The final race weekend for Jimmy Vernon Racing, this one was a weekend full of emotions. It all came down to the wire for the MoComm Cup Endurance Championship, with the team having a fantastic shot at stealing the show and winning the Championship. We had a bit of a hurdle to climb, coming into this last round 2nd overall, a few points behind 1st. This weekend was a double header at Winton Motor Raceway, with two x 1 hour races and two x 6 lap sprint races around the tight 3km circuit located in Benalla. This weekend I had a special passenger on board with me, Pengi the Timing Penguin! Pengi has jumped in race cars all over the world, so it was an honour to show Pengi my way around Winton.

Friday practice rolled around and we took this opportunity to learn the track in this car, Suspension Concepts rolled our car out of the factory and onto the trailer with a setup that was really quick around Winton. I felt like I could put the car almost anywhere on the circuit and had the confidence that it would respond accordingly. These guys never fail to raise my eyebrows when it comes to their accuracy with set up. I pedalled our little Toyota 86 around to find a quick qualifying run, and also find a pace that would look after the tyres in the race. I ticked all the boxes on Friday, going fastest in Class D and setting up a nice foundation for Qualifying early on Saturday morning.

 

Qualifying came around and we had thirty minutes on the track to try and post the fastest time that we could extract out of our car. I put in some early laps, and then tried to space myself out from the other competitors to find some clear track. I found the clear track I needed and pushed the car to its limit, using all the circuit and hitting all my marks. The time I set on that lap was strong enough for us to park up in the garage with much of the session left to go and preserve our tyres for the race. We secured a strong 1st in class in this qualifying session.

 

The first sprint race was held around lunchtime on Saturday, and I got off to a great start before building a gap over 2nd place and taking home 1st in class. This meant all focus was on the first of the one hour endurance races later that afternoon at around 5pm. The interesting thing about the race being that late in the afternoon, was the heat. The heat proved a great challenge for every competitor, not only with their tyres, but also their bodies going through such intense heat in the car for that period of time. I got off to another strong start, placing myself in a good comfortable position to build a gap over 2nd place. I put my head down and tried to ignore the sweat dripping down my face like I was in a sauna. The pitstop came around and the team did a superb job in the stop, getting me in and out of the car well within the time given. I went back out on track and kept building my gap over 2nd, whilst conserving the tyres for the next day of racing. We ended up claiming 1st place in this endurance race, meaning that we had gained maximum points on offer for Saturday.

 

The Championship was still up for grabs on the Sunday, and I still had a few points to make up. I had two more races to find the gap, one endurance and one sprint race. With a change of schedule, it meant that we had our endurance race earlier in the morning, with the sprint race later in the afternoon. This race got off to another solid start, but I had to do some early defending to hold onto my lead. Once we built up a bit of a gap, it was a similar situation to the race on Saturday. Posting consistent lap times that would build the gap over 2nd whilst also looking after the car to make sure we made it to the finish line. Another solid pit stop got us back out in the lead and holding a comfortable position to bring it home to the finish. I won my class yet again in this race and also placed 6th outright, just edging on yet another outright top 5 in our little 86! This car can really punch above it’s weight against some of the cars with a lot more power.

 

With both endurance races run and won, with the team still holding maximum points for the weekend, it all came down to this very last 6 lap sprint race to see if we could snatch the Championship. The nerves where quite high, but I knew what I had to do to secure the win. I went out and drove a strong race to snag yet another perfect round of points. Claiming the win in every race. Along with this race win, came the Championship win! It was a very emotional cool down lap for me, for our little team to win the Endurance Championship in our very first year of Production Car racing meant so much to me. I had tears in my eyes for the entire cool down lap, soaking up all the emotion. Not only was I happy for the myself to win the championship, but I was also so happy for the team. Each and every one of us won this championship together. We all had a part to play in this big puzzle, all your hard work definitely didn't go unnoticed. I felt the only way I could show my true appreciation was to bring home the result for each of you. I only play a small role in this team, and that is the driver. All the hard work is done behind the scenes, preparing the car, working out the strategy, making sure everything is perfect. You all went above and beyond what my expectations where for this year.

 

What lies ahead for Jimmy Vernon Racing in the future is still undecided… We will still be zipping around in our little 86 next year, but we are unsure on what our budget will allow us to race just yet. As always, I have to say thank you to everyone that has supported me this year, from sponsors, to family, to friends, to fans… You have all made this year so much fun and I am already excited to get back into the swing of things

Photos: Caitlin Sartori

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2016NSWProductionTouring

          Toyota 86 Touring Car

NSW Production Touring Cars Championship Round 7: Winton Motor Raceway