She may not have finished as high on the overall standings as she would have liked, but 2018 has certainly been a standout year of opportunities for Warners Bay race car driver Charlotte Poynting.
The 20-year-old capped off her third Aussie Racing Cars season with a solid string of finishes on the Gold Coast last month.
The results saw her finish 9th for the round, which is the highest round result for a female in the history of the class, although it wasn’t good enough to overcome her earlier season form, leaving her outside the top 10 on the overall drivers point score for the season.
Despite admitting disappointment over her “unlucky” season, Poynting said there had been plenty of other highlights this year including the chance to switch disciplines to secure a start on her home track later this month.
Usually found behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Camaro in the Aussie Racing Cars, Poynting will slide into the driver’s seat of a much larger and more powerful newly-built Toyota Hilux to contest the last round of the SuperUtes Series, which will be held in Newcastle on November 23-25.
The race is one the supporting rounds of the final event of the Supercars Championship, the Newcastle 500, which is returning to the specially constructed coastal street circuit for the second consecutive year.
Poynting was lucky enough to be the first person to officially drive the Newcastle track in 2017 as part of the Aussie Racing Cars practice. However, with Newcastle not falling on their race calendar in 2018, the home-grown driver knew she would have to broaden her racing horizons if she wanted to hear the cheer of a local crowd again this year.
“The team I race with, Western Sydney Motorsport, they had two guys already racing in the SuperUtes series who raced Aussie Cars with us last year,” she said.
“My team boss was looking for something for me to get in for Newcastle, as Aussie Racing Cars aren't at Newcastle this year. So we were tossing up between the SuperUte or a Toyota '86, and it just seemed fitting to get in the SuperUtes, the team already had a lot of prior knowledge and a third ute on the way, too.
“I’m so excited. Last year at Newcastle by far was still my favourite race weekend I’ve ever had. It was a completely different feeling doing it at home and having such a big support team and being able to have my family there and all my friends there, and just the crowd support as well was amazing. So I'm very excited to get back there.
“(Driving the practice lap) was probably one of my favourite memories. I remember Dad said to me before I went out, ‘Just take it all in, don't worry about going out and setting a fast lap or whatever, just take in what you’re doing.’ And I went out and kind of just dawdled around I guess, and just looked around the whole time.
“It was 8 o’clock in the morning, and there were already so many people out there, and just so many people clapping and cheering. It was very humbling, I guess, it was really nice.
“The track itself was awesome. There are really no street circuits at all like it, with all the big hills and everything, it's completely different to any other street circuit in the country.
“It’s going to be quite challenging (in the SuperUtes) because I thought it was tight in the Aussie car last year, so it's going to be probably three times as harder in the ute.”
Luckily for Poynting, she has already had some time behind the wheel of the ute, after making her SuperUtes debut in October at the famed Mount Panorama track before the Bathurst 1000.
The race was a dream come true for Poynting, who had grown up idolising the V8 drivers tearing along Mount Panorama’s famed Conrod Straight.
“It was amazing. It was something I've wanted to do for so long,” she said.
“My dad and my brother and I have been going (to the Bathurst 1000) every year for the past nine years
“And every year that we’ve been going since I was so young ... every year, we’re like ‘We’ll be here one day, I’ll be racing one day’, so when I did that first couple of laps on the track, my mind was just blown.
“I thought I was prepared for it, you’d walk it, or you’d do it in a road car and think ‘Wow, this is pretty cool’ but it was just completely different in a race car, it was insane.”
The weekend in Bathurst proved full of highlights for Poynting, who actually missed watching the final day of the V8 racing in order to fly to New Zealand and compete in yet another class of ute.
Poynting’s efforts saw her claim a female-driver scholarship in the 2018-19 SsangYong Racing Series, which covers most of the costs to compete in the five-round championship.
The first round, contested just a week later, saw her place 12th overall after a weekend of four races, with Poynting due to cross the Tasman once more in December for the second round, followed up by two races in February and the final event in March.
While it was not initially something on her radar for the year, Poynting said she couldn’t pass up the chance to add another experience to her racing resume.
“Four days before Bathurst it popped up on Facebook and my Mum sent me the link,” she said.
“I emailed the organisers just to get some more information, and they wrote back basically saying we'll waive your entry fee if you come over, we’d really like you to come to try out.
“So I booked some flights and headed straight over there after my last race at Bathurst, and it went even better than what we were expecting. I found out on the Sunday afternoon that I was lucky enough to be the winner of the scholarship.
“It was great, any experience you can get you’ve kind of got to take it - it was really good to have something else under my belt.”