It sure was a bit different heading to Sandown to start the Carrera Cup championship when we are used to kicking off with the super-high profile race weekends at the Adelaide 500 and Australian Formula 1 grand prix weekend.
This year the calendar will ramp-up as we are likely to have the higher profile races in the latter part, for example we are scheduled to have the AGP in November, after the Bathurst 1000 weekend and finish with Surfers Paradise in December.
We are confident we have assembled our most competitive team for 2021 and have Cooper and Harri completely focused on championship victory, while Jackson Walls plans to learn plenty in the first part of the season and start pushing for race wins in the mid-season.
Tim Miles is back for his 8th year with MR and is highly motivated to take the Pro-Am title for the first time, while Christian Pancione will do a partial Carrera Cup season in Pro class, alongside his Michelin Sprint Challenge campaign.
Cooper wasn't happy with qualifying 5th. In race 1 he had a robust dice with Love, eventually prevailing to take 3rd.
In race 2 he took the lead from Hill then led in extremely tricky wet conditions until a few laps from the end when his rear rain tyres had cried 'enough'.
In race 3 he had a great dice with Hill ahead and Lowndes behind until he touched the unforgiving wet kerb exiting turn 3 which threw him into the fence. He was fortunate to restart and take 11th.
Harri did an outstanding job in qualifying and took his first Carrera Cup pole by over 3 tenths of a second.
His weekend unravelled after a mistake at turn 1 on the opening lap of race 1 by running wide. This dropped him to the rear of the field and he battled back to 11th.
The wet race 2 wasn't a great deal better, getting the wrong end of the stick from some competitors spirited driving.
In race 3 he had a couple of minor excursions while pushing hard to return to the front.
Christian did very well to qualify 9th in his first Carrera Cup race. He produced a very well measured race 1 and learned the more powerful Carrera Cup car in a race situation.
In the wet race 2 he had progressed to 6th before being hit and sent back to 9th. He climbed back to 7th then was handed 6th after the other driver was penalised.
In race 3 he had another solid race and was the first MR car home with another great 6th.
Jackson qualified 14th in his first Carrera cup round. He had a few moments pushing really hard in race 1 and without a front splitter, managed to make spot to finish 13th.
In race 2 he had an energetic dice with team mate Harri and posted the fastest second sector time in the wet conditions to prove his potential pace.
He was again pushing hard in race 3 which led to a minor mistake and 10th position.
Tim did well to start his season qualifying 3rd in Pro-Am. In race 1 he had a great race with the other top Pro-Am contenders and took 3rd place.
In race 2 he was having another excellent battle until he got caught-out by the very wet turn 3 exit kerb which turned him around, ultimately leading to a DNF.
In race 3 he started off the back of the grid and raced his way back to 4th in Pro-Am.
Well that was certainly the one (round victory, additional podiums in Pro & Pro Am and championship lead – to be specific!) that got away.
There were many positives, not the least that we had great car speed as illustrated by Harri’s stunning pole. Cooper had the fastest race lap in the wet race 2 and sits third in the championship after his podium.
A highlight was Pancho's great 6th place on debut in Carrera Cup and keeping his cool even after being a victim of a 'bump and run' in race 2.
Jackson is undoubtedly a hard charger and as soon as we can harness his aggression, he will be a podium and contender for race wins. Tim was having a cracker weekend in Pro-Am until late in race 2, but is clearly going to be a contender for Pro-Am wins all season.
Ultimately we made a few too many driving errors which cost four of our drivers dearly. We will learn from this and move forward at Tailem Bend in South Australia in early May.
Many thanks to the #AMRC (awesome MR crew) for executing a flawless performance to turn around 5 cars for 4 sessions on Saturday with accuracy and good spirits. As always, Lethal Leigh, Hayden and the supercoach Luffy for making our cars and drivers fast.