Bathurst Beckons for MTAQ Racing Team as 2018 Season nears
The new season of Queensland’s Hyundai X3 Series kicks off next month and the MTAQ Racing Team, and their battling Hyundai Excel, will once again take to the grid to battle for state honours in the four-meeting competition.
But while the state championship will be fought out at Morgan Park Raceway , the MTAQ team will also have its chance this year to impress at one of the world’s great motorsport venues at Mount Panorama.
The Hyundai Excel class will be a support category for the Bathurst 6-hour endurance race on the weekend of March 30 - April 1 and the excitement is already growing.
“To be able to race at Bathurst is a real thrill,” said David Wood, who returns as team driver this year and has raced at Bathurst in the Australian Production Car series 12-hour race. “It will be a great event and a terrific experience for the team to travel to, and be part of racing at the mecca of Australian motorsport.”
Before that can happen, however, there will be weeks of hard work in front of the team as they ready the MTAQ Excel which, following an engine blow-out at the end of 2017, is being nursed back to health by the members of the team's support crew.
“Losing that engine wasn't part of the plan, but with the changes in engine regulations for 2018, we probably would have had to pull it apart anyway,” said David. “And it gives us a chance to go back through it, correct a few areas and try and get a bit more out of it.
“Time is a short, but it's the same for everyone and given our resources we should be fine. The support crew are very excited to build a new engine and see it perform. Being our first full 'in house' MTAQ engine is something that will be very special if we can win with it.”
Having the support crew, which consists of MTA Institute apprentices, prepare the car, is an important part of the whole MTAQ Racing Team project. Giving apprentices the chance to be involved in motorsport is a fantastic learning opportunity and while this year’s crew will expand to a team of five - including Elliott Lemmon, Gerard Field and William Salmon who made up the crew last year - more than 50 apprentices have been involved with the project since it was launched in 2017.
“We are very proud of our little race car and what it has contributed in the way of learning experiences for both trainers and apprentices alike,” said Marcello Riotto, Operations Manager for MTA Institute.
“At the last meeting in 2017, the engine catapulted the No.1 piston resulting in irreparable damage to the block, crank and cylinder head. Now, Gerard and Elliott will rebuild the original engine tha
t came from the donor vehicle to category specifications. It is a great project, giving our apprentices valuable experience in engine development and rebuilding.”
While the engine blowing up was a disappointment at the time, the 2017 season included a raft of top ten finishes and a 9th place finish in the final standings and has to be considered a successful debut year for the team. Consequently, confidence is high for 2018.
“Toward the end of last year, we were finally able to get on terms with the lead blokes and that gave me some good insight into what we needed to make that next step,” said David. “The front guys are very fast, experienced with Excels and know their cars very well, but we have shown that we can match them. Now we just have to get our noses in front. It will be very close!”
“We’re confident that the car will be more competitive in 2018 as we learnt a hell of a lot in 2017,” added Marcello.” The category is tightly controlled so it’s all about the one per cent gains we can extract to ultimately have that small advantage. However, the car is the apprentices’ responsibility to develop, maintain and repair – that is one of the reasons we are doing this – so we should keep that in mind. But they are a talented bunch.”
MTAQ Racing Team – Race Calendar 2018
March 17/18: Rd 1 Qld Championship, Morgan Park
March 30 – April 1: Exhibition event, Mount Panorama, Basthurst
April 14/15: Rd 2 Qld Championship, Morgan Park
July 28-29: Federal Tyres Invitational Cup, Queensland Raceway, Ipswich
Sept 8/9: Rd 3 Qld Championship, Morgan Park
Nov 17/18: Rd 4 Qld Championship, Morgan Park