02 May SHARMA/NATOLI STEP UP TO A1 FOLLOWING IMPULSE BUY
2022 APC Class D Champions Amar Sharma and Daniel Natoli will be making their Class A1 debut at next weekend’s opening round of the 2023 Mobil 1 Australian Production Cars season.
This first round of the new APC season will be held alongside the opening round for Monochrome GT4 Australia, as part of the Shannons SpeedSeries event at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit across May 12-14.
After a highly successful APC season last year, Sharma explains a whole lot of work has gone into making the step up to A1.
“We have bought a 2011 Audi TTRS Plus which ran in the 2021 Bathurst 6 Hour and finished fifth in class. The car hasn’t done a lot or racing since it has been built but appears to be a good, solid and reliable car. Also being AWD, it will help us in the wet races,” Sharma explained.
“We don’t know a hell of a lot about the car so it will be a learning curve for us as well this year. We are all very excited to see what we can do with this car this season.
“The purchase of this car was a bit of a funny one actually, because we won it in an auction accidentally! Both of us can be a bit impulsive at times and I am still trying to work out if that is a good thing or a bad thing – it has got us this far, so it can’t be all bad right?!” he laughed.
While the car purchase might have been impulsive, the planning for their 2023 campaign has been anything but.
“There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes by everyone involved in our team and it has been a mega effort to get this deal over the line,” Sharma explained.
“One of the biggest influencers and forces that have aligned is having Gtechniq come on board with us as a Major Sponsor for this year.
“Gtechniq has sponsored Dan in his racing endeavours for many years, but to have them come on board with us as a major sponsor really solidified our plans for the A1 campaign for 2023.
“We have also joined HD Autohaus this year and they will be preparing and running the car this season. They have a wealth of experience and great success in the motorsport industry, and so when we had the opportunity to work with them this year, we took it.
“So far it looks like the stars are aligning for us this year, so we should be in for a big one.”
With a Class D title in their APC rookie year – which almost didn’t happen – Sharma and Natoli are hoping to add to their trophy collection this year.
“We ran most of the 2022 season but that actually wasn’t the initial plan. However, after our first APC round in Queensland, we found that the category was just great, as was the track time, all of the management team, and the other competitors,” Sharma said.
“We really like the mix of formats too with sprint races and enduros. There is loads of track time and TV time for sponsors so it is great value for money, and everyone is generally fair on track too, but still racing hard.
“After that round we knew we loved the format and the people, so we carried on doing the rest of the season. To come away with the championship win in class D was very special for all of us.
“Moving from Class D to A1 is a big jump, but we wanted to move into something a bit faster and try and contend for the championship in a higher class, as well as outright potentially.
“Class A in general is probably the most competitive class in production car racing all around the country and a strong contender for outright wins as well.
“I think this year will be a big learning year for us – a new car, team structure and a class change are pretty big transitions to happen all at once. So, we will be developing the car this year and taking each event as it comes.
“Having said that, Dan and I are hard-core racers at heart so like everyone, we will be going there to win – both in class, and also perhaps outright for APC! Anything can happen, so we will give it our best shot at every race and see where we end up.”
While their step up may be a surprise to some, the fact that Sharma and Natoli are continuing their driving partnership is not, with the pair proving a formidable partnership across 2022.
“Daniel and I have formed a sort of brotherhood, you could say. And as we had purchased this car together and we have a great partnership, we would be silly not to keep that going,” Sharma explains.
“It also helps that we are the same height, and our lap times are very similar, so it is almost a perfect match. We also have a similar driving style so we can essentially have the car set up the same for both drivers.”
With such a busy pre-season, Sharma has a long list of people he would like to thank.
“I would like to thank Daniel, Gtechniq, LME Care, Vast Consulting Group, OzeAuto and KCK Lubricants for all of their support to get us here and racing,” he said.
“I would also like to thank Ray, Kel and Riggsy for being absolute legends and joining us again for another season; and also, HD Autohaus for joining us this year to prep and run our car. Barrel and George are great guys, and we can’t wait to travel around, have some fun, and win some races this year.
“Also, I would like to thank my wife, Lydia, and Dan’s wife, Steph, for constantly putting up with our nonsense!
“And finally, thank you to everyone else that has helped us get to the race track and supported us through our APC campaign in 2022 and this upcoming season in 2023.”
Last minute entries for the 2023 Mobil 1 Australian Production Cars and 2023 Monochrome GT4 Australia seasons are available now. For entry forms, go to https://ausprodcars.com.au/entry-form/
2023 APC/GT4 AUSTRALIA CALENDAR:
Round one – Phillip Island – 12-14 May – Sprint (4 x 30 minutes)
Round two – Sydney Motorsport Park – 16-18 June – Enduro
Round three – Queensland Raceway – 11-13 August – Enduro
Round four – Sandown International Raceway – 8-10 September – Sprint (4 x 30 minutes)
Round five – The Bend Motorsport Park – 13-15 October – Enduro (4 x 1 hour)
Round six – Bathurst International – 10-12 November – Sprint (4 x 30 minutes