A weekend of steady improvement has allowed Jason Miller to fight for the podium in Round 4 of the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge at The Bend Motorsport Park over the weekend.
After practice and qualifying, the Stokes Skis Australia driver felt he was on the back foot due to a relative lack of circuit and car setup knowledge.
“We struggled for a bit of pace throughout the early stages of the weekend, which was a reflection of the fact that most of our rivals had tested at The Bend in the lead-up to the round, and we hadn’t,” Miller said.
However, some well-judged setup adjustments saw Miller equipped with a much more balanced car in Race 1, and he improved from 10th on the grid to sixth.
“I avoided an incident between a couple of cars and moved up a few spots, although I did sustain some minor damage while I was taking evasive action,” Miller said.
Some more adjustments to Miller’s Porsche further improved its handling in Race 2, a longer, 21 lap affair, and he ran as high as third before a tap from Lachlan Bloxsom saw him spinning down to sixth. Bloxsom received a post-race penalty for the infringement, which saw Miller classified fifth in the final results.
“Our pace was better again in Race 2, and I was in a position where I was challenging for a top-three finish,” Miller said.
“Unfortunately, Bloxsom tapped me into a spin, which cost me a few places.”
The third and final race was scheduled for Sunday morning, but torrentially wet conditions at The Bend saw officials sending the field on a formation lap behind the Safety Car before eventually abandoning the race altogether. Miller said it was the right decision.
“Normally I’m a supporter of racing in wet conditions, but we were struggling to stay on track even at road car pace,” Miller said.
“The car was aquaplaning and it was just too dangerous to drive at competitive speeds. The Michelins are some of the best wet-weather tyres in the world, but even they couldn’t channel away all the water – it was ankle deep.”
With the cancellation of Race 3, round results were calculated from the results of Races 1 and 2, placing Miller sixth overall.
“The incident with Bloxsom was frustrating, because if I had maintained third position, we were on target to potentially finish on the podium for the weekend,” he said.
Miller is now looking to the next round at the Bathurst International on 11-13 November, which he is expecting to provide a more level playing field.
“No one can test at Bathurst, so we’ll all be starting from the same baseline,” he said.
“Our aim is to roll out of the trailer with a setup that’s closer to where we need it to be. So far this season, the pattern of each round has generally been to struggle a bit in qualifying, but then tune the car up for the races and finish the weekend strongly; if we can start off closer to the front, that will put us in a better position to challenge for the podium,” Miller concluded.