Circuit Mont-Tremblant to Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières
While new sponsors proved elusive over the 8 week break between rounds, I was able to raise the required budget through some good old fashioned hard work and make it back to the beautiful Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada for Round 3 of the 2017 Nissan Micra Cup. Two solid results and some subsequent financial support from my hometown of Townsville keep my championship aspirations alive as I head to the historic Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières for Round 4 of the season this weekend.
Doing whatever it takes
After jumping in the deep end and starting this adventure in May, it's been more a case of furiously splashing to keep my head above water than learning how to swim, but importantly so far I've been able to do just enough to keep myself afloat. Like most things motorsport, the struggle is almost 100% financial and as someone that in 'normal life' takes comfort from financial security, mentally it's been tough to live day to day with so much uncertainty. It doesn't mean I'm moving forward with reckless abandonment, as a home owner with a mortgage those repayments will always come first, but every remaining cent is being used to fund my season.
While back in Australia I acted as a 'Jack of all trades' to scrape together the necessary budget. I worked as a go-kart attendant at Slideways Go Karting Centres, a labourer, removalist and even a 'professional weed remover' alongside my usual personal training work meaning I was working up to 70 hours per week. In the end it wasn't exactly a holiday nor a 'break' being home, but it was great to get back to my fur-mily (the guinea pigs), spend time with some special people and sleep in my own bed.
Fortunately I did just enough work to be able to make my way back to Canada and keep my Quest For Micra Cup alive for one more round at least - although not without some compromises.
The truth is I was able to put together the budget to get back to Canada, pay my entry for Round 3, pay the team to run my car for the weekend and have just enough spare to cover my mortgage for 2 months (duration of the rest of the season). What I didn't have the budget for was the test on Thursday prior to the race weekend, new tyres to race with, a damage budget should something go wrong, or any spare budget for future rounds. In any case, the bottom line was as long as I was racing and that gave me the chance to keep my championship hopes alive.
Circuit Mont-Tremblant: Take 2
It's never ideal missing close to two and a half hours of track time relative to your competition, but at least I knew the track from the previous round in May. Once I finally hit the track on Friday for official practice, even with the lack of track time I was still able to be in the top 10 during both sessions. While my speed was reasonable, the track conditions were quite different from 2 months ago so there was still some setup work to do heading into qualifying and racing.
If there's one situation where having no new tyres and essentially being a privateer is a disadvantage, it's qualifying. There is always a small advantage on green tyres (new tyres) and in a low horsepower one make category like the Nissan Micra Cup, a good draft can help you gain a lot of time (up to a second on certain tracks). Regardless, I was still able to qualify 7th for Race 1 (without a draft) and only a few tenths off the front row and knew I had the ability to race my way further forward.
In what seems to be a bit of a pattern this season, Race 1 was dominated by safety cars (double yellows). Some hard but fair racing in the lead pack included plenty of 2 and 3 wide action, but two lengthy caution periods shortened the race to only a handful of green flag laps. In the end I was able to make up 2 positions and finish 5th.
Going into qualifying for Race 2 on Sunday I made the decision to set an early lap then try and find another car to draft to see if I could progress further up the grid. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out but my earlier lap time was still good enough for 6th - a small improvement on the day before.
A good start in Race 2 elevated me to 5th and after a few laps the top 5 cars were able to break away from the rest of the field. A mid race safety car brought the field back together and a good restart allowed me to get alongside the car in 4th position heading into turn 1. After staying side by side for over half a lap (till turn 8) I wasn't quite able to complete the pass and in the ensuing shuffle for positions dropped to 6th. From there I struggled a bit with the balance of the car and wasn't able to challenge for a higher position, but held 6th to the finish.
The weekend's results were enough to elevate me to 5th in the Nissan Micra Cup standings and considering the lack of tyres and track time, it wasn't a bad weekend, but as a racer, unless you're winning you are never happy! Knowing I was yet to find the budget for the following round at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières (arguably the biggest event of the year) wasn't helping my positive outlook either, but with only 5 days to find the money needed to submit my entry I didn't have time to sit around dwelling on the result.
Race to Trois-Rivières
5 days isn't a long time to pull a budget together to go racing but occasionally life has a funny way of working out. It wasn't down to one big contribution, but instead a series of smaller, but equally important contributions and events that helped me scrape enough money together to lodge my entry for Round 4 on the unforgiving street circuit of Trois-Rivières.
Firstly, a big welcome to MyUte Rentals based at Shell Belgian Gardens from my hometown of Townsville in Queensland, Australia who have come on board as a sponsor for Round 4. Providing short or long term ute, trailer or car hire, and some of the best priced petrol and diesel in Townsville, Soren and the team will be sure to meet all your needs with some good old fashioned service with a smile. It's an honour to have support from so far away and I will be wearing the MyUte Rentals logo with pride this weekend!
Second was the support from some of the best friends and human beings someone could ever dream of having in their life. Again from Townsville, their presence is a gift in itself, but for them to band together and pitch in some of their own hard earned money was something I never expected. You guys know I'm not the most emotional person, but your gesture may have encouraged a tear or two out of me! Ben, Glenn, Peter, Ray, TJ and Alicia, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You will be with me for every lap this weekend and I look forward to the day I can return the favour.
Finally to Nicholas, a guy I met in a hostel by chance during my first few weeks in Montreal after he recognised my yellow Nissan GT Academy hoodie. While it may not seem like much, the floor you have let me sleep on over the past 2 weeks has saved me hundreds in hostel accommodation and has allowed me to redirect that money to my race budget so thank you, I will be forever grateful to have met you. To your housemates Evan, Amber and Rosie the cat, thank you also for welcoming this random Australian into your home.
CRAZY, would be the main adjective that's been used to describe me this year but it's hard to disagree. I've spent my life savings to fly halfway across the world to a country I've never been to, bought a race car without any idea how I would transport or store it, all to race in a series I'd never seen in person just to follow my dream of becoming a professional race car driver.
While I'm on my last legs financially and heading into a race weekend without new tyres or a damage budget for a second time, at least I'm racing and have the chance to keep fighting for the NIssan Micra Cup. At the end of the day anything can happen in motorsport, but you've got to be in it to win it... YOLO!
Round 4 of the 2017 Nissan Micra Cup will take place from the 11-13 of August over the NASCAR weekend of the historic Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières and is arguably the biggest round of the season. Located about 140km NE of Montreal, racing takes place on a temporary street circuit lined by concrete walls that rewards commitment and bravery. The track action will start with a practice and qualifying on Friday, followed by a 30 minute race on both Saturday and Sunday.
If you want to watch all the action over the weekend, head over to the Nissan Micra Cup Facebook Page where qualifying and both races will be streamed LIVE!