Putting his new, Futura Trailers-backed, SsangYong Actyon ute on pole and claiming a podium spot in treacherous conditions in the first race of the 2017/18 series at Hampton Downs on Saturday was as much a relief as anything else for former kart champ Ryan Bailey of Auckland.
In his first year in the one-make SsangYong Actyon ute series last season the 28-year-old had a wretched time, to the point where he started doubting his own abilities.
The simple expedient of starting the new season in another ute changed all that though. As he was through a long and successful kart, and early car career in Star Cars and the Team Kiwi MINI, Bailey was quick from the get-go in practice, before claiming pole by 0.371 of a second from class young gun Callum Hedge in the 20 minute qualifying session on Saturday morning.
He then went on to finish second – to former series champion Daniel Connor - in the first race, fifth (from ninth) in the reverse top 10 grid second race, sixth from eighth in the third and sixth from third in the final after leading for three laps then recovering after another competitor ran him off the track. Enough to see him third overall in the series points after the first round.
Considering how hard he had to work to even get a top ten spot in qualifying last year, it was a night and day difference, one Bailey says he is now confident will carry through to the second round of the 2017/18 series at the ITM 400 Supercars meeting at Pukekohe this weekend and subsequent rounds at Taupo, Hampton Downs and Pukekohe.
“No matter what we tried with the ute we had last year, we never managed to get it to the point where I could run with the other top blokes. All I’ve done differently this year is change vehicles and its chalk and cheese.
“OK it didn’t hurt that it bucketed down at Hamptons because I’ve always loved driving in the rain, but at the same time, until I got punted out the lead in the last race I had made up positions in the dry as well.”
Though the 2 litre SsangYong Actyon utes are a far cry from the karts he cut his racing teeth on Bailey says he subscribes to the theory that, when it comes to four wheels, if there are two or more you have a race.
“I know a lot of people bagged them at the start but I think the SsangYong guys deserve a pat on the back for providing a cost-effective platform people like me can buy into without having to mortgage the house.
“They’re big old buses to shuffle around but like any class of racing, you have to work out how to get the best out of what you have got. I know, I spent a lot of time last year working on things like the handling and even the tyre pressures but we always seemed to be on the backfoot. But with the set up knowledge I gained last year, and a new ute this season, we’re now in a position where we can turn up at a meeting and be competitive.”
Bailey and his fellow SsangYong Racing Series Actyon drivers will be on track at the ITM SuperSprint meeting from Friday morning. Qualifying is later that day then there are two races on Saturday and one on Sunday,
After Pukekohe the series heads to Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on December 02 and 03 then back to Hampton Downs on March 03/04 and Pukekohe for a Three Hour Endurance round later that month.
Ryan Bailey’s 2017/18 campaign is supported by Futura Trailers, Fliways Freight Group, Cargo Plus, Transmech, Carters Tyre Service, Battery Bill, Chatham Island Food Co, AAA Automotive, Stillwater Motor Camp, Albany Toyota and Racefab.
You can follow the 2017/18 SsangYong Racing Series on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SsangyongRacingSeries/
For more information about Ryan’s 2017/18 campaign contact Ross MacKay on 021 677 919 or via e-mail on email@example.com