“You’ve got to be fast, but you’ve got to be careful”
Australian driver Tony Bates of Tony Bates Racing is no stranger to the Adelaide Street Circuit; 3.2km of unforgiving barriers and tight and twisting turns, incarnated as a race track just once a year for the Adelaide 500, in 2018 celebrating its 20th anniversary. The temporary circuit located in the heart of Adelaide city centre is where the Cup made its Australia debut in front of 265,000 spectators. Racing there for the ninth time in 2018, Tony is something of a veteran of the legendary track – but not in an Audi R8 LMS GT3, which he describes as “a sensational car to drive here”.
So, what’s it like wrestling a GT3 thoroughbred between the unforgiving barriers and 14 tricky turns of the incredible Adelaide Street Circuit at breakneck speeds? We talked through a lap with our round two winning driver.
“It’s a committed track. It’s a street circuit. There’s no run off. You’re off and you’re in the wall. You’ve got to be fast, but you’ve got to be careful.”
“Turns one and two, you’ve got to get those right or it can get ugly. Turn one: that’s such an important part of the track in terms of getting it right so that you can set yourself properly for turn two. If you manage both of these turns well, you can maximise the straight run into turn four. You’ve got to stay off the inside kerb at turn one or it unsettles the car. You can’t take too much of turn two or you’ll just lift the car up in the air, and you can’t get too little of the corner because it’ll spit you off. You’ve really got to get turns one and two bang on to maximise the straight before turn four.
Turn four, if you don’t get this one right you’ll shoot off at the end of the straight. Getting to turn four is like driving over speed humps on a road. It’s bouncy and bumpy, and it’s narrow. Right in the maximum braking zone of that turn is where it gets really bumpy, so the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) is somewhat confused through there. You’re trying to hold the car up, trying to maximise the ABS, but the ABS isn’t working as well as it normally does because of the bumps. It’s challenging! You may have seen a lot guys shooting off the circuit at the end of the straight because the ABS isn’t kicking in. The brake modulation there is really important to get the ABS to work.
The next part, turns four to seven, is what we call the ‘staircase’. It’s really important to flow the car through there and mid-corner speed is important too. The exit of turn seven is crucial for that all-important run up to the big straight there.
Turn eight is probably one of the most treacherous turns in Australian motorsport, if not the world. Trickiest, most treacherous, whatever superlative you want to throw at it. It’s a turn that you have to respect. You’re approaching it at about 240kph, and probably going through the actual turn at up to 210kph. You have to be really careful to stay off the inside ripple there because that can throw you out. Don’t turn in too early, don’t turn in too late. ‘Committed’ is an understatement, but it’s a really committed part of the track. It’s exciting when you get it right, and it’s heart-racing when you have a moment there.
The rest of the track is really flowing. Turn nine is massive under brakes; get down to first gear to assist you in getting around that turn.
The rest of the track really is a matter of flowing with it and staying off the kerbs to be fast. You get to that sweeper at turn 13 and you saw pretty much every other category over the Adelaide 500 weekend is taking kerb there and we have to stay off that kerb in the Audi R8 LMS GT3. Considering we don’t take kerbs and our times are comparative to the V8s that shows you that the Audi is a fast car around here. Particularly as you can’t take any short cuts. You’ve got to be committed and precise. I would say some guys are flat (full throttle) through there and some guys aren’t.
If you go flat through there it is another ‘hold on to your underwear’ moment because you can’t afford to drop a wheel on the other side of the track and get on to the grass. In qualifying you’re flat through there, but in a race, you’d probably have a bit of a lift (off the throttle) there to be conservative.
Then, again, you get down into first gear at the last turn of the straight, turning the car in and trying to maximise the run back to turn one. And that’s a lap of the circuit!”
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup drivers may have made it look easy, but the Adelaide Street Circuit’s reputation as a harsh taskmaster is well deserved. The circuit in downtown Adelaide provided the perfect platform to kick off season 2018 of the Cup, but we don’t stop. Next up: the mighty Nürburgring on May 11-12.