Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Championship Class B points leader, Jordan Michels believes with consistent reliability and drama free races he should be able to translate his race-winning pace from Teretonga into a successful title defence.
Michels comfortably took victory in Class B in the opening one hour race from the Invercargill circuit and finished a commendable sixth overall behind the wheel of the Team Williams Honda Civic TCR FK7.
Champion in Class B last year, Michels said it felt great to finally get back to racing after a long hiatus which extends as far back as March where he was set to contest in the opening round of the S5000 championship at the Australian Grand Prix.
“The car was really good, and it was nice to be back behind the wheel for the first time since the Grand Prix,” Michels told Velocity News.
“Friday we were just rolling around and did three out of the four practice sessions but we knew for qualifying it would be hard with 37-odd cars out on the track. So, we only got one clean run in and banked a time which was good enough for 10th overall.
“From the start, we were running quite high up, about sixth overall before we pitted early for the undercut.
“But then we got really unlucky from the mid-race safety car. We got green lighted by the safety car and then stuck behind a much slower car and that hurt us. So I think fifth overall was what we could have had but of course I am really happy with winning the class.”
Both the North and South Island Endurance championships have seen a steady rise in TCRs taking to the grid over recent seasons. Along with Michels, a pair of Track Tec Racing Audi LMS RS3 TCRs were also on the one-hour grid.
Often heralded as the thorn in the side of the more aggressive GT3 machinery, the nimble nature of TCR cars means they can often run ahead of their faster rivals through the corners but loses out along the straights.
Thus, the 800-metre main straight of Teretonga was never going to play into the strengths of the TCR cars and Michels is expecting a similar scenario to unfold for the next round in Ruapuna which also has a mix of technical corners and long straights.
“The TCR’s are just so fun because they corner so well. They are just down a couple of cylinders on the straight.
“So we can probably outqualify the Porsches’ [GT3s] but they will end up beating us in the race because we struggle down the straights.
“So, I am not sure how we will go at Ruapuna because it has lots of corners through the middle section but it also has a really long front straight.
“And the series always gets tougher towards the end because everyone tightens up and reliability improves so there is the seldom a Safety Car which can make the races a lot more difficult.”
Nonetheless, Michels insisted that reliability and steering clear of trouble will prove to be the determining factor in winning this year’s championship.
“We should be alright; you know as long as we avoid the dramas like the two Audi TCRs we were racing had then we should be right up there.
“I think Dennis Chapman in the Audi TCR had some issues with tyre temperatures and Debbie [Chapman, Audi TCR] had a spin which hurt her race, so if we keep our noses clean we’ll be right.
“As well, with more mileage comes a better understanding of the car. We are not running any endurance maps so the car is as standard as possible just to keep the budget as low as we can.
“So the more time in the car the better.”
The next round of the South Island Endurance Championship will be from Ruapuna on October 3 before the season finale from Levels Raceway in Timaru a fortnight later on October 17.
Main Image: Ron Vent