With less than a week to turn around the cars from the previous round, Alexandra Whitley headed to round 3 of the BNT V8’s held at Circuit chris amon Manfeild during the New Zealand Grand Prix 14-16 February. Whitley comments on the weekend….
The weekend was off to a tough start after crashing into the wall in race one, but we redeemed ourselves with 2 fourth places in the final races, banking more critical championship points and catching the eyes of plenty of TV and Media.
It was great to jump straight back into the car after racing the previous weekend, everything was fresh in my mind as we carried the momentum into the round.
Manfeild is shaped like a paper-clip and on paper is simple, but in reality is a little more tricky. It has incredible history and has produced some very credible and some famous drivers.
After our practise sessions, I had a much better handle on the track going into qualifying. We ran older tyres first up and planned to bolt on greens (new tyres) after everything was warm. I set a banker time early on, which sat us in third.
We dived into pit lane to change tyres and headed back out, but there was oil all over a good third of the track, as another car had blown their diff. We couldn’t get the edge out of our greens due to the slippery oil. This meant we started from third for race one.
Later that afternoon we rolled out for our first race of the weekend. We had some great pace and were very racy, it was a three way battle for second between myself, Nick Ross and Lance Hughes.
A few laps in I went to make my move and tried to outbreak Lance on the outside of turn one. I braked late and hard, but it was a little too late. I speared straight ahead, across the previously dropped oil and as the wall edged closer the wheels continued to lock up on the slippery grass, which made it hard to turn and avoid the wall.
I managed to slow the car down, but still crashed into and along the tyre wall. I was pushed back out and rejoined the race, but now we were a lap down. I drove hard and consistently right to the end, but finished the race in last place.
I was more disappointed for the Richards Motorsport Team, for the effort and hard work they put in was gone in a split second, but the weekend wasn’t over yet and a little set back wasn’t going to stop me!
The damage was all superficial and after a little panel beating and sign writing, it was good as new!
Race 2 was early Sunday morning and with my poor finishing place I started further back in the grid. I quickly made my way forward and was soon racing for third, I had a little more pace over the car in front, but he wasn’t giving up the spot that easily! We exchanged places backward and forwards many times! And raced plenty of turns 2 wide. We crossed the line side by side and I was determined 4th by only .07 of a second! thats faster than a click of your fingers!
I was hungry to get back to the podium and reward the team for their efforts for the final race of the weekend . It was another standing start and after last weekend I knew how and what to do. I just needed to replicate that starting back in 5th place.
Lights out, GO! My start was good, but I was quickly boxed in from the cars that started in front. I pushed myself and the Toyota to our limits, but we didn’t quite have the pace of the others in the final race. I started to reel third place in the final stages of the race, but ran out of laps and finished 4th place again.
We finished the weekend a very close 5th overall in the points, which was solid redemption after our crash and poor finish in the first race. We scored huge TV time for the Toyota team and proved we’re here to race and are serious competitors within the category. We head to Hampton Downs in a months time to tackle a new track and race the boys hard and fast all over again.
I can’t thank the entire Richards Motorsport Team enough for believing in me and their continued support. As well as everyone behind the scenes who have helped me to make another round, including sponsors supporters, the category and the drivers and their teams. Bring on Hampton Downs!