Invercargill driver Jordan Michels has backed up his class win in the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series at Pukekohe Park Raceway last month with another class win at the final round of the series at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park last weekend.
Michels, the current NZ F1600 Champion, had received a late call up to drive the Racer Products Hyundai i130 N TCR car alongside Gene Rollinson last month and acquitted himself so well as the pairing took a class win and sixth overall that he was invited to stay with the team for the final round.
“It was nice to have more notice this time,” said Michels as he reflected on his weekend. “The Racer Products team had sorted out a few teething problems from the previous round after a full rebuild of the car which was virtually straight out of the container last time out.” The weather was mixed throughout the weekend and Michels got in about 15 laps late in Friday’s test sessions. The track was drying and Michels was learning the track, his only previous laps at the North Waikato circuit being in a recent TRS test at the venue. “My last lap was quite fast, very close to NZV8 times so I was really happy.”
Rollinson took the wheel for the first qualifying session on Saturday morning with Michels driving in the second, the Hyundai eventually setting a time good enough for 11th on the grid. “We used Hankook wet tyres for qualifying but decided to go for Pirelli hard tyres for the start of the race with the track still wet. It was decided I would start the race but unfortunately, our tyre choice was a pretty bad call. Our main class rivals John McIntyre/Matt Penny in a Honda were using soft Michelins and my stint became an exercise in damage control,” says Michels. “It was a tough stint. I couldn’t find front grip and had no traction out of corners. The windscreen wipers stopped working too, so it was a very tough hour.”
However, Michels managed to stay in reasonable touch with the McIntyre/Penny car and at the pit stops Rollinson took over while Penny took over the McIntyre car. The track started to dry and Rollinson, on the same tyre which was better suited to the conditions, clawed back time before the McIntyre/Penny car pitted for slicks. “We pitted to cover them and resumed directly behind. After the safety car made an appearance Rollinson managed the pass to take the class lead and the win in a fine fifth place overall.
“It was nice to get two from two,” said Michels on transit back to Invercargill the day after the race. “Gene’s stint was awesome and the two cars were very close after 3 hours – it shows what we are in for when the new TCR series starts in the summer.”
TCR cars are an exciting worldwide formula conceived in 2014 and there are now series around the world. A New Zealand Series is due to start in January. The cars are front wheel drive hatchbacks or sedans powered by production based turbocharged petrol or diesel engines up to 2 litres.