26/05/2017

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Matt Smith

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Alexandra Whitley

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Alexandra Whitley reviews her racing in the North Island Endurance Series at Taupoover the weekend…..

The First round of the North Island Endurance Series kicked off in Taupo over the weekend of the 20th of May. I teamed up with Deon Cooper and the SsangYong Dealer Team in the newly improved 560HP SsangYong Super Ute. It was a weekend of tricky conditions as we experienced heavy rain, sunshine and even hail throughout the race. After battling with the conditions we finished on the podium with second place.

The Super Ute brought the team home a great result considering we were only putting the finishing touches to the car with an hour remaining in Fridays practise. Deon was able to fit 20 or so laps in and I did about 5 until we experienced an oil leak from the main line out of the engine, we took the ute back to the workshop to sort it out where we then found a gear box problem as well. So we fitted the sequential gear lever back in rather than using the paddle shift and the oil leak was easily fixed.

Saturday morning was extremely cold as the wind was rolling off the snow-capped mountains and over the lake. It was an absolutely freezing wind chill and to top that it had started to rain again, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We were able to qualify 16th place overall from 28 competitors for our three hour race.

We quickly spanner checked the ute and practiced our driver change, then headed straight back out for the race start. Deon started the race in the rain and immediately moved forward, he pulled up beside a BMW 135 turbo who got such a shock when he looked over to see who was beside him he spun out. As the track started to dry out we had to come in for a pit stop to change tyres, this was difficult as we had to pull each wheel nut off individually, not long after the skies opened again and it poured and we changed back to our wets.

It was now my turn to take to the wheel, I was geared up and waiting with a towel to dry my feet and foam to help me fit the seat. Deon out I was in, foam in, foot on the break, belts on, radio in, select a gear and Go Go Go! Spinning the wheels, I took off and was away! The track was completely wet and the power was unreal, it would spin the wheels in 4th gear you had to tread lightly! I began to get more comfortable. As the co-driver I had one job, bring it home in one piece. I moved forward and as the track dried out my times dropped.

My times were very consistent, I was smooth and as fast as the conditions allowed; when the rain fell again and it was hard to know where to push harder or not. I kept it clean and on track until a supertourer passed me down the back straight, I tried to follow him deep under brakes pushing the limit, but I couldn’t pull it up in time, I missed the corner and went off onto the grass but was able to get back on track as quick as I went off. With 10 minutes to go there was a safety car as another driver had crashed in the wet conditions, we were back underway and now it had started to hail when another car also crashed off, they red flagged the race and then it was declared finished.

We crossed the line in 8th place overall and 2nd in our class, this was fantastic result. I was even congratulated by the officials as I was the only female at this event. Once again this wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of the SsangYong Dealer Team, especially Neil and Jason and all of my other sponsors and supporters. I cannot thank you enough!

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