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Kyalami Motorsport Festival: A rookie preps for her first race

2016-10-20 13:05

GEARING UP: Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says she's channeling F1 legend Ayrton Senna as she preps for her very first race at Kyalami this weekend in the VW Medi Challenge.Image: Porsche / Achim Hartmann

Janine Van der Post

Cape Town - Wheels24's Janine Van der Post is a self-professed petrolhead. She's loved cars since she could say the words "twin-valve" and the sound of a loud exhaust makes her heart pump. Despite being a motoring journalist for 13 years however she has never raced before, at least not professionally on a race track.

This is all set to change as she heads to the revamped Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in October 2016 for the Volkswagen Media Challenge.

Ahead of the challenge, Van der Post seeks advice from race drivers to better prepare for the upcoming event.

How to prep for race

No matter how many racing games you've played, no matter how many race days you attend, or illegal 1/4-mile runs you might have done in your ignorant, younger days... nothing can prepare you for racing on a track against professionals.

I've completed many advanced driving courses throughout my career, I've completed many laps in awesome cars on some of the world's best racing tracks but it still isn't enough to prepare me for what lies ahead at Kyalami. What's worse, on the road I know how to hold my own against intimidating taxi drivers or reckless drivers.

To say I'm nervous, is an understatement and the only thing keeping my nerves from shattering is the fact that I am familiar with the seven rivals whom I'll be racing against.

Being a petrolhead means I have contact with racers, car enthusiasts, stunt drivers and even those who run their own advanced driving schools. So since there wasn't enough time to get some extra tips on track, I've turned to professionals for advice.

READY TO RACE: The VW Media Challenge cars being built and prepped in Uitenhage for the Motorsport Festival at Kyalami on October 21-23 . Image: Volkswagen SA Motorsport

Deon Joubert is a household name when it comes to South African racers. Hes been racing since he was 10 years old in 1975, and has 12 years of professional racing behind his belt. 

South African racing legend Deon Joubert has a few vital tips for Janine when she's behind the wheel:

1. Be comfortable
Deon Joubert: Make sure you get to your car about 5mins before the time than scheduled and make sure you're very, very comfortable once you'e strapped in. Your seatbelts have to be extremely tight, especially your lap/hip belts, and also your shoulder straps. Remember you'll have to be able to move freely once you're strapped in so sit closer than usual and ask for your set to be moved so your controls are easy to reach.

2. Get track time
DJ: Drive every single session that's available, be it orientation laps, practice sessions or qualifying. Be the first at the gate and get on the track. The more track time you have, the better to familiarise yourself. Just drive as much as you can.

3. Mindset shift
DJ: Remember qualifying you need to go as fast as you can, the race itself will be about consistent lapping. And, follow your fellow-racers if you have to. Even if they're faster than you, you can drive behind them or watch one thing they'e doing and learn from it.

4. Mentally prepare yourself
DJ: Since you won't be getting enough time for practice runs ahead of the event, get a map of the track and study it. If you know what's coming you'll know what's expected when you driving. And don't forget to brake, then turn.

5. But most importantly...
DJ: Remember who are you, that you're a wife and mom first, and motoring journalist, so put any egos aside. Have fun, don't take any note of all the testosterone flying around the track and just enjoy it. Don't crash the car, and don't get hurt. Rest and relax as much as possible prior to the race, and don't get caught up in the social buzz.

KNOW YOUR RACETRACK: Veteran raceace Deon Joubert says to study the map before the race and know the layout.  Image: Kyalami

Meet Ernest Page. He has 10 years of driver training and his CV includes being a drift coach for the South African National Fitness Champion, Firdous Asmodien, driving coach for Greatsoft Racings, Jared Simpson (Gti Challenge Rookie of the year 2015) and Monroe Racing SA's 16-year-old prodigy, Giodarno Lupini.

Page says: "Taking the leap from track days or spirited road driving to door to door racing can be a daunting task. It should be. The difference is vast and learning the art takes many laps of practice."

Here are a few important tips for our aspiring race car driver, Janine-Lee van der Post: List by Ernest Page

1. The race isn’t won on the first lap!
Ernest Page: Someone once famously said this, I’m sure. It’s true though, and staying out of trouble on lap one when others almost certainly won’t, can gain the first time racer a few valuable positions. This is the first lap of your first race. Take it easy.

2. To finish first, you must first finish. 
EP: Another overused quote but true to the tee. I always tell new drivers that the aim of the first race is to not crash the sponsors car. Crashing it later in the season is OK though - at that point they have no choice but to fix it!. Circulating safely and learning something new every lap is the best advice one can give a first time racer. Use the first race as a platform to learn the car and the art of driving.  This is the beginning of your journey. You’re nowhere NEAR as good as you can and will be.

3. Push harder in 2-5% increments
EP: Creeping up on the cars limit, or one’s personal limit can takes hundreds of laps for the newbie racer. Let’s think of the limit as a sheer cliff with an unforgiving 100m drop off. Running towards said cliff taking huge unrepentant leaps is of course, a bad idea. Taking smaller steps will ensure that if you do overstep the limit, minor adjustments will get things back on track. Do this for braking, acceleration and turning. 

4. Slow in, fast out
EP: Most time is gained mid corner and on the exit. Trying to be the last of the late brakers to try to gain lost time is an oft made mistake. SLOW IN EQUALS FAST OUT.

5. Look ahead
EP: The eyes are the most important asset on the track. Scan the road ahead and always look where you want to go. Once the eyes fixate on something, like a solid wall or apex, the brain and limbs conspire to make it true.  Sounds simple but turns out your parents were right when they screamed “LOOK WHERE YOUR GOING!”

6. “Smoothness is the hallmark of all (ok, most) great drivers”
EP: Being smooth is more important than being fast, the speed will come later. Make sure all movements are calculated and planned. Anticipate your movements and be smooth.

Media challenge returns

The Volkswagen Media Challenge is hosted by the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit and will see eight of South Africa's top scribes competing in a field of Volkswagen Motorsport Polo 1.2 TSI DSGs at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit’s inaugural race meeting over the weekend of 21 to 23 October 2016.

The Media Challenge, powered by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists is made possible by Volkswagen South Africa, who has built eight race ready Polos for the event.

Race fans can keep abreast with developments of the opening meeting via the kyalamigrandprixcircuit.com website, where tickets for the historic inaugural Kyalami race weekend are on sale via the Computicket link on the homepage.

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