Toyota 86 Touring Car
The final round of the New South Wales State Championship, the one hour enduro at Sydney Motorsport Park. What a way to round out what has been a fantastic year of State Championship racing with an awesome display of Production Touring cars racing around such a picturesque circuit. Let's start the Race Report off the same way we always do and discuss the Friday practice... this one was an interesting one!
Friday practice proved to be EXTREMELY frustrating for not only myself as the driver, but for my engineer Dad! We rolled the car out for Practice 1 on old tyres and posted a time really close to our personal best, so we instantly knew we had started with a decent dry set up in the vehicle. The main problem I noticed in this session was the brake pedal, for some reason the brake pedal decided to go really hard midway through the session and it remained that way for the remaining laps. At first I thought we might just need to bleed to brakes and that would fix whatever was making the car upset... but that was far off the mark! Practice 2 we found ourselves having the same issue, so it was time to replace some bits on the car to try and fix it.
We never ended up rectifying the problem on Friday, but we still posted a time that would leave us comfortable for qualifying the following day.
Qualifying rolled around and we elected that this weekend we would not put new tyres on the car to try and save some money. We went out and I pushed the car to the absolute limit! For some reason, the lap time from Friday just wasn't coming back during qualifying. We ended up 2nd in class for qualifying, getting pipped by 2 time Champion Chris Reeves. After the session, I had a look at the data and I instantly knew something wasn't quite right. The straight line speed had disappeared from the car and we had not changed anything drastic over night. After some discussions with fellow competitors, we decided to change the front brake callipers to see if that not only fixed our hard brake pedal, but also gave us back the straight line speed. (Just in case the callipers where dragging against the brake disc!) Despite the brake problem, if we could fix the straight line speed we knew we had a fast race car set up.
Saturday also brought one 15 minute sprint race to prepare ourselves for the big one hour enduro on Sunday afternoon. That race was a nice dry race, with us starting in Position 2 in class D. I got off to a great start and chose good track position to bring myself up into 1st out of Turn 2. From that point I just put my head down and pushed for consistent lap times. Everything was going really well until that horrid brake problem decided to come and resurface itself. I managed to build enough of a margin in the early stages of the race to hold onto the win!
This brake problem was clearly still a problem that we had to address. We got some advice off nearly everyone in the pits and it was so warming to know that everyone wanted to help out and see us get our car fixed. It is such a great environment in the NSW Production Touring Car field, we all get along really well and it is fantastic to go out and race hard with that huge amount of respect from everyone. We ended up changing some key parts to the race car and it was fingers crossed that it would hold on for the 1 hour enduro.
Sunday rolled on by and it was a dark and miserable day at Sydney Motorsport Park. We where the last category to hit the race track for the weekend, meaning we had lots of time to kill during the day. Before we knew it, the race was upon us, and so was the rain! The track was saturated and very slippery, so the officials decided for safety reasons that we would begin the race under the safety car. The rain stayed for the entirety of the race, meaning that we had to slip around on a greasy track for the entire hour. I got through the first few laps sitting a comfortable 2nd in class, but I could see 2 time Champion and also the class leader Chris Reeves just up ahead in front of me. I concentrated on hitting all my marks and being really smooth, after a few laps, I found myself right behind Reeves and we where having a good scrap for position. I made a bold move on the outside at turn 2, I stuck it around the outside, then remained side by side in the greasy wet conditions for the next few corners. It was pure, hard racing, mirror to mirror style! We where very close, but where both very aware that each other was there and it was a huge amount of fun. I had a grin from ear to ear because it was an absolute blast! Chris ended up getting the better of this move, but we then pushed hard to make another move up the inside of turn 1. This time, we got the move done and we were sat into 1st in class. Chris stayed right behind me for a few laps, before an unfortunate mistake on the exit of Turn 5 put Chris into a spin. I pushed forward from here and was getting my Engineer (Dad) to keep me up to date on the gap to 2nd place. I controlled a good pace to bring the car in for our pit stop with a healthy margin.
My pit stop crew put in a fantastic stop, everyone hit their marks beautifully and it was a really solid stop! Paul and Joseph from Listec Race Cars where on the wheel change and Mum was the Driver Assistant. We joined back out on track still 1st in class and we had a gap of about 40 seconds back to 2nd place. From this point it was just about keeping a consistent pace and staying very smooth.
I ended up crossing the line for the win in our class and it was such a fantastic feeling, after one of the toughest races I have faced, it felt great to come out with the win. I have never done such a long stint in the rain before, but it was still a lot of fun.
The team was fantastic as always, but a special mention needs to go out to Dad once again, he spent more time with his head in the engine bay fixing these brakes then actually enjoying any racing. This win has to go out to him as he worked tirelessly so that I could keep chasing my dream.
Another big thank you has to go out to Shockwave Signs, Toolforce Automotive Tool Sales, Listec Race Cars, and recently joined sponsor Mclaurin Motorsport and Dyno Tuning.
I would also like to thank Chris Reeves from Triple Zero Racing, he sold me this fast little race car and is still helping me in every way he can.
Next stop for us is a 4 hour enduro at Sydney Motorsport Park for a round of the Australian Production Car Championship, stay tuned for more!