2014 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion Steven Richards and the Laser Racing team made a welcome return to Australia’s northern most circuit last weekend, with the successful one-make category competing at Darwin’s Hidden Valley for the first time in nine years.
Despite being relatively short in length, the Hidden Valley circuit features one of the longest main straights in the country, a big focal point for teams in terms of overtaking.
Always exciting, the 2016 event provided plenty of action, and for Richards, some more valuable championship points after a tough event in Sydney last month.
“It was nice to return to a circuit at which I’d enjoyed some success in the past,” the nine-time V8 Supercar race winner explained.
“It’s a tough circuit in many respects with limited overtaking opportunities, so qualifying is important, but it was tight, especially against guys the caliber of Alex Davison and David Wall, not to mention points leader Matt Campbell and youngsters Nick McBride and Dylan O’Keeffe.”
Ultimately Richards recorded the third fastest time in the 20-minute qualifying session after running inside the top four in practice, just three tenths from the top spot, the result giving the Laser Racing driver a second row start for the first of three races across the weekend.
A strong start saw Richards claim the race lead in the opening race on just the second lap, before a freight train of cars worked their way past three laps later, ultimately forcing him back to fifth at race end.
Typically the experienced Laser Racing team regrouped for race two, Richards quickly through the order to be second by lap six, a position he held until the final lap when a late braking move saw him wash out wide onto the dirty part of the circuit allowing title rivals Alex Davison and Nick McBride to sneak down the inside and take the position away.
For the final race though, a podium was never out of the question, Richards working his way to third by turn one, a position he would hold all the way through the 14-lap race distance to finish just two seconds down on round winner Alex Davison. The result provided a valuable haul of points that saw the Laser Racing driver jump two positions in the outright standings at the mid-point of the season.
“I’m pretty happy with that at the end of the day,” Richards reflected. “I don’t think we had the pace this weekend to win, but we were certainly a top three car and that’s where we started, and finished the weekend.
“We needed a big haul of points to get the championship back on track after the setback of Sydney last time out. It’s been a mixed start to the season, but what gives me great confidence is that despite the setbacks, we’ve always bounced back and gained points when we’ve needed them.
“Now we enjoy a two month break before returning to Sydney, where we’ll have a chance to again apply the knowledge we’ve gained this season. All in all, we got some more runs on the board this weekend, which is exactly what we were looking for!”
The fifth round of the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia season sees a return to Sydney Motorsport Park alongside the V8 Supercars, at the end of August (26-28).