182745_10150161309171057_1752564_n

The beginning

I have always had a passion for cars and competition. In 2011 I fulfilled a dream of building and racing a car in the 2011 CAMS Super Sprint Championships.

I placed 3rd in my first ever season of racing missing out on 2nd by the smallest of margins. I currently hold the track records for the Type 2B class at both Wakefield and Eastern Creek – now known as Sydney International Motorsport Park. The lap times I achieved are 1.07.26 at Wakefield, and a 1.46.63 at Eastern Creek GP Circuit, quicker than many super cars all in a street registered purpose built Honda S2000. From an absolute amateur to a double record holder in under 10 months!  I used competition with rivals as a motivator and invested heavily in driver training and track time. All the disciplines I learnt from business and body building helped me in achieving great results on the race track too!

Building and racing my Honda S2000 was for me an awesome experience and made a positive impact on my life. In this post I will document the 10 life lessons I learned racing cars and how they influenced me.

You can read about my S2000 and our journey with the awesome feature that The Lowdown team ran on it in December 2011.

1. Practice makes perfect

The first outing with my Honda S2000 was at a Circuit Club twilight event. I asked a few people what is a good time for a car around Eastern Creek and I was told anything under 2 minutes is decent for a first timer in a 2 litre engined car.

So I went out there with that knowledge and guess what time I ran – you guessed it 1.59! With Super Sprints coming up, I knew the track record was a low 1.48 for my class! So I had to find 11 seconds or more to beat the best. With each track day I closed the gap more and more to finish the season with a stonking time of 1.46 with essentially the exact same car!

2. Learn from those before you

No matter what the field there is always someone who has achieved what you are setting out to do, or is currently doing it. Successful people generally love to talk about it. I learnt from other people with the same car who had already invested a lot of money, in modifications that might not have worked and what setups did produce results. This saved me a huge amount of time and dollars learning from the lessons of others.

I watched Youtube videos of others racing and looked at their gear changes and racing lines to see where I could find the time.

3. Pick the right vehicle

I would not have been as fast if I had chosen to modify a Toyota Camry and race it, so starting with a base that is capable and I was passionate about from the get go is critical.

The Honda S2000 rewards the driver, its a momentum car and difficult to drive at the limit. With its high power output for a 2.0 litre engine, perfect weight balance and roadster good looks it was a great car to master, offering a challenge but with inherit abilities from the get go.

Likewise with career choice,  picking the right vehicle can make or break you.There was no way I would have been as successful if I had stayed on studying to be an accountant – it just was not the right vehicle for me.

4. Don’t blame the tools

Riding shotgun with John Boston

Riding shotgun with John Boston

Before having a professional driver like John Boston drive my car whilst I sat shotgun, I was always contemplating the next modification to make me faster, it was almost never ending! After having the bejesus scared out of me on 4 intense flying laps with a man who has done 1000’s of laps around the circuit, I knew I needed only one thing… more balls! I learnt a massive lesson that day, and that is you can always be better and nothing gets better until you do.

I stopped focusing on modifications and concentrated on myself, I was instantly faster at the next track day.

5. Focus on what matters

In life and in car racing you can get swept up in nice to haves rather than must haves. If you have the best turbo on the market but can’t justify spending good money on safety gear you are going about it the wrong way.

The 80:20 rule is massive, that is 20% of what you do, nets you 80% of your results $5000 spent on engine modifications without the appropriate handling, and safety upgrades like braking, and tyres will yield a poor result. Safety, reliability, driver training, track time, tyres, handling, and finally power is the order I’d suggest for maximum results for the least amount of outlay.

6. It’s not about money

The day I finally beat Chris (an on track nemesis) was one of the highlights of my life at the time! I was so stoked and pumped to have finally out driven him, on even terms in very similar S2000’s that it was momentous for me. I have been less excited about big pay days! And herein lies the lesson; it’s not about the money. I invested money and time into competition with no upside in terms of financial gain, yet it was deeply satisfying and rewarding to build confidence, drive faster and beat previously held limitations. It’s the same as many hobbies or skills, like learning to play guitar you might not make a living from it but it is immensely satisfying to learn.

Formula 1 drivers get paid millions of dollars a year to drive the fastest race cars on earth and I don’t think Mark Webber gets as excited as he did with his first win when his pay check comes in the mail. Mark’s maiden win in Formula 1 during the 2009 season – after years of trying, his reaction over the team radio is priceless. You can just tell that for him it was worth more than the money, to win and beat the odds is priceless.

7. Find a reference point

My reference point

My reference point

In life and in competition it is great to find a reference point, and first and foremost that should be your previous best. If you are beating your previous best you are on the right track. But sometimes in competition you can operate at higher levels due to being exposed to better standards of others who are just as able as you are, only doing it better.

In racing they say the first person to beat is your team mate, as they have the same team, and equipment available to them.  Losing to them means your slower and will be soon known as the number two driver or replaced at the end of the season. Having a reference point of someone in a similar position as you is a great motivational tool to ensure you are not complacent and living on past glories.

I was lucky enough to have found someone racing with the same goals, in the same class and with an identical car! This pushed me much harder, its hard to make up excuses when your on such a even playing field.

In car footage of Chris putting a lot of pressure on me!

8.  Know your numbers

record lap

Feeback

In racing there are no excuses that work, you are fast or you’re not. Tracking this is important to really understand how you are going. To me it did not make sense to race for 10 laps pull into the pits and run to the pit wall to see the lap times I had pulled. I needed faster feedback on the go.

I purchased a GPS lap timer which allowed me to view my split times, and lap times as I was racing which provided me instant feedback and motivation at a time where I could respond and do something about it.

Knowing your numbers is important in all aspect of life from buying a home, to saving for a holiday you need to know the numbers and continually get feedback on how well you are tracking towards that goal.

Wakefield Park 1.07.4 Lap Time on board

Eastern Creek GP Circuit 1.46.3 Lap Time on board

9. Test and measure

Tyre pressure

Tyre pressure

Continual testing and measuring is what its all about, what worked last time might not work this time. Track temp, tyre pressure, suspension settings and racing lines can all be analysed and improved. I carry this through with everything else I do, in order to find improved results on and off the track.

10. Build a support team

Racing is a team sport you need to build a great team around you in order to get the most enjoyment and results out of it. My wife was critical in this, as she let me go out there each month and push myself, and even though I was not racing door to door it was still dangerous with the high speeds involved (205 km/h on the main straight at Eastern Creek), having her support and trust knowing how much I enjoyed the competition made it more fun for me.

Top One

Support Team

My mechanic Dedy at Top One Auto, was fantastic for the late night services, and last minute part installations.

Jimmy and Benny Tran from BYP where always on hand to offer set up advice and tyre pressure tips on the track, and helped me when my car lost its oil on track and subsequently had a small fire! Their knowledge and encouragement helped me to achieve faster times and it is little wonder why BYP cars set such fast times in all the categories they enter. It is great to see they have combined their passions and started their own business doing what they love.

Building relationships with good people will mean better results and access to more knowledge.

Which lesson was your favourite? Please comment below.

I hope you enjoyed this post, I will be competing again in the Super Sprints in a Toyota FT86 GTS, stay tuned for updates on how that develops.

Elliott