The first weekend of any race championship is a time for settling back into the swing of driving at full pace and Auckland BNT V8 driver Brad Lathrope will take away some good learnings from the opening round at Pukekohe.
Driving his Dayle ITM #73 Ford Falcon super tourer in Class One for the ITM V8 Supersprint weekend, Brad had a few off-track excursions but finished with a smile on his face and plenty to think about.
The 28-year-old was champing at the bit to get back on-board his 520hp LS7-engined V8, in what was to be only his fifth round in the space frame, purpose-built race car. Having raced in Class Two for a number of seasons, he made the step up to Class One last season in what was a part campaign. This year Brad will compete in all six rounds in his Dayle ITM Ford Falcon SuperTourer.
His weekend didn’t have the ideal beginning on Friday as an issue with the 6-speed sequential Quaife gear box during practise meant he only did about five laps and had to call it quits.
“It meant we were a little bit on the back foot to start the weekend but the boys put in a solid effort and got the car all checked over and good to go for qualifying,” Brad says.
Consequently, qualifying morphed into more of a practise session later that day and he did a few laps on the old practise tyres to get everything up to temperature. His Brad Lathrope Racing team then bolted the brand new slicks on, so Brad could do his best to achieve his best qualifying lap.
“I managed an OK qualifying time of 1.min:8secs flat, which was a pretty decent starting point for the weekend for us,” Brad says.
He started race one in P6 on the grid and “got an absolute rocket-ship of a start down the outside and was up to fourth, so I was really ecstatic with that.”
“I held fourth for couple of laps before I made a few minor driver errors. I left the door open going into turn five and had two cars shoot on past. Not the greatest but it’s all about learning,” Brad says.
The safety car came out and bunched the field up again. Luck wasn’t on Brad’s side, as a lap after the safety car restart when he was coming on to the back straight, another competitor locked up their car’s brakes and drove into the rear end of his Dayle ITM Ford Falcon super tourer, which sent him off onto the grass.
“I got back onto the track, got my head down and started trying to make some ground on the cars in front. I was driving and pushing myself a little too hard and put myself off going into the hairpin, onto the grass.”
After getting back on the track again, Brad demonstrated his ability to improve with track time and set his quickest time on the final 16th lap to finish 10th.
“It was slightly unfortunate how things turned out for the first race but hey we finished. I could definitely see a few things that needed improvement for myself. However, I got out of the car with a big smile on my face, as I usually do. I had a debrief and a yarn with the boys and got the car ready for race two in the morning yesterday.
The Brad Lathrope Racing team made a few changes overnight to fine-tune the car set up and Brad got a decent start in race two.
“In the second lap of the race, I came into turn two and hit the kerb hard on the inside of the track. It unsettled the car and spat it to the outside of the track, over the ripple strip and onto the grass. I wasn’t able to pull it up, or save it.”
“Unfortunately I then just went straight into the wall coming into the back straight. I’m not excessively happy with myself and I put my hand up and say it was nothing but a driver error. There was definitely a few hard lessons learned this weekend but that’s part and parcel of the sport. I can’t expect to have a clean run all the time,” Brad says.
He did enough damage for it not to be feasible to get the Dayle ITM Ford Falcon repaired in time for race three yesterday afternoon.
“It’s not the way we really wanted things to go but I’ve got to be able to take it on the chin when these things happen. I definitely saw some improvements on last season, despite having a few little things to chase in the car. There are obviously things to improve to get the best out of myself and my driving style with this new car and I’ll be doing my best to fine tune them over the next five rounds.”
“I also want to say a huge thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters for backing me and believing in me! We will regroup, get on top of the car and be back stronger for round two.”
The BNT V8s return to Pukekohe for round two, on December 8-9, where the championship will tackle the older, shorter version of the circuit.