Driver Profile – Rob Vile
I have always loved motor racing. We lived in Glen Waverley and my dad took me to the Formula 5000’s at Sandown every time they were on. A wall of ferocious noise coming straight for us on the hill at turn 6 – I was hooked. Even when I saw Johnny Walker mow down the horse rail when I was just 11, it still enthralled me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I think I went to every Sandown endurance race for 15 consecutive years. I watched any televised race on TV – motorbikes, rally-cross, circuit racing, F1 – whatever was on. Oran Park, Amaroo Park, Sandown, Winton, Bathurst, Wanneroo – wherever it was. John Smailes, Mike Raymond, Evan Green, Garry Wilkinson – their voices were part of my teenage years. I couldn’t get enough.
However, as you can see, I was just watching – never involved, always on the fringes, always wanting to try it but never realising that I could and I didn’t know how to find out. I wasn’t mechanically minded either. So, no hope of being involved….but, boy, did I want to do it.
I bought a baby blue Datsun 1600 just before my 18th birthday and thought “I’ll go rallying”. The tree I hit had other ideas. I bought an RX-3 coupe (I wish I still had it!). It seized. Not looking good….
So, a career, house, marriage, a child, on-call work all stifled my “entry to racing superstardom”. It didn’t stop me from watching though. 500cc motorbikes, Land Speed record attempts, WEC, WRC, NASCAR, INDYCAR, CART…the number of series I was watching escalated at the same rate as my frustration. I started to get annoyed going to races – I thought “why not me?”, “I could do this, but how?”
I was sitting at a wedding one night, bored. So, as you do, I was trawling the internet and found a Formula Ford for sale. I thought “Let’s do it”. My ex-girlfriend thought I was nuts – I realised I was too – I knew nothing about them and shelved the idea. I even sat down with a racing identity, who shall remain nameless, to discuss how I get into the sport – surprisingly he wasn’t much help at the time. It can’t be this hard, can it??
I did “V8 Supercar” drive days (they kept saying “slow down”), Formula Ford Drive Days, Porsche Driver training days (in which I did pretty well) but still nothing “real”. I would beat all my friends in public go-karting – but who was I impressing?
Now some of you may have been burnt by “Australian Driver Search”, but I entered it in 2017. I thought – “I’ll win this and I’ll be on my way”!! Before I flew to Sydney, drove back to Goulburn for a full 3 laps in a V8 Ute (that’s another story), I needed a helmet. Funnily enough, I have never owned one!
Revolution Racewear had a (rookie?) employee by the name of Brett McLennan. He asked what I was buying the helmet for. I told him and about my frustrations with motor racing. He said he owned a race team (JRD) and said “Why don’t you come and have a drive in one of our cars?” I called him after I got back from NSW. We arranged a drive at Winton and I was hooked! I’m not sure my wife was but she was happy to support me in chasing my dream.
Later in 2017, I did a “Come and Try Day” and Phillip Island (I drove a Saber 02 and the Elliot), then a sprint day at Sandown in John Gasparo’s car. Brett said “We’ve gotta get you racing”. I thought, “Not interested – now that I’m 54 I’m too old for that. I’m happy to do track days”.
At the time, Formula Vee in Victoria was struggling with field sizes. So, the club, Formula Vee Association of Victoria, and Mark Mitchell made me a generous offer to race his car, the famed Supervee, at Sandown. Yep, I’ll have some of that! So, after a seat fitting (where my knees were tightly wedged under the dash!), I had my first race meeting in the Victorian State series.
I finished each race and didn’t damage the car. Win, win! But the main thing was, I was hooked on racing – bugger track days!! I knew why Brett had suggested (pushed) this – it was fantastic. You know what I was thinking as I streamed up the back straight towards the top of the hill, don’t you? “I’m sure I’m as fast as those F5000’s”. I knew I wasn’t but it didn’t matter – I was racing cars.
Unfortunately, after years of abuse (sailing, swimming, cricket, tennis and work) had my right shoulder blow up and it needed surgery. This is late 2017. But now that I’d met all the guys and girls at FVAV, I was more involved in what was happening within the club and what they do.
Early 2018, JRD held a technical day at their factory. A couple of drivers had their cars with them, hoping to sell them on the day. By the end of the session, I was the proud new owner of a race car – a Jacer F2K4. While my arm recovered, FVAV President Nicholas Kerr drove the car for most of the year with great results.
Finally, in 2019 at the age of 55, I completed a full year of racing in the state series. It had been quite the journey – way too long but I was so happy. In all those years, I’d never raced anything at all. No real experience whatsoever. But I didn’t embarrass myself. The gradual progression in speed while learning the car and race-craft with a group of fantastic drivers meant I had an amazing year. I was really getting some momentum going…
In 2020….oh, wait….Roll on 2021!