This weekend was the first round of the 2017 Australian Formula 3 Premier Series, held at Morgan Park in Warwick, QLD. Run over three days, the meeting consisted of one full day of Friday practice; one qualifying session, and one 15-lap race on Saturday; and two 15-lap races on Sunday.
We arrived in the early hours of the morning on Friday for my first laps around the Morgan Park circuit. My first session consisted mostly of learning the track, and then in the last few laps, beginning to find the brake points and limits of the car around various sections of the circuit. However, not long after the checkered flag flew for the first session, rain began to strike the circuit; and continued for the remainder of the day. This left us with a decision to make, risk the car on a circuit with unforgiving run-off – and one which I have little experience on, or not run for the rest of the day. After considering both options (and the fact the racing would be in dry weather), the decision was to put the car away for the day, save a set of wet tyres and not risk any damage to the car. Still wanting to make the most of the day, instead of circulating the track, I spent my time analysing data with Scott (the team’s data engineer) to see where improvements could be made, watching footage, and discussing various aspects of the racing which would take place in the forthcoming days.
I lined up ready for qualifying on Saturday morning, albeit with only 10 minutes of track time under my belt. After a practice start out of pit lane, I was on the Morgan Park circuit for the second time. After a few laps of warming tyres and brakes, I began to push – except, when I did so, it coincided with catching up to traffic. It took me a few laps to get some clear air, however, on my first clear lap I scrubbed off a lot of speed when I carried too much entry speed into turn 4 and had to catch the car before it spun. My next two clear laps were my best shot at setting the fastest laps I could, and, with a lap of 1:07.999, I managed to take pole position!
A few hours later, we were lined up at the exit of pit lane, ready for the green light to release us onto the circuit. With another practice start out of pit lane, I commenced my formation lap, and lined up on the main grid, where we would sit for three minutes, before taking off on our warm-up lap. Three minutes passed, and the green flag waved for the warm-up lap, a practice start out of the box laid down some rubber to give me extra grip for the actual start. After the warm-up lap, we all took our appropriate grid positions, and waited for the red light to switch on, and then off again, to start the first race of the 2017 Australian Formula 3 Premier Series. The 5-second board was out, followed shortly by the red light, and then – after a two second delay, we were racing. I had a good initial launch, but an early up-shift cost me the lead into turn one. Sticking on the gearbox of the race leader, and my team mate, I waited for an opportunity to make a move. Knowing my best chance was into turn 4, I didn’t attempt anything until I was right on his gearbox exiting turns 2 and 3. With 4 laps to go, on lap 11, I got a good exit out of turn 2, and stuck behind him through the quick left-hander of turn 3, and then stuck the car down the inside of turn 4 and made the move for the lead. After this point, I began to gradually extend my lead, and in the process, beat the circuit’s outright lap record by just under a second! After which, I went on to take the checkered flag in first!
Sunday morning marked the final day of the weekend, with two 15-lap races scheduled to take place. The first of which being a reverse top-4 grid, and the second being based on second fastest lap in qualifying. I lined up on the grid for the second race, in 4th place. After a good start, I had to back off to prevent hitting the car in front, I then got back on the power and shifted to second gear. However, as I did so, I was faced with the unfortunate sight of my team-mate – who had gone onto the grass after the start – sliding across the track sideways in front of me. With no other choice, I lifted the throttle and swerved to the right. It wasn’t enough though, just clipping the rear of his car, the left end-plate of the front wing was ripped apart. The front left wheel and suspension suffered a much worse fate though, with four arms bent out of place and a bent rim. As a result, I had to stop on track, and could not finish the race – and neither could my team-mate. Whilst working hard to repair the damage to my car, the team realised the upright (which is where the wheel mounts) was cracked and bent beyond repair and could not be repaired for the third race, meaning I could not make the start.
After such a promising start to the weekend, it ended in rather disappointing fashion. Now behind on points, I will be trying my hardest to catch the lead of the championship at Mallala in three weeks’ time.
As always, a massive thank you to Errol, Scott, Callum and Gary from Gilmour Racing for having the car looking great and set-up to about as close to perfect as is possible!
Thanks my sponsors ES2, Truck Dealers Australia, TWD, Edith Cowan University, Kingsway Community Bank Branch, Impressions the Home Builder, Grand Toyota Wangara, Ballajura Indoor Sports, Rvend, Fullworks Firesafety, Inspired Insurance Services, David McDonnell, Signarama Joondalup, Online Logistics Solutions, Focused Recruitment, F45 Hillarys and Trizone Fitness for their ongoing support, crucial to allow me to race. Thanks to the Clifford Gardens Motor Inn and the Mecure Brisbane for the fantastic accommodation and to Dad, Grandad, Mum for allowing me to race, and all their hard work to get me to where I am.
Finally, to everyone who has followed my progress this weekend, and showing their support for me by keeping up to date on my Facebook page and website!