Toyota 86 Touring Car
NSW Production Touring Cars Championship Round 4: Wakefield Park
Round 4 of the New South Wales Production Touring car Championship saw us make the journey back to Goulburn for a sprint race on the Saturday, followed by a one hour endurance race early Sunday morning. When the entries first came out for this meeting, we weren't too sure if we were going to enter or not. The reason being is that our beautiful little green rocket has been sold to fund a new and exciting racing project. With only a limited amount of time to go to get my entry in, I found out I was sitting 2nd overall in the State Championship! I was lucky enough that the new car owners were willing to let me back in the car this weekend to see if we could make some magic happen to spice up the championship.
Friday saw me skip the practice day again as I had to stay at work to try and make more money to race cars! This meant that Saturday we were up nice and early and ready to get straight into laying down fast times in qualifying. I went out at the head of the pack in qualifying and gave myself a nice bit of clear track to try and lay down some quick times, my second flying lap was the fastest I had ever been in this car around this circuit! I knew there was more left in it so I kept pushing and smashed my personal best time by a considerable margin. Ever since I started driving race cars, I have always been taught that beating your personal best is always the main goal as it show's improvement. This brought me great joy to make it apparent that we had unlocked something new to give us a bit more speed.
Qualifying was followed up by a short 8 lap sprint race at lunchtime on Saturday. I was eager to get things underway to see if we could close the gap to 1st in the championship. I got off to a great initial launch on the start, before being boxed in on the inside into turn 2. This hindered my run up the hill on the first lap and ultimately dropped me right back in the field. I fell back to 3rd in class but not only that, I also had a few other classed cars in between myself and my class competitors. I knew it would be tough to fight back with only having 8 laps to do so, but I put my head down and pushed the car to the limit. I fought my way past the other cars before finding myself right on the tail of 2nd in class with one lap to go. This was the leader of the championship in front of me and I knew I had to finish in front to have any chance at taking the championship fight into the last round. I looked to the outside on one turn, followed by the inside, then back to the outside again... that's right, the lap was as intense as it sounds! I finally went for the big dive going into the last turn and made it stick right to the line. This meant we grabbed 2nd in class but ultimately closed up the points haul for the championship.
Sunday brought us back on to the track bright and early to complete our one hour endurance race first up. After a bit of confusion off the start with a stalled car, we were eventually underway for our big race and again I got off to another good start. I made a few more calculated decisions with this start and made big gains on the first lap. I quickly found myself leading my class and trying to build a margin. Everything was running really smoothly and I was slowly building a margin whilst trying to look after the tyres. I had built up a comfortable gap until I caught the back of the other classes of cars in front of me, which in return, slowed me up considerably. This left me vulnerable to an attack, which is exactly what happened... This then turned into a monster fight that was very close and very heated. The battle raged on before I got held up with another slow car and 1st place managed to secure a bit of a margin.
This prompted me to have an early pit stop to try and get the "undercut" effect, which simply means trying to put me back in clear track to post quick times and ultimately catch up the lost time when they go for their mandatory pit stop later in the race. The pit stop was perfect, in and out as fast as possible with the boys absolutely nailing it! I was back out on track and ready to get stuck into quick lap times. The race went on and then eventually they made their mandatory pit stop, leaving the big question about to be answered... "did the undercut work?". To answer it in a simple way, yes, the undercut was successful and we did bring back the margin, but it wasn't quite enough to regain the lead of the race. As the leader rejoined the track I could see him just in front of me, the only problem was that I had a few cars in between us that I had to negotiate before engaging an attack for the lead.
I made quick work of getting past the cars in front of me, but by that stage the margin to the lead had already been built up to a considerable buffer. The race was then put under a safety car for an accident which put me back on the tail of the leader. This is exactly what we needed to try and fight for the win! As the race went back to green flag conditions, I pushed really hard but could only do so much. We were left to settle for 2nd place and unfortunately lost a few more points in the championship race.
We can take a lot of positives out of this weekend. We unlocked more speed in this quick little Triple Zero Racing Toyota 86 and we ultimately learnt a lot as a team. I had a lot of fantastic battles on track and for the most part I had a grin from ear to ear with each lap I turned.
Apart from a minor radio communication problem to pit lane, the weekend was very successful. The team worked really hard and provided me with a solid package to confidently attack each lap.
Photos: Claudia Muller Photography