Youngster AJ Lawrence had only contested a handful of race meetings in the Street Stocks class heading into last weekend’s National Street Stock Title at Mildura’s Timmis Speedway, but that didn’t stop the rookie from making an impression on his more experienced counterparts.
As can be expected with any driver who is experiencing their debut season with a class, there was little fanfare that surrounded Lawrence as he prepared to take his place amongst the 130 other drivers participating in the last weekend’s National Title. However that was soon to change when the 16-year-old commenced his campaign.
Coming home seventh in his opening heat race, Lawrence continued to improve as Friday night’s qualifying wore on, placing third in heat-race two while battling a minor mechanical issue and managing to clinch the win in his third heat race of the night, which banked him enough points to sit 22nd in the standings; an extremely competitive effort considering the company he was in.
Leading his fourth and final heat race on Saturday night, Lawrence was poised to earn a direct qualification into the National Title-deciding feature race, but it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t to be, with his power steering belt breaking just two laps from the chequered flag, causing him to suffer a heartbreaking DNF, which hurt his points and forced him to start out of position three in the C main.
With not much time to spare before he was back out on the track, the team worked hard to complete some hasty repairs, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the Vic # 55 Ramsdale Wreckers & Mechanical / Gippsland Race & Street supported VY Holden Commodore completely up to speed, with Lawrence retiring from the C main 12 laps in.
“The National Title definitely didn’t end the way we were hoping it would, but we came away from it with a lot of positives to draw on, as well as a lot of new respect from fellow drivers,” expressed the Traralgon, Victoria-based driver, who prior to last weekend had only contested one previous National Title in the Junior Sedans class back in 2015, which was also incidentally held at Timmis Speedway.
“The track conditions throughout the title were quite challenging, but we didn’t let that get in the way of what we were trying to achieve. We’re quite proud of our efforts and it definitely gives us some more confidence heading into the rest of the season.”
With a great pedigree in motorsport, Lawrence commenced his competitive racing career when he was just 10 years old in the VSC Junior Standard Saloons class, where he spent the next four seasons honing his skills and achieving numerous highlights, including winning 2017 Victorian Title.
Moving into senior Standard Saloon competition midway through the 2017-18 speedway season, Lawrence contested just under a dozen race meetings and was a regular podium contender, with his season being highlighted by his performance in the Victorian Title, where he was running strongly in second place, before a battery issue dashed his hopes.
Deciding to step into Street Stocks, Lawrence purchased a VY Holden Commodore, later upgrading it for a Crise Edwards-built VY Holden Commodore in the New Year, with his first outing in the car delivering him with an impressive third-place finish in the Paige McCarthy Memorial at Timmis Speedway.
The versatile racer also made the transition into road racing. Having received special dispensation to allow him to compete in Saloon Cars at the age of 14, Lawrence has contested numerous rounds of the Victorian Saloon Car Championship and has raced at some of the country’s most renowned road racing circuits.
For his next appearance, Lawrence will return to Timmis Speedway this Friday and Saturday night where he hopes to continue building on his momentum during the Victorian Title.
Lawrence would like to thank the following 2018-19 season sponsors: Ramsdale Wreckers & Mechanical, Gippsland Race & Street, Arrow Line Marking, LV Core & Saw, and Drouin Tyre & Battery Service.
Special thanks go to his mum and dad Kerry and Darron, pit crew member Shane, and the rest of his family and friends.
To find out more about Lawrence and his team, LIKE them on Facebook by searching Lawrence Family Racing.