Brad Williamson’s first – and last – tilt at the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship across the Tasman was not a winning one, but he still rates it a valuable experience.
The 22-year-old Oamaru driver, who is in his first full season as an open driver, followed in the footsteps of older brothers Nathan and Matthew to be part of a four-strong New Zealand team in the series, which consisted of nine races after one was cancelled.
Matthew finished second in the 2011 series, while Nathan, the oldest of the three Williamson brothers, finished third in 2009.
Races were held at Gloucester Park, Bunbury, Pinjarra, Northam and Narrogin in Western Australia, and the final race in the series was held on Interdominion final night in Perth on December 9.
Williamson, the leading New Zealand junior driver last year with 70 wins, managed one win and three thirds across the championship which was good enough for him to finish a creditable sixth in the field of 10, which included six Australian drivers.
“I’m pretty happy with it. The draws were all random so you just hoped for the best,” he said.
“I had a chance of winning it going into the last race, so I was pretty happy with the outcome.”
Points were allocated depending on where drivers placed, ranging from 17 for first to one for 10th.
He said one of the major differences between driving in New Zealand and Australia was the design of the tracks, as well as some contrasting rules, which took Williamson a little bit of time to get his head around.
“The tracks are a lot tighter. The tracks being so much smaller means it’s much more important to be a lot handier in the race – up the front, so to speak. It’s a lot harder to get up places over there because the bends are so tight.”
Different rules included drivers having to hold their whip and reins together in the same hand at all times – in New Zealand, drivers can hold either in each – and no jostling for position more than 500m out from the finish line. In New Zealand, the distance is 1000m.
Williamson said he enjoyed the opportunity to race overseas and chat with trainers and drivers from Australia.
“It was good to meet new people in the industry that are doing the same sort of stuff we are .. it was a great chance to meet other trainers you see on TV, but don’t get to see face to face.”
Williamson feels his form in his first year as an open driver has gone better than he expected. From 120 starts, he has 14 wins and 25 placings.
“I’ll aim for about 35 to 40 wins. I would be more than happy if I could get to that sort of number,” he said.