We continued to have great conditions for racing on the Sunday at Circuit Chris Amon on which we would be racing in the 64th New Zealand Grand Prix to finish the weekend.
First was Qualifying 2 which would decide the grid for the Grand Prix. I pushed as hard as I could throughout the session and the lap which I was able to put in was less than a tenth of a second off my best time on the Saturday. However, the field was very tight, and that tenth was the difference between qualifying P4, and where I did actually qualify which was in P10.
Next was Race 2 where I was starting from P4 on the grid. I got away really well off the line and was positioning myself for turn 1 when Muth forced me toward the wall clipping the nose of my car. That cost me momentum and I immediately had to defend against Auer. I battled hard in the tight pack and then had Marcus Armstrong to contend with from behind as he was attempting to come through from further down with this race being a reverse top 8 grid.
I held Armstrong there for a couple of laps and then covered into turn 2 but he made a late dive inside for a passing attempt which he managed to do pretty well putting himself on the inside of me through the corner. However, then in what would end up being a key moment in his Championship challenge, he forced me wide on the exit and as a result I left the track. Before we even finished the race, race control had put the move under investigation and a penalty for him was the result.
Throughout the Championship, the officials have been very strict and consistent that you need to allow racing room on the exit of the corner which I have abided by and has been the reason I have not been able to complete a couple of otherwise good moves across the five rounds. Whilst we did not make any protest on Armstrong, being forced off cost me a number of positions and the rule was consistently applied.
From this point I raced hard, made some good key moves and finished in 7th place for more solid Championship points.
The build up to the Grand Prix was an experience in itself. An autograph signing session with all of the drivers attracted quite a large crowd which was fun, and before the race on the grid we had the driver photograph along with the National Anthem. This was good experience as it tested my pre-race routine to handle the extra elements which I felt comfortable with the way I did.
The race start was hectic, and you could certainly sense the intensity, but I got away well from my grid position of P10 and was jumping between this and P9 in the opening laps. An early safety car meant a red flag and a restart which I negotiated well, pulling away from those behind me and in position to challenge for further positions.
Unfortunately on lap 12 Cameron Das and Lucas Auer came into contact at turn 2 directly in front of me which triggered a 6 car pile up including myself. I had nowhere to go and hit the line of stationary cars in front. Even with further review and hindsight, there was nowhere I could have gone without hitting someone, so it is just one of those things.
In the end I finished 8th for the Championship which for my first time here at all the circuits and amongst international competition at this level, is a reault I am very pleased with.
As always, a huge thank you to my sponsors Lazersafe, High Energy Services, Online Logistics Solutions, Edith Cowan University, The Wealth Designers (TWD), Grand Toyota, Fullworks Firesafety, Rvend, Inspired Insurance Services, Walker Wayland WA, Signarama Joondalup, F45 Hillarys, Trizone and Focused Recruitment.
Thank you to my investors, without whom racing in such high-profile events would be nothing more than a dream, and whose messages and support of me over the past 5 weeks has been amazing.
Thank you to Bruin and Joanne from MTEC Motorsports for running a fantastic team; and to those working directly on my car who have become great friends – David, Thomas and Harry for all their hard work and dedication to having the car prepared to the best of their ability without fail. They have also taught me plenty of Spanish, French and English (thanks Harry) which has been a lot of fun.
Thanks to Toyota Racing and especially Nico for putting on and the organisation of such an incredible series. The racing has been amazing, but all of the catering and behind the scenes work has been first class also. I especially enjoyed my day out with TRS on Lake Taupo, and the experiences such as this which were organised off track were also great fun and opportunities to develop.
I’d also like to thank Kazuto, Jackson and Petru for being great competition and team-mates, constantly pushing each other forward, which has shown over the course of the series.
It has also been great to have Mick Kouros here as well, who is always a great source of guidance in any aspect of motorsport and has helped me immensely in my progression! He pushes me hard, expects the best, and I am doing my best to improve everyday.
Finally, a massive thank you to everyone at home and around the world who has supported me with comments, messages and through reading my updates over the past 5 weeks. It really means a great deal to me.
Now, back home to Perth to train and catch my breath before heading back to the UK at the end of the month!