The Excel that did – Bathurst 6 Hour

The Excel that DID - Bathurst 6 HourStephenson Motorsport – Official Press Release

On the Easter weekend, 14th – 16th of April, Stephenson Motorsport was competing in the 2017 Bathurst 6 Hour. This event is the most exciting round of the Production Car Series, where every team attempts to conquer the most prestigious race track in the country, Mount Panorama, Bathurst. The Stephenson Motorsport team consisted of 14 people, most of whom travelled from Adelaide in South Australia to Bathurst, NSW. We brought with us a 1998 Hyundai Excel X3 that Scott Stephenson has been preparing for more than 8 months in anticipation for the event. This was the only Hyundai in the event and the smallest car in both size and engine capacity.

Scott Stephenson, Chris Cotton and Tyson Harvey were the three drivers that were steering the Excel around the mountain over the weekend. Scott Stephenson is the team owner and the youngest team principal in pit lane this weekend at 21, as well as having Tyson Harvey who is the youngest in history to race on the Mount Panorama circuit, turning 16 years old on the Saturday of competition and who was unable to drive on the Friday due to the circuits rule of being 16 in pit lane. Chris Cotton was without a doubt the most experienced driver in our team, competing for many years with his Minis. All three of the drivers however, had never driven the 6.213km Mount Panorama circuit.
We were one of the first teams to arrive at the track on the Wednesday morning at 9am. Within an hour, the entire team was there and assisting to get the car ready. The car was stickered up with the sponsors of the event, the garage was set up with the team’s equipment and pit stop gear and the Hankook control tyres were put on the wheels.
Thursday was the major setup day for all 6 hour teams. The morning saw the team at the track by 7am to do a quick wheel alignment on the car, drain the fuel tank and do a track walk. The track walk was a massive eye-opener to the team and all three drivers, the circuit is tighter and faster than it looks on TV. The car and driver apparel was then scrutineered without any issues and we were good to go. You could feel the sigh of relief from the whole team when everything had passed and we knew that we were ready to go!

A very cold Friday morning saw the first practice session starting bright and early. Scott was to be the first one out starting in the car, spending his first few laps bedding in some brakes and scrubbing in a set of tyres.
After 15 minutes of sighting the track, getting some temperature into everything and coming to grips with the track and the car, he brought it back in to do some tyre pressures, then out again until the 30 minute mark. With 30 minutes left in the session, the car was back in pit lane for a driver change, Scott out, Chris in and then he stayed out there for the remaining 30 minutes. Scott and Chris both found these sessions very good experience as everyone was out there to learn the track and note how the car was handling. They both managed to get some relatively quick times that would get us well under the 130% times. It was tricky to get clear laps in with 65 other cars out there doing the same thing as us and most of which were quicker than us.

At the conclusion of session 1, Scott had set a time of 3:07.6 and Chris a time of 3:08.8. Both times are under the approximate 130% time that had to be met and both drivers having confidence in the track and car. Small changes were made to the cars wheel alignment and tyre pressures before practice session 2.

In practice 2 that afternoon, Chris went out first to scrub in a second set of tyres and setting a new personal best of 3:03.6. At the halfway point of this session, Chris pitted and Scott jumped in to finish the last 30 minutes of the session.

Again this gave the team some practice with driver changes and gave the two drivers a lot more confidence in the car and the track. At the conclusion of practice 2, Scott had a time of 3:02.7 and Chris had a time of 3:03.6. Both drivers reporting that the car was more predictable and controllable where it needed to be.

Saturday morning was of course Tyson Harvey’s 16th birthday, meaning that he was now allowed into the pit garage and finally to drive the car in the event. Practice 3 was a 40 minute session where Tyson was to spend the whole time out there with no driver changes, it was a very early morning session and everything was stone cold.

On Tyson’s out-lap, he unfortunately had a small lose at Murray’s corner and ended up bogged in the sand trap bringing out an early red flag for the session.

After being removed from the sand trap, he recovered and kept pushing on through the session, unfortunately another red flag meant that the session got shortened further and Tyson only got in 5 or 6 laps.

Qualifying was on at 12:20pm on the same afternoon, so a quick wheel alignment after practice 3 and the car was ready to go again. Scott was in the car to qualify as he had the quickest time so far for the weekend. Qualifying was split up into two groups, one for the top 50% cars and one for the bottom 50%. We were in the bottom 50% session. This meant that there would only be 33 cars on track at the one time which meant that it was more likely we would get some clear track to put down some quicker times.

After 3 laps Scott had set a new best time of 3:01.6. The team decided at the end of the third lap that Scott should pit so that we could get Tyson back in the car and give him some more laps.

Tyson responded well to the extra laps and managed to get the times down under the 130% of the fastest cars. Tyson proceeded to take the chequered flag at the end of qualifying making way for the 6 hour endurance race on the Sunday morning. We had qualified 55th from 64 cars and 7th in class.

On the Sunday morning you could feel the atmosphere around the team and the entire paddock was absolutely electric. The team had a quick briefing at the beginning of the day so that everyone understood the strategy for our race. There was a 20 minute warm up session first thing in the morning to get some heat into the car and finish off some last minute checks. In this session Chris was sent out to get some heat into the car. After 2 laps Chris came in and Tyson was put behind the wheel to finish off the session.

After the warm up there was 2 hours until the race start. The team did a quick wheel alignment check, made a couple of changes and the car was ready to hit the grid.

We had some steering troubles on the formation lap which meant that unfortunately we had to start from pit-lane so that we could fix the issue, this did not bother us too much as most of the cars behind us were quicker and would have found their way past anyway.

Scott was first in the car and started the race. The idea was that we make a pit stop every hour to do fuel and change drivers. The order was:
– 1st Hour: Scott Stephenson
– 2nd Hour: Tyson Harvey
– 3rd Hour: Chris Cotton
– 4th Hour: Tyson Harvey
– 5th Hour: Scott Stephenson
– 6th and final Hour: Chris Cotton

We are very pleased to say that we had absolutely no mechanical issues throughout the entire 6 hours of racing. There were a number of safety cars throughout the race and at each of these we made a driver change as they were roughly on the hour.

At every stop we topped the car up with fuel and did a driver change. On a few occasions we had to change the GoPro camera to continue recording the race and fill up the driver’s water bottle. At the beginning of Scott’s second stint in the car we also changed to a new pair of tyres on the front of the car just to help us make it to the end of the race with optimum grip.

At the end of the 6 hours of racing, the team managed to cross the line after a total of 6 hours and 1 minute of racing! Finishing up in 42nd place out of 66 cars for the weekend!

We had an absolute blast and are already planning our return to the mountain for the 2018 Bathurst 6 Hour. The experience was amazing for all of our team, none of us have entered an endurance race before.

We owe the success of the weekend to our amazing crew that all gave up their week to travel up to Bathurst and help us for the weekend!

We would also love to thank our sponsors who have been incredibly supportive since the beginning!

Webber Davies Conveyancers, Goanna Energy Consulting, Tyson Harvey Racing/Penrite Oil, Brakes Direct, GSL Rallysport, Instant Shower Screens, Carsforhope and Torren Race Cars.