Clay Richards: Round 4 Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series at Sandown
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Clay Richards: Round 4 Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series at Sandown

By Shannons - 20 September 2023

The 4th round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series was held at sunny Sandown on the weekend and what a weekend it was. I did some testing in the Shannons Insurance, Penrite Oil Toyota 86 prior to the weekend and we had some very positive data to take away from it. 

Our weekend schedule was practice on Friday, Qualifying and two races on Saturday and one race on Sunday.

First practice was all about getting a feel for the track and seeing what the conditions were like. We were the first class out so the track was a little bit slippery in some areas but managed to place in 3rd for the session. 

The second practice we made a couple of changes from the session before and placed 19th. I wasn’t too worried about the position though as I made some mistakes on some of my fast laps and didn’t get a tow which is worth up to 1 second at Sandown.

Saturday morning was Qualifying. We knew that our best time would come on the first or second flying lap which is exactly what happened and I managed to put our car on pole position with the fastest ever lap for a Toyota 86 around Sandown. (1:24.95) I was absolutely wrapped. I’ve never had a pole position before so it was such a rewarding session especially after the last couple of rounds where we’ve had a lot of bad luck.

In race 1 I had an awesome start from pole to lead into the first corner. Due to the tow from the cars behind it was difficult to get a break from the pack but after some bump and grind from behind I was able to edge out and win the race with a 3 second lead. The car was quick and I had so much confidence.

There was a short turn around between races 1 and 2 on Saturday only being 2 hours to get the car ready for the second race. We copped a small amount of damage from the previous race so it was flat out to get the car prepared. I got another great start to lead into turn 1 for the second race however at the end of the first lap I heard a massive pop on the front straight. Not long after I was immediately having handling issues due to a left rear tyre going flat, I tried my very best to keep the car on track but the tyre eventually delaminated and I had no choice but to pull into the pits and retire from the race. I was gutted as I knew the car was quick enough to win the race. Not only was I out of the race but we later found that we had some damage to the left rear brake line due to the tyre flapping about in the left rear guard as well as some rear suspension damage due to going off road because of the tyre.

With one race remaining on Sunday we would start at the back due to retiring the car from race 2. Starting from last it was hard to see the starting lights and because of it my start wasn’t as good as the previous two races. I went from 32nd to 24th before the safety car came out and we would finish the race under safety car which meant no overtaking. The car had easily top 5 pace in that race and no doubt would’ve been in contention to win if I was running up the front. 

This weekend was a perfect example of the highs and lows of motorsport. One race could be a really good one and then it could all come crashing down within a matter of seconds. Overall I’m really happy with how our team worked this weekend. We didn’t put a foot wrong when it came to qualifying and race 1. 

Our next event will be at Bathurst for the last round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series. I’m keen for some redemption after this weekend there is still some unfinished business. 

Thanks everyone as always for the support this weekend.