Moved from riding diaries. TL/DR: V8 Buggy Extreme Drive 19 Laps + 1 Hot Lap Do it. Most of you people have discovered the phenomenon of the motorcycle. And I’m guessing that if you didn’t make the jump simply for a cheap (pffft) method of transport or the ability to ignore traffic jams then it has something to do with the mystery of the adrenal gland and that excellent drug that pours forth under the right stimulus. Today I took a ride in an Off Road Race Buggy, this thing Some of you may have heard of trophy trucks. These are identical, just in a more minimalistic shell. It consists of a Lexus 4.0L V8 positioned above the rear axle, roughly 24 inch by 10 inch tyres and 24 inches of suspension travel at each corner. And power. Don’t forget the power. It plays quite an essential role in the whole scheme of the operation. These things take a bit of effort to drive fast, rally cars are easy, you point and shoot, bang your there. They’re also quite boring I found, well they are when you do them at a rally school.... I think I need to back track slightly. For my 21st last year, I got various gifts off groups of friends. They were all vouchers for various stupid and dangerous things that people put themselves through. Flying a plane, hang gliding, hot laps in an Ariel Atom at EC, and 16 laps in a rally car. I’m sure you can see the common theme here. To cut a short story shorter, the hot laps became 6 laps in a rally car and the 16 laps became 19 in a v8 off road race buggy – the protagonist in this particular episode, and from here on referred to as “The Beast”. I did the rally day last weekend. It wasn’t what I hoped, to be honest. I was a bit annoyed bu the instructor telling me to upshift every time I got to 2000 rpm, well before any boost came on tap. All in all it made for a bit of an average experience. Other people seemed to have fun though, maybe my expectations were slightly elevated. So this week was the one I had been waiting for, off roading in a v8 go-cart. A biggish go-cart to be fair. The location was Colo Heights, about 40 km past the northwesterly corner of sydney, along the famed putty rd. The run from Colo valley to Colo Heights is enough to turn a man Japanese, The Vapors style. If it doesn’t arouse you, that is your fault, not the road’s. I suggest a prostate check if that is the case. Anyway. You arrive at the venue to the sound of the essential pop hits of the nineties. It started off excellently with Killing Heidi belting out Weir, but was followed my Effeil 65, Jenifer Lopez, Alice Deejay, Madison Avenue, Venga Boys, and a horrible remix of Delerium – Silence. You get the picture, all the songs that should have died with the 90’s and none of the ones that shouldn’t have. Alice Deejay is ok though, “Do you think you’re better off alone?” Ahh, hem hem, sorry. Jump in the beast. By the beast I mean a cage consisting of pipes and a couples pieces of sheet metal combined with an engine and wheels. Accelerator. Hello. So the weather for today is fine, a bit of high cloud and some stratus thrown in, no rain. The track is somewhere down there, down below. A fair bit of noise enters my ear, most of it is shouting, over the two way system. I think I did something wrong. Off the accelerator. Ahh, there’s the track, I knew you were there somewhere. Apparently I was supposed to change gears. Who knew? A few bits of information about driving these things. The gearbox costs $30’000. It’s the most expensive part of the car. It’s an australian box, and rated as about the strongest built in the world for vehicular use. The gearbox in a drag car which can take however much torque, can only cope with about 10% of that in these cars due to the environment they are driven in, so they get custom made jobbies. Taking off goes like this. Clutch out, get 2k up, in second, 2k, third, 2k, fourth. So you’re in fourth, rolling along at a stately 30-40 k’s or so. Once you’re in fourth, you forget about the stick, it stays there, without regard for anything, It almost stalled waiting for the other vehicle to get out of the way. And when I say almost, I mean it started to get a bit lumpy. That’s at a walking pace. In fourth. These engines are insane. When cornering, a few of the more self-assured males were certain that some right boot would fix her good, get the tail sliding and dirt flying. Well, they were halfway, it gets the dirt flying. Like my orignal description, accelerator = sky. Remember those trees you saw off the track at about mid corner? That’s where the right boot gets you, mixing it up with the trees. The huge suspension travel and rear engine means the thing attempts orbit. Front wheels loose any semblance of I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-friction and you end up wherever you were pointed. Understeer on tap, might as well be on ice. The rear wheels just have too much grip to loose traction. It might be possible in the lower gears, bust not in fourth and not at hairpins. That said, one of the instructors managed to spin it during the hot laps. Point is, it’s quite hard to get these beasts to drift, bust once they do, it’s fantastic. More on that later Soo, we are back at the accelerator. Walking pace in fourth. Noise. Vectors. Big ones and lots of them. All pointing that way ------->. Movement. All things yield to The Beast. dirt, rocks, butterflies, fluffy bunnies, kittens, people, Australian scrub, small trees. All things turn to entropy when subjected to the wrath of The Beast. Jump ahead. Off gas. Off ground. On ground. On gas. Continue. Braking point. Bam. 140 to 40, thank you very much. One of the instructors was telling me for all intents and purposes, you wont lock the fronts, though maybe the backs, but that still gives you steering. He was wrong. I got told off for that as well, apparently it rips up the track. These tyres are amazing. And huge. Mainly huge. Being huge makes them amazing. They pull up on dirt and gravel almost as quickly as a car on bitumen, if not quicker. Hmm, probably not quicker, but almost. They bloody work. Turn in. hairpin. Slowly does it. Really gentle, squeeze throttle as exit, goooood. If you continue the braking slightly into the hairpin, you can push the rear wide and careful throttle will just push it round quite nicely. But they don’t like you braking late so you can’t really trail the brake. Too much throttle = trees. Short straight. Accelerate. More sky. Next corner, s-bend. Jab on brakes, forward weight shift, half throttle. It’s a fickle game delicately balancing the throttle with the understeer. Getting it wrong = trees, but getting it right is magnificent. Out comes the rear. Just sits there. Flick it right and so do the rears. This things slides beautifully. So controllable and gentle. Almost floating. But that’s more the 24 inches of suspension at work than some sort of anti-gravity field. Either way, it’s fan-friggen-tastic. Straighten up, gas on, over some corrugations, rear sqirming all over the place. Off gas, off ground, on ground, on gas. On brakes, hairpin, careful on gas, onto the straight, start again. That last hairpin is a bit easier to get it tail out due to a smaller braking zone so more chance of a late brake. That’s really the only way you will get it sideways in the hairpins, backing it in under brakes. The common theme back in the pits was “Not long enough”. The standard pack was 8 laps, enough to just start to get the hang of it, but not enough to flop out the babymakers. I was lucky and had a ticket to the main event, the big boy. 19 laps, which gave you enough at the start to get the hang of it, and then another 10 or so at the end to go nuts. Sure, you’re coughing up a bit of the hard earned, but you wouldn’t want to go home unsatisifed. Trust me. It was at the end of those ten going nuts that the instructor asked me what I did. Upon clarification, what do I race? Nothing. I have ridden a bit though. Ahh, dirt bike? Nah, on road. Oh. The hot laps were done in a Trophy Truck, which was exactly the same set up, just a different shell. The point of all of this is that this was the most fun I have ever had commandeering a powered vessel. Bar none. In fact, I would almost pit it against what I believe to be quite possibly the most fun experience known to mankind while upright, a night at a rave. (However there are still a few activities I haven’t had a chance to compare, that being bungee and skiing. I intend to rectify those soon, the bungee within a calendar month). In fact it was so much fun that during the drive home, I could almost see myself taking up racing them. However, the reality of being perpetually broke didnt really carry a huge appeal. Would I consider doing it again? I wouldn’t even think twice, I’d already be at the track. Even if I had to stump up the cash myself. So to wrap this up. Do it. And don’t grow a vagina and only do the 8 laps, go for the whole shebang. $500 got me a four hour return trip and 20 minutes in the hot seat. You’d be insane to miss it. Best fun I’ve ever had on wheels. Or in the air. Or anywhere else, really. Postscript. On the way home, heading towards wilberforce, mid corner, a dollar + assorted taxes. Hello. Big bastard truck, the type that carry the earthmovers, belting along at about 40 km/h. On the back was not an earthmover though. It was a caterpillar track, just one, the kind that earthmovers move around on. But this one was a bit different. For a start, it was six feet wide. And about 8 metres long. And it was about 6 foot high. Not something I see everyday. I assume it was something for one of the mining machines in the singleton mines, but no idea where it would be heading.