Toyota 86 Touring Car
The first big endurance event for the team was the final round of the Australian Production Cars Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park. This was the first race we competed in as a team where we required to refuel during a pit stop. As the race was a 4 hour race, the car couldn't possibly last that long without needing to refuel. This meant that we needed to bring in a few new faces to the team, not only a second driver was required, but we also needed an entire pit stop crew. Luckily, through our strong connection with Suspension Concepts, we were provided with a fantastic crew full of guys who where eager to get their hands dirty and work on the car to make sure we had the best chance at standing on the top step of the podium.
This race meeting I was teamed up with Mark Caine, a fellow NSWPTC competitor. Mark has recently signed a deal to compete with our team at the Bathurst 6 Hour over the Easter long weekend in 2017. This weekend at Eastern Creek for the 4 Hour was used as a practice run on the lead up to the big race at Bathurst. Mark only had a few test days in the car prior to this weekend but he showed his raw ability by posting competitive times straight out of the box.
Friday rolled around and we had 2 practice sessions consisting of 20 minutes each. I decided to do the first practice session to make sure everything in the car was in functioning order and to get a gauge on how the car was feeling with the current set up that Suspension Concepts had hooked us up with. The car was a rocket ship from the outset, I posted the fastest time in Class D in Practice 1, where we also had a full fuel load and very old tyres. This meant that Suspension Concepts had hit the nail on the head as they always do with the set up. Mark jumped in for Practice 2 and also popped up to the top of the time sheets, rounding out a strong first day for the team. At this stage, both myself and Mark where fast and it was looking very promising for Qualifying.
Saturday brought around one more practice session before jumping straight into an intense Qualifying session. Mark and I each got to get our eye in during the practice before qualifying, also giving us a chance to have a test run at our pit stop driver change. At the end of this session, I had topped the times in Class D, with Mark sitting second in the times for Class D behind me. I elected to do Driver A Qualifying which meant that I was the starting driver for the race. I went out in Qualifying and it was our first run on new tyres for the weekend. The track temperature was really hot and it meant a time had to be put down quickly before the track started to lose more grip. I posted a solid time which gave me pole position in Class D!
Mark followed suit by jumping in for Driver B Qualifying and also topped the time sheets in that session meaning that we had locked out 1st in class in every single session on the lead up to the race.
Sunday rolled around and it was quite a humid day, expecting to get quite hot during the race. I started the race buried in the middle of the pack of different class cars, but still got off to a reasonable launch. I fought through the first stint for 1 hour and 20 minutes. This stint was very hot, the temperature of the foot well was getting extremely warm, to the point where I could feel the heat starting to burn my foot. I pushed on and found myself a nice rhythm, before bringing it in for the first driver change over to Mark. I brought the car into the pits inside the top 10 overall and we had a comfortable margin over 2nd in class by just over a lap.
Mark did a fantastic job in his stint, staying in the car for around 1 hour and 40 minutes. Mark kept up some consistent times and made some calculated passes to gain good track position. When Mark brought the car back in for me to power through the last stint, he was sitting 7th overall and still held a lead in class of over a lap.
I jumped in for the last 1 hour sprint to the finish line, the team gave me some fresher tyres on the working side and told me to push like hell for the rest of the race. This stint was a lot of fun, I found myself settling into a nice groove where I kept a consistent lap time, dicing through the traffic to see how high we could finish outright.
I ended up crossing the finish line after 4 hours of racing 1st in class, and an incredible 5th overall. Our mighty little 2 litre Toyota 86 took it to the big V8's and Evo's to claim a credible overall position.
The team was absolutely pumped to finish in such a good position at our first crack at a proper endurance race. We won this race as a team, if it wasn't for the fantastic pit stops then we wouldn't have been able to make advantage of track position. Ollie, Craig and Tom did a great job during the refueling and tyre changes.
As always, a big shout out has to go to the man that does all the work behind the scenes. Dad has had his head down for many months on the lead up to this event. The amount of organising that was needed to compete in this event was huge and he dealt with it very professionally as if he has been running a race team for many years. What a lot of people didn't see behind the scenes was all the mechanical troubles we had with our little 86 on the lead up to this event. As with many new cars, the electrical components within them can sometimes play havoc. Well the problem we came across had everyone scratching their brains but not coming to the correct solution. Luckily we had Chad from Motorsport Wiring & Diagnostics come and spend a few days at our house trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Chad worked his magic hands on the electrical components and got them all in working order again! I highly recommend Motorsport Wiring and Diagnostics for any of your wiring needs, they do some really quality work for a really fair price.
We have one more race before the year rounds out, that race meeting is 2 x 1 Hour races at Winton to finish off the last of the NSWPTC Championship.