Last weekend I was up in Auckland to compete in the final round of the 2kcup season, a special 1 hour race with a mandatory pit stop. My sim racing also continued in full swing with a trip to the LPL studios in the Sky Tower to compete in round 4 of the LPL Project Cars Championship. Not to mention I kicked off my assault on the FIA Manufacturers Series in Gran Turismo. A big weekend of Motorsport.

My setup for the night in the LPL studios. Epic.

I started my trip off on Thursday afternoon. After flying up to Auckland I headed straight for the Sky Tower and the LPL Studio. Normally I would compete online from home but being in Auckland I wasn’t able to do that so took the chance to head into the studio and use their equipment. After getting myself setup and giving the commentators a few topics to talk about, it was time for two races around Sportsland Sugo, a track based on the Suzuka circuit in Japan.

Qualifying for race 1 saw tricky conditions in the wet which would continue throughout the night. I was super happy to put myself in 3rd looking to fight for those podiums to move up from 4th in the championship. It didn’t last long however as I got a terrible start quickly dropping to 5th. It wasn’t long before the treacherous conditions bit Northway up ahead, I moved up to 4th as he went sailing off into the sand. My focus was all on Simon up ahead as I looked to make those spots back I had lost at the start. Simons a good friend and we have been battling each other in sim racing for years, including in the Gran Turismo regional finals in Tokyo. My target for the season is to beat him so you can beat I was pushing as hard as I could in the rain. At the end of lap 1 I saw a half chance and went for it. Down the inside at the final turn I was cleanly through and straight away contemplating if I had enough speed to catch second. Those thoughts were very premature however as into turn 1 for the second lap I got it wrong. Desperate to hold Simon off behind I went too hard into the turn and ended up running ever so slightly wide. Waiting for me on the outside of turn 1 was the oh so slippery astro turf. Getting half a wheel on that was all it took to send me into a spin. Simon was straight back past as I dropped back to 5th once again. Absolutely kicking myself I gathered it up and carried on. I knew I had good speed and now I was really going to have to push to get back to a decent position. With 17 laps there was plenty of time. Before half way I managed to make the move to get back up to 4th. With glimpses of Simon up ahead I was really pushing to try close the gap. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as I came home just one second behind Simon to finish in 4th, kicking myself that my own mistake cost me a podium but still pleased to be in the front battle.

Qualifying for race 2 and I’m over the moon to put myself in 2nd on the grid. My best qualifying of the season, and using a different wheel and setup to what I’m used to. At the same time it serves to rub in the fact I could have gone much better in race 1 without the spin. With me sitting there excited to be on the front row the race started and I got a terrible one again. Holding the inside into turn one I managed to hold on to third as I tried to settle into position. I was pushing hard as the race progressed staying within a couple of seconds of Madzie in front and doing all I could to try close in. As the race headed to the halfway point the rain started to clear and the cars in front went into the pits. I didn’t know at the time but they switched to dry tyres while I opted to stay out and run the wets to the end. While the dry tyres were slow early on it would all turn around towards the end as the conditions continued to dry out and the dry line formed. As the race was drawing on I ended up in a hard fought battle to hold onto 4th. With my wet tyres really not happy at this point I couldn’t keep the spot and ended up finishing the race in 4th once again. On another day it might have been two 3rds but I can’t be too disappointed with the solid results for the night.

The Red Dragon all ready to attack the track once again.

Friday naturally saw some more Motorsport. Dad and I headed out to Hampon Downs for a practice day ahead of the 2kcup races that would take place Sunday. We started the day running some old tyres and boy was it an adventure. Going into the weekend we knew we had one good set of tyres with plenty of tread left, wanting to ensure they still had plenty of tread left through the whole 1 hour race we decided to use a different set for most of the practice. The only other usable set we had was some very old Toyos we had lying around. I could instantly tell they weren’t as good but that wasn’t really a problem for a practice. Alternating sessions between Dad and I we built up our speed over the day with the car going great throughout. At the end of the day we put the good tyres on for one last session each so we were fully prepared ahead of the Sunday. Boy did we learn how much difference tyres can make. The car was straight back to feeling how I would expect, handling much better through the corners making it much more pleasurable to drive. All set for race.

I’ve officially signed with VW for the 2019 season.

Saturday rolls around and I feel the need for some more racing. After a last minute ring around I managed to borrow a racing wheel from a mate (mine being in Christchurch) that I could use to take part in the FIA Manufacturers Series races on Gran Turismo. The Manufacturers cup is a 10 round series with races online every Wednesday and Saturday and then a LAN final with all the top drivers from around the world. Unfortunately I missed round 1 the previous Wednesday due to being sick so I was keen to get my season started in round 2 on Saturday night. With the series being all about the battle between different manufacturers an important decision is which manufacturer to drive for. Having missed the first week I was in a position to see who everyone else had gone with and how the cars were performing. After going through all the details and trying to work out which car would give me the best chance to qualify for the finals I’m happy to announce I will be driving for VOLKSWAGEN for 2019.

While Saturdays race didn’t end up being my best work I’m happy to get my season underway with a solid result and looking forward to driving a car a really enjoy. (I was previously driving for Mitsubishi which wasn’t so enjoyable in end, there’s a whole story I can share if you want).

There’s a race track in there somewhere. Understandable delays to start the day due to fog.

Sunday it’s on to the main event, the 2kcup 1 hour race at Hampton Downs. It was a slow start to the morning with delays due to the dense fog. Once we got going it was time for a quick practice session. With the format of the final round our grid positions would be based on our championship position but reversed. So rather than qualifying it was just a practice which served as a good chance to get back in the grove behind the wheel of the Red Dragon. With two grids for the weekend there were two practice sessions, one for each grid but due to us sharing the car we put one driver in each. I went out and was feeling good in the first session. Dad then headed out for a few laps in the second session. And with that it was time to focus on the race.

Due to the reverse grid we were starting 4th on the grid of 33 cars. With positions based on championship position there were a lot of cars around us we had been battling through the season. Some clear targets we knew we could beat and plenty of cars behind that we knew would be faster. The decision was made to have Dad to the first stint leaving me to jump in and attack the second half of the race. Funnily enough that decision was partly because I might be able to have a strong finish to the race and partly because Dad was quicker getting out of the car than in so our pit stop driver change would work better with me getting in.

“What tyre pressures should we run?”

When the flag dropped Dad got a brilliant start jumping into the lead heading into turn one. Next time I see him coming down into the hairpin he’s back down to 3rd. It’s tough in a reverse grid race knowing that the faster cars are going to come through. Even so Dad manages to minimise the losses early on doing a great job in the early laps holding 5th and growing the gaps behind. Eventually though the faster cars started to come through. It was one by one to start with but about lap 8 the main pack caught up and Dad started getting swamped. In the thick of the battle he took things cautiously, not wanting to have any dramas before I got in the car, which at times cost positions. At the 20 minute mark the pit window opened with Dad down in 26th. At the half way point it was time for the driver change as Dad came into the pits. He jumped out and I jumped in. After a quick warning about the brakes vibrating I was off and into my stint to close out the second half of the race.

As I come out of the pits I take the inside line into turn 2 to hold my position from a car that’s already stopped. The brakes do indeed vibrate, a problem we had repaired only a couple of rounds earlier, frustrating. I easily hold the spot and then head up over the rise at 3. Then down into turn 4 and I brake a little early being cautious both because of the brake vibration and the brake problems we’ve had after the pit in one hour races previously. The car behind was not being cautious on the brakes however and slammed into the back of me. I was a bit pissed but that was only going to motivate me to go faster, I’ll worry about the damage at the end of the race. If I wasn’t already I was wide awake now after that contact. I put my focus completely into driving my car fast. I was looking at the car in front and trying to go faster than them. It was impossible to tell who I was racing and who was lapping or getting lapped by this point but that wasn’t important it was all about going as fast as I could. The vibrating brakes continued throughout the race and the tyres struggled through the corners. It was so frustrating to be driving a car that was just not as good as it had been as recently as the practice session that very morning. It was the overheated/warped rotors causing brake troubles and the wrong pressures causing lack of grip in the tyres. Every lap I was battling the car through turn 1, counter steering as the car slid through the corner. After a number of laps there was a gap to the car in front I just couldn’t close. I raced on for so many laps desperately trying to close in for a pass but not quite being able to. The top cars came through to lap us and I tried to capitalise but nothing worked. Down to the last lap I was close in behind but a car coming through to lap us worked against me and the gap extended again. After half an hour of maximum attack I crossed the line to finish 19th.

A good result for the MR2 to end another great season in the 2kcup.