22
Oct
17

Racetracks I have driven Chapter 2 Calder Park

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Calder Park was opened in 1962, the property was owned by the Pascoe family, the racetrack was opened in 1962. This was just after the sealing of the surface prior to that it was a dirt track! In the photo above you can clearly see the Thunderdome, National and original or club layouts of Calder then the full circuit used linking roads to join the road course to the Thunderdome. That particular layout was rarely used and the main time it was it hosted the World Touring Car Championship

Calder has hosted a massive variety of events and undergone huge changes, since that time. Events hosted there have been, Circuit, Drag, Nascar, Rally cross, Drifting, Car Club events and Quarter Horse Racing. The venue has hosted concerts as well, Fleetwood Mac, Santana at the Rock Arena Shows and Guns and Roses come to mind! Other activities have been driver training, Corporate drive days and functions! During the 1970’s and 1980’s there was a constant evolution and growth of the property and facilities. This link shows an aerial pic of the heyday at  Calder Park Stadium The 70’s and 80’s was a time where Calder hosted the Australian Grand Prix from 1980 to 1984 prior to Adelaide hosting the Adelaide Australian Grand Prix  Niki Lauda RT4

The years of 1981 to 1984 the Australian Grand Prix was held for Formula Pacific cars with invited Formula 1 drivers of the time these included Nikki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Alain Prost, Alan Jones, Jacques Laffite, plus our own stars John Smith, Alfie Costanzo, John Bowe, Bruce Allison, to name a few

Here are a couple of my own pics from Calder dating back to 1979 in the Cortina Gt

Driving Calder was a challenge it was easy to be quick there but to be fast was very different.  It was rewarding in each of the 4 layouts and each quite different requiring a different approach. The track was extended in 1986 to include the downhill run on the main straight and Mt Jane, then at the same time the Thunderdome work was also progressing.

The original track had a RH U turn about half way down the main straight as it is now, this is a double apex corner that narrowed towards the entry to the back straight. The run up the straight then took you into a sweeping right turn and very quickly into a sharp left turn (this section of the track was noticeably changed with the extension) you then had a short Straight before going into Gloweave which had a concrete wall around it! It needed a wide entry and a brave driver to drive at the wall and turn late to get a late apex to enter the main straight once again! I managed to break the under 2.0 litre Sports Sedan Lap record on this layout but as it was in practice it wasn’t recorded!

The National layout I really enjoyed! It took real commitment to be fast there! The start /finish line was in the same place as before but you had a much longer run into the first corner. Just after the old turn 1 or Repco corner, you start the downhill run and on a windy day if you had a crosswind you would go a little sideways over the drop as the rest of the track was well shielded by the Thunderdome and Grandstands! Just where the hump was to begin the downhill was an open section where there was no wind break and while you were light going over there the wind could blow you off line! This was a fast section of the track and by the time you in the braking zone you were busy pulling it up, at this point my car was pulling 9600rpm and I was on the brakes at 120 metres to be back to first gear for turn one and holding first for the tight and twisty right, left. That lead to Mt Jane which you had to be in 2nd gear before cresting it as you needed to have the car straight going over there and well settled as you got to the crest as it got light over there and would easily be sideways over the hill! Next was the downhill run into the dip which approached the kink in the back straight this is where the original Repco corner was, this section was so fast and you needed to use the curbs my car was in a slide through this section and I would end up using every little bit of the road! We then would approach the very sharp almost more than 90 degree corner! Again the tacho was close to 9600 rpm and at 75 metres the brakes got a big hard push to slow it all to select first gear (1st was 100Kmh) then through the left and into the new Gloweave which was approximately 75 metres before the original which was at that time the pit entry road! the new Gloweave had a tight entry and opened out to a fast and wide exit and you were then on the way to finish the lap!

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The combined circuit as is clearly seen in the photo above the program slide show, was so different to anything we have had or will ever have here in Australia! It was demanding, difficult, and fast! From the start you had a relatively short run to the first corner which was a blind left hander that halfway through dropped down hill to join the Thunderdome. The exit of the corner was off camber, then it was a fast run into the high banking and staying about half way up the banking, it was a case of constant acceleration. This was the case all the way through the tri oval section and finally into the second banked turn. This was where you had to be hard on the brakes to make the sharp uphill left turn! The entry was off camber and then it levelled off at the crest of the hill between the tracks. Then dropped sharply on to the National track, the changes of camber and elevation in the road meant it was very easy to travel most of that distance on two wheels!!

Thunderdome, this was the first oval track built outside of the USA and I can very clearly remember the construction of it which seemed to take for ever, but when it was built the view of it was amazing! Another great memory was seeing Richard Petty testing there before the opening! That was an awesome sight to see the King on an oval alone I feel so privileged to have been there that day!

I only ever ran a HQ on the Thunderdome and it was really quite an experience entering the banking up high almost brushing the concrete walls  at full speed was really very exhilarating! In the banking there was no left and right it was more up and down which really changed the perspective of driving dynamics. From the entry you would then set your course about half way up the banking mid corner and exit right out near the wall. The cornering forces were enough to try to push you through the bottom of the seat! The experience of competing on the ‘Dome’ was fantastic!

Enjoy the slideshow and Videos of the various categories and times through the history of Calder Park

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1 Response to “Racetracks I have driven Chapter 2 Calder Park”


  1. 1 lorelopes
    October 23, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Again, another fantastic post! This makes the history so alive and I was entertained from the beginning until the end of the text! What a great history of this track! Congratulations dear!

    Liked by 1 person


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