Aspiring Kiwi racer Jordan Michels had his 2020 season abruptly curtailed when the global pandemic and consequent border restrictions meant his was forced to give up his debut S5000 drive and return to New Zealand.
But as the virus slowly begins to abate and national motorsport across New Zealand and Australia, including the relaunch of the delayed S5000 season, begins to make a welcome return, Michels has instead been sidelined and found himself grounded at home in Invercargill.
It is a particularly bitter predicament for Michels as his primary focus for 2020 has suddenly been put on the back burner through zero fault of his own.
However, Michels is fortunate to have the unconditional support of fellow South Islander Peter Williams, the eponymous owner of Team Williams Racing, and was set to contest the inaugural TCR New Zealand championship in a Honda Fk7 TCR.
But with no firm TCR NZ calendar to centre his 2020 season around, the 22-year-old has also hinted at a possible drive in the car in the South Island Endurance Series to get his racing fix.
“Honestly no idea right now, a few trips to the supermarket maybe,” Michels joked when quizzed on his plans for the rest of 2020. “It is hard to say really after such a big year in 2019 and everyone is in the same boat.”
2019 saw Michels clinch class victories in the Honda TCR in both the South Island and National One Hour endurance championships, capped off with a round in the Australian TCR championship at Queensland Raceway where the Kiwi scored 11th and a pair of 12th place finishes across the weekend.
And with his S5000 aspirations on hold till at least the start of the 2021 season, the TCR platform has quickly re-enticed Michels interest with plans to run in the car now in the pipeline.
“Fortunately, I have got that Honda TCR thanks to Peter [Williams] which I can hop into and we may look at doing the South Island Endurance Series and see what TCR New Zealand is doing over the summer.
“Hopefully TCR NZ releases a calendar soon and they have a few rounds in the South Island. I have faith in ARG and MotorSport New Zealand to deliver a quality championship. ARG is a great promoter, just look what they have done in Australia with that TCR series, and MotorSport New Zealand really needs it.
“So, it is obviously very quiet at the moment. You know as a driver coming through the ranks, I don’t draw an income. I am fortunate I have a steady job at home and the Honda TCR but it is not a lack of commitment. I am just waiting to see what happens.
“If I were to go over [to Australia] it would be for at least four months and is it a risk I am willing to take? I would probably have ended up trapped in Victoria anyways.”
Heralded as the modern equivalent of the thunderous Formula 5000 class that headlined the national racing scene in the 1970s, S5000 amalgamates the glorious F5000 era of yesteryear into a 21st-century racing class to nurture aspiring Formula 1 champions.
Unlike anything he has piloted before, Michels says taming an S5000 is an incredible experience and the speeds of the cars are truly outrageous.
“Really cool,” he added. “They are a unique car to drive and have plenty of horsepower. But they are surprisingly nice to drive unlike what some may think. They are not aggressive.
“But they are difficult to drive on the edge and from a Gold Star series you would expect that. The wheelspin is noticeable and they have plenty of grip, but the acceleration is what caught my attention.
“Seeing how quickly the car rises from 0 to 100kph is incredible and it is also the same for when it climbs from 200 to 300kph. It just keeps going.
“I have driven the car around Winton which is a real drivers track and also at Tailem Bend where I reached 280kph on the straight. It is the fastest I have ever driven, all with my head bobbling in the wind.”
Michels will announce his 2020 intentions over the coming weeks with the first SIERDC round slated for September 12 from Teretonga Park.
Meanwhile, a New Zealand TCR calendar remains under wraps though series promoters have pointed to the latter stages of the year as a likely date to launch the category for good.