Aussie Driver Search 2018 – Phillip Island Circuit

The Aussie Driver Search has grown significantly since its inception in 2016 and gives anyone an opportunity at motorsport.  This year’s Aussie Driver Search features a lot more events with a greater number of prizes on offer for the winners.  I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the Rookie Competition this year to compete at Sandown Raceway however noise restrictions meant a change of location to the iconic Phillip Island Circuit.

 The 2018 edition of the Aussie Driver Search features the following dates and locations:

May 28 – Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW.

June 12 – The Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia.

June 25 – Winton Motor Raceway, Victoria.

July 12 – Morgan Park Raceway, Queensland.

August 31 – Barbagello Raceway, Western Australia.

September 20 – Phillip Island Circuit, Victoria.

October 24 – Norwell Motorplex, Queensland.

November 5-6 – Wakefield Park Raceway, NSW.

December 11-12 – Wakefield Park Raceway, NSW (finale).

This year’s Aussie Driver Search consists of five different competitions.  The Pro Competition consists of 10 minute drives in an ex-Ford Falcon FG V8 Supercar, Toyota 86 Race Series Car and V8 Ute.  Ten entrants per event are chosen to progress to the finale in December with the winner receiving a fully funded drive worth over $600,000 in the 2019 Super 2 Championship with Matt Stone Racing.  The Semi Pro Competition consists of 10 minute drives in a BMW 130i, V8 Ute and Toyota 86 Race Series Car.  Ten entrants are chosen to progress to the finale with the winner receiving a $150,000 racing budget.  The GT Competition consists of a 10 minute drive in an Audi R8 LMS GT3.  Five entrants are chosen to progress to the finale with two winners sharing a drive in an endurance round of the 2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship.  The Amateur Competition consists of 10 minute drives in a Toyota 86 Race Series Car and Nissan Pulsar SSS Race Car.  Ten entrants are chosen to progress to the finale with the winner receiving a $50,000 race budget.  The Rookie Competition includes a 10 minute drive of a V8 Ute with three entrants per event winning V8 experience drives.

Judges in the 2018 Aussie Driver Search include:

John Bowe – Two time Bathurst winner and former Australian Touring Car Champion.

Glenn Seton – Two time V8 Supercar Champion.

Steve Owen – Two time Super 2 Series Champion.

Ryal Harris – Three time V8 Utes Series Champion.

I got to the circuit at 10am to organise my CAMS Licence, Race insurance and fill out ADS and CAMS Disclaimer forms.  The driver’s briefing took place not long after and was held by Kyle Austin.  Like last year’s event, he discussed what the judges were looking for in order to progress to the finale.  Glenn Seton also spoke about his experiences in the sport and the nature of the circuit.  He put an emphasis on being smooth, consistent and showing mechanical sympathy.

The judging criteria are as follows:

– Driver was in full control of the car.

– Correct racing lines were used.

– Correct braking markers were used.

– Driver allowed the car to flow through the corners.

– Driver used smooth steering inputs.

– Gear changes were smooth and accurate.

– Throttle application was smooth and controlled.

– Driver responded well to coaching.

– Driver’s attitude was positive and enthusiastic.

– Driver’s speed and consistency.

Drivers are marked out of 10 for each category.  My drive began at 2pm and as it was my first time on the track I asked the instructor to give me some coaching for the first lap.  I drove a V8 Ute at the Marulan circuit in 2016 and felt like I had a good grasp of the car however the Phillip Island track is much faster.  Coming out of the pits and heading into Doohan Corner for the first time was a great experience however I braked a bit late heading into the Southern Loop.  The corner was much tighter than how it appears on TV and quite challenging.  Once past the apex of the corner, I applied the throttle for the run down the long straight towards Honda Hairpin.  Again, it was a challenge pulling the car up and I took the corner in third gear.  I headed towards Siberia and was told to hit the apex and use the entire road on exit to build up speed towards the hayshed.  It was a tricky and fast section of the track where you need to really flow the car.  Turning to the left around Lukey Heights was tricky on the first lap and I struggled to find a good line through here.  A big brake application was made for the MG hairpin and then speed was gained for the final fast corner.  There were cones set up just before the corner to encourage participants to drive on the ideal racing line.  After getting a good run through the final corner, I’d say that the car was hitting about 200km/h down the front straight.  The next few laps I continued to listen to the instructor in regards to throttle application, steering input, hitting apexes, using the entire track, braking and corner exit.  It felt like I was starting to get a grasp of the car and track but then had to come in to the pits as my drive was over.  It would’ve been nice to have a full day of testing!

I didn’t win the event but managed to get a 68/100 from the instructor, not a bad achievement for my first time at the wonderful Phillip Island circuit.  Thanks again to all the Aussie Driver Search crew for a great day.

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