ChCh Go Karters Win Formula Ford Test Drive

In July this year Motorsport Solutions sponsored a prize at the Christchurch Go Kart Championships.  James Penrose and Ryan McPherson won the prizes and came out on Friday 11th October for their test drive.  Below is James' story of his experience.

Motorsport Solutions Formula Ford Test Drive


What a great day it's been out at Ruapuna Raceway. After winning the National Schools Karting title in the 125cc Rotax Max Class in July, I was given a fantastic opportunity to an all expenses paid test drive in a Formula Ford funded by Motorsport Solutions. Ryan McPherson also won the 100cc Junior Yamaha Class and was given the same opportunity to test-drive the same Formula Ford.


On Monday 7th October, I was fitted up for the car and was able to get a feel for what it was going to be like on Friday. The car I was going to be driving was a Van Diemen Stealth which has won many Formula Ford National Championships and is a proven fast race car. With this car capable of reaching 220km/h, I knew I would enjoy every second of it.

On Friday 11th of October, I finally got my chance to have a go and drive a real race car. When we arrived John Crawford drove Ryan and I around the track in his van showing us the racing lines and giving us hints and tips along the way. I found this beneficial as this was my first time ever driving the entire Ruapuna track so I needed as much advice as I could get.

It was time for my first drive so this session was all about getting used to the car and the way it handles which is much different to my Go-Kart. Initially I found the pure speed at the end of the front straight quite daunting but throughout the session I became more confident and was able to brake later and later into the first turn. As well as the horsepower, there are many other differences as the braking is completely different and changing gears with an H-pattern gearbox on the right hand side added a new difficulty to driving fast. The gearbox took me the most time to get used to as it wasn't a conventional syncro gearbox but more like a motorbike gearbox where the faster I changed the better it was for the gearbox. Near the end of the session I felt comfortable enough to push the car a bit as I started to adjust to the completely new environment.

Throughout the day Ryan and I split four 30 minute sessions each as we started to get faster and faster every run. After a couple runs I got used to the car and started to make improvements everywhere. I found the most time I could make up was under braking as these cars were able to stop very fast from high speeds. I also started to find the limit I could push the car too which helped to improve my lap times significantly.

By the end of the day I managed to get my lap time down to 1 minute 36 seconds in the 4th and final session. This was an 8 second improvement from my first run in the car. A big positive is that I knew I could have easily gone much faster again as I didn't get many clear laps and made a few mistakes at different corners on my fastest lap. This means a lap time in the low 30's is easily achievable which is quite promising.

I also found the crew at Motorsport Solutions very helpful. Any questions I had about driving these race cars John Crawford was able to answer and give me other great advice. As John also is a very experienced racer himself, his ability to interact with drivers like myself is very good which made it much easier for me to improve throughout the day. Also, Karl the engineer who was looking after us and running the car for the day was also very positive and encouraging which made the experience even more enjoyable.

All in all it's been a very enjoyable and fulfilling day because I've learnt a lot about how to drive these cars and could see myself continuing to improve. A big thank you has to go to John Crawford and the whole Motorsport Solutions crew for the fantastic opportunity and all the help they gave me along the way. Lastly a big thank you has to go to my dad who if it wasn't for him then I would never have been given this opportunity.

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