Alexandra Whitley gives us a review of her ‘double duties’ at Taupo over the weekend……
It was the third round of the SsangYong Actyon Racing Series over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of December, at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo. I was set to do double duties not only racing my Waikato SsangYong but making my debut in the New Zealand V8 Ute class in the Porter Group VE Holden, and first female in history to do so. It was a busy weekend and I came away with a straight car a smile from ear to ear and a fantastic debut result of 6th place.
It was going to be a tricky weekend jumping from ute to ute, although very similar in weight they have completely different power ranges, grip levels, braking levels and swapping from a sequential gear box to H pattern was all challenging. My style of driving had to be tailored to each car. I Qualified 5th in the SsangYong from 29th other cars, this was a good start to my weekend in the toughest and closest racing class. The V8 was difficult as we didn’t get any practice it was straight out the gate with green tyres (brand new) and into it. You only have 2 laps to set your time before the tyres “freshness” is gone. I also qualified 5th and the whole team was absolutely wrapped under the difficult circumstances.
The SsangYong races were rolling starts and starting P5 from race one my start was good getting up beside 4th place, but not quite having the speed to stay there. The four in front ever so slowly pulled a gap and the utes behind dropped right off. It was a race alone and I crossed the line 5th. The V8 was shortly after and was my first ever standing start. I was nervous but didn’t let that get the better of my. The lights staged and went out, I dropped the clutch balanced the wheel spin and was 3rd by turn 2! What a start! I battled hard back and forth. I was now 5th racing Andrew Porter for 4th I was a lot faster trying to get through anywhere and force him into a mistake, but he made his ute as wide as the track and that’s how we finished.
Race 2 in the SsangYong ended as quickly as it started I was starting 6th in the Reverse top 10, when on the roll up lap BANG! My tailshaft blew and made an almighty noise. It ripped out wiring including fuel, electrical and my hand broke from underneath and I was parked up on the infield before we had even started. I was very disappointed, but it was great to see the race from another angle. Straight back into the V8 ute I now had to come from the rear in 10th place, a had little wheel spin off the line. There was already a crash by the time I got to turn 1, I went wide onto the grass to miss the carnage, 2 turns later I was up the inside of the next ute in front. We were red flagged and re-started I raced clean and moved forward. Coming around the last turn we were 3 wide! I finished 7th.
I now stated 10th for race 3 in the SsangYong, the utes were incredibly even this weekend with 0.3 of a second splitting the top 10!. We raced side by side turn after turn and I finished where I stared in 10th place, I need to find some speed. Back into the V8 I had the power I wanted in the SsangYong!, but so did everyone else. This was our last race of the weekend and I started 6th on the grid. I got off to another great start and jumped to the outside of 4th and 5th place we were three wide. However over the next few turns they slowly broke away. We were allowed six tyres for the meeting, however my tight budget only allowed for four. The ute wouldn’t turn, was slippery and really hot! And I had to muscle it round for 10 laps. I held off the boys behind me to finish 6th, which also placed me 6th for the weekend. My team and I couldn’t be happier with our result considering the circumstances and budget we had to run with.
The final SsangYong race was late Sunday afternoon from my accumulation of points I started 13th, I pushed forward and raced door to door every lap. I finished 11th, which also with my DNS race placed me 11th for the weekend. All in all I am disappointed with my SsangYong result, but we could not have known we were going to be mechanically let down, we think this was caused from the massive impact at Pukekohe last round, it has hurt my championship points, but I will be in great shape for our endurance round next year and I am the endurance Queen! I will come back fighting harder than before.
I cannot thank Jake Stoneman from Stoneman Race Tech and his team enough for everything they have done leading up to and over the weekend. The V8 was faultless and I am excited to what the future will bring! To Matt Spratt for lending me his Ute and to Porter Group for their sponsorship. There are so many other people, business and sponsors that helped to make this possible so thank you! I am working hard to raise the budget to continue in V8 ute series. Bring it on and watch out boys!