Jackson Rice has finished the 2023 TA2 National Muscle Car Series on a high after scoring an impressive third outright in the Championship. The final race of the season at Calder Park had everyone watching with anticipation, with minimal points separating the top three drivers.
Rice came out firing in Thursday’s practice sessions, placing no lower than fourth across all four practice sessions.
Dream Racing Australia decided to take a different strategy into qualifying and instead of running green tyres for the session, opted to run with already used tyres for the Mudtamer entry. The alternate strategy paid dividends and saw Rice just make the shootout, finishing 10th – cleverly saving fresh tyres heading into race 1.
“Wow, that a weekend it was,” said Rice.
“We went into Thursday practice with good weather, and we were fast and pretty confident. We were in the top two and we were the fastest in practice 3, which was really positive.
“Then we headed into qualifying and took a bit of a gamble to make it into the top 10. We didn’t run greens for qualifying and we actually qualified 10th, so just made it into the top ten shootout. The rest of the field had greens, so that was pretty cool. That was a bit of a strategy play, to allow us to put fresh greens on for the shootout.
“I went out for the shootout lap, the car felt really good, I probably didn’t phase the tyres well enough, and we ended up on the second row. It also meant that we had fresher tyres for the start of race 1 as well.”
With a fresh set of tyres and starting from P4 for the first race, Rice was determined to bring the Mudtamer entry across the line and in one piece, with the aim to accumulate as many Championship points as possible.
“Race 1 was lots of fun, we had some really good battles. I managed to also get the car in front of Josh (Haynes) and Dylan (Thomas) who were the main championship contenders. I crossed the line in P4, which I was really happy with, and it was great to get some championship points on the board,” said Rice.
Moving into Saturday, the weather began to take a turn making driving conditions difficult.
“Saturday the weather was atrocious. We nearly got rained out, the track surface was super difficult to negotiate. They had fresh white lines, and the surface of Calder is so old that it was just like driving around on an ice rink. So, that made for very difficult conditions. The main thing for me was that I wanted to make sure that I brought home the car straight and across the line every race to ensure I could bag as many points as possible for the championship standings,” admitted Rice.
Rice managed to stay out of trouble and completed Saturday’s race 2 and 3 without any dramas and crossed the line in P4 for both races.
The final race of the season would test the Wodonga driver, who managed to get off to a great start; however, an incident with Nash Morris threw a spanner in what could have been a fairytale ending to Rice’s 2023 championship standings.
“We ended up going into the final race with only 12 points between Dylan (Thomas) and myself and 1 point difference to Josh (Haynes). We started from P4 for the final race and managed to get a great start. Brad (Gartner) who was in P2 ahead of me, dropped a gear and it allowed me to jump from P4 into P2. Unfortunately, in the opening lap, a red flag was called and we headed for the pits,” said Rice.
“We dashed out for another run and two laps into the restart, unfortunately myself and Nash made contact on Turn 3, which forced me up onto the curb and Nash had overlap on the front of me and came across. It was just a bit of a weird and awkward contact and a bit of a racing incident, and I ended up in a spin, which sent me to the back. They cut the race short, so I ran out of laps, which was a shame because we had such great pace and we were the fastest on track in the third race.
“It’s one of those situations where it was a ‘what could have been’, it would have been really good to bump up into second place in the outright championship, but we came home at the end of the day second with the Southern Series, and third outright for the year which I’m super stoked with.
“For our first year in a national series, at such high level and with great competition, for the whole team and for myself to come away with P3 and finish the year on the podium is just such an awesome feeling.
“To everybody who came out over the weekend, Blake, Michael and Josh – all the guys from Mudtamer, Matt from Ruffnuts, Russel from Orafol, everyone who came out and supported us – I can’t thank you guys enough for coming out and seeing us on track.
“To Pedders and Value Auto Group, and everybody who has come on board this year, we can’t thank you guys enough for doing what you do for us. I’m looking forward to 2024, we’ve got some really cool plans for next year so I can’t wait for next season!”
Stay tuned for more updates on Jackson’s 2024 plans!
Thursday 30th November
Practice 1 – 2nd
Practice 2 – 4th
Practice 3 – 2nd
Friday 1st December
Practice 4 – 3rd
Qualifying – 10th
Top ten shootout – 4th
Race 1 – 4th
Saturday 2nd December
Race 2 – 4th
Race 3 – 4th
Race 4 – 10th