Mazda6 Celebrity Challenge

Okay, let me get one thing clear – at no time did I go out on the amazing Albert Park race track with any intention to damage my beautiful Mazda6.

Yes, I am an aggressive driver but in my defence I was trained by Mark Skaife and we all know he was not a light touch during his illustrious racing career!

So, now that I have that off my chest, WOW what a week!!!!!

Starting on the Sunday night before the Grand Prix, with a very civilised meet and greet with all the celeb drivers, Mazda peeps, GP officials and our driving trainers. We received our first briefing, got introduced to our sexy Mazda6 and got kitted up in our Revolution Racegear race suits (custom made and very stylish with our names embroidered all over it!).

I have to say I did feel very up myself at this stage.  It must be every boy’s dream to be given a bag full of shiny new race gear, a car that has been fitted out with roll cages, race seats, harnesses, bright racing stickers and your name plastered on the window!

I was very excited and for those of you who know me, you know that I am a bit of a rev head.  I love my cars and bike and have always dreamed of getting on a race track, so when I got the phone call from my good mates at the 2013 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix I almost wet my pants with excitement.  Special thanks to Lauren Hansen, Jeremy Kann, and the big boss Andrew Westacott for making this dream of mine come true.

Let’s start with Monday morning…

7.30am – We all started to make our way to breakfast and it really did feel like the first day of school.  No one really knew who to sit with or who to talk to, but after a few cups of coffee everyone opened up and we all realised that we were all equally as excited and scared.

The bus ride out to Sandown was full of banter, nervous laughter and anxious tension. When we finally got there we found an amazing facility set up for us by our host and sponsor Mazda Australia.  I have had the pleasure of coming to Sandown for club days before and let me tell you they don’t look this special! And thank God for the the air conditioners in the lounge!  We had 35 degrees every day and the in-car temp was about 45 degrees on the track!

There was no way in hell that CAMS was going to let us all loose on the 2013 Formula 1® Rolex Australian GP track on the world stage to embarrass the country without being qualified race car drivers, so we had to go through a three day intensive training course to acquire our CAMS racing license.  Who better to teach us than the five time winner of the V8 Supercar Championship Series, Mark Skaife?!

I won’t go into too much detail about who was fast and who was slow during training, we will just let the results from the big race speak for themselves 😉   What I will say is that those I had the pleasure of meeting and spending the week with were the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.  I think when you spend that much time with people you start to see who they really are and you either click or you don’t.  I am happy to say there was a lot of clicking going on!  Getting to know my fellow drivers and building bonds that I hope will last the test of time was the best part of this experience.

Special thanks to all the crew at Skaife Racing, Mazda Australia and Sandown for the way you looked after us. You did an impeccable job and made the experience all the better.

“Hard breaking, gentle and smooth turning, make the apex, slow in and fast out, racing line, use the whole track, stay on the black stuff, don’t do anything strange, DON’T COME OFF THE ROAD, DON’T DAMAGE THE CARS!!!!!” This pretty much sums up Skaife’s lessons during training!  I am proud to say that I wasn’t one of the drivers who damaged a car during training, I didn’t even have a scratch on my baby!  That was of course until I got to the race track…

I qualified 4th with an under-powered car (and I know Mazda are going to say I am making it up, and you all are probably thinking that I am making excuses, BUT even the great man Mark Skaife said my car was low in power!! so HA!)

I then had my eyes firmly set on jumping the queue and I knew it would be a battle with the champ Brad Hodge and visiting royalty Sir Chris Hoy.  I was also a bit worried about the relentless pressure I was receiving from the Olympic gold medalist Anna Meares who was by far the quickest of the girls.

From what I hear there was a bit of carnage happening at the back of the field with cars coming off the road, cars being T-boned and just general smash-up derby tactics. I am happy to say that at the front of the pack we were a bit more civilized……… well almost.  I’m sure you have seen the races and I would be lying if I said that our cars made it through unscathed, but I can say that it was all just competitive racing and when you are in the mix with athletes who have competed on the world stage and a actor who is otherwise now as “badness” you can’t pussy foot around!

So I made my presence known and that passing move on “Badness” in Sunday’s race I have to say  was worthy of a V8 Supercar race and in my view totally legal and should be commended rather then scrutinised and picked apart!

All in all it was a once in a lifetime experience to be racing at the 2013 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix, one of the premier events on the international calendar, and it is one of the top billing events that make Melbourne the best city in the world to live.  We are so lucky to live here, everyone has such a passion for everything that happens here and I wouldn’t want to live in any other city in the world.

Thank you so much to everyone who made it possible; Mazda, the 2013 Formula 1® Rolex Australian GP staff, Mark Skaife and all of his crew and the army of thousands behind the scenes that it takes to make this event possible.

To all of my new celeb challenge buddies, thank you so much for making me feel so welcomed.  You are all now considered family and I can’t wait to catch up with you all soon.  Maybe a bite to eat at Maha and a reunion if we can manage to get all of our schedules sorted out!  I’m still buzzing from the race, and every morning I wish I could shoot downstairs and find all of my fellow drivers there so we can have breakfast and talk up our chances for today’s race.  Cooper’s stories, Em’s singing, Mag’s daily weather report, Lehmo’s jokes, Kate’s daily newspaper appearances, Renee’s scary manager, Meares’ glare and game face, Scotty’s manly beard, Hoy’s MASSIVE legs, Tarrant’s arms, Hodgie’s killer driving, and everything else that made this such a unforgettable week. Thank you so so so sooooo much to everyone.

And especially to Mazda – a big thank you and sorry for the damage….. zoom, zoom, zoom.

– Shane Delia