For the second time in my career we were lucky enough to get the chance to race at the prestigious Townsville street circuit in a hot and sunny North Queensland. Keeping in mind that I use the term "hot" quite loosely as in reality it is still winter, so I do not even want to begin to think about doing a race there in the summer! This circuit provides a nice challenge to the more generic permanent circuits around Australia. The main challenge is obviously that the room for error is highly restricted as one small mistake can bury you into a concrete wall and leave you with a heavily damaged car. Coming in to this round we had the lead in the Championship after a successful first round at Phillip Island, this meant we had to try to consolidate strong consistent finishes in every race to keep that momentum going.
Friday brought two practice sessions for all competitors to quickly become familiar with the layout of the track and find where the limits are. I went out in both of these sessions with the mentality of building up to the challenge and seeing what we end up at the other end. We rounded out day one of Townsville sitting 2nd place in both practice one and practice two. This brought me a great amount of confidence moving in to qualifying early on Saturday morning. The times at the front end of the field where quite close, meaning qualifying was certainly going to be one to watch!
Qualifying got underway and I went out on track first due to our Championship lead, I got straight to work to try and put an early lap together, but much to my surprise, on my first flying lap I had already caught up to the back markers still weaving and warming their tyres. This then meant that my early laps of qualifying where all masked with traffic and I lost the window of opportunity when the tyre was really fast. I pushed on and made the best of the bad start of the session to still qualify 3rd, before a technical infringement on a car ahead of us bumped us up into 2nd place. This meant that we moved into race one with a front row start and a good chance to challenge for the race win.
Race one was held on Saturday not long after qualifying. I took my position on the front row of the grid and prepared myself for getting a good launch off the start. I nailed the launch, but so did pole position, meaning it was a side by side drag race all the way to turn two. I tried to hang tough by holding it around the outside, but that gave 3rd position the opportunity to slip up the inside of me and relegate me back a position. After a few attempted moves, I found myself in a heated battle for 2nd position, swapping lines at each corner. I eventually got the move to stick as I held it around the outside through the first part of the fast chicane. By this stage, first position had already skipped away with the clear track in front of him, meaning it was just about trying to build a gap over 2nd and holding a strong form to the finish line. I built a nice margin over 2nd place when the car started coughing down the straight with 2 laps to go. At first, I had no idea what it was, but then it all became clear to me when the fuel light came on. Now it was all stations to fuel conservation mode as I attempted to scramble the car to the finish line. Luckily I had the previous experiences of how to conserve fuel whilst keeping a fast race pace when I competed in the Bathurst 12 hour. I ended up getting the car to the line and hold down 2nd place, it was a tense few minutes behind the wheel but it all paid off in the end.
Race two was early on Sunday morning and the butterflies where doing racing laps within my stomach, I lined up on the grid with the intention of trying to get a similar start to the one I got in race one. Unfortunately, I ended up breaking into a lot of wheel spin and dropped well down the order on the run into turn two. As we came out of turn two, all I could see in front of me was smoke and I had to quickly take evasive action to a car that had just slapped the wall in front of me. We ended up getting through the carnage without a mark on our car but behind us the chaos erupted. The track was blocked and lots of cars faced heavy damage. The race was declared under red flag and no points where awarded for the short two corner affair.
Race three came around and it gave me the chance to fix my mistake from race two earlier in the day and try to focus on getting a good start. I ended up getting a good enough start to hold down 2nd position into turn one, and then my sights were firmly set on first place. I pushed really hard to fight for the win, but we couldn't get close enough. The race went under a brief safety car period and once the restart was over, I held a comfortable margin in 2nd place to claim another podium for the weekend.
This weekend was a solid one both on and off track, we grabbed another huge amount of points for the Championship and also shared lots of laughs within the team. It is really vital to surround yourself with positive people and that is exactly what we have within our small family team. Tom and Ollie from Suspension Concepts are fantastic blokes to work with, they have a great sense of humor and take a lot of pride within the work they do on the car. A big thank you has to go out to my parents, John and Barbara, they drove all the way from Sydney to Townsville and back again just to give me the chance to chase my dream. I was the lucky one who got to fly to the venue when they did all the hard work. Mum and Dad are the real winners of this weekend and they deserve the biggest hug after what they did for me. I don't think I can ever repay them for the sacrifices they make...
A huge thank you also needs to go out to the people who help make my racing dream happen, Aisin Australia, Smart Fuels, Shockwave Signs, Suspension Concepts, Massel and also Bruce Williams. Without your assistance these successful weekends wouldn't be possible.
Photos: Rhys Vandersyde | Insyde Media