It’s 8:30pm on Saturday night at the Townsville 400. After a busy day of commentating races and running between the media centre and the support category arena chasing up news and punching out updates for clients, I’m ready to go home.
The problem is, I can’t leave the track yet because the team I’m staying with for the weekend, Cameron Hill Racing, is still at the circuit.
Cameron has had a sensational day in the Toyota 86 Series, qualifying on pole position by 0.7s and winning the weekend’s first race by a whopping 13 seconds.
After his dominant performance, the paddock is rife with speculation.
“How can someone be so much faster than everyone else in a one-make series?” someone asks.
“Surely they’ve done something to his car, it’s just not possible for a driver to be that far ahead of the field,” someone else says.
After the race, the scrutineers pounce on Cameron’s car, and proceed to forensically investigate every square millimetre of the Southern Star Truck Centre/National Capital Toyota/Anytime Fitness Toyota 86. The weight is checked. The camber and castor of every wheel is measured. The shocks are psycho-analysed. The engine is examined. And guess what? Every single component is 100 per cent legal.
When I arrive in the Toyota 86 paddock after my hectic day, the marquees are bathed in darkness… except for the CHR racing pit, where Colin and Shaun are still working on the car.
“We need to adjust the toe angle by half a millimetre,” Colin says.
Shaun obligingly dives under the car and proceeds to make an adjustment. Visually, I can’t tell any difference but Cameron assures me that even the most minute differences can be felt on the track.
As for Cameron, he’s busy studying in-car footage and data from the day’s race. Even after his mammoth victory margin, he’s still convinced there’s more time to be found.
“I need to straighten up the exit of the last corner so I can get a better run down the straight,” he says.
Finally, with the time getting on for 9:00, Colin declares himself satisfied with the car and it’s time to go home.
When a driver dominates, especially in a one-make series where the cars are theoretically identical and the results come down to ability, it’s very easy for rival teams to fire off unsubstantiated accusations that the driver in question is cheating.
But in most cases, the reason for such results is simply because the driver and team have done a better job than everyone else.
And after witnessing the dedication of Cameron Hill Racing at Townsville, I have no doubt that their Toyota 86 Racing Series success on the weekend was absolutely justified and entirely deserved.