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          Toyota 86 Series Car

Toyota 86 Racing Series Round 4: Bathurst

For the second time in 2017, we were lucky enough to tackle the famous Mount Panorama circuit. This weekend had so many emotions on the lead up to it and each day the butterflies in my stomach got more and more severe! Lining up against some of the best drivers in Australia, in one of the most competitive National categories we have, at such an iconic circuit such as Bathurst was a lot to take in! I came into this weekend with the series lead and I had one main objective... collect as many points as I could and continue to hold that lead going into the final round at Newcastle.

The thing about racing on the same weekend as the Bathurst 1000 means a few things... 

- The meeting is held over an entire extra day, meaning we had four days of track time rather than three.

- The crowd is absolutely massive! From the minute we arrived at the circuit the camp grounds where already flooded with people. The crowd then progressively got larger as the weekend went on.

- The day of events is run over a longer period of time, meaning that we were on VERY early in the morning for most of our sessions.

- The final thing that racing on this weekend brings is..... the VIBE! The vibe around the entire circuit was positive, meaning each day at the track you felt good to be there!

Thursday kicked off our weekend of track time. We had practice one early in the morning, whilst the track was still fresh, followed by practice two around lunch time, when the track had quite a lot of heat in it! In practice one the TeamAISIN86 felt really strong and very comfortable. I ended up posting a time quick enough for 3rd and we learnt a lot about the car in the short time we had on the circuit. Practice two came around and the track had significantly changed from earlier on in the day. I went out and pushed hard early in the session, but unfortunately we sat down the grid a few spots. I had one lap left to see what we could do and I pushed the car extremely hard. I ended up bumping up to 2nd in practice two, that salvaged a strong result off what looked to be a tough session.

Qualifying was up nice and early on Friday morning. This was our only track session for the day, meaning that once qualifying was over, we were able to kick back and relax for a few hours. The nerves were certainly high before this session... Bathurst is a track that you have to show a lot of respect to, but qualifying is also a session that you need to try and maximize the absolute limits of your car. For majority of the session I was sitting just inside the top ten, in ninth. This qualifying position would have made our weekend so difficult, so I had to try and keep my head down and push hard. I had one lap to go and I was sitting in sixth position at this stage. It was time to give it absolutely everything I could find to see if I could salvage something stronger than sixth. I used all of the circuit available, getting really close to the walls, my commitment down the hill was right on the limit of my car. I crossed the finish line to look down at my dash... the lap time was a lot better! We ended up qualifying in second position... a front row start at the biggest event in Australia was something we were all so ecstatic about!

Race 1 was held in the early morning on Saturday... The nerves were high and the anticipation kept building! As I rolled up to the grid I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, I knew I needed to get the job done off the start line if I was to challenge for the win. As the lights went out, so did my plan of getting a good start! I struggled to get the car off the line and slotted into 3rd for turn one. I was very angry at myself but I had to keep a cool head if I were to keep myself on the podium. On the run up into 'The Cutting' on the first lap, I decided to make a move around the outside... which surprisingly paid off! I slotted back up into 2nd and from there it was about consolidating the second step on the podium and banking solid points. I crossed the line in 2nd, but we were later promoted to 1st as the car in front received a penalty. It is certainly not the way you want to win a race but we didn't have much time to think about it because we were straight back into racing shortly after.

Race 2 was held midday on Saturday, with the track temperatures rising again! I started off pole position for this race, yet I certainly didn't learn my lesson from race one. I made a mess of this start again and fell back to second, later falling back to third. I was hungry for a stronger result and got stuck into a three way battle for the lead. I ended up getting back up into second place and the battle continued right up to the finish line were we held our strong second position. I took a lot of positives out of this race, we showed strong car pace by posting the fastest lap of the race and also had a lot of clean battles throughout the event.

Race 3 was the big one... Sunday morning of the Bathurst 1000! The crowd at the track was HUGE! This race I started out of 2nd position and unlike the first two races, I actually managed to get a good start. I grabbed the lead at turn one before putting my head down to try and pull a margin. I had a few close battles and even held off a safety car period. After a one lap screamer to the end after the safety car restart, we crossed the line 1st! This was an overwhelming feeling! Crossing the line first at Bathurst was so special to me, my team and my family. After coming so close to the win at the Bathurst 6 hour, it finally felt like we got that win at Bathurst that we had been desiring for so long. I was so emotional in the car on the way into the pits, with tears running down my face as the adrenaline kept pumping through my body!

This weekend was such a big one for everyone... We grabbed a really solid handful of points and we finally jumped back up onto the top step of the podium. We have one more round to go for the Toyota 86 Racing Series and we have continued our series lead right up till the last round! Let's hope we can hold onto the lead after Newcastle!

Photos: Rhys Vandersyde | Insyde Media


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