Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey have told of their nerves as a steering issue threatened to cost them the Australian Endurance Championship title during a dramatic Highlands 501.
The Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes pairing did eventually triumph with a sixth place finish, overturning a 76-point deficit to previous championship leaders Jaxon Evans/Tim Miles.
However, the finish was far less comfortable than it had looked set to be when Hackett/Storey had been leading the race while Evans/Miles were forced into retirement after hitting the wall at the Southern Loop.
Drama then struck the AMG squad when Storey, who was behind the wheel in the final stint, had to pit with suspension issues in the final six laps.
They did manage to make the finish just over two laps behind the race winner and were officially classified, handing them the championship win by 62 points.
“I didn’t see that coming,” said Hackett of the moment co-driver Storey peeled into the pits from the lead in the closing stages.
“When it comes through the pits that Dom has a loose wheel, and that was a really good assessment, your focus just goes from ‘We’re going to win the race’ to ‘Let’s survive’.
“You’re never complacent because it’s never real, but you go from a position of relative comfort to complete survival.
“Watching the team instinctively react, as champion teams do, was inspiring.”
Hackett brought the Mercedes in from the lead to hand over to Storey after opening up more than a 20-second advantage in the first stint of the race.
Storey then pushed forward out front, surviving multiple Safety Car periods to hold a margin to second place, until a camber bolt threatened to eradicate their title hopes with six laps left on the board.
“At that moment I thought it was all over,” recounted Storey.
“The boys did what they could; the issue wasn’t fixed but it made the car safe enough to get the car back around and finish the race under its own power.”
The championship victory is new territory for Storey, with the Kiwi driver yet to win a car racing title in his career.
“It’s actually my first car championship,” added Storey.
“I always wanted to do one thing, and that was win a championship; I’ve now won the Australian Endurance Championship.
“I actually don’t know how I feel, I’m quite emotional about it at the moment!”