SYDNEY MOTORSPORT PARK
Having sealed the NSW Championship in Round 5 the pressure was off but it turned out to be a weekend plagued with engine problems. It was a shame as we hadn't had a single reliability problem prior to this round.
A misfiring engine limited our laps in all four of Friday's fifteen minute practice sessions. Unfortunately this meant we weren't able to focus on lap times or work on car setup and we still weren't sure if the car would be trouble free for Saturday morning's Qualifying session.
Qualifying - Snuck a quick lap in before disaster
What a relief it was to accelerate out of pit lane and feel the full power of the engine, misfire free. On my second flying lap I clocked my fastest time more than half a second clear of the rest of the field. They say it's crucial to get a lap time in qualifying ASAP as you don't know what will happen later in the session - how very true. I lost power accelerating through Turn 3 and suffered severe engine damage - the air cleaner post had worked it's way loose allowing a washer to find it's way into the carby and then wreak havoc in two of the four cylinders.
Race 1 - 11 Laps - 4th Place
The cylinder head of the engine sitting on a bench an hour before a race isn't ideal. Tim and Luke did a fantastic job to make it possible to contest Race 1. We knew that we would be down on power due to the engine damage but I still drove out of the pits with the full intention of winning that race. It seems it wasn't meant to be. I lead from the start till lap three when the engine began misfiring badly halfway through Turn 1. I dropped back to fourth, losing up to ten seconds a lap!! I still gave it everything in hope that the misfire would go away and I could close the gap as the three cars in front were fighting but I wasn't that fortunate.
Race 2 - 11 Laps - 1st Place + Fastest Lap
Anglo Australian Motorsport Team Owner Tim Beale and my engineer Luke Emerton had a late night changing engines in the car - we weren't going down without a fight!! Jumping from fourth to second by Turn 1 was a solid start to this race and I was able to take the lead at the end of the second lap. After missing a gearshift I dropped out of the lead on the third lap. The car was a handful with turn in oversteer for the high speed corners and mid-corner to exit oversteer on the slower corners. A real challenge, not to mention the fight for the lead all the way to the flag - we swapped positions a number of times and at one point were side by side down the main straight all the way to Turn 4. It was a great battle and it came down to a margin of just 0.292 seconds across the finishing line!! It was good clean racing with Simon Hodges - super precise as contact doesn't belong in open wheel racing as it can easily result in cars upside down or in walls and injured drivers!
Race 3 - 12 Laps - 1st Place + Fastest Lap
This was it! The last race of the year...but... it wasn't going to be drama free! Luke did up my seat belts one last time and we headed off. My launch as the lights went out kept us in first place into Turn 1. Simon was able to take the lead on Lap 2 but I had it back on Lap 3 and I was able to start building up a gap each lap after that. With five laps to go the engine water temperature that normally averages around 90 degrees over the course of the lap started approaching 100. I began altering my driving, trying to keep the temperature down but with four laps to go the warning lights were on, the engine over 110 degrees and my heart rate almost at it's max - constantly above 190bbm as the possibility of a breakdown loomed and Simon closing back in as I tried to nurse the car. I slipped up in the last corner with three laps to go, hurting my speed down the straight and Simon was able to take the lead. I knew that sitting behind his car would worsen my overheating problems and that I had to regain the lead as soon as possible. I was able to do that with two laps to go and then bring the car home in 1st place!!! The margin... just 0.531 seconds. Another incredibly close and intense race with my team mate.
The two wins on Sunday felt absolutely incredible! They were hard fought, down to the line and in front of a crowd of my beloved supporters - the best way to finish off an amazing year! Thank you for organising the Champagne Jess so that we could celebrate in style!
A year that wouldn't have been possible without Tim Beale, Anglo Australian Motorsport and the full support from my girlfriend and family.
Thank you for joining me on the journey to becoming the 2015 NSW FORMULA FORD 1600 CHAMPION!!!!