The first round of the New South Wales Production Touring Car Championship was held at Wakefield Park, just outside of the beautiful little town Goulburn. Australia has been hit with some torrential weather over the last few weeks, but Goulburn soaked up all of the sunshine to put together a fantastic weekend of racing.
Due to some overwhelming work commitments, I decided to sit out of Friday practice and go straight into Qualifying on Saturday morning. It's a new year, with a new livery thanks to Shockwave Signs. This year, we decided to spice it up a little bit by adding a flare of metallic blue throughout the design. This blue compliments the bright green and really makes the car stand out on track.
Qualifying was split into two sessions, which in theory was meant to make it easier to put a lap together due to less cars being on the track. I was buried deep in the pack when the green flag was waved to start the session, meaning my entire session was plagued by finding clear space around me to put together the perfect lap. I ended up picking up the pieces from the struggles in qualifying to place myself 2nd in class for Race 1.
Race 1 was held later in the afternoon on Saturday. I started this race on the outside of the circuit, starting here brings positives and negatives. The positive is that you are on the clean side of the race track for optimum traction. The negative is that you leave yourself vulnerable to having competitors force you wide into the first two turns. The initial launch to my start for this race was a really good one, with me getting up alongside the leader in my class. As I made my way to turn 2, I was sitting high on the outside line. The knock on effect of this was all the cars on the inside of me ended up forcing me wide, leaving me nowhere to go but off the track. This then dropped me way down the order and gave me the big task of fighting my way back through. After moving my way back through into 3rd in class, I set my sights on hunting down 2nd in class. I could see the margin getting smaller lap by lap, and before I knew it I was on the rear bumper of the car in front and I was ready to shape up a pass. A big lunge under brakes saw me get up the inside, followed by a switch back which saw us draw side by side for a drag race down towards turn 1. As we made our way into turn 2, I set up another switchback which then gave me the perfect opportunity to get a better run up the hill. I ended up holding on to 2nd place at the finish line for this race.
Race 2 was held on Sunday morning, another bright and crisp day in Goulburn. This race I was meant to start right beside the winner in class from race 1, but for some unknown reason, the officials forced me to start a whole row back from where I was suppose to, whilst first in class got to move an entire row in front of where they were suppose to. This immediately put me on the back foot as it was going to have to be a miracle start to be able to make up that lost ground before turn 2. I got off to a very average start as I broke traction and had to try and feed the throttle on. This meant that all the cars behind me with a lot more torque got the jump on me and placed me well down the order, giving me another tough task to fight back through.
After a few laps behind a slower car with more power, I finally got the pass made cleanly and had to set my sights on catching back up to 2nd in class again. I caught up to the back of 2nd place with two laps to go in the race. I started putting lots of pressure on before they pinched a brake going into the final turn and allowed me to get up the inside. I held 2nd place to the finish line two claim two 2nd place finishes from two races.
This left Race 3 as the last race of the weekend. Race 3 started with me getting another poor launch with a bit of wheel-spin, followed by a bad run out of the second corner. This dropped me back down the order to 4th in class, but I quickly made my way back up into 3rd in class, right on the tail of the two leaders. I tried to make the most of a mistake from the two in front of me, but that ended up in me making a mistake and falling off the track. I rejoined still holding on to third and set my sights on regaining the lost ground. I fought back past 2nd in class and held a steady gap all the way to the finish line.
This wrapped up three 2nd place finishes from three races. Although it isn't quite the top step where we want to be, it is still a good foundation to build on for the rest of 2017. I know the areas that I struggled with this weekend and we will work hard as a team to try and improve on them for the future.
Thank you to my team for supporting me all the way through the weekend, Mum and Dad where on hand as well as Greg and Tom from Suspension Concepts.
The next race on the calendar for the team is the Bathurst 6 Hour over the Easter weekend... we can't wait!
Photos: Riccardo Benvenuti