DESPITE describing 2020 as a year, young Southland racing driver Jordan Michels has taken plenty of positives from it, a year in which he won his third New Zealand title in two years.
Going into the year, Michels (23) was looking forward to contesting the inaugural TCR New Zealand Championship only for it to be cancelled.
Another opportunity soon presented itself when he had a call offering him a drive among a star-studded field in a S5000 car on the support card of the Australian Grand Prix meeting at Albert Park in Melbourne.
Michels tested at Winton Motor Raceway and Tailem Bend in preparation for the drive and qualified for the event alongside former Formula 1 ace, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, only for the event to be cancelled due to Covid
“I was among all that glamour and awesomeness and it all came crashing down within an hour.”
He returned home into self-isolation and then lockdown.
“I took up an interest in computer racing and Dad (Rick Michels) and I started building a simulator.”
As New Zealand emerged from restrictions, the South Island Endurance Series got under way and Michels’ backer Peter Williams was keen to get him on track in the Team Williams Racing Honda Civic Fk7 TCR in which Michels had won both Class B of the South Island Series and also Class 2 in the New Zealand One Hour Endurance Championship in 2019.
Michels started well with class wins as well as strong overall placings at both Teretonga Park, near Invercargill, and Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
However, at the final round in Timaru, a holed radiator cost him a repeat of his South Island title.
A new engine was flown in from overseas thanks to the generosity of Williams and family.
At the same time Michels’ dad was struck by illness and thanks to extra input from Michels and the help of many friends, the car was loaded at the last minute for the New Zealand One Hour Endurance Championship at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.
Despite the drama Michels retained his title, his third New Zealand championship in two years after last year’s endurance championship and his 2018/19 NZ Formula 1600 Championship.
While Michels and Team Williams Racing were busy with the One Hour Championship, former WRC competitor Hayden Paddon advertised for a co-driver for the final round of the 3-Hour Championship in a Hyundai i30N.
Michels, who already knew Paddon, made contact and found they both had a similar sense of direction.
Paddon was run off his feet with drivers keen to share the driving but Paddon hounded Michels for an answer and the duo joined forces for the final round of the South Island Three Hour Series in Timaru.
Fuel pressure issues cost them at Timaru but the duo had a fast car for the New Zealand final at Highlands.
A contact at the first corner cost them dearly and when Michels took his turn at the wheel, having wrapped up his one hour title earlier in the day, he did a 1.5-hour stint in the Hyundai.
“With no front splitter the tyres had to work harder and they were beyond the canvas at the end of my stint.”
The pair eventually took second in their class. “Hayden and my race pace were very similar and it was a nice opportunity to work with Hayden and his team.”
The other opportunity Michels took during the year was to participate in the Evolution Motorsport ClubSport Championship sponsored by the family business at his home track, Teretonga Park.
Using the “orange roughy” Corona from the Evolution Motorsport workshop, Michels said he had thoroughly enjoyed the experience to the extent he rushed home from the Timaru round of the Endurance Series to compete.
“I have missed a lot of racing at Teretonga Park over the years as I have chased New Zealand titles and had never done any clubsport so it was good to get to know lots of club members. It was a different style of driving that can only help.”