Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bloggers - Start Your Engines!

I’m feeling a little violated and vulnerable after my annual health screening yesterday (no more information requires sharing). :) So, to make me feel better about myself, I’d like to pass on to you, dear readers, a recent Aussie Pete ‘winning experience’.

Having spent the best part of a decade living in Melbourne, many people scoff at the fact that until recently I had never visited Phillip Island. In fact, when I speak with any of my local Singaporean mates or colleagues about my recent return to Victoria, the first thing nearly everybody asks (even people who have never visited down under), is “Oh – did you go to that beach where you can see the Fairy Penguins?” When I respond to the positive, but then explain that it was my first time to Phillip Island, they often are astounded… I think it’s like spending your life anywhere – it’s often easy to take the most beautiful things for granted.

But enough about the penguin parade – I’ll save that until a bit later – one of the absolute highlights of not just the Phillip Island adventure, but of my entire recent trip, was inspired by my ‘need for speed’. Not that I’m very competitive by nature. Ok, ok… before you send me emails disagreeing, I’m speaking tongue in cheek – yes, just like nearly every Aussie, I am extremely competitive. Whether it’s as an arm-chair sports fan watching my favourite footy team, or if I’m participating in any individual or team competition, I hate to lose.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to spend the day participating in the ‘Singapore Adventure Race’, as part of the SPH and OMY ‘star bloggers’ team. Two of my team mates on that fateful day, were also coincidentally in my Victoria touring group last week - Eunice and Jerome, fellow winners in their respective categories of the 2011 OMY Singapore Blog Awards.

Although both were more than aware of my competitive spirit and my thirst for adrenalin (from our Go-Karting escapades in the Adventure Race – I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve been banned for life at the track in Singapore), Jerome still had no qualms attending Phillip Island along with myself, Eric and Valyn. I suspect that Eunice wised up early that any activities involving a race track, a kart that can hit speeds of up to 65km/h and my historical recklessness in a crash helmet, it would be safest to attend one of the other activities on that day.

The world famous Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is 4.445km in length and is home to the annual MotoGP. The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix is one of the premier sporting events on the Aussie Calendar. Riders such as Rossi, Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo are among those who have vied for one of the most sought-after podiums on the world circuit.

So bring in Aussie Pete and the Singapore bloggers!! A brief statistical analysis, Aussie Pete style - Although the MotoGP bikes travel at much greater speeds (up to 320km/h), my mathematics tells me that on an exact replica track of 720 metres (16.2% of the actual GP circuit), to travel at over 20% of the professional motorbike racers’ speeds – pushing myself as fast as the karts will allow, I’m racing up there with the best of them! (double confirmed?) In fact – and remember this is a replica track – the track record for the fastest lap in the MotoGP (when it was broken in 2008 by Casey Stoner) was 1'28.665. My best time to complete a lap was just 0’52.760 – a good 35 seconds faster!!

OK, I know – so maybe I’m having delusions of grandeur and there should be no such statistical correlation between track length and speed – but please indulge me a little bit?

What I do know, is that there was never any shortage of inspiration. Upon arrival at the Go-Kart track, we were met with a tribute to the Aussie legend that is the late and great ‘King of the Mountain’, Brocky (Peter Brock). My adrenalin levels jumped from 0 to 100 in just a fraction of a second.

After signing ourselves in, we were directed to the track proper, where we were put into a room to watch a safety video and understand the rules of ‘engagement’. Although I was a little wary given we learned of the various flags to watch out for – I specifically noted the red and black ones… warning for infringements and automatic pit for inappropriate behaviour / driving – I was still closely watching my competitors. There was a winner’s look in Eric’s eyes that I was a little nervous about.

Donning first our hairnets and all looking a little like staff at Bakerz-In, we were fitted with our helmets, before being shown to our pre-assigned vehicles. Already the competitiveness was coming out – I was crossing my fingers that I would be in the lead kart, which would provide less hassle than having to try to overtake the rest of the field on the first straight. I was not to be disappointed – I was placed at the top of the grid in go kart - ‘lucky for some’ - number (legs) 11.


And off we go… out of the pits and hitting the straight immediately with my foot flat to the floor, it took no time to reach the maximum speed that the kart would travel (65km/h) and although I did take the advice of the knowledgeable circuit staff and took the first lap a little easier, so as to understand the respective bends and the effect of the damp track on the tyres, the second lap saw me having a level of excitement akin to that of a ‘pig in mud’.

My first task was to draw in the field. Starting at the front of the grid, it was imperative that if I was to get the liberating feeling of overtaking one of the other bloggers, I would need to reel them in as quickly as humanly possible and actually lap them.

It didn’t take long! Although the whole idea of the race is not who starts and finishes first – the winner is actually the driver with the fastest lap time clocked in the 10-minutes of racing – I couldn’t help myself. First, it was Valyn… taking advantage of her spin-out on the hair pin bend, I swiftly passed by her on about the 2nd or 3rd lap.

Then it was Eric and Jerome in my sights. Perhaps around a lap later, I found myself pulling alongside Eric just before the hair pin, and then accelerated past Jerome on the mini straight at the back of the track – now a full lap ahead of all the other drivers.

Was this good enough?? Bet your bottom dollar it wasn’t!!

How many times could I lap the others? – this was the ‘raised bar’ challenge which I set for myself. In the end, I completed 9 laps in the 10-minutes, with a fastest lap time of 0’52.760. The next fastest lap time was set by Jerome at 1’00.860, who completed 7 laps of the circuit. Third place went to Valyn who, although she completed on lap less than Eric – 6 laps and 7 laps respectively – edged into the bronze standing with a fastest lap time of 1’01.347 and Eric at 1’01.848.

Based on these numbers, the competition was actually quite ‘hot’ between the three Singaporean ‘Lims’…. Hmmm – no folks, they are not related. All three finished with a fastest lap time within 1 second of each other.

Still shaking with adrenalin and pumped up and ready for more speed, I asked our tour guide and driver, Tony, to throw me the car keys so that I could drive the rest of the way around Phillip Island – I have never heard five people (Wei Ding from OMY included) all shout ‘NO!!’ in unison so loudly. What the!!?? – Don’t trust my driving abilities?? – Or was it, perhaps, the champagne celebrations on the podium later that had everyone so worried about letting me behind the wheel of a real car?

In all – a brilliant time, which I cannot recommend enough! I cannot wait to go back – absolutely the best go karting experience I’ve had in my entire life!!

More Pictures of our Bloggers Grand Prix Here!

According to the Phillip Island GP website:

“Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Go Kart Track is over 720mt long and in some places over 8m wide and is based on a scale replica of the 4.445km world famous Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. The smooth curves and super fast straight of this unique go kart track are strung along some of the most breathtaking coastline on the Island with rolling hills, rugged cliffs, and ocean to horizon.

This is your chance to get the feeling that so many past and present champions have had the privilege of. Feel the speed of turn 1, check out the ocean views around southern loop, good passing opportunity into a tight turn 4, sweeping corner around Siberia and the sudden drop off from Lukey Heights into MG corner and back onto the main straight. This scale replica go kart track is the only one like it in Australia and will give you and your friends a go kart experience like no other.”

Read more here!

Sessions are in 10 min blocks. To enquire about a session simply call the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre on: (03) 5952 9400.

Public Hire Price Schedule -[Swiss Hutless Karts]:

1x 10 min: $29
2 x 10 min: $53
3 x 10 min: $68

Multiple session prices refer to a single kart (ie. if an individual was to have 1, 2 or 3 sessions)

Age limits and height restrictions apply

Single Karts - minimum 12 years of age and 153cm

Tandem Karts - Child passenger minimum 5 years of age and accompanied

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