After a few months out of action, we finally got to jump back behind the wheel of our Production Touring Toyota 86 for Round 3 of the New South Wales Championship. I was really excited for this round as it was an endurance round, meaning the feature race is a one hour endurance race which includes a mandatory pit stop. This always adds a bit of spice to the race as strategy and a perfect pit stop can make or break your chance at victory. The 86 is usually quite strong in these races due to some of the heavier cars suffering from increased degradation on their tyres. Luckily for our team, Suspension Concepts hooked us up with a set up that is not only fast, but kind to the rubber that attaches us to the track!
Sydney Motorsport Park is a funny track, some could call it borderline hormonal. One thing for sure is that when the temperature is quite cold, the track is very fast! I knew when we rocked up for Qualifying on Saturday morning that we would be setting some wicked times. I had to sit out of Friday practice due to work commitments but that didn't have any affect on our result as I have done that many laps around this track that I have basically carved my own groove around all the corners. We elected to run old tyres from the Bathurst 6 Hour to try and save some money. I went out on track and found myself a nice clear area to go out and put down the loud pedal! The times kept getting faster and faster and before I knew it, I started posting the fastest times I have ever posted around the track in an 86! I got the radio call in off Dad that we had pole position with only a few minutes left to go in the session. Right on the brink of the session ending we got pipped and dropped down to 2nd place by less than 0.1 (tenth) of a second. Although we got pipped for pole position I was still over the moon as we had beaten our personal best time by 1.1 seconds! Beating my personal best is always something I strive to do, when I can beat a personal best, it shows improvement and that is a big thing for me.
Saturday also gifted us a sprint race to sort out points for the Championship. I lined up right beside the leader of my class and concentrated on trying to make the best of the initial launch. Unfortunately for me, my start was less than fantastic as it looked more like a Summernats burnout rather than a race start. I dropped a few positions on the run to turn 1, before executing a clever first lap to find myself back on the rear bumper of the leader. I got myself up into the lead and stayed there right up to the finish, posting the fastest time and pulling a steady margin over 2nd.
Sunday was the big day, time to get busy with the one hour enduro! The race time was late in the afternoon, meaning the factor of having the sun right in our eyes was something all drivers had to adapt to. I lined up for this race and learnt my lesson from race one. This time, I launched the car a lot better and held the lead into the first few corners. After the field started to funnel up, it left me vulnerable to an attack from behind, eventually dropping me back to 2nd place. The safety car came out and that is when things started to get messy. As we were under safety car, one of the competitors behind me decided it would be a great time to pass me and put me yet another car down between me and the lead of the race. After the restart, I had to make some calculated on track decisions to make up for the lost ground from first position. After a few laps I was back in a heated battle with 1st in class. This battle raged on for a few laps, each of us trading places for the lead numerous times throughout the lap. The team decided we would pit early to try and gain advantage through the under cut. The pit stop went perfectly and Tom and Ollie did a fantastic job at changing the wheel. The under cut worked really well for us and put me back up into the lead of the race. After leading for a few laps, the field was put back under safety car to retrieve some stranded vehicles. Once we got away to the restart I found myself well within a the pack of other classed vehicles. I held strong form and looked after the car to make it all the way to the finish to record yet another win for the team.
The team was wrapped to clinch another great result, this race meeting could potentially be the last race meeting for our Production Touring Toyota 86. We are off on another adventure to bring you a new car that should hopefully turn a few heads. Whether we complete the Class D Championship for this year or not is still very much an unknown... Regardless of the fact, this car has been fantastic to me, it won us an Endurance Championship last year and provided me with a great amount of fun. Chris Reeves is the wizard when it comes to building fast and reliable Toyota 86's. I am very proud to say I have been an owner and racer of a Triple Zero Racing car.
Photos: Riccardo Benvenuti