Driving Miss Daisy – Greg Rust takes a Late Model for a spin at Sydney Speedway – EFTM
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Driving Miss Daisy – Greg Rust takes a Late Model for a spin at Sydney Speedway

Daunting is an understatement - what a beast!

In recent weeks motorsport commentator Greg Rust slipped behind the wheel of a Speedcar to experience life in the driver’s seat but that one ride wasn’t enough it seems. Has our good friend at EFTM bitten off more than he can chew this time?

EFTM is about Everything for the Man right? So horsepower, wheels and stepping outside your comfort zone must right be in line with company policy. Man was I out of my depth on this mission!

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On the same night I had the chance to sample a Speedcar recently there was also an opportunity to drive what’s called a Late Model. Some in speedway circles (no pun intended) refer to them as Dirt Modifieds. To quote the Main Man for Late Model’s in NSW Bruce Mackenzie “they look at bit like a Stratco Shed at first glance but underneath is a proper chassis car with all kinds of cool, adjustable components”

It also has some serious grunt. Around 850 horsepower coming from a speedway tuned V8. The car I’m driving is Bruce’s although he probably questioned the decision to loan it to me on my first attempt to leave the pits. I pride myself on doing things properly and professionally. To say that I looked like a wood duck is an understatement!

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After climbing in ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style and putting the steering wheel on the spline (yes I double checked it was on) the real challenge began. Just getting mobile needs a serious reprogram of the brain. The way the gearbox works is 180 of everything that you do in a manual daily drive. Instead of gradually releasing the clutch pedal, applying a little throttle and gaining momentum you depress or push the clutch pedal in and get it going that way.

Several embarrassing stalls later I’m lined up to leave the pits at Sydney Speedway but I’m reduced to a laughing stock when, in fear of stalling, I continue out past an official and join a completely different class conducting practice laps! I realise the error straight away and can’t help but laugh at myself inside the helmet.

Bruce is there to great me when I return. Ordinarily I would expect a bollocking but he’s patient with me. Bruce runs successful company Time Target and knows the importance of training and managing a workforce. He works through the issues with me and settles the nerves.

Take 2. I get going (with the Late Model guys this time) and although the shifts are a bit rough once its in top gear and singing all my worries fade away. Firstly the V8 sound reminds me of a Supercar. It’s magic! I work the wheel looking for grip on the damp clay and get peppered by the car in front. It moves around when you unleash the horsepower but not frighteningly so. It’s addictive!

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The crew encouraged me to lean on the right front wheel to help the car pitch left….to turn. I can’t do it like the pros but done correctly the car feels like it wants to twist…..like the inside left rear wheel wants to come forward and shorten the distance to the front wheel on the same side just a little. Back under power and pointing in a straight line it squats and seems to return that gap to the correct length again. My grey matter isn’t capable of processing what the car is doing and how to get the best from it. Not that it matters.

I had three runs in the car on the night and with each outing things kept getting better. I won’t make the cut in a field of Late Model racers any time soon but if anyone ever tells you that “it’s just blokes going round and round…..how hard can it be?” Take it from me it aint easy! Still bloody enjoyable though even if I did look like I was Driving Miss Daisy.

 

Pictures by Gary Reid

 

Categories
Motoring

Greg Rust is a sports commentator & presenter for Channel 10 - @Thrusta1
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