When his phone rang last Wednesday evening little did Invercargill racing driver Jordan Michels know the opportunity that was about to present itself.
On the line was Mark Petch offering Michels, the recently crowned NZ F1600 Champion, a drive of his Hyundai i130 N TCR car in the second round of the North Island Endurance Series at Pukekohe Park Raceway that weekend.
Three days later Michels and Gene Rollinson of Auckland won their class in the race and finished sixth overall in a giant killing performance.
“When the call came naturally I wanted to say yes straight away but there was the small matter of work to attend to. I rang my boss and he was really good and appreciated an offer like this may not come again.” said Michels.
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.
Michels got his first run in the Hyundai on Friday getting about 30 laps across two practice sessions. First impressions were the torque-steer of the car on gear changes, a legacy of being a front wheel drive, “something new for me being more familiar with open wheel race cars. In fact I think the last time I drove a front wheel drive car was when I had my learners licence,” he joked. However the recent test of a TRS car had given him time in a car that required left foot braking and with a paddle gear shift so that definitely helped him to adjust to those features in the Hyundai.
“By the end of the day I was comfortable in the car. I had good pace and I was competitive and able to run at a pace that would look after the tyres for a one and a half hour stint in the race.”
Michels did minimal laps in qualifying as the first session was wet. “It just wasn’t worth the risk,” he said.
When race time rolled around, Rollinson made a terrific start and drove consistently well and was fourth overall and leading the class at the handover pitstop. Unfortunately the left front air gun failed and time was lost but Michels managed to resume still in the lead of the class although the margin was severely diminished.
“From the start of my stint I worked away at consistently improving my times, getting them as close to Gene’s as I could. I really enjoyed my hour, it was a great stint,” said Michels. “There was a big sprint at the end after a safety car period and due to the duration of the race everyone’s tyres and brakes had faded by then. We came home sixth overall and first in our class. The pace of the car was fantastic and we punched above our weight. There is huge interest in the TCR cars and it was a fantastic opportunity and thanks to Mark for the drive and also to Gene. He is very experienced and he was a great driver coach, giving me plenty of tips.”
“It was great to drive the newest TCR car in the country and become one of the few kiwi drivers to have done so. To put the icing on the cake the result was brilliant.”
The impressive result has gained Michels an invite to drive the car in the final round of the series at Hampton Downs on 8 June.