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Saturday, June 15, 2024


A REGULAR question posed by fans to the V8 Sleuth Podcast is whether MD Aaron Noonan has ever driven a V8 Supercar.

While he’s not been behind the wheel of a V8, Aaron has tested one of Mark Winterbottom’s race cars… and we have the archive story to prove it!

The V8 Sleuth himself sampled Frosty’s Spectrum Formula Ford at Calder Park during his days as a junior reporter at Motorsport News magazine.

His report from a November 2001 edition of the magazine is republished below.

I LOVE motor racing.

But I also understand that, as in life, we all have our place in that little world inside the world.

Some of us drive. Some write. Some engineer. Some are mechanics. Some call the shots. Some pay the bills. Some sell the merchandise. Some just watch.

I write. With practice, I might actually be a good driver. With practice, I might actually be a good writer. But a pen is a lot cheaper than a race car test …

A very young Noonz and the Spectrum’s cockpit. Pic: Supplied

I’ve never driven a racing car and I don’t hold any burning ambitions to be a racing driver.

Hell, I deal with them everyday in my job and I live with one, so I think I can manage without being one myself …

Robin Williams’s character in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ said that; “… only in their dreams can men be truly free. ’Twas always thus and always thus will be.”

On that theory, I’ll stick to racing cars in my dreams, methinks.

When the invite came to chuck some laps in the Bosch Batteries Spectrum of Nick Agland (or, to be more precise, the sister car of Mark Winterbottom), I was all ears and out to Calder as quick as a flash.

I’ve heard a lot about driving a Formula Ford so having been craned in, having to remove Winterbottom’s seat, I make myself comfortable.

Well, not really. When you’re 1.90m, it’s hard to squeeze into a car that’s been tailor-made for someone smaller, so it was a case of doing the best with what we had.

There were no grid girls, no cheers from the crowd, no celebrities in the pit lane. I didn’t give a rats.

It was ironic that there was a battery problem with a battery-sponsored car, so having been pushed down the pit lane, the little 1600cc Kent powerplant came into life and I tootled down the lane in second gear.

Noonz borrowed Will Davison’s spare helmet for the drive. Pic: Supplied

I looked for the pit lane speed limiter to give it that F1-feel but decided it was best to worry about entering the circuit safely.

I did that fine. I exited turn one just as safely. In the grass.

So I did what every other racing driver does. Put my head in my hands and tried to come up with an excuse that would cut the mustard. “I spun it” was the only one I come up with. Honesty has always been my strongpoint …

Once back running, it was good to get back into the swing of things. With Winterbottom’s advice on braking points and what gear to be in in mind, the 12 laps pretty much sped by, even if I didn’t.

A Formula Ford is relatively small in terms of the big bad racing world of machines, though it’s still a buzz. With about 500 kilograms and 110 horsepower, you can still get yourself into a bit of trouble if you’re not used to racing cars.

These things are fun. Flat out into turn one on the Calder short circuit. Down to second, angle it in through the apex and aim for the black rough on the apex and drift it out towards the kerb.

Grab third at 5500rpm (I kind of used a few more …) and then fourth. Brake hard, down two gears, flick it right, flick it left, flat on it again and under the bridge, revving enough to do everything but need to shift to third. Fling it right, run it out to the dirt and keep pulling gears.

Get it wrong or do something silly and you’ll know about it.

There were the few over-revs as you’d expect from a complete rookie, as Mike Borland proceeded to show me on the data afterwards, but getting used to the four-speed H-pattern wasn’t too much of a problem.

If I could just get the downshift from third to second right I’d be looking great …

Noonan and Agland’s laps overlayed. Look very closely at the wheel speed graph and you’ll see the brief moment that Noonan was quicker! Pic: Supplied

Having dived out of the car it was time to look at the data. I’ve heard enough excuses from drivers in my time so I knew I couldn’t offer any as the data would quickly find me out.

With my fastest lap laid over one set by Agland earlier in the day, there was plenty to laugh at. I though the funniest bit was that I was faster than Nick on the exit of turn two.

I’m guessing he thought the funniest bit was that his overall lap time was six seconds faster…

At least I was faster than the guy from the ‘other’ mag…

It wasn’t my car so I wasn’t prepared to hang it over the kerbs or anything like that. Merely I was there to have a bit of fun and come away with a different perspective on what it’s like on the other side of the fence.

That was achieved. Now we just have to teach some of these Formula Ford tyros a thing or two about sentence structure, page layout and photography and maybe then they’re realise how tough life is as a motorsport writer as well.

No, seriously, it really is …

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