McLean Takes on National Champs in Rookie Season
Whangarei driver Thomas McLean has made such an impression in his rookie season driving the Skipps Logging TQ Midget that Gary Harris who owns the race car has insisted he make the long journey to the South Island to compete in the nationals this month.
Gaining more seat time in the Three Quarter Midget by attending speedway meetings around the North Island paid off for McLean when he took his first race win ahead of veteran driver Paul Le Cren currently ranked at number two and resulted in there being no doubt over his entering into the champs.
"I had to set the pace for the restart with 2NZ (Le Cren) on my tail and a group of more experienced drivers so the pressure was on for me to get it right. We came around to face the green flag and I smashed the gas getting the initial jump and once again lead the race." said Thomas McLean.
"With a couple more yellows and the race taking forever to finish I saw the white flag (signalling) final lap and as I didn’t want to get passed on the last lap I pushed a little harder - as I came out of the final turn all I could see was clear track ahead of me and the checkered flag waving as I crossed the line in first which was my first ever win in a Three Quarter Midget." he said.
The win at Huntly sealed the deal as far as the team was concerned and McLean was signed up for the prestigious speedway event.
"We weren't going to go all the way down there in his rookie season but when he managed to beat number two driver Paul Le Cren off the mark, Gary (Harris) said he was going to Christchurch!" said mother Carolyn McLean.
The New Zealand TQ Championship is being held at Ruapuna Speedway just outside of Christchurch over the nights of 14 - 15th February and promises to be all action with an incredible 50 entries received for the meeting.
Competing his first season at Western Springs in Auckland Thomas McLean has made his way through nine rounds from 12 held at the world renowned stadium so far and has clearly shown he can more than hold his own against New Zealand's toughest competitors.
Currently in the Western Springs TQ Midget series he is leading rookie, first in Class B and holds seventh place overall in a field that routinely exceeds the maximum track capacity of 24 cars.
At only 16 years old McLean is almost a veteran karter after starting at seven years old and having already won a shelf full of accolades and titles from clubs around the North Island has many hours of competition racing under his belt.
He has also taken a visit to Illinois USA where he was invited to compete in his kart as an introduction to the North American racing scene as a step towards his goal of racing professionally in NASCAR.
"I've been going to the speedway since I was about four weeks old and moving into a TQ has definitely brought us closer to NASCAR, one step closer to that dream." said McLean.
"In today's racing it's all about sponsorship and we have some really good sponsors with us now which is how we are able to race, people like Peter Hill from Barrells 100 percent who has been supporting us since I was seven." he said.
McLean is still very much learning the ropes in the race car and of course competing on dirt ovals which has led to gaining as much seat time as possible in the car at the various circuits around the North Island.
This included his first ever stint at his local track in Whangarei on February the 1st where he finished inside the top four overall after three races.
Being the youngest driver on the circuit and least experienced with the next group having four seasons behind them and more the result was well received and McLean looks forward to seeing how he goes at Christchurch against the nation's top drivers but with a realistic perspective.
"There are 50 cars going to the nationals so if I can get inside the top half I'll be rapt, we can't expect too much with it being our first season." said McLean.
He will be attending with four other drivers under the umbrella of experienced team Harris Racecars owned by Gary Harris but on the track it's each to his own.
"We're not going to go out there and do anything stupid but when we are on the track there's no such thing as team mates, you don't want to give an inch it's every man for himself." said McLean.
After the nationals McLean will head back to continue with his campaign at Western Springs.
National TQ Championship Schedule - Ruapuna Speedway
Friday 15th February
Saturday 16th February 7pm