Only the bold and adventurous made it to Hampton Downs on a wet cold Sunday in August. And it appears there are more than a few of us looking to discover our inner hoon with a good member turnout and Mercedes line-up. It was a rare ‘have a go’ day and we all did, with grins a mile wide.
Parked up in the infield, Ken William’s set-up gave us the perfect gathering point with his 280 Mercedes race car on display, sporting the totally apt ‘TEAM Adventure Before Dementia’ logo. His Merc van and awning meant we stayed dry and positioned right beside the skid pan we were well entertained. Bill Bray’s constant supply of sizzling hot bbq sausages was welcome by one and all, keeping us warm on the inside. The major discussion first thing was ‘what music to drive to?’ – Bruce Springstein’s ‘Born to Run’, The Doors ‘Break on Through to the Other Side’ and Meatloaf’s ‘Bat out of Hell’ all featured.
Sign on was easy, just driver details along with a mere $30 for the morning and $50 for the afternoon sessions, and $20 for the skid pan. After ‘driver briefing’ it was on to the circuit! Two two-hour sessions of track time, staying out for as long as you could last, with many a repeat trip for ‘just one more lap’. Both the young and not so young were out there, and even passengers got to go along for the ride in the morning. The wide assortment of cars was a great leveller, mixing it with sporty Jap models and boy racers through modern saloons, historic sedans and cruising classics.
What a great circuit and even better when you’re on it. The first lap proved a nervous one for most but then you well were into it, adrenalin flowing, and it just got better every lap. Billed as non-competitive meant that passing on corners or braking lines was a total no-no. But there’s always the few who just can’t resist. We also weren’t to go over 100km in the morning but no one stuck to that… impossible, particularly on that long fast main straight.
Hampton Downs is impressive: 2.7km of smooth track, with 6 corners, 2 right hand and 2 left hand, and plenty of rise and fall following the contour of the land. It’s a challenge and reward for all who take it on. The top recorded speed is 287kph by Andrew Stroud on his Suzuki motorbike. The pavement structure composed of multiple layers apparently has a tough shear resistant surface that gives excellent grip in the wet or the dry – yeah right! We saw many an ‘off’ that slippery wet Sunday with more than a few battered panels and egos to show for it.
Some memorable moments… early in the wet Barry scored the first 360, with the Old Fox giving a few folk a fright when facing the wrong way. We even had our very own Stig, aka Greg, looking cool on and off the track. Ken, our pro, treated some keen members to the exhilaration of true racing lines and speed with a ride in his 280. There was quite a queue to get aboard until, unfortunately, the wet track took yet another victim and he wiped out at the end of the front straight! A rather sad sight back in the pits but an undaunted Ken was still smiling, “it happens, the panel beater will sort it”. He must be a real contender for this years ‘hard luck piston’ award. But the ‘did it all’ prize has to go to our Club Captain Chris for maximum track time on both morning and afternoon sessions, along with squealing burnouts on the wet skid pan with two ecstatic lads; they all had a blast.
A fantastic day and there’ll definitely be a next time so be sure to come along… see you out there!