The second race I took part in at the start of my racing career was at Goldfields Raceway in the Orange Free State. As I could not get a National racing license until I had taken part in 5 Club events I went to Welkom to take part in a Club event at Goldfields.
This circuit was really unique in that the fast sweep onto the long main straight was taken in top gear in a Formula Ford. At least that was the case for experienced drivers.
I arrived there on the Friday morning before the races in order to do a few laps and find out which way the circuit went. This was the first time I ever went to Goldfields Raceway and had no idea of how to drive the circuit at all. At the end of the pit straight there was a little S bend which led directly into a long 180 degree sweep onto the main straight. I thought I was doing pretty well by braking for the S and then shifting to 3rd gear and keeping my foot flat on the accelerator all the way around the sweep onto the main straight.
After a few laps I ran wide on the exit of the sweep and discovered a great big ant heap on the outside of the circuit. This destroyed the nose of the car and damaged the radiator. Not at all encouraging for a novice driver. I was directed to a radiator repair shop in Welkom and managed to get the radiator repaired. By this time it was getting quite late so back at the track I loaded up the car and drove to the nearby town of Hennenman where I had arranged to stay with Glen Rowden and his parents for the weekend. The whole family were keen racing supporters and officials and gladly got involved in repairing the car. That evening every thing was working again and the nose was sufficiently patched together to take part in the next days racing.
The next morning after being very generously fed by Glen’s mother we all departed to the track for the days racing. Being a club event I found I could take part in the single seater race of 2 heats as well as an all comers handicap race at the end of the day. I was competing primarily against someone in a Formula Vee in the single seater race. I should have been able to beat the Formula Vee quite easily but being pretty much a novice racer was continually overtaken in the braking area and the bends only to go past down the straights again. It was a great learning curve for me as I realized just how slow I was and also learned the correct lines around the corners when following the Formula Vee. By the end of the second heat I had learned a lot and was able to comfortably beat the Formula Vee.
By the time the All Comers race at the end of the day took place I was lapping almost 10 seconds a lap faster than I had been in the morning practice. It was a great feeling to actually win a trophy that day.
From a driving point of view I learned the importance of carrying as much speed as possible into and around the corners. The S at the end of the pit straight and the long sweep with experience became top gear corners. In later years racing National Formula Ford events we were exiting the long sweep in top gear at almost the cars top speed and then taking that speed all the way down the long main straight.
It turned out to be a great weekend for me despite the accident and I am really grateful for the hospitality and support of Glen Rowden and his parents over the weekend. Glen’s mother cooked great food and plenty of it so by the time I left to return to Johannesburg after lunch on Sunday I had been extremely well fed.
The Rowden family had a big influence on my racing career simply by the support they showed that weekend. There have been many more people over the years that encouraged me and gave a lot of support over the years. In time I will mention more of them in this blog.
Until next time