11 February 2024 |

From Driver Coach to Pole-Sitter in One Weekend

An interesting story has unfolded across the opening round of Supercheap Auto TCR Australia, with Martin emerging on pole, despite not being entered for the round as of two days ago.

John Martin entered the weekend as a driver coach for Will Harris, but by the time of Qualifying on Saturday morning he had been thrust into the driver’s seat and this afternoon he will start on pole position for Race 2.

Harris contested both practice sessions on Friday, coming in 14th on combined times, but was forced to withdraw from the event due to rib soreness relating to a prior injury. The Wall Racing team didn’t need to look far for his replacement, with Martin on site acting as a driver coach for Harris.

A mix and match of varying driver’s racing gear later, Martin was strapped in and heading straight in to qualifying – his first TCR session since Bathurst in 2021.

Impressively Martin was on the pace immediately, putting his Honda Civic FL5 11th on the grid for the opening race. A fighting performance in that first race saw Martin race his way to a crucial 10th position at the chequered flag, handing the TCR race-winner a shot at adding another feather to his TCR Australia career.

The top-10 invert for race two sees Martin on pole, with Dylan O’Keeffe alongside on the front row. O’Keeffe is another driver who returns to the series this year, after sitting 2023 on the TCR sidelines, and will be eyeing up his chances of rekindling his winning ways with Ashey Seward Motorsport.

Clay Richards starts from third, in just his third round of TCR Australia, with Ryan Casha starting fourth in his series debut. Brad Harris goes from fifth, ahead of Jordan Cox, Zac Soutar, Tony D’Alberto, Josh Buchan and the runaway winner from Race 1, Ben Bargwanna.

Race two commences at 2:05pm local time, live and free on 7plus and 7mate.

“The weekend started out as just a driver coaching role and running the car more than anything, and with Will’s pre-exisiting injury we tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him. Unfortunately when he woke up on Saturday morning he sort of realised it wasn’t going to be possible this weekend,” said Martin.

“We hunted around a little bit, it was a mad scramble around to get stuff. My helmet had to get ran out in the morning, the suit was what Fisichella used in the Grand Prix in S5000 which fit luckily, some of David Wall’s gear as well, but it all came together.

“I think we’ve got a bit more pace than we showed. It’s the first time I’ve driven the car on these (Kumho) tyres, and the cars have had a couple years of work on them now so they’re a little bit different to 2021 where I left it. It’s just a case of getting your head around all the changes and how it works,” said Martin.

“I’ve still got a bit to learn about the tyre. Having that full race distance now has helped massively, we’ll throw some changes at it ready for race two. Starting on the front row the starts are the same, the good old Honda Civic start is just as I remember,” concluded Martin.