An unfortunate time-penalty prevented Bega Valley racer Kelly Simpson claiming third in her first-ever endurance race recently.
Simpson took her Celica to the Sydney Motorsport Park where she headed out for a one-hour endurance race.
After starting off the line in sixth position and driving her way to first place, Simpson was struck down by a five-minute time penalty for missing a pit window.
She said the team had planned to pit late and set up a strong finish, but a miscommunication meant she was two minutes late into the pit area.
“Everything was going well until then,” she said. “We had to do a wheel change and then after the pitstop I lost the radio completely.”
There was also a “driver change” requirement, but as the sole driver it forced Simpson to get out of the car and then get back in, which she thinks knocked the radio out.
Simpson said as her first endurance outing, she was counting on the experience of her mentor Steve Briffa over the radio so it was even more daunting on the track in the dying stages.
“Knowing I was on my own out on track I had to press on and make up as many positions as I could - as fast as I could,” Simpson said.
Without communication she didn’t know how long was left in the race, but she pressed on and clawed back ground to finish fifth in her class and 28th outright.
“Without the penalty, we would have made the top 20 and been third in class. so there are plenty of positives to take to next year.”
Conditions proved difficult, but Simpson said she was surprised by the speed of her front-wheel drive Celica in the wet.
“There was torrential rain on Sunday and as the last category on the track we were losing light as well,” Simpson said with a laugh.
There was torrential rain on Sunday and as the last category on the track we were losing light as well- Kelly Simpson
“I knew I could race the rear-wheel drives, but was shocked by how much speed we had in the wet.”
The race began under safety car conditions, but the Bega Valley racer soon found herself swooping through the field.
“I was passing BMWs, Commodors and Toyota 86s, I was following an 86 for the first few laps and picked off five cars while following him.”
Her efforts included narrowly dodging another car when he spun off the track.
Simpson said despite the result, the race had given her resolve to tackle more endurance events in the future.
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