Clay Richards: Final Round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series
The last round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series was held at the famous Mount Panorama circuit for the Bathurst 1000 and what a weekend it was. Our family were camping in the camp grounds along with some family friends. Thanks to our partners at Essential Caravans they provided us with a Semi Off-Road C Class for our trip to the mountain.
We arrived on the Tuesday to setup the caravan followed by setup for the weekend on Wednesday. Thursday we would have two 20 minute practice sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The track was still a little bit wet in some places due to a fair bit of rain that fell on Wednesday, I finished the first session in 7th which was a solid start to the weekend.
Practice 2 was dry which was a good chance to do some quicker laps. I finished the session in 10th which was another great session.
Qualifying on Friday morning was an awesome session. It was a difficult session to start off with when I was struggling to get a clear lap without running into slower traffic. But with two minutes left in the session I went from 19th to 5th and was on for another improvement on the next lap which could’ve put me in 2nd but I made a mistake towards the end of the lap.
To end the day on Friday was race 1. Starting from 5th I made a great start to slot into 3rd by the end of the first lap. A safety car came out in the middle of the race which only stayed out for 2 laps before we were off and racing again. On the final lap the driver running in 2nd ran wide and I was able to pass and then I was right on the back of the leader. Due to yellow flags in the final corner I wasn’t able to make a pass for 1st but it sure felt nice to go from 5th to 2nd with a quick car.
Saturday would be a nice easy day with only one race on in afternoon. Starting from 2nd I got another great start to maintain 2nd on the first lap. The car struggled throughout most of the race with tyre pressures being too low but towards the end of the race the car started to finally come alive and I had the quickest lap time on the last 2 laps. I lost a position but still held onto a podium in 3rd.
Our last race was on Sunday which was the day of the big Supercars race. It’s always so cool to be able to race on the big day when the Bathurst 1000 starts as there are more crowds and lots of people tuning in on TV. I had a very bad start and dropped back down to 5th but managed to pass back 4th on the first lap. The car was performing really well and I had a lot of pace but I wasn’t able to move up as quickly as track position was against me. I managed to get back to 3rd position on the last lap and crossed the line with another podium.
It was an awesome way to end the year with three podiums. That also wraps up what has been such an up and down season but on our day we’ve been competitive. We finish the year with four podiums, one win, one pole position and a lap record.