Chris Manning and Gavan Reynolds looked to gain some more valuable seat time.

Both drivers put in solid efforts, Manning finishing just off the podium in fourth overall, while Reynolds was seventh.

It was a busy weekend but there’s no rest for the wicked – this weekend we’re back in action for Round 1 of the Mazda RX8 Cup Series at the Winton AMRS meeting!

RaceAway Rookies Star in Wakefield 300

We love endurance racing here at RaceAway Track Time.

The thing about long-distance racing is you have to be prepared for the unexpected, and you have to be ready to adapt on the run.

It’s not normal for everything to go according to plan, so when everything does run like clockwork, it’s actually a pleasant surprise!

John and Tom Connolly charged from 23rd on the grid to finish fourth in Class D and fourth outright in the Wakefield 300 on Sunday, and the mighty Mazda MX5 didn’t miss a beat all day.

John started the race, and pitted on lap 58 of 137 for the five-minute compulsory refuelling pit stop, and to hand over to Tom. While other cars coughed, spluttered or simply cried enough, Tom circulated consistently, recording a best time of 1:13.8.

With temperatures in the mid-30s, the race was a hot, tough, physically demanding marathon for both man and machine, so just to make it to the finish was an achievement. For the Connollys to finish nine positions higher than they started, in their Wakefield 300 debut, was a sensational effort.

Now it’s a very short turnaround to prepare for Round 1 of the APRA Series at Wakefield Park this Sunday!

The Plus Side of Pulsating Pulsar Racing

It may have started with a modest grid of just four cars participating in a combined race with Excels in 2013, but since then the Australian Pulsar Racing Association (APRA) Series has exploded in popularity to the point where it now attracts some of the largest fields of any racing category in New South Wales.

Our own Phil Alexander teamed up with Trevor Keene to win a two-hour Pulsar endurance race at Wakefield Park in November 2014, and since then RaceAway Track Time has become synonymous with APRA, hiring out Pulsar race cars for track days and making it easy for new drivers to enter the series through a combination of CAMS/AASA licence assessments and “arrive and drive” deals.

So what made Phil and RaceAway Track Time decide to become involved? We asked him some questions to find out.

 

First things first – what attracted you to the Pulsar Series?

When I heard about the series starting up, I was immediately interested. Back in the 1990s, I prepared and raced N14 Pulsars in the Australian Production Car Championship and Bathurst 12 Hour, and from those experiences I knew that they would be very affordable and reliable cars for a one-make series.

They tick all the boxes – they’re easy to work on, they’re cheap, and because there are so many of them around, it’s very easy to get spare parts for them.

Around the time the series was starting, my son Gene was looking for the next step from go-karts and my good friend Graeme Heath’s son Josh was as well, so the Pulsar Series presented the ideal option.

 

How did you end up with so many Pulsars?

It started with just a couple for myself and Gene, but then other people wanted to become involved as well, and were leaning on my experience to help them buy or build cars. I realised there was a business opportunity if I had some other cars available to lease out, and so the business started to grow from there.

 

What have you enjoyed most about the Pulsar Series so far?

For a low-cost, one-make series it is run very well, as demonstrated by the strong numbers it continues to attract, and the fact there is some healthy series sponsorship which allows the category management to invest in features for the competitors such as social media coverage and videos at events.

The scrutineering is also well-controlled which means the cars are very evenly-matched and the results have come down to driver ability.

From a personal perspective, I’m pleased with the number of drivers we’ve been able to introduce to motor racing through the series, be it through licence assessments, setup assistance or leasing out cars. Last year alone, we introduced eight new drivers to the series and there are more to come in 2018.

 

So if people want to race in the Pulsar Series, what’s the easiest way to get involved?

We have “arrive-and-drive” deals where people can just turn up at the track, race one of our cars and then go home afterwards. These deals are perfect for those who want to become involved in motorsport but don’t have the time, resources or mechanical expertise to own a car themselves.

These sorts of deals have been really popular, especially last year where we leased out a number of our cars for events, and we’re looking forward to welcoming some more racers on board in 2018.

 

How satisfying is it to help people get into racing and see them going well?

It’s extremely pleasing, especially someone like Josh Heath who I’ve known since he was racing karts, and watched him develop into one of the main contenders in the Pulsar Series.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a long career in motorsport, so to be able to use some of my experience to make it easier for other people to enjoy competing on the race track is something that makes me very happy.

Father and Son Team Set for Wakefield 300

They have torn up the track at 24 Hours of Lemons, they have conquered the Marulan Cheap Car Challenge, and now the father-and-son duo of John and Tom Connolly will take on one of the longest-standing club-level endurance races in Australia – the Wakefield 300.

John Connolly is familiar to many car enthusiasts as the motoring writer for The Weekend Australian, while Tom also enjoys the challenge of testing his skills on racing circuits.

The pair have fine-tuned their craft in RaceAway Track Time’s fleet of race cars, and will make their Wakefield 300 debut in the RaceAway Mazda NC MX5.

Now in its 11th year, the Wakefield 300 is open to a wide range of production-based vehicles, and continues to attract large fields of well-credentialed drivers.

John Connolly said the event is a logical progression for his and Tom’s racing careers.

“Last year the father-and-son team of Craig and Adam Burgess took back-to-back victories in the Wakefield 300 and it’s time they got some real competition. Just because they race in a Ginetta G50 and are much better drivers than us, there’s no reason our Mazda MX5 can’t be there at the finish” John said.

“Tom and I have driven badly at tracks around the world and we did really well driving dog sleds in the Arctic Circle. Phil Alexander has blended all that experience including some really poor results in the 24 Hours of Lemons and Marulan Enduros into making us the top combo we are today.”

RaceAway Track Time team owner Phil Alexander is excited to give the Connollys the opportunity to tackle the 300.

“The Wakefield 300 is an event I’ve enjoyed in the past, especially with the different types of cars that enter each year,” Alexander said.

“John and Tom have done a lot of motorsport activity with us – track days and race events – and it’s been very pleasing to watch them learning and improving. Their dog-sledding abilities are second to none.

“The MX5s are popular cars for the 300s because they’re reliable and consistent, so hopefully John and Tom can get through at least ten laps.”

The 2018 Wakefield 300 will be held on 17-18 February.

Super Fun for all at Super Track Day

On 19 January, we held our second SUPER TRACK DAY.

If it sounds big, that’s because it was! We booked out the Wakefield Park circuit exclusively for use by our customers, and our second Super Track Day proved to be even bigger than our first one.

As well as a number of clients hiring out our race cars to cure the post-racetrack depression they had been suffering over the Christmas break, we also had a few teams testing in preparation for the upcoming season, including the On Track Motorsport Porsche outfit of Garry Mennell, Kean Booker, Mark Caine and Aaron Zerefos, who took advantage of the open pit lane and generous track time to complete their shakedown for the 2018 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

But the highlight of our day was the corporate event we were able to organise for the Reynolds Auctions and Collier International businesses. Staff from these companies were given the chance to drive our Pulsars over the course of the day, and after a few familiarisation sessions, we activated our GPS timing systems to see who could clock the fastest time.

It’s always amazing how people who seemed nervous at the start of the day, suddenly become so much more competitive and confident once the stopwatch is running, and we saw some very impressive lap times – times that would have been competitive in the Australian Pulsar Racing Association Series.

As well as providing corporate customers with an adrenaline rush they simply don’t get at other events such as golf days, these types of experiences are also valuable for team building and bonding, and we’ve already had interest from other people who would like us to organise more of these sorts of events in the future.

If something like this sounds like it would work for your business, get in touch with us here and we can come up with the right program to suit your needs.

In the meantime, our attention now turns to some big upcoming racing events including the Wakefield 300, and the opening round of the 2018 NSW APRA Series – stay tuned for some exciting announcements on these events in the coming days!

2017 Season Review

The 2017 season was a highly successful one for the RaceAway Track Time crew as we continued to expand our business operations.

Our race car hire services proved extremely popular, and we ended the year by not only hiring out cars for track days, but for race meetings as well. The feedback from our customers has been that they love being able to turn up at the track and go racing, without the logistical challenges of having to prepare a race car and transport it to the circuit themselves.

We also conducted a number of CAMS and AASA licence assessments throughout the year. One of our primary aims has been to introduce more people to motor-racing, and it’s always very satisfying to bring new faces into the sport.

On the track, it was a very good year. Once again, our main focus was the Australian Pulsar Racing Association Series and RaceAway Track Time-supported driver Josh Heath did us very proud, winning three of the six rounds and finishing second in the championship, just 15 points off the winner.

Gene Alexander enjoyed a consistent season on his way to sixth in the title race, while others who we supported throughout the season included Mark Crutcher, Jack Winter, Shane Fowler, Martin Welsh, Richard Bailey, Denis Barbaro and Gavan Reynolds.

Some of these drivers we assisted with technical and car-setup advice, some we provided with driver development services to help them improve their on-track performance, and others leased cars from us to participate in events.

However, our racing activities were not restricted to the Pulsar Series. We also participated in a couple of Cheap Car Challenge events at the Marulan Dirt and Tar Circuits, which proved so popular we had to expand to a two-car team for the November event. These events were perfect at giving racing newcomers the chance to practice skills including traffic management, pit stops and driver changes, in an affordable environment.

Participants in the Cheap Car Challenge in 2017 included John Connolly, Tom Connolly, “TJ”, Phil Keegan, Gavan Reynolds, Chris Manning, Graeme Manning and Adam Leacy.

Some of our clients enjoyed the racing experience so much, they wanted to step up to higher-profile events. We were fortunate enough to assist Gavan Reynolds and Brendan Farrugia in their progression to the Toyota 86 Racing Series, supporting the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

At the other end of the scale, there were those drivers who were perfectly satisfied to participate in track days and focus on improving their skills and lap-times without the cut and thrust of wheel-to-wheel combat. We formed an alliance with Track Day Club, who ran a number of very successful track days at Wakefield Park and Marulan, and we provided their customers with race car hire, driver development and licence assessment services.

 

Towards 2018

With the 2017 racing season now complete, we are in full preparation for another big year in 2018.

In terms of racing, our focus will again be on the Pulsar Series but we will also be involved in the brand-new Mazda RX8 Cup Series, which is running as part of the Australian Motor Racing Series (AMRS).

We will again be assisting with team management and driver development at Toyota 86 Series events along with the Bathurst 6 Hour, while we will again be hiring out our fleet of race cars which include our Nissan Pulsars ,Toyota 86, Mazda RX8, Mazda MX5 and our most recent addition, our BMW M3.

Many of our clients are progressing up the motorsport ladder, but we’ll continue to promote the sport to new customers and look forward to introducing more people to the thrills of motor-racing.

Have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year, and we’ll see you all in 2018!

 

Best wishes,

 

Phil and Karen Alexander

RaceAway Track Time

Swapping the Microphone for a Helmet

Our media man Lachlan Mansell stepped into one of our cars for the final round of the Pulsar Series at Wakefield Park. Here’s his take on the weekend:

There are quite a few retired professional racing drivers who have subsequently enjoyed careers as motorsport commentators (think Neil Crompton, Mark Skaife, Mark Larkham) but not many who have started out as commentators and then become drivers – in fact, I struggle to think of many at all.

Indeed, until Emily Duggan gave me a test in her Excel at Wakefield Park last year, I had never really entertained the notion of swapping the microphone for a helmet and competing myself.

But it only took one test day, where I was able to punch out some competitive times, to make me realise how much I enjoyed it. I subsequently competed in last year’s 24 Hours of Lemons, finishing fourth outright in the Team Radio Lemons outfit I put together, ably assisted by Emily along with Dylan Thomas, Dave Stillwell and Brian Van De Wakker.

The problem is – as a professional motorsport commentator – it doesn’t really make economic sense to ditch one of my primary sources of income to then spend money on going motor racing.

Nevertheless, with my commentary commitments pretty much done and dusted for 2017, I decided to treat myself to a one-off drive in the final round of the Australian Pulsar Racing Association NSW Series at Wakefield Park on the weekend.

I put together a deal to drive one of the RaceAway Track Time Pulsars. Owned by experienced endurance racer Phil Alexander and based in the Southern Highlands, RaceAway Track Time is a business that specialises in preparing and leasing out race cars to people who want to go racing, but don’t have the time, resources or mechanical expertise to do it themselves – in other words, perfect for someone like myself!

Phil is also an accredited CAMS and AASA licence assessor and conducted my licence assessment earlier in the year (you can watch the video of this below).

To be totally honest, I was a bit apprehensive when I rocked up at the track for practice on Friday – I hadn’t had much seat time in a race car and wasn’t sure how quickly to get back into it. But after the first session, the apprehension was gone – I was comfortable and confident in pushing the car towards its limits.

The original plan had been for Toyota 86 Series star Cameron Hill to co-drive with me in the pair of one-hour endurance races, but when Cameron was a late withdrawal due to unforeseen commitments, Lachlan Mineeff (who races Cameron’s Formula Ford) was called up as a replacement. He may only be 14, but Lachlan is no slouch; he qualified third outright (behind Max Vidau and Hunter McElrea) in his national Formula Ford debut at Sydney Motorsport Park, and is a race-winner at state level.

It actually worked out really well, providing an opportunity for Lachlan to get some seat time in a tin top, and his father John’s Southern Star Truck Centre business generously came on board as a sponsor for the weekend as well.

Interesting trivia – it was the second time in 2017 that two Lachlans had shared a car for an endurance race at Wakefield Park, after Lachlan McBrien and Lachlan Higgins teamed up for the Super TT enduro.

Saturday brought rain to Goulburn, and plenty of it. Lachlan was sent out in the first practice session to sample the car, and was promptly punted off the track by an out-of-control competitor. He returned to the pits – fortunately, the damage was only cosmetic and was repaired in time for qualifying.

We each participated in a qualifying session and I was extremely conservative, not having had much previous wet-weather experience and not wishing to inflict any more damage upon Phil’s car.

We qualified in 26th position outright and I took the start. Once again, I took a very cautious approach but was able to make up a few places by virtue of other cars coming off the track. The visibility was shocking and we actually employed a Red Bull Racing Bathurst-style squeegee, which I used to wipe fog off the windscreen during a Safety Car. At around the half-way mark I handed over to Lachlan, who also adopted a steady-as-she-goes approach and brought us home in 22nd.

After returning to the pits at the end of the race, we went to take the car for a much-needed rinse, only to discover we couldn’t select first gear, second gear or reverse – not very helpful! After some fiddling around, Phil Alexander declared the gearbox “stuffed” (actually, I think it was a slightly stronger word but this is a G-rated article) and made an early-morning trip back to his Southern Highlands base to source a replacement.

Fortunately, the conditions on Sunday were much drier and Lachlan and I were evenly matched in our sessions, qualifying 22nd in the 27-car field.

Lachlan drove a ripper opening stint, elevating us into the top 20 before I jumped in for the run home. Upon exiting the pits, I had just been lapped by the eighth-placed car, driven by experienced Improved Production racers Ashley Birks and Sam Maio, so I latched onto the back of them and decided to try and keep up as best as I could.

The strategy clearly worked, because I lapped consistently in the high 1:13s with a best time of a 1:13.6 – as quick as the cars that finished in the lower half of the top 10 – and crossed the line in 17th place.

The other highlight of the weekend was that I commentated the stints of the race where I wasn’t driving (the finish on Saturday and start on Sunday), as I attempted to emulate my motorsport commentary hero Neil Crompton.

To be honest, I surprised myself with my pace considering my lack of experience and seat time. Maybe all those years of calling thousands and thousands of racing laps has allowed me to subconsciously pick up a racer’s instinct without doing much actual driving.

Certainly, it’s given me enough self-belief that if I was to commit to a full season in a motorsport category with a proper program of testing, data analysis and fitness training, I could hold my own. The reality is that isn’t going to happen because at the end of the day, I derive my income from writing and talking about the sport.

Cheap Car Challenge Assault

Colo Vale-based motor racing team, RaceAway Track Time, is preparing two cars for an assault on a different sort of car race – the Cheap Car Challenge at Marulan Driver Training Centre this weekend.

Far from featuring exotic sports cars or purpose-built racing machines, the Cheap Car Challenge is all about giving people the experience of racing at an affordable price. It is open to vehicles manufactured between 1986 and 2004, with a maximum engine capacity of two Litres.

The event runs for four hours – split into two, two-hour parts – and each team must have four drivers, each of whom are only allowed to drive for 15 minutes at a time. This means there are plenty of pit stops.

These regulations play right into the hands of RaceAway Track Time owner Phil Alexander, a racing veteran who has competed in some of the most prestigious events around Australia and the world, including the Bathurst 1000 and Nurburgring 24 Hour.

Having stopped racing full-time, Alexander is now passionate about giving other people the opportunity to hit the track, and his RaceAway Track Time operation is all about making the process of going racing as easy as possible. Alexander says the Cheap Car Challenge is the ideal event for beginners.

“There are lots of people out there who dream about experiencing the thrill of going motor racing, but don’t know where to start,” Alexander said.

“Often they don’t have the resources or mechanical expertise to own and prepare a race car themselves, so our team is geared around providing those services.

“This year we’ve had a busy year, running entries in the NSW Pulsar Series along with hiring out our Pulsar, Mazda RX8, Toyota 86 and BMW M3 race cars at a number of track days.

“We entered our first Cheap Car Challenge event in August and I was very impressed – it’s highly-competitive and for beginners, it teaches them basic skills like car control and how to drive in traffic, but they also have to learn how to handle pit stops and driver changes.

“The first event was a roaring success, and afterwards we had so much interest from people wanting to drive that we’ve had to run a second car.”

This Sunday, Alexander and the RaceAway Track Time team will run a Nissan Pulsar (to be driven by John Connolly, Tom Connolly, “TJ” and Phil Keegan) and a Nissan NX Coupe (to be piloted by Gavan Reynolds, Chris Manning, Graeme Manning and Adam Leacy).

“It’s a real mix of drivers, all looking for a different experience,” Alexander said.

“At one end of the scale, you have the Connollys who like to have a play in race cars on weekends for fun, but you also have someone like Gavan Reynolds, who is sharpening up his skills because he wants to step up to national-level motorsport next year.”

The Marulan Cheap Car Challenge event will be held at Marulan this Sunday, 12 November.

RaceAway Track Time Set for Production Car Finale

Southern Highlands racing team, race car hire and driver development outfit, RaceAway Track Time will compete in the final round of the Australian Production Car Series at Wakefield Park, 18-19 November.

Racing rookies Gavan Reynolds and Chris Manning will be joined by NSW Pulsar Series front-runner Josh Heath in one of RaceAway Track Time’s N15 Nissan Pulsars, which will compete in Class E.

For Reynolds and Manning, the event is an opportunity to gain valuable track miles as they prepare for a step up to the Toyota 86 Racing Series next year.

RaceAway Track Time owner Phil Alexander said the long distance running will also be good for practising endurance techniques.

“Because there are two 300km races, there will be pit stops and refuelling,” Alexander said.

“It’s a great opportunity for Gavan and Chris to practice being in the car for long stints, and then going through the process of driver changes.

“Also, because the Australian Production Car Series runs a multi-class format, they will also gain experience with traffic, especially learning how to be overtaken by faster cars.

“Josh is part of our team and he’s one of the front-running contenders in the Pulsar Series, and is also a very accomplished endurance driver, so it made sense to bring him along as a third driver; he will be a good benchmark for the other two.”

The Australian Production Car Series round comes at a busy time for the RaceAway Track Time squad, which is also running two cars in the Marulan Cheap Car Challenge a week prior, and a fleet of entries in the final round of the NSW Pulsar Series – also an endurance event – at Wakefield Park on the first weekend in December.

The Colo Vale-based team is also building cars for the brand-new Mazda RX8 Cup one-make series, while Alexander is kept busy during the week providing driver development and CAMS/AASA licence assessment services.