MY RIDE SA TV SHOW: BEHIND THE SCENES
07 October 2015 | Story & photos: RaceMasteR J
was about just over a month ago that I got an interesting email
from Killarney Raceway about an up and coming TV show that would
be shot at the track and that the producers were looking for contestants.
Reading further into the email it stated that they were looking
for people with track time, I have plenty of that, and a neatly
modified vehicle, I kind of have that - keeping the Raceweb Twincam
in mind. The aim of the show was that you would challenge an F1
driver in your own car around the track. He would set a lap time
in your vehicle, and then you would do the same and then see who’s
quicker. Interesting. Oh, not forgetting that if you win, you
get R20 000!
Now while I admittedly have “some” track time experience
and knowledge, I was under no impression that I was going to be
any quicker than a Formula 1 driver. But letting someone get into
a car they’ve never driven before and then do the best lap
they can, seemed somewhat of an interesting challenge. I decided
to fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for auditions and
give it a go, for shits n giggles… why not!
Rocking up at auditions I was greeted by about more than 30 vehicles.
They spread from full on race cars, single seaters, muscle cars,
track day toys and a few street cars. There was even a bone stock
standard F30 BMW 320i… I don’t know what that dude
was thinking… shits n giggles maybe? I waited for about
an hour just to be in front of the camera for less than a minute.
They asked me a few questions about myself and my car, and that
was it. OK… I didn’t expect ANYTHING to come from
this. As I drove off, the producer gave me a nod and said thanks…
I thought to myself, Oh I know what that means, thanks but no
Some time passed going about my normal daily routines and work
until I got a very surprising email from the producer saying “Congratulations,
you’ve been selected as 1 of 12 contestants to be on the
show!” Oh my, I was not prepared for that! The first thing
that came to mind was, I need to get the car sorted. I was not
sure what exactly was needed from the car at the time, but after
a phone call from the producer, he said that it would only really
be 2 warm up laps and 2 hot laps. One each between myself and
the F1 driver. Oh ok, that’s not bad at all. Easy peasy.
The Twincam did need some attention though. It needed a new tune,
due to a change in alternator and voltage. So we let the wizards
at GSR do their thing and they then gave us the all clear…
In Gerards words… “You can boot this thing now”.
All good! New CV joints and engine mountings were fitted as well.
I never ever drive the car unless we go to a track day, which
is hardly. The last track day I did was November 2014. I needed
to get used to the car again - on track. Thankfully I managed
to get in some anti clockwise track time with the car for some
testing and to familiarize myself with the old boy once more.
Going out on track with the car from the new pits, the first corner
was now turn 5, a left hander. Immediately I feel and hear a massive
vibration coming from the front wheels/suspension/drive train.
I backed off. I’m not sure what that is. Left into turn
4, I feel it again. Every left turn I take, I can feel this nasty
vibration and that immediately makes me tap off. I don’t
want a CV joint popping out or something worse. I pull into the
pits to try and see what’s going on. On closer inspection
under the car we notice what seems like a tear in the chassis.
Damn. That has to be the problem. Damn, I need to sort this out.
Track time cut short! Damn!
The only way I can sort this out now is to have it welded up.
We are running out of time very quickly as I need to have the
car sorted for the show within a few days. I called up Wesley
from Jaylan Performance to have a look at the car and possibly
weld the chassis. After taking it into them and cleaning all the
grease off the undercarriage, it wasn’t in fact a tear,
it just looked like one. Nothing was torn. A very quick sigh of
relief, but then it got me thinking, what is the actual problem?
We looked again and then noticed a bolt was missing. The bolt
that connects the subframe to the car. Wow! When did that happen?
The bolt on the opposite side was stripped and just turning freely.
Great! That HAS to be the problem. After a new bolt was fitted,
and the other one welded tight, I set off thinking my problems
Wrong! The vibration was still there. I felt it going into every
left corner… at about 80km/h. What on earth could it be?!
After Wesley drove the car himself, we came to the conclusion
that after looking at all the symptoms, it has to be the gearbox
itself. Not cool! I don’t have time to get another box in
the car now. I either have to call it quits or go into this knowing
the car might not hold up. I did not want to miss out. Fingers
crossed, let’s do this!
The day before the show started, we sent the car away to be steam
cleaned (remember all the grease under the car) and polished for
the show. One final last check under the car and we noticed that
the right hand side CV boot was brittle and cracked (due to missing
heat wrap on the downpipe, it cooked the CV boot). It therefore
threw out all the grease from within the CV joint! Bingo! It MUST
BE THIS!? We changed CV’s etc and hoped for the best!
Getting to the track I was greeted by teams and teams of people
and production crew. This was not a small operation. It felt really
fun to be a part of this. Meeting my other contestants I got to
see who I was up against. From Porsche GT3 RS, BMW M3, Nissan
350Z, full race spec clubmans Audi A4, Mini Cooper GP, modified
Golf 7R, track day spec Nissan Sabre, clubmans Mk1 golf, Haper
Sports Car, Subaru WRX and an awesomely modified 350kw Honda Type
R EP3. My little Toyota had its job cut out for it. Even though
I was not competing directly against these other cars for lap
times, we all knew we were up against each other somehow.
The lap time was the one aspect, then you would be judged according
to your car’s looks, the way it was tuned/modified/performance
and lastly your attitude/personality. The show was co hosted by
good friend of Raceweb’s Ernest Page while the main star
of the show, the F1 driver, was none other than Finnish legend,
Mika Salo. Mika raced in F1 back in the late 90’s for Ferrari
and a few other teams, won a few Le Man’s races, raced in
many other formula’s and currently still races for Ferrari
in a 458. I was keen to meet him.
The show’s 12 episodes, 1 car per episode was shot over
3 days. I only managed to bring my camera along on the third day
when most of my on screen time was done. It was a bit weird being
on the other side of the camera for a change. This time I was
the one person in front of the camera while a whole crew was on
the other. Admittedly I was a little nervous at first, but eventually
I got into the swing of things.
It’s just funny how you practice what you’re going
to say before the time (I had a quick look at some of the questions
they were going to ask me), but when the camera’s started
rolling I only managed to talk a whole lot of shit. After every
time they said “cut” I asked myself what the hell
did I just say…? It was fun none the less.
My first day on set involved mostly interviews of myself and the
car close ups. The second day was the day I got to go up against
Mika. I was not nervous about myself. I was confident in my driving
abilities. I was only nervous about the car and if it would hold
together. It was my turn now, I was up and this was my time to
shine. SPEED, CAMERA’S ROLLING, ACTION! All the cameras
were on me. It was time for the lap. Pulling up to the camera’s
and after a quick chit chat with Mika and Ernest about the car,
Mika got in and gave it hell! It was awesome to see the car going
flat out from the outside. I’ve never really heard the car
going full tilt from the outside before.
Mika did his lap and pulled in. He gave me some feedback about
the car. Nothing I never already knew. He didn’t like it
very much and I agree. The car was never ever set up to be a Killarney
track car. It just sort of formed into what it is today after
many years of mucking about. The gear ratios are wrong for the
track, and it being a front wheel drive, understeer is always
a problem. Then, because its turbo charged, sending 220kw’s
through the front wheels makes torque steer out of the corners
a massive problem. Having the wrong ratios means you’re
either going to be in peak power as you pass the apex which means
having to fight the car out of every corner, or if you go one
gear up, you’re completely off the power and lag becomes
the problem. Whatever it is, at least the car is far from boring!
I got in and started my lap. This is the difficult part. I knew
the car just did the fastest lap time it will ever see, I knew
I would not be quicker than Mika, he is just that good, but I
tried my best. In fact, I tried too hard. I over drove. To pull
off a super hot lap in 1 lap is crazy. My typical driving style
is to go quicker after every lap. I ended up locking up the brakes
into the corners, tyres screeching into and out of the corners,
the car sliding around through the corners… I had SO much
fun. I never ever drove the car THAT hard before. The problem
was, it was too hard. I wasn’t smooth. What also didn’t
help was that damn vibration into the corners. But I thought bugger
it if the car is going to break then so be it! But where I lost
the most amount of time was as I was going down the back straight
in 4th gear it decided to pop out of gear by itself. The car over
revved, it dropped out of boost, and I immediately knew that’s
my gearbox and lap time gone! I shoved it back into 4th and floored
it. It took some time to build up boost again, damn lag, but off
I went, eventually. If I really wanted to I could have maybe tried
to do another hot lap, but something told me, rather complete
the lap and pull in.
Good thing, as I only realized the day after that the brakes were
completely gone. I never even noticed I was so pumped up after
my lap. Now I can’t talk about lap times or results, you’re
just going to have to wait for the show. But who knows I might
have scored very high on my other points. At the end of it all
I was overjoyed to be a part of this amazing experience getting
to meet awesome people and making new friends. What a blast! Thanks
to the organisers, producers, sponsors, contestants, crew, catering
staff… EVERYONE! It was amazing, I can’t wait to watch
Be sure to check out the rest of the gallery below... Enjoy! Keep
up to date with the show on Twitter by following @TestMyRideSA