Mount Gambier’s fastest teenagers will be experiencing contrasting emotions when the second round of the 2021 Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series finally gets under way at Townsville this weekend.
Following one false start at Winton last month, the series resumes at the Reid Park street circuit after a five-month hiatus created by COVID restrictions.
The second round of the championship coinciding with the Repco Supercars Championship will be an unforgettable occasion for Kai Allen, who will make his racing car debut.
However, fellow local Jobe Stewart will sadly be forced to swap the driver’s seat for the couch this weekend.
The Erebus Academy driver, who has started just two rounds in the space of two years in the Toyota 86 series, was getting prepped for three huge races after being bitten by the mountain at Bathurst.
Stewart had even completed a test day in the rain at The Bend Motorsport Park last weekend but was forced to abandon the upcoming race meeting due to the current South Australian COVID restrictions.
If he had elected to race Stewart would have been forced to undergo two weeks quarantine an ordeal too costly for the youngster’s commitments away from the track.
However, Allen will get the chance to race being currently stationed in Queensland and he is struggling to contain his emotions ahead of the biggest weekend of his short career.
“I am very excited and pinching myself,” he said.
“I am also keen to see how I go because I have never raced the car or a street circuit before, so everything will be a new experience.
“I am just going to be a sponge and take in and absorb as much information as I can.” Of all the street circuits for Allen to make his debut at, Townsville is one of the more forgiving with the majority of the circuit a free-flowing section of dedicated race track.
However, drivers still need to be on there toes with turns 1, 2, 11 and 13 action hot spots.
Allen said he had been doing plenty of homework on the track designed by Supercars legend Mark Skaife.
“It is good not being a full street circuit like Gold Coast where there are concrete walls everywhere, but there are still a lot of places where you can get punished,” he said.
“I have been watching a lot of footage of (2019 Townsville Toyota 86 race winner) Tim Brook and doing a bit of simulator work to prepare as much as I can.
“Erebus Supercars driver Brodie Kostecki has raced Super2 there and knows it pretty well so he gave me a few tips like what kerbs I can hit without damaging the car, so it has been good to pick his brain.
“I love the corners and chicanes so hopefully it will suit my driving style.
“It is also going to be pretty hot, so I have been doing some work in the sauna trying to get used to the heat as well.” To keep drivers like Stewart missing out on the Townsville race in the championship hunt, organisers have introduced a new rule where each car must drop its worst round at the end of the season.
The big weekend kicks off with practice on Friday morning before the three races are completed across Saturday and Sunday.