Slater Impresses in MX5 Cup Debut

Sydney Motorsport Park is not an easy track to learn, and it’s especially difficult if you’re in an unfamiliar car.

But these factors didn’t seem to be a problem for Brayden Slater, who climbed aboard our Mazda NC MX5 for the MX5 Cup races at the Sydney Motorsport Park MRA round on the weekend.

Brayden is based in northern New South Wales and predominantly races his Hyundai Excel in the Series X3 QLD category, at Queensland Raceway, Lakeside and Morgan Park. Brayden has also previously hired our Toyota 86 for a track day at Wakefield Park.

He might only be 18 years old, but Brayden demonstrated maturity beyond his years, with his sensible attitude and approach to the task of learning a new car and a new track.

The Sydney Motorsport Park circuit is one that demands smoothness and finesse through the constant-radius corners, and pure commitment through the high-speed sections at Turn 1 and Corporate Hill.

Before the weekend, we gave Brayden the goal of recording a 1:58 lap-time, but he did significantly better than that, punching out a 1:56 in the weekend’s final race. He also handed himself very well in the dices he had with other cars (no doubt the Excel racing experience helped there)… albeit with a minor off-track excursion while testing the limits at Turn 2!

So while we might be best-known for our Pulsar racing activities, we would recommend the MX5 Cup and also the Mazda RX8 Cup for competitors looking to step up to something a bit more powerful, and also to learn the handling characteristics of a rear-wheel-drive car – and we can put together “arrive-and-drive” packages for competitors who want to race in these categories.

Also, an honourable mention to Tim Colombrita, who contested the Super TT races in his Pulsar to learn the SMP circuit, and Greg Dufficy, who finished third in the non-championship Pulsar race meeting at Wakefield Park.

Doing Us Proud

We thought we’d give a shoutout to some of our clients, who have achieved really strong results in some prestigious motorsport events and categories this month. At the Bathurst 6 Hour, Graeme and Josh Heath drove their Toyota 86 to second in Class D after a ding-dong battle for the lead, which was only decided in the last half-hour of the race.

Meanwhile, Gavan Reynolds, Chris Manning and Declan Fraser finished fourth in Class D, also driving a Toyota 86. Gavan and Declan also raced at Phillip Island last weekend, in the opening round of the Toyota 86 Series.

Also flying our flag at Bathurst were Trevor and James Keene (VW Golf R) and Jack Winter/Zac Raddatz (Mitsubishi Evo).

We’re certainly proud to have guided a lot of these racers through the junior ranks, and assisted them with driver development and car setup.

Pulsar Podium for RaceAway Rookie

RaceAway Track Time Australian Pulsar Racing Association (APRA) rookie Tim Colombrita has continued his impressive transition from go-karts to tin-top race cars, teaming up with his brother Anthony to finish as the highest-placed APRA-spec Pulsar in the Super TT endurance race on Sunday.

Tim and Anthony were awarded the trophy for third in the Under 2 Litre Treaded Tyre Class, and finished 11th outright in a field of 25 – an impressive performance against some much more powerful machinery.

RaceAway Track Time owner Phil Alexander was thrilled with the result.

“Tim is adapting superbly to Pulsar racing, and competing in the endurance event was valuable experience for him,” Alexander said.

“Anthony did well too – he had never competed in a front-wheel-drive car before, and was doing competitive times straight away. Overall, it was a fantastic result and I’m looking forward to seeing Tim continuing his progression throughout the season.

It was a successful weekend for the RaceAway stable of drivers in Round 2 of the APRA Series as well, Josh Heath taking the early championship lead with a clean-sweep of race wins. After qualifying second, Heath made a slow start in Race 1 due to starting on the damp side of the circuit, but fought his way back to the front, completing the hat-trick with wins in Races 2 and 3.

Tim Colombrita finished 12th in the first two races before improving to eighth in the final, while RaceAway Track Time assisted with trackside operations for Mark Crutcher, Dion Pangalos, Andy Lawler, Adam Leacy and newcomer Scott Thompson.

Also in the RaceAway stable, driving the pink lease N15 Pulsar, was Shane Fowler, who survived a spectacular moment at Turn 1.

RaceAway Track Time’s attention now turns to this weekend’s Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour, where the team will run two Toyota 86s.

APRA Series – Round 2 Preview

Sunday, 25 March marks Round 2 of the APRA Series for Pulsar race cars – the first point-scoring round of the series after the scheduled opening round was completely washed out.

The weather forecast indicates there might be some precipitation for Round 2 as well, but that won’t worry RaceAway Track Time’s main contender, Josh Heath, who was a dominant race winner in slippery conditions in the enduro round at the end of last year.

Heath will use the event as a warm-up before competing in the Bathurst 6 Hour in one of RaceAway Track Time’s two Toytoa 86s next weekend.

As has become the norm, the RaceAway crew will also oversee operations for a plethora of other Pulsars.

Following a very solid debut performance in the TA2 category at Winton, driver from Young (as opposed to Young driver) Mark Crutcher returns to the Pulsar Series, while Dion Pangalos will be behind the wheel of his #27 car, with signwriting guru Shane Fowler in car #31.

Adam Leacy is the epitome of a driver who has come through the RaceAway ranks, starting at track day events and progressing to the Cheap Car Challenge. After a solid performance in one of RaceAway Track Time’s lease Pulsars at the Sydney Motorsport Park NSW Production Touring Car round last weekend, Leacy is all set for his APRA debut.

Also under the RaceAway Track Time umbrella is former kart racer Tim Colombrita, who put in a very solid performance in his Pulsar debut in the non-championship, make-up round earlier in the month.

Colombrita is following in the footsteps of other kart racers who have progressed to the Pulsar Series as an affordable entry into circuit racing and we look forward to continuing to work with him throughout the season.

Bathurst 6 Hour Double Attack

Experienced race-car hire and motorsport services operation RaceAway Track Time has announced a double-pronged attack on this year’s Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour, running two Toyota 86s in Class D.

Last year, RaceAway Track Time campaigned a single entry for the father-and-son team of Graeme and Josh Heath; this year, they will also provide technical services for the Reynolds Auctions Toyota 86, to be driven by Newcastle auctioneer Gavan Reynolds, along with Chris Manning and Declan Fraser.

Josh Heath was one of the standouts in last year’s 6 Hour, leading Class D for much of the race and running as high as fifth outright at one stage.

“It was scary at first, but turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life,” Heath said.

“Dad and Phil were telling me about the blind corners and the steep sections of the track, but you don’t appreciate it until you actually race there yourself.

“For this year, I’m going to be a lot more confident now I know my way around the track, and we’ve made some tweaks to the car to make it easier to drive and more reliable.

“Having someone like Phil working with us is really valuable – he’s an excellent mechanic but his racing knowledge is just brilliant because of the amount of racing he’s done.

According to Alexander, himself an accomplished racer in numerous endurance events at Bathurst, overseeing two cars only adds to the fun.

“The two cars might be basically the same, but they’re driven by people with completely different experience levels and objectives,” Alexander said.

“Graeme and Josh have been very close family friends for a long time, and they certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to endurance racing.

“Josh has come on in leaps and bounds in the NSW APRA (Pulsar) Series. He was extremely close to winning the championship last year and was dominant in the long-distance races – he’s always been excellent at punching out consistent laps over the course of a stint.

“On the other hand, Gavan and Chris are fairly new to racing and Declan is still finding his feet in the Toyota 86 Racing Series.

“They’ve been doing some driver development sessions at some of our RaceAway track days, and both Gavan and Chris leased our Pulsars for a couple of race meetings as well, to get themselves more comfortable with wheel-to-wheel racing.

“Gavan and Chris are both very passionate about the sport, and they are dedicated to learning and improving. Declan is still very young, and for him it’s all about gaining seat time – doing a big endurance race like the Bathurst 6 Hour will teach him about strategy, and about teamwork.”

The Bathurst 6 Hour will be the sixth-consecutive weekend in which RaceAway Track Time has run cars in a racing event, having also campaigned entries in two rounds of the NSW APRA Series at Wakefield Park, the opening round of the Victorian APRA Series at Sandown, the first round of the new Mazda RX8 Cup Series at Winton and the NSW Production Touring Car Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park.

“All these back-to-back weekends of race meetings have made it extremely busy in RaceAway land, but it’s a sign that we’re catering to the needs of enthusiasts,” Alexander said.

“We’re all about making it easy for people to participate in motorsport, especially if they don’t have the logistics or mechanical expertise to run cars themselves, and it’s so satisfying to give people the opportunity to go racing, especially in big events like the 6 Hour.”

Pulsars Everywhere!

It’s no secret we own a lot of Pulsars, but on the weekend we broke new ground by running cars in two different states!

The scheduled opening round of the NSW APRA Series at Wakefield Park on the last Sunday of February was rained out… it’s the first time we can remember a race meeting being completely cancelled because of the weather, but we have to admit it was a sensible decision from the officials – the first two practice sessions (for other categories) were stopped due to incidents, and with rivers running across the track and ankle-deep standing water in some corners, the conditions were simply too dangerous to race a motor-car.

Full credit to the MRA organisers and Wakefield Park though, because they rescheduled the race meeting to the following weekend, albeit for a non-championship event.

We’re glad they did though, because it gave our drivers some valuable track time. Josh Heath continued the momentum from where he left off at the end of last season, winning all three races while our new driver Tim Colombrita scored a seventh-place finish in his first-ever Pulsar race meeting – a great effort!

Meanwhile, Andy Lawler also had a consistent weekend, chalking up a trio of 13th-place race finishes.

While that was happening at Wakefield Park, we also leased two of our Pulsars for the opening round of the Victorian APRA Series at Sandown, as Chris Manning and Gavan Reynolds looked to gain some more valuable seat time.

Both drivers put in solid efforts, Manning finishing just off the podium in fourth overall, while Reynolds was seventh.

It was a busy weekend but there’s no rest for the wicked – this weekend we’re back in action for Round 1 of the Mazda RX8 Cup Series at the Winton AMRS meeting!

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.