What does a young New Zealand Formula Ford champion do next? Previous to the 2020 summer series in NZ, the options for drivers’ were to stay in single seaters and compete in the Toyota Racing Series or move offshore and try Formula 4 or USF2000. Or the tin-top option in NZ and move into the Toyota TR86 Series or even straight into the BNT V8s.
Having competed in the Formula Ford category for the last four seasons and winning the national title, Southland’s Jordan Michels could well have looked at moving straight into the BNT V8s, having driven one in various endurance events.
However, this season the Touring Car Series (TCR) option is opening up another category for young Kiwi drivers with the Australian series now underway and a NZ championship starting in January 2020.
Just back in town having competed in the latest round of TCR Australia driving a Honda Civi Type R for Wall Racing in Queensland, Michels spoke to Talkmotorsport about the category.
It all went back to a phone call a few months ago from Racer Products who were after a driver for the opening round of the North Island Endurance Series. Mark Petch had just brought in a Hyundai i30 TCR car for Gene Rollinson to campaign and Michels joined him for a successful debut of the car.
“The TCR cars are quite unique,” commented Michels. “The Honda in Australia was quite different to the Hyundai TCR car I drove in the endurance series as the tyres we used were not the same.”
“Without that (Hyundai) drive then the opportunity in Australia wouldn’t have opened up.”
Michels first met Wall Racing at the launch of the New Zealand TCR series which took place at the CRC Speedshow in late July.
“I very nearly didn’t make it,” said Michels. “On that day the flights out of Invercargill were cancelled so I literally raced up to Dunedin to catch a flight but missed that. All was not lost as there happened to be a Jetstar flight leaving shortly after and was able to talk my way onto that flight and made it to Auckland and the launch in the nick of time.
“I was able to meet David Fyfe at the function and we exchanged contact details. Low and behold it wasn’t long after that I received a phone call from David saying they had a driver pull out of the Queensland round and there was an opportunity for me to race.
“That was on Friday, we signed a deal on Monday, booked flights on Tuesday and was off to Australia on the Thursday.
“Wall Racing is an impressive outfit with a big transporter for their three Honda’s. In fact the whole TCR round was impressive with a lot of effort going into promotion which seems to be working. They are great people to work with and as welcoming as the South Island Formula 1600 series that I have been involved with.
“Considering the Supercars were at the Ipswich Raceway the previous weekend, the TCR event still brought in a lot of spectators.”
There wasn’t a lot of time for Michels to get used to the front-wheel-drive Honda with 2x30min sessions on the Friday.
“Ipwsich is not to be under estimated so it was a great learning curve for me. The TCRs are set up for left foot braking which I have had to learn quickly. Tyres were another thing to learn, particularly with front wheel drive. The cars are hard on the front tyres, I had to learn that following also had an effect on the front tyre wear and grip.
“The big thing for me was that I wasn’t sure how the car was meant to behave, having not driven one before. This is where my two team mates John Martin and Tony D’Alberto were great and I learned heaps, particularly on giving feed back to the engineer etc. So it was a huge learning experience for me.
“What I learned from qualifying is that you have to be right on it and comfortable with the car.”
The other learning curve was mastering the start procedure for the first time. “It’s complicated – you have to co-ordinate the clutch, handbrake and launch control.”
Starting race 1 from 15th on the grid, a small mistake during the race cost him but his lap times were good and he was eventually classified 11th in a pleasing debut.
“By race two I seemed to have the pace and was able to battle with Jason Bright and Aaron Seton and my lap times were only half a tenth of a second off D’Alberto’s best.” Michels finished 12th in both race two and three.
“I definitely learned heaps, thoroughly enjoyed the racing and would love to get back there to race some more so we will work towards getting the funding to do more TCR racing.
“It’s been a life long ambition to race in Australia so to do this AND race with the likes of Russell Ingall, Bright etc, drivers who I grew up with watching on the TV! It was a world class field with a grid full of talent.”
So what now for Michels?
“I’ve got quite a strong management team around me which has secured funding for our going forward and we are working towards being part of TCR in NZ over the summer. We should have something to announce in the near future”
See also: – Michels enthused after TCR round in Australia