As the BNT V8s head to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for the penultimate round of the championship, Brad Lathrope’s season is only just starting.
By his own admission, Lathrope’s first foray into Class One by can only be described as a nightmare. The Aucklander suffered two back-to-back failures in the opening two rounds, which prevented him from taking part in the South Island leg of the championship.
The opening round was earmarked by mechanical troubles that limited testing time. It only got worse from there when he stalled off the line in the final race and got rear-ended by Lance Hughes. Round two wasn’t much better when his gear shifter snapped clean in half.
With only two rounds remaining in the season, Lathrope said his season starts now at this weekend’s New Zealand Grand Prix meeting.
“I’d like to say that this is kind of the start of our championship,” Lathrope said.
“Hopefully we can go out and show that we’ve really got some pace. However, I am realistic about the fact that I’ve got a lot of work in front of me. Even just to try and get up to pace with some of the other drivers ahead of me in the class.
“We’ll get there. Hopefully we can start off this weekend strongly.”
This weekend will be the first time Lathrope has driven around the Feilding circuit in his Class One car when he takes to the track first thing on Saturday morning for practice.
He said he will definitely take his time to get up to speed as he learns how to drive the car through the fast and flowing Grand Prix circuit.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be working a lot harder. I need to be working overtime from what I’m used to. I have no doubt in my mind there’ll be a few eye opening moments.
“That’s part of learning as well. I need to go through that and experience it to understand the car and it’s handling characteristics for me to adapt to it and get the most out of the car.”
Despite the steep learning curve, Lathrope is keen to put on a good performance for himself and his team.
“I quite like Manfeild as a track and I’m pretty confident in myself and my team in the fact they’ve put a lot of effort to get the car to where it is.”
“Fingers crossed, it would be awesome to get through the weekend with no issues at all. But at the end of the day that’s part of racing. If it happens we have to adapt and move on.”
While the team didn’t manage to get the car to rounds three and four, they have been working hard to get the car running right. More preventative maintenance has been carried out on the ex-Steven Richards Ford Falcon FG V8 SuperTourer to ensure no further failures.
While the rest of the BNT V8s went south, Lathrope has had a stint in the commentary box with Speed Works Events’ race caller Clint Brown.
Lathrope has been keeping his eyes on the action and has been impressed by the likes of Jack Smith who has been challenging the veterans of the series.
“It was great to be able to watch every race from the past two rounds and see the action. I have to admit it’s definitely heating up quite a bit.
“It’s good to see the likes of Jack Smith really adapting and coming up to speed with his car. It’s great to see the Class Two guys go down south be really close and have some great battles.”
Lathrope heads to Manfeild as one of the least experienced in the Class One field as he goes up against the likes of 2000 Bathurst 1000 winner Jason Bargwanna. He still has his sights set on being as close to the fastest guys as possible.
Lathrope said he’s been humbled by the support so far despite the woes he and the team have suffered throughout the season.
“I’ve got to thank my sponsors and to everyone that has helped up this season to date. Without their help, support and belief in me and the amazing team I’ve got I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting some good results and start proudly representing everyone that has backed me so far.”
Lathrope’s weekend will consist of one practice session and qualifying on Saturday morning before their first race later that afternoon. Sunday will see two more races in support of the New Zealand Grand Prix.