Now before I get carried away... It was actually quite a stressful week leading up to the season finale on the Gold Coast.
Lots of added pressure with obvious championship talk and we actually came into the round with what we thought was an 18.5 point lead, but after the series completed a count back it was actually a 15.5 point lead. Nevertheless, it was a business as usual race weekend. We had confidence of the back of convincing wins, a fast car and strong results at Gold Coast in 2014.
Both practice sessions and qualifying all fell on Friday, so it became pretty much the most important day of the weekend. Managing the curb hops and how much to push around the concrete jungle is quite challenging as the track grip develops over the day.
The first session on track was a little bit disappointing. I did lose my fastest lap due to a curb hop but I struggled with the balance of the car during the opening 20 mins. We ended the session P8.
We rolled into practice 2 with a few minor changes and immediately I felt very comfortable in the car to push on for a solid lap time. With no red flags during the session we were able to maximise our track time. Unfortunately I again lost my fastest lap pushing the limit through the chicanes. Although still ending the session in P3 I knew our pace was solid heading into Qual.
For me this was absolutely the most important session of the weekend. Do a good job start up front and you can cruise to finish line. Do a bad job and you’re trying to battle your way back up to the front on a track that’s difficult to pass. Fortunately though, I did what we needed to do. Early in the first run of qual I went straight to P1. It was a quick lap and much earlier in the session that I thought it would come. I pushed to go faster but the driver in front of me spun awkwardly and I had to yield the rest of the run and opted to pit for my second set of new tyres.
On the second run, with plenty of time on the clock I took an extra lap to bring the tyres up to temp. Proceeding onto my first flyer I headed into Turn 2 and lost drive on the exit of the corner. I parked down the escape road as I assed the damage to our car. In the end, it was a flange in the gearbox that snapped (no doubt on impact from the curbs over the GC600 circuit) and I was forced out of qualifying. My first flying lap from qual still had me at P1 until 1 minute from the end of the session and I was pipped by 0.03 seconds. I was a little disappointed, however I was starting on the front row and looking for 3 clean races to seal the championship.
Race 1 & 2 – 14 Laps
Both races were very placid for me. In race 1 I got a fairly average start dropped into 3rd and maintained my position throughout the race. In race 2 I maintained my position into Turn 1 and had some pressure from behind late in the race but I was able to pick up the speed and not come under threat. In both races I was able to run with the leaders and drive away from the pack, however in the end my main goal was to finish with no mistakes and collect points.
Finishing P3 in both races put us 78 points clear in the championship and we became provision champions. It was an amazing feeling with lots of mixed emotions (a few tears were shed), but we tried to keep a lid on the celebrations as there was still one more race to go and I wanted to win!!
Race 3 – 20 Laps
With no championship pressure, the final race my goal was to go out and have a big push for a win in the last race of the season. I had a good getaway off the line and immediately felt comfortable with our cold tyre pace and put pressure on P2. GC is very tough to pass but I continued to pressure and look for an opening to slip through.
On lap 8 we had a few warnings come up on the dash and unfortunately with some temperature spikes, I was forced to slow somewhat and manage my temps for the remainder of the race. I slowed dramatically but luckily we had put in a very fast first 10 laps and I held 7 seconds over the trailing pack. I managed the gap and crossed the line P3 to finish up the season with another strong result.
Once I passed the chequered flag for the final time in 2015, the gravity of our championship win and how we overcame every obstacle thrown our way had still not sunk in and nor has it still now! It was a truly incredible moment and I’m very lucky I got to share it with my closest friends and family.
I have so many people to thank for a pretty unbelievable season. My family for their constant and unwavering support. Michael, Maria, Mike and all the Sonic guys for never giving up and working unbelievably hard on and off the track. Also a massive thanks to our partners Bob Jane T-Marts, Michelin, Outback Camps Australia, Buildex, Aquamaintain, Luxury Auto Bodies, Steeline, Revolution Racegear, Bell and Super Slick.
On a more personal note I have to thank all the individuals who have offered advice, support or just a couch to keep me off the streets. Tim, John, Sven, Rod, Mel, Jo, Bill, Theo, Nick, Damo, Adrian, Paul, Will, Anthony and Leah & Rob. If there is anyone I have missed, I do sincerely apologise.
2015 it’s fair to say has been an incredibly mixed ride, however I’m so grateful that I have had the support from everyone involved to move forward and accomplish something truly outside my wildest dreams.
Thanks for all your support.