Fledgling Cobram driver Ben Hamilton has made an impressive start to the Victorian State Championships in the Nissan Pulsar category, finishing fifth in the overall standings over a weekend of racing on March 2 to 4 at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne.
‘‘I set myself an aim to finish top five in the category and I achieved that, so I was pretty rapt with the outcome,’’ Hamilton said.
Being the first race of the season, there was always bound to be some rust in the performance and chinks in the car’s armour — and frustratingly, this was exactly how it played out for the inexperienced driver.
‘‘The good result almost did not happen; it was a pretty rough start to the weekend,’’ he said.
‘‘On the Friday I was doing about 170km/h and went to put the foot on the brake and there was no reaction.’’
It is perhaps every racer’s worst nightmare; a mechanical fault in the brakes while travelling at high speed.
It made for a very uneasy few seconds behind the wheel that must have felt like a lifetime for the young driver. Thankfully, in this instance, luck was on his side.
‘‘It was just a maintenance thing; first time I had been in the car all year and I just forgot to maintain the brake fluid,’’ Hamilton said.
He said in those fleeting moments, he was required to draw on improvisation to ensure his safe passage around the bend.
‘‘I went around the corner at 170km/h and came down through a section of bends — and as you do that you need to put your foot on the brake to go from 170km/h to about 70km/h to try and make a left-hand turn.
‘‘When I did that there were no brakes, so what I had to do was try and pump the pedal like you would do in a regular car to try and get some brake pressure. Eventually I got some and just managed to pull the car up in time.’’
He said the problem only took 10 minutes to fix, and he was in no doubt the situation could have been far worse as he was heading straight into a sand-trap which he described as ‘‘shallow’’ and was not certain it would have stopped the car in time to prevent a major collision with the barrier.
‘‘I was also very lucky there were no cars ahead of me — because if there was, I would have wiped them out.’’
While the weekend got off to more than a shaky start, Hamilton’s fortunes improved as the event progressed.
Testing on the Friday showed the car’s engine was ‘‘choking’’ due to poor airflow, which restricted its output significantly.
The second race on the Saturday was more promising as Hamilton began making up ground on his opponents with some ‘‘good battles’’, while the final race on the Sunday started terribly when he was clipped and spun out, but Hamilton managed to claw his way back to sixth spot which meant a respectable result of fifth in the final standings.