Racing Life At The Nugget Nationals
The 3rd Round of this year’s Nugget Nationals is on the horizon. So I thought I’d share my experience from the 1st Round back in March at Winton Raceway.Don’t know what Nugget Nationals is? This is a car racing event where the just name sums it up completely. Little nugget cars speeding around a track, having the time of their lives. The motto is ‘low cost, maximum fun’, and that’s exactly what it was.
The Micra K11
It’s hard to tell the story of Nugget Nationals without a little bit of background first. Our former Paste photographer Vinnie has a penchant for retro Japanese cars. He’s always been a car enthusiast and a few trips to the land of the rising sun saw him get the bug for vintage Japanese nuggets. So you’d understand how stoked he was when he found someone selling a 1992 Nissan Micra K11 a few years ago. Vinnie bought that car. Vinnie loved that car. He might have been the only person who did, but he certainly loved it. He had great plans to “JDM” that little Micra but had to, unfortunately, bid farewell to her when her motor blew during a drive from Melbourne to Sydney. (If anyone happens to be stranded in Yass for a night, get in touch with Vinnie for the name of a dodgy motel where you can drown your sorrows.)
What’s that saying, though? When one door closes, another opens? Well, another door definitely did open, and it was to the driver’s seat of another Micra K11 for Vinnie. Can you believe he managed to find another Micra that was pretty much exactly the same as his old car, but “worked.” All of the modifications the previous owner had done to this car meant that it is a little beast. So Vinnie felt it was only the right call to take his tuned up nugget to the Nugget Nationals. Naturally, I also decided to jump on board.
The Suzuki Swift GTI
I didn’t have my own Nugget car to race so I’d decided that I would just race Vinnie’s Micra down at Winton. About three weeks out from the race, though, my cousin called me with some news that he’d bought two Suzuki Swift GTIs. One was his. One was mine. Now I had my very own car to race against Vinnie. It was the perfect head to head, this generation of Micras and Swifts were direct competitors and it was going to be awesome to see them both on a racetrack.
Being that the Swift hadn’t been started in three years, I crossed my fingers that it would even make the journey down to Winton from Sydney, let alone perform on the track. I loaded up the beast with a spare set of racing tyres, a rattle gun, a car jack, compressor, helmets, some snacks and bottomed out the whole way down to Victoria.
The Nugget Nationals Race Day
The Nugget Nationals. What a concept. Everything is hilarious about it until you’re actually sitting on the track. The car in front of you has been flagged in and tears off, already hitting the rev limiter on the straight away.
Then I’m up next. I’m flagged in and away I go. This was my first time on a proper race track so I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a surreal feeling, ringing a car out to its limit without backing off the throttle and checking every side street / parked car for the boys in blue. It’s a place where you can keep accelerating until you need to brake – hard – so that you can keep accelerating again. To a veteran racer the Nugget Nationals couldn’t be more boring. It probably just looks like a bunch of underpowered go-karts fanging around. But to someone who has never been on a track before, it couldn’t have been more fun.
I started getting the hang of racing and it immediately became incredibly addictive. Your mindset changes from slightly terrified to much more aware of what’s going on to hooked on trying to shave seconds off each lap to let’s see how late I can start braking to yeah, you want to pass me? Just try it! They always tried it, and they always passed, but that’s beside the point. Being a twin, there has always been a friendly competitiveness to our relationship and that was in full flare at the track. We took each other’s cars out for a spin and even our old man came out for a lap at the end.
We weren’t there to place (which is good because we would’ve been sorely disappointed if we were), and we didn’t think we were racing legends. But there were some awesome little hatchbacks (Nuggets), everyone was incredibly friendly, and what could’ve been a very intimidating event, was super welcoming and helpful.
I couldn’t recommend this race enough. If you don’t already own a Nugget and have some extra cash to spare, I’d suggest you jump on Gumtree, with a budget of $1500. That’s more than enough to get you a registerable little Nugget for the road and track. You’ll be the proud owner of a little track car that you can thrash around to the best of your ability in an event where everyone else is doing the same thing. It only gets more and more fun!
The Nugget Nationals truly is a day of maximum fun, low cost.