A third weekend in a row of pedaling a Toyota 86 around was held last weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park. This weekend was something a little bit different for Eastern Creek. At turn 6, instead of turning left and going across the famous "Corporate Hill", we instead took a hard right before wiggling our way through the tight and technical "Brabham Circuit" extension. This section of the track has mixed reviews, with some fairly harsh critics... For a Toyota 86 against much more powerful cars carrying a lot more weight, this makes this section a big advantage for us!
Due to already missing a lot of work over the last few weeks, I had to sit out of Friday practice. Meaning the first taste I was going to get of this new circuit in the 86 was when we rolled straight into Qualifying on Saturday morning. This Qualifying session was plagued with traffic as I was buried well in the field on the out lap. I set my fastest time of the session on my first flying lap, this lap time held pole right up until the last few seconds before we were dropped down the 2nd by 0.1 of a second. I had a good run on my very last lap until I got held up through the new section of track. This was ultimately quite frustrating, but I knew we would be in for a good weekend of close racing!
Race 1 was held on Saturday afternoon and I rolled out onto the grid. There was one thing I wanted to practice this weekend and it was getting an 86 off the start line to improve on where I was lacking at Phillip Island. I got off to a good start and muscled my way through the first few corners. I could see 1st in class a few cars up ahead and I was pushing to try and catch him. At the halfway mark of the race a car right in front of my dropped a lot of oil and almost put me off the track. This meant 1st in class got the chance to build a lead that I could not run down. I settled for 2nd in this race and we tuned the car up to be faster for Sunday morning!
Sunday morning saw me line up again for Race 2 and get off to another great initial launch. I got held up on the inside at Turn 2 with nowhere to go which meant 1st in class got the chance to skip away in the early stages. A brief safety car period closed all the cars right up and I could see 1st in class just a few cars ahead of me. I made a big effort to push really hard off the safety car restart and found myself right on the bumper of 1st in class, crossing the line in 2nd place only 0.4 of a second behind 1st.
This left the last race of the day to try and get back up the front and fight for a win! I got off to another good launch in this race and glued myself to the bumper of 1st in class. I quickly made the effort to pounce down the inside at Turn 4 to take the lead. Once I took the lead another safety car was deployed, but once the safety car peeled into pit lane we held a strong form till the finish line to bring home our 86 1st in class! This was a fantastic way to round out the weekend, we had glimpses of a fast car all weekend and it was great to put it all together in the last race.
We have a few weeks off now, which gives us all time to regroup and make our race cars perfect again after an intense April. At the start of the year, we weren't sure if we were going to be able to tackle the month of April with such a busy schedule. Not only did we tackle it, but we made it a month full of fantastic success and huge smiles all around. A big thank you has to go out to my mechanics Tom and Ollie, they have sacrificed their entire April just to travel with us around Australia doing what we love. With out their help this month would not have been possible. Another big thank you has to go out to Mum and Dad, Dad has been suffering from some seriously intense pain over the last month but had to wait to get it fixed after we finished racing... That just show's how much this means to him, I am forever grateful to share these times in my life with him and I really appreciate him going above and beyond throughout the last month.
Photos: Riccardo Benvenuti