RaceAway Rookies Star in Wakefield 300

We love endurance racing here at RaceAway Track Time.

The thing about long-distance racing is you have to be prepared for the unexpected, and you have to be ready to adapt on the run.

It’s not normal for everything to go according to plan, so when everything does run like clockwork, it’s actually a pleasant surprise!

John and Tom Connolly charged from 23rd on the grid to finish fourth in Class D and fourth outright in the Wakefield 300 on Sunday, and the mighty Mazda MX5 didn’t miss a beat all day.

John started the race, and pitted on lap 58 of 137 for the five-minute compulsory refuelling pit stop, and to hand over to Tom. While other cars coughed, spluttered or simply cried enough, Tom circulated consistently, recording a best time of 1:13.8.

With temperatures in the mid-30s, the race was a hot, tough, physically demanding marathon for both man and machine, so just to make it to the finish was an achievement. For the Connollys to finish nine positions higher than they started, in their Wakefield 300 debut, was a sensational effort.

Now it’s a very short turnaround to prepare for Round 1 of the APRA Series at Wakefield Park this Sunday!

The Plus Side of Pulsating Pulsar Racing

It may have started with a modest grid of just four cars participating in a combined race with Excels in 2013, but since then the Australian Pulsar Racing Association (APRA) Series has exploded in popularity to the point where it now attracts some of the largest fields of any racing category in New South Wales.

Our own Phil Alexander teamed up with Trevor Keene to win a two-hour Pulsar endurance race at Wakefield Park in November 2014, and since then RaceAway Track Time has become synonymous with APRA, hiring out Pulsar race cars for track days and making it easy for new drivers to enter the series through a combination of CAMS/AASA licence assessments and “arrive and drive” deals.

So what made Phil and RaceAway Track Time decide to become involved? We asked him some questions to find out.

 

First things first – what attracted you to the Pulsar Series?

When I heard about the series starting up, I was immediately interested. Back in the 1990s, I prepared and raced N14 Pulsars in the Australian Production Car Championship and Bathurst 12 Hour, and from those experiences I knew that they would be very affordable and reliable cars for a one-make series.

They tick all the boxes – they’re easy to work on, they’re cheap, and because there are so many of them around, it’s very easy to get spare parts for them.

Around the time the series was starting, my son Gene was looking for the next step from go-karts and my good friend Graeme Heath’s son Josh was as well, so the Pulsar Series presented the ideal option.

 

How did you end up with so many Pulsars?

It started with just a couple for myself and Gene, but then other people wanted to become involved as well, and were leaning on my experience to help them buy or build cars. I realised there was a business opportunity if I had some other cars available to lease out, and so the business started to grow from there.

 

What have you enjoyed most about the Pulsar Series so far?

For a low-cost, one-make series it is run very well, as demonstrated by the strong numbers it continues to attract, and the fact there is some healthy series sponsorship which allows the category management to invest in features for the competitors such as social media coverage and videos at events.

The scrutineering is also well-controlled which means the cars are very evenly-matched and the results have come down to driver ability.

From a personal perspective, I’m pleased with the number of drivers we’ve been able to introduce to motor racing through the series, be it through licence assessments, setup assistance or leasing out cars. Last year alone, we introduced eight new drivers to the series and there are more to come in 2018.

 

So if people want to race in the Pulsar Series, what’s the easiest way to get involved?

We have “arrive-and-drive” deals where people can just turn up at the track, race one of our cars and then go home afterwards. These deals are perfect for those who want to become involved in motorsport but don’t have the time, resources or mechanical expertise to own a car themselves.

These sorts of deals have been really popular, especially last year where we leased out a number of our cars for events, and we’re looking forward to welcoming some more racers on board in 2018.

 

How satisfying is it to help people get into racing and see them going well?

It’s extremely pleasing, especially someone like Josh Heath who I’ve known since he was racing karts, and watched him develop into one of the main contenders in the Pulsar Series.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a long career in motorsport, so to be able to use some of my experience to make it easier for other people to enjoy competing on the race track is something that makes me very happy.

Father and Son Team Set for Wakefield 300

They have torn up the track at 24 Hours of Lemons, they have conquered the Marulan Cheap Car Challenge, and now the father-and-son duo of John and Tom Connolly will take on one of the longest-standing club-level endurance races in Australia – the Wakefield 300.

John Connolly is familiar to many car enthusiasts as the motoring writer for The Weekend Australian, while Tom also enjoys the challenge of testing his skills on racing circuits.

The pair have fine-tuned their craft in RaceAway Track Time’s fleet of race cars, and will make their Wakefield 300 debut in the RaceAway Mazda NC MX5.

Now in its 11th year, the Wakefield 300 is open to a wide range of production-based vehicles, and continues to attract large fields of well-credentialed drivers.

John Connolly said the event is a logical progression for his and Tom’s racing careers.

“Last year the father-and-son team of Craig and Adam Burgess took back-to-back victories in the Wakefield 300 and it’s time they got some real competition. Just because they race in a Ginetta G50 and are much better drivers than us, there’s no reason our Mazda MX5 can’t be there at the finish” John said.

“Tom and I have driven badly at tracks around the world and we did really well driving dog sleds in the Arctic Circle. Phil Alexander has blended all that experience including some really poor results in the 24 Hours of Lemons and Marulan Enduros into making us the top combo we are today.”

RaceAway Track Time team owner Phil Alexander is excited to give the Connollys the opportunity to tackle the 300.

“The Wakefield 300 is an event I’ve enjoyed in the past, especially with the different types of cars that enter each year,” Alexander said.

“John and Tom have done a lot of motorsport activity with us – track days and race events – and it’s been very pleasing to watch them learning and improving. Their dog-sledding abilities are second to none.

“The MX5s are popular cars for the 300s because they’re reliable and consistent, so hopefully John and Tom can get through at least ten laps.”

The 2018 Wakefield 300 will be held on 17-18 February.