Alexandra Whitley was racing in both the V8 Utes and SsangYong Series at Hampton Downs in the weekend. Here’s her review ….
Battling the boys in the SsangYong Series and Racing the Men in the Porter Group V8 utes I had my work cut out for me doubling up again over the weekend of the 10-11 of March. It was Round 3 for each of the ute series at Hampton Downs south of Auckland and I was uncertain even up until late Friday night if I had enough sponsorship to cover the round. However with a lot of phone calls and perseverance I was able to scrape through and come away with two fifth places overall.
It was great to be back at Hampton Downs, I have had some great successes there in the past and was looking forward to the weekend ahead. Unfortunately we don’t have practice in the V8 ute class, but I was able to familiarise myself with the track in the SsangYong practice. Sitting at the top of the timesheet for most of the qualifying for the SsangYong, in the final moments I was quickly pushed to 7th as the freight train sucking each other along came through on the last lap. I was still happy to be inside the top 10 and knew I could push forward. After a tough race 1 of back and forth I was pipped on the line to finish 8th.
Jumping from one ute to another all weekend I had to learn to adapt quickly to each driving style and switch off from the previous race no matter the result. As I had never driven the V8 at Hampton before I was studying track maps and videos to learn gears, braking points and lines. I was able to put the LDV Porter Group V8 ute 5th on the grid for race one, which I was absolutely stoked with under the circumstances. It was back into the SsangYong for Race 2. The Waikato SsangYong was great finishing on the podium with second place, I struggled with car speed but fought off the boys to hold my position.
I jumped straight into my LDV Porter Group V8 ute and carved my way through the field to drive from sixth to third and the fastest ute on track in that time, with two laps to go my wheel hub collapsed and I limped home, It was awesome to have such incredible pace. Dan and the Stoneman Race Tech team worked late to fix car for Sunday’s events.
Having two races in each of my utes, first off was race 3 in the Waikato SsangYong, starting from 13th I was confident I would move forward I battled hard with the boys around me to finish 10th place, it is harder than ever to pass in such an underpowered car. With not much time to recover I jumped straight into the LDV Porter Group V8 ute starting from the rear (due to my mechanical failure the day before) I moved forward with ease and even passed the previous race’s winner and ex-V8 ute champion Paul Manuel. Our race was soon red flagged with one of the biggest crashes in V8 ute history. Fortunately both drivers walked away, which is a testament to the V8 ute build and safety. With the restart underway I had to give back my position to Paul, however I took off again and got past him to drive my way to fifth place!
Starting from sixth for the SsangYong final, the front group ‘gapped’ the field and we all jostled for every inch of track. Again, I moved forward, back and forward again crossing the line in fifth pushing my fiancé over the line. A quick re-gather and I was back in the V8, now racing with the men for a hard 12 laps. I held my own and moved to fourth and tried to make some moves, unfortunately my tyres slowly fell away as I had burnt them up, coming forward in the previous races. I finished with a proud fifth place.
I am stoked to come away with a fifth overall in both classes, considering the strength and size of the fields in each classes. I kept clean, consistent and recovered well from my mechanical issues. I would also like to thank Dan my mechanic and Alison my trainer for their help and support over the tricky weekend, along with everyone who has chipped in to help me scrape through each round, especially LDV New Zealand. Thank you all, you know who you are!
I also want to give my Dad a shout out as it was 3 years ago that I was making my debut into car racing and this weekend has shown that dedication, motivation, belief, persistence and HARD WORK has paid off. Imagine what another three years will bring! Thank you for backing me 100% and I am so glad I get to share these moments with you.
I have two endurance and a sprint race coming up before the end of the month at Pukekohe Raceway, including the final round of the V8 Ute Championship.