Finally back in the Shannons Insurance, Penrite Toyota 86 on the weekend competing in the first round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Scholarship Series at Sydney Motorsport Park. The Scholarship Series has been introduced as a feeder series for the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series with the top 20 being able to advance to the first round in July. Due to us finishing lasts year Championship in 9th we automatically qualify for the Championship. The series will also be introducing the new generation Toyota 86 race cars to the National Championship in 2024 and the scholarship series will run the current generation cars we have now.
It was a different lead up to the weekend with Thursday being the Series annual media day where all the drivers participate in interviews and photos for the coming 2023 season. The media day also gave all the drivers 2 hours of on track practice. Sydney Motorsport Park was a track I’ve always struggled at and the plan was to collect as much data and get a good setup on the car ready for the National round at Sydney in August.
On Friday we also had another 4 practice sessions of 15 minutes to learn about the behaviour of the car and how we can make it better. By the end of the day we made some great progress to the car to make it faster.
Saturday we had a Qualifying session and race 1. I qualified in 7th and I felt the car wasn’t quite performing as well as Friday and I was a little disappointed because I knew the car was easily capable to qualify in the top 3. I was struggling a lot with understeer throughout the session and it would be an issue we’d be fighting with all weekend.
In race 1 I had a great start and got up to 5th by the end of the first lap. I was still struggling with understeer in the car but I had some great battles with some of the other competitors. I finished the race in 6th.
The final 2 races were on Sunday. I started race 2 from 5th and got another great start managing to move up to 5th. The car was getting better as the weekend progressed but the car still wasn’t performing as I’d liked. Again I had some more great battles like in race 1 and this time I was able to finish 5th.
Race 3 Dad and I finally made a step in the right direction with our understeer problems after a setup change. I didn’t get the best start and fell down to 6th but made a pass for 5th in the first lap. Immediately after passing 5th place I was able to make some gains on the leading group and had the fastest lap of the race before the safety car came out due to an accident. After a few laps under safety car the stewards decided to red flag the race due to the amount of debris where the accident was. It would end up being a 3 lap dash to the end starting under safety car. The car felt really fast and I had an easy pace advantage compared to the drivers in front. Unfortunately I couldn’t make much more progress and settled for 5th.
5th for the first round out of 27 competitors was a great start to the year. Dad and I made a lot of improvements to the car throughout the weekend which will help us when we go there for the next event.
A big thank you to everyone for the support especially to Shannons Insurance and Penrite. 2023 has started in a very positive way and I can’t wait to get back into the race seat.