The promising development of young Mount Gambier racing driver Kai Allen broke new ground last week when he realised every revhead’s dream.
Last Monday will be an afternoon Allen will never forget after he drove Brodie Kostecki’s #99 Boost Mobile Erebus Motorsport Holden ZB Commodore around Queensland Raceway.
The opportunity presented itself after the Erebus Academy linked up with renowned talent developer and 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris to give six young guns the chance to drive a Supercar.
Not only did Allen jump behind the wheel, he got a taste of the full Supercars Championship driver experience completing 18 laps around the “Paperclip” during a test session which also included a full debrief with Kostecki’s race engineer George Commins.
Even after a week since the special stint, the 16-year-old was still buzzing from the adrenaline rush.
“It still feels a bit surreal,” Allen said.
“Coming out of the pits with more than 600 horsepower was a bit scary.
“The car went twice the speed to the Toyota 86, so the adrenaline was pumping and I did not sleep much that night because I was still buzzing.
“I could not believe how good they are to actually drive and now I know why all the V8 Supercar drivers love their job.
“It was a pretty cool car and got in some fast laps which was fun.”
In the past Allen has driven an array of impressively fast machines in his short career such as a go-kart, Toyota 86, Hyundai Excel, Porsche Carrera Cup and a Holden LC GTR Torana, but they are nothing compared to the beast of the Commodore.
With 635-plus brake horsepower from the roaring 5.0 litre Chevrolet V8 engine and the huge front splitter and rear wing aero producing over 300 kilograms of downforce, there was a lot for the teenager to handle.
But Allen kept it on the black stuff for all 18 laps in the three sessions and said the biggest challenge was getting his brain around the Supercar’s unique gearbox and how to carry the speed through Queensland Raceway’s sweeping bends.
“The most enjoyable part of it all was learning the sequential gearbox and plucking all the gears through,” he said.
“Coming into turn 3 at about 240kph and going down the gears and being on the brakes as hard as I could to slow down to 80kph was surreal, so there was a fair bit happening.
“It took a while to get used to the sequential gearbox but that was really cool learning how it worked and getting the brake pressures right.
“It put the brain to the test, but the car handled much better than I thought it would.
“The car had a fair bit of grip with the front splitter and rear wing, so the faster you go, the more grip you had which is a bit weird to think about.”
Despite the sheer speed differential between the Holden Commodore ZB race car and his usual Toyota 86, Allen said the biggest difference was the Supercar’s braking power.
“There were a few factors, but the biggest thing was the brakes,” he said.
“The Toyota has a booster, so the brakes are quite soft and the biggest thing was getting used to how much brake pressure I needed to hold and for how long.”
To get himself ready for the ride of a lifetime, Allen said the intense build up with Kostecki showing him the ropes of the race car was the perfect preparation for the real thing.
“Not too many things caught me off guard because they prepared it for us,” he said.
“We sat in the car at Norwell to work out how much brake pressure we needed because it has a little gauge on the dash.
“To know where to hold the brake was important because I would not have known how hard to push the pedal.
“We also watched footage of Anton (De Pasquale) driving, Brodie showed us how hard to pull gears and Paul Morris was also their teaching me a few techniques.
“I am grateful to have experienced mentors around me because if it was not for them and the Norwell team, I would have gone into it pretty blind.”
But the hard work did not finish after Allen stepped out of the Commodore.
He also got a taste of the whole race weekend experience by working closely with engineer Commins casting an eye over all the data to identify the strengths and weaknesses.
“We did three sessions spilt by breaks to work on a few things with Brodie’s engineer,” Allen said.
“We looked at the data to see if I needed more brake pressure, hold it longer and slowly let it out which is called bleeding it off which was the big thing we worked on between sessions.
“We reviewed a lot of footage, so that all tied it in and having a proper debrief was a bit of an eye opener.”
Fellow Erebus Academy Toyota 86 Series competitors Ryan Casha and Lockie Bloxsom, plus Hyundai Excel racers Campbell Logan, Connor Roberts and Luke Pink also drove their maiden laps in the Erebus Supercar.
With a dream test session of a Supercar under his belt, Allen said the desire to make it to the main game one day is bigger than ever.
“I have lost sleep because all I want to do is drive a Supercar again,” he said.
“Hopefully I can do a few more test days and the main goal is to get into one next year (Super 2 or 3).
“It has only added more fuel to the fire, so I want to get into one quickly.”