I headed into the first weekend of April feeling very positive, it was our last round of the SsangYong Series at Pukekohe. During the week I was fortunate enough to have the pre-race prep done by the one and only Gary Pederson. Friday practice was fantastic, passing utes left right and centre setting the second fastest time for P1 and topping the charts in P2. With a speedy ute I was stoked to have my speed back and confident and would Qualify if not pole but surely in the top 3. I had turned my results around for the better!
I Qualified 7th the times were extremely tight, only tenths and miliseconds splitting the top 10, unfortunately I hurt my time by not gaining enough “tow” from a ute in front, and by breaking my own wind made the difference between 1 and 7, but I knew I could race them and would move forward. And I did, quickly making my way to 5th place off the start and only a few laps later we saw a safety car bunching the field up again. I pushed hard and had a great run over the top of the hill. Pushing the car in front passed 2 other on the outside we were 3 wide! (JUST!) Not backing down I made my way to third place. The top 5 utes were so close we fought right to the end. I was hung out to dry and as fast as I was third I was 6th. With one lap to go I was able to move forward again and finish 5th.
Next up was the reverse top 10 now placed from 6th I knew the cars in front were slower I had to forget about what was behind hope they held each other up and move forward. As I did I soon found myself in 3rd place and catching the leaders fast. I was then passed and worked to the outside and before I knew it was a freight train of 3 more utes working together and they all went by, this shows that the low power we have with the slightest unsettling or mistake is very costly. Again with only one lap to go I fought back and made a place finishing 5th.
Race 3 was a deja-vu of the previous 2 races just when I had worked my way through and made the podium it was all turned around and I finished 5th again! There was an altercation mid race when I was a little sideways and accidently bumped another car I was heavily penalized for my mistake and started 12th for the final race, we were given 2 extra laps for our final. I had proven great race pace all weekend knew I could get back to the front. I edged forward lap by lap making 4 places back and running out of laps but finishing inside the top 10 in 8th place. The overall round and championship results still to come. With a solid end to a rollercoaster season. The Waikato SsangYong showed great pace all weekend being in the top few fastest every race. I cannot thank Gary Pederson, Cameron and the team enough for all their hard work this weekend and bringing the speed back. Thank you to all my sponsors especially Waikato SsangYong, Hard as Rocks, Traeger Grillss and MWN Team Racing and Deon Cooper as without you all my racing career would not be possible. There will be much more of the name “Whitley” to come! Onwards and Up wards!
Written By Alexandra Whitley
Photo Credit David Whitham