Two weeks ago, Christchurch teen Jaden Ransley was staring despondently at the wreckage of his Toyota TR 86 race car and thinking his championship challenge was over.
Just a couple of days after his 16th birthday, and with the championship battle firmly in his sights, Ransley and another racer tangled at Teretonga. The end result was a wild ride across the grass and into a tyre wall, the impact taking a heavy toll on car and driver.
“I don’t really remember the hit, in fact I only really saw what happened when the TV coverage screened.”
The car spun into the wall, with the driver’s side taking the brunt of the impact. The impact punched in every panel on the car’s side, sculpting the damaged panel steel tightly around the shape of the roll cage and intrusion bars. The car was written off.
It was a crushing blow for Ransley, rated one of the sensations of the 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship. He was severely bruised all down the right side of his body, though the race seat and multi-point safety seatbelt and helped minimise injury in the high speed crash.
Ransley’s carbon-fibre helmet was damaged – he thinks it hit the roll cage – and when the adrenalin wore off he found his entire right side was numb and bruised. Ransley said in the minutes after the crash he went through a full spectrum of emotions – misery, disappointment, anger – and it was only after he had been checked out by ambulance staff at the track he felt the full effects of the impact.
“I felt terrible, sick, sore. It was a low point.”
As they left the circuit that afternoon though, Ransley’s thoughts were already turning toward the possibility of getting back into the Championship. With a two-week break it seemed possible. Difficult, but possible.
“We were looking at a variety of ways to get back in the game and there was a constant stream of good wishes and offers of help from the racing community. It was really amazing.”
The game-changer for the young racer was a phone call from category manager Geoff Short offering the use of Short’s own race car.
“Geoff and Toyota really worked hard to help me get back into the Championship, I owe them huge thanks for that,” he said.
Major sponsors Miles Toyota and Hartnells have stayed on board, helping offset the cost of stepping across into the new car.
Despite the crash, Ransley was still fifth in the Championship with six races to run.
“We did consider cutting our losses and focussing on Australia, but Dad – and especially Andy – insisted we should look to finish out this season.”
Support for the come-back also arrived via Andy Neale, who connected the Ransley family with racers who wanted to see Ransley do the full distance – but who didn’t want to be named.
Jaden Ransley tested his new TR 86 race car at the Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild on Friday and says the car is ‘great’. He will be on track next weekend at Manfeild for the fifth round of the Championship. From fifth place in the points table, he says he can’t reach the title – so will be going for top performances and race wins wherever he can.