I was so excited to start the 2016 series with our Spirit of Lockyer car running the coveted number 1. At the same time we were deeply saddened at the sudden loss of our Mayor Steve Jones who had been such a great support to me over the past few years. He died unexpectedly a few days before the Clipsal round, and this made it really difficult for me but even more so for dad who had worked so closely with Steve on the Lockyer Valley Council for the past 4 years. He was a great mate and I made a personal pledge to honour him with a drive to win at my favourite street circuit.
Practice and qualifying went really well. The team made one simple change to the car which gave me the confidence to push harder than ever and set lap times quicker than ever before. I was happy with qualifying despite being pipped from the front row to row two in 4th position in the last couple of laps, I remained completely focused on achieving a great result for this round.
As the lights went out for race one I got a great start and moved into 3rd position fighting for the lead. Only 2 laps of racing and the safety car out for an on-track incident. At the restart Trent Young pitted with suspension failure leaving an open gap for me to hopefully chase down Woodsy. He was quick, and when the tussle between Ducky and Treseder didn’t pay off I was glad to resume second place and cross the line just behind Craig.
Starting on the front row in race two I got an awesome start leading into the Senna chicane and I managed lead start to finish in an uninterrupted almost full-length race. It was a real testament to the cars set up and car speed that I eclipsed my best time ever around the Adelaide circuit by a full second. I was determined to take the lead from the start and focus on perfect laps which really paid off. The car was brilliant and it was a great relief to take out an early race win in the 2016 series.
Now for the dreaded full reverse grid with a 20 second handicap start. From grid 37 it looked like an insurmountable task to get to the front of the grid in 8 laps. As it panned out for whatever reason our race was cut short once again and we only raced for 6 laps. It was a pity really because I had raced cleanly without any car contact at all to be in tenth position closing in on the guys up front. These are tough races especially for the new guys not familiar with the frantic pace from we fast guys coming through from the back of the grid. All good and we finished unscathed.
Points tallied and I was over the moon to be on pole position for the final double points race of the round. I managed another great start and as we approached the Senna chicane I could see I had a good car length on Woodsy but left braking just a little too late and launched my car airborne over the Senna chicane as had been done by Kyle and Trent earlier in the weekend. “Sometimes as a race driver you take calculated risks and turn 1 definitely proved that. On TV it looked spectacular but from inside my car it was a nervous moment.
I feared I may have broken something but everything appeared to be ok so I focused on fast initial laps to make a break from the field. Only a few laps in with a really handy lead and out comes the safety car for an on-track accident once again. Oh well these restarts are certainly something I’ve got used to over the past year. With James Duckworth alongside at the restart I managed to get the jump and lead into the chicane and hold onto the lead to take the chequered flag with Woodsy in hot in pursuit. Winning round 1 was a very special feeling, and standing on the podium with Craig and James was a truly exciting and memorable moment for the start of another great season. Hats off to a great field of drivers in what I believe is the best racing category in Australia. This result now makes Clipsal my most successful track at which I have won the most races in my ARC career.
I dedicate this round win to an awesome man and a great friend Steve Jones, this one was for you mate!
It has been a truly remarkable race weekend despite being so incredibly hot and humid. Going through unscathed without a single issue is a real testament to our race team. Also to our local area sponsors who have come aboard this year, Bunning agricultural engineers, Sloanebuilt trailers, MPS web consulting services, Autopro Gatton, Haines Constructions, Superior Signs, Land Transport and Duffs Engineering a huge thank you”. And a very special thanks to Dad and Darryl, awesome work team!! Looking forward to another sensational event at Phillip Island!