Toyota 86 Series Car
Toyota 86 Racing Series Round 3: Sydney Motorsport Park
Round 3 of the Toyota 86 Racing Series was held at my home circuit... Sydney Motorsport Park! Coming into this round we still held the championship lead and this round was an important one to try and consolidate a strong result. The strange part about racing at Sydney Motorsport Park is that as far as this circuit is concerned, it is not my most successful track. In the past I have struggled to nail a good result at a National level at this venue. Naturally, I was a little bit skeptical on the lead up to this round about how competitive we would be. Luckily I had the help of my strong team around me which provided me with a strong boost of confidence to try and get on top of this car in Friday practice.
Friday was a busy day, with two practice sessions which felt like they were back to back, followed by a qualifying session later that day. In practice one, I went out and tried to give the team an idea of what the car was doing out on track. We were down in the mid-pack with a car that was quite difficult to drive. We sat down and scratched our heads about what changes we could make to fix these strange handling characteristics. Luckily, when we rolled out for practice two it was almost like driving a brand new car! Suspension Concepts listened to my feedback and completely turned the car around, giving me exactly what I wanted! This meant we bumped ourselves up to 6th in practice two and we knew we were heading in the right direction. Qualifying then came around which meant we got a fresh set of tyre's and got to see what lap times we could produce. I pushed the car really hard and managed to extract a solid time to put us out of 4th on the grid. The times were so close... with only 2 tenths separating the top 6 cars. I left this qualifying session very happy, as I knew we had found a happy place with the set up of the car and we only had to find a little bit more to fight for the win.
Saturday was quite a relaxed day, as we only had one race which was around midday. I was starting out of 4th and I knew I had to get a good jump off the line to try and consolidate a strong position. I launched the car perfectly and had to make the quick decision to go to the outside of the cars in front of me. At one point we were four wide before it was three wide through the fast turn one... with me on the outside! I muscled through to find myself in third position, right on the tail of the two in front of me. I had 4th right on my tail and the pressure was on for the entire 10 lap race. I just held on for third position and bagged a handful of points.
Sunday brought along a bit more excitement as we had two races over the course of the day. Race two started with the TeamAISIN86 out of 3rd position. After another good start, we moved into 3rd and held the pace of the leaders in front. As the race went on, I held a strong track position, until the car started to become very squirmy around each turn of the circuit. I battled hard to hold the car on the track, but this made me vulnerable to an attack from 4th. After running two wide through turn one, we managed to get through and hold on to 3rd position all the way to the finish.
Race 3 was up and again we started out of 3rd position. I made a superb launch off the line and moved up into 2nd place. The top three pulled away from the rest of the field and we all held station up until the finish line. This meant we grabbed 2nd in the last race and continued our streak of podium finishes for the year!
After an intense weekend of racing, we still hold on to our championship lead moving into the last two rounds of the series. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who came out to cheer me on! It is always great racing in front of friends and family. The next time we jump in this car will be Bathurst... I can't wait to get back up to the famous mountain!
Photos: Rhys Vandersyde | Insyde Media