Jake Williamson’s day on the racetrack at the Sea Lake Mallee Rally was one to remember, with his maiden win proving to be a rollercoaster ride on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Ararat resident was the victorious navigator alongside driver Daniel Wells in the Class 1650 category at the oldest off-road racing event in Australia.
The pair held off 14 other teams to win the title but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Wells Motorsport team over the 400km course.
The buggy experienced electrical problems on the first lap which required quick thinking and some running repairs before the pair again struck trouble.
“The second lap in we got bogged pretty badly and had to get towed out by a recovery vehicle,” Williamson said.
“I remember Daniel saying ‘what else could go wrong?’, but we got things back on track and our third lap was our quickest of the day.”
Williamson and Wells’ fortune looked to be turning around, but not for long.
Williamson said a puncture in the front right tyre with 50 kilometres left made it a tense run to the line.
“With 20 kilometres to the line it was completely flat, but we were determined to finish,” he said.
“We radioed through to the pits to see where we were on track position and they told us we were first in class and just needed to the finish.
“The tyre was going to slow us down considerably, but we knew we’d make it. It was still nerve racking because we didn’t know how far off the next buggy behind us was, it wasn’t until we crossed the line that we realised we’d got their fairly safely.”
Williamson and Wells crossed the line in three hours and 55 minutes, almost seven minutes ahead of their nearest rival. Their Class 2 victory saw them finish 14th in the field of 92.
“It was such a relief and also just a good feeling to know that I’d done my part to help the Wells Motorsport team finish first in class,” Williamson said.
The pair have been racing together since September last year, with Williamson previously navigating for Wells’ cousin.
Williamson said has been a motorsport fan his whole life and has fond memories as a child traveling around the countryside to off-road racing events to watch his father, Stewie Williamson.
“Dad used to race during the 90s,” he said. “It’s been great to follow in his footsteps and I’m grateful for the opportunity Daniel and the team have given me.”