Jayden first time driving with Ricciardo’s Racers

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Jayden's first time on a race track with Ricciardos Racers run by Motorsport Australia

achieving a childhood dream

The past two years have marked two very important moments during my life; one, the first time I have ever driven a car, and two, the first time I’ve ever driven on a racetrack. Neither of these things would have happened without the Riccardo’s Racers program but more importantly the ability to manage my chronic disorder with the life changing addition of my Hemlibra medication

Riccardo’s Racers is a junior driving program supported by Formula 1 driver Daniel Riccardo and hosted by Motorsport Australia (Formerly the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, or CAMS). Designed for kids aged 12-17, the program is divided into 3 levels; Level 1 and 2 take place on the skidpan and focus on the basics of driving like driving position and observation, as well as basic and advanced car control and crash avoidance techniques. Level 3 takes it up a notch and heads to the racetrack and teaches the theory of track driving and how to do it as safely and controllably as possible.

When I learned about Riccardo’s Racers, I was very excited to try and participate in it, as it was a program where I could get my first experience in a car in a safe and controlled environment supervised by instructors. I would participate in both Level 1 & 2 on October 8th 2018, while I would move onto Level 3 by October 4th 2019.

Ricciardos Racers - Level 1

Level 1 of Ricciardos Racers would take place at Sydney’s premiere motorsport venue, Sydney Motorsport Park, with the driving being conducted within their purpose built skidpan. Our first order of the day would be a classroom session, where we learnt the theory about the very basics about controlling a car safely, as well as guidance about driving position and observation. 

Next would be the practical activities, and for many, including me, this would be our first time ever driving a car. Because of this, our first activities were very simple, concentrating on accelerating and braking in a straight line, where the goal would be to stop within the boundaries of a stopping area, testing accurate judgement of speed and braking distance. 

After this, we would participate in a couple of crash avoidance maneuvers, where we would have to navigate through cones that would simulate obstacles. One would be a brake and swerve maneuver, where we would approach a line of cones and have to pull to the side and stop to avoid it. Another would be the slalom test, where we would have to weave in-between a line of cones as quickly and accurately as possible.

The final activity would be a motorkhana test, which aims to assess how well a driver can maneuver through all the sections of corners and obstacles. In this test, everything that had been learned so far would be combined into this one course, including accelerating, braking and slaloming. The goal wasn’t about how fast you complete it, instead how you execute it.

Across all the courses, I did really well! The acceleration and braking test was very good, where I was consistently able to judge the braking distance of the car to stop in the stopping area. The same would be true in the brake and swerve, slalom and motorkhana tests, where I was one of the most accurate drivers in the group. With this, I passed Level 1 with flying colours, and was able to feel very confident in my abilities going into Level 2.

Ricciardos Racers - Level 2

Moving onto Level 2, this would take place on the same skidpan, but with its inbuilt sprinkler system turned on to dampen the skidpan and create more difficult conditions to test upon. Our classroom session would focus this time on more advanced car control techniques about driving quickly and driving in low grip conditions, with the goal to ensure that we had a good idea of how to handle a car safely at speed and while retaining control of the car.

The first activity would be another brake and swerve like Level 1, with the aim of learning how the car would react slower and with less grip in the wet conditions versus the dry. Next would be a circle test, where we would be accompanied by an instructor to test how the car’s turning radius would change with speed and weight transfer in Front Wheel Drive (FWD) cars like our Mazda 3, while in the instructor’s Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) Holden, we would be trying to hold the car in a slide around a circle. After all of this, our final activity would be a timed motorkhana, testing everything learned in Level 1 and 2 to complete the course as quickly as possible.

The brake and swerve and circle tests would go well for me, where I got to see just how different our Mazda handled with less grip, while in the instructor’s car, I did better than I expected and was able to hold a couple small slides! Not bad for my first time in a RWD car, but not as good as the Drift Cadet GT86 giving rides on the day! The final motorkhana would prove to be extremely fun, and I managed to set the fastest time of the group; 23.8 seconds on my first run!

Overall, both Level 1 and 2 courses were one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and the day taught me a lot about controlling and manoeuvring a car quickly and safely. This experience would make me very hopeful for the future and very excited about completing the Level 3 course and the Riccardo’s Racers program, and I finally did by October 2019.

Ricciardos Racers - Level 3

The third and final level of the Riccardo’s Racers would take us to Luddenham Raceway and the main 1.4km circuit, where we would learn the basics of fast, safe and controllable track driving. The classroom session of the day would guide us through all the safety precautions of the event and the basic theory of track driving, such as the driving line and the importance of vision. Then, we were all guided around the track by the instructors, stopping at key points to discuss how to navigate particular sections in the safest, most controllable way possible. Once all the teaching were completed, it was time for us to hop into our cars and start the speed limited track lapping.

I was put into the group lead by 7-time Australian and Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Cody Crocker, with our Mazda 3 lining up behind an Alfa Romeo and a Renault Sport Clio! 

Our first session was all about learning the track and getting a feel for the car, and during this period I did exactly that, learning how to navigate the car around the high and low speed corners and how the car reacted to the inputs I gave it. Then as we went for more and more sessions, we increased our speed until our only limit became the speed of the instructor. By the end of this, I became a lot more confident in the limits of the car, and I knew what the car could and couldn’t do, and I was able to keep up with the cars in front pretty well!

Our final session would see each of our respective instructors hop into our cars and give feedback for our driving. Despite the Mazda not being the fastest car of the day, Crocker seemed very pleased with my driving, and thought I could become a great driver with more practice in braking and car control. Not bad feedback from a rally champion!

Conclusion

Overall, the Riccardo’s Racers program was truly fantastic for my first driving experience. Level 1 and 2 gave me my first valuable skills in handing a car, while Level 3 allowed me to get my first taste of track driving. I would like to thank CAMS (now Motorsport Australia) for hosting such a good program for people like me, and well as mum for letting me use her car for all these events. 

I would also like to extend thanks to the owners of the Renault Clio in the Level 3 event, as they gave us valuable advice which would eventually lead to me getting a Clio myself for my first car. Having got my Learners for this year, I’m hoping I can use this experience to become a safe and respectful driver on the road, as well as get myself involved in more motorsport activities. Follow my story and hopefully you will seem more soon!

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