An invitation for a hot lap in the new Team 18 IRWIN Racing ZB Commodore hit the WTW office and Features Editor Jamie Gray was on it like a Bondi seagull on a hot chip.
The last time I tasted some high speed was in Germany earlier this year where I hired a Porsche. I found an empty section of autobahn with no speed limit and managed to wind the Porsche up to 260kph. It was a gradual build of speed, giving myself time to adjust to the experience and vehicle on a basically straight, then winding, section of road. A hot lap with Bathurst winner Steven Richards was a completely different experience that would have me pushed hard back into my seat for most of the time.
In the lead-up to my V8 Supercar experience, I arrived at Willowbank Raceway, near Ipswich in Queensland, to spend the day in the pit area with the IRWIN team and get a feel for the Supercar series. Even though it was race day and everyone had their race faces on, I was met with smiles and welcomed into the IRWIN Racing pit area.
The race day itself turned out to be pretty encouraging for the team. Mark Winterbottom catapulted the car from 17th on the grid up to a 10th-place finish, and if not for some unlucky traffic he could have easily been sixth or seventh.
Just being on the edges of the team was an exhilarating experience. Rubbing shoulders with team owner Charlie Schwerkolt, who was happy for a chat, team manager Steve Henderson, technical director Phil Keed and the rest of the talented team was an enjoyable experience. The way they all worked together to get the most from the IRWIN supercar was like clockwork. Team driver Mark Winterbottom was the consummate professional, being photographed with his fans one minute, then snapping into race mode and sharing technical driver feedback with the engineers the next. If you haven’t been to watch a V8 Supercars event, I highly recommend it.
I was to be the first in the IRWIN V8 Supercar on the morning of the hot laps.
The adrenaline was already pumping, but after a pre-lap chat with Steven Johnson I was even more amped to go.
Fully suited up, and with my neck brace and helmet fitted, it was finally time to go.
For a minute I thought I wasn’t going to fit into the car. Being a big bloke, trying to fit through the small door opening was a challenge. I twisted, stretched and contorted just to squeeze between the bars of the roll cage, and I still didn’t find myself in the seat. It wasn’t the most graceful of entries, but after one last bend that felt like I was going to snap in half like a crusty stick of garlic bread, I was in. The crew strapped me down tight and Steven gave me the nod. As the car slowly made its way down the pit lane I could feel the engine was ready to explode into action. The $647,000 V8 Supercar felt like a racehorse with the jockey pulling back on the reins before being put into the gates. What was to follow was everything I had hoped for and more.
The Ultimate V8 Experience
Steven Richards gave me a final thumbs-up before planting his foot on the accelerator and the beast of a V8 took off with a crackle and roar like nothing I’d felt before. It was like a like an F35 fighter jet.
The only way I can explain the adrenaline-fueled experience was as a sensory feast.
The G-force of the instant power, the howling growl and raw power of the custom-built, Australian-made V8 engine made it feel like my insides were being pushed around inside me. Every surge of acceleration or equally impressive last-millisecond, massive drop in speed before cornering – any later and we’d have hurtled straight past the corner at 250kph or more – felt like I was going to turn inside out.
I loved it!
Dream Come True
It was the feeling every car enthusiast dreamed of. Experiencing the very pinnacle of what is possible in a Commodore was an epic experience.
Watching the cars hit speeds of over 250kph in just seconds doesn’t truly convey the feeling from inside the vehicle, even with all the cameras and amazing angles captured on race day. The one thing you can’t capture is the effect of the G-forces, along with the feel of the engine and the noise, and they made this experience one I won’t forget in a while.
Make sure you keep an eye on the IRWIN Racing team as it will only be a matter of time before it gets on the podium. With such an impressive talent pool, from Mark Winterbottom all the way through to the talented mechanics, this team means serious business.