Rotorua's Sloan Cox came away from the third round of his RX Academy campaign in Finland having made further performance gains.
The rally-turned-rallycross driver took a race win during the qualifying rounds of the event at the Jalasjarvi national rallycross circuit on Saturday, his first win in this series. While he didn't make the top four for the round final, Cox was encouraged by his improved speed.
"The racing didn't go as I wanted it to but I'm not looking at that negatively as I definitely learned a lot over the weekend. I feel I got more from this event than I probably have from the first two," Cox said.
Having converted his four-wheel-drive Evo X rally car into front-wheel-drive (FWD) to learn more about being fast in a FWD before this round, he said: "Coming into it I knew it would be interesting after the second round results and the work I've done in our FWD. To win my first race in the qualifying heats was good. I didn't necessarily have the speed, but managed to get out in front and keep the lead. I knew I should have had more speed, perhaps I was being too cautious."
After each heat or race, competitors can review their performance with the Academy driving coaches.
"We looked at what I needed to work on, and the second race felt a lot better, with better speed, although having started with the less favourable outside starting position and not having the best start, I was last in the field of four, so I jokered early to try and catch the pack, but with identical cars, we're all so even that I struggled to pass."
Cox has been soaking up all the information he can on rallycross strategies. With the short five-lap races and the requirement that each driver must do one 'joker' lap around a usually longer course in each race, he says it was not all about being the quickest driver.
"Each time I learn more about where to make the most of passing opportunities."
In the back row for the semi-final, Cox says he chose to joker on the first lap.
"But, I was right behind another guy for all five laps and couldn't quite find that opportunity to pass – I almost did, but it's hard to make the passing moves stick.
"It was a cool feeling to be that close, and even though I didn't make it through to the final, I feel positive. I know what I need to do for the next round.
The next round is on August 26 at Kouvola. Cox is staying in Europe and will use some of the time to review in-car footage before the Academy's next test and coaching day on August 23.
"I'll focus on what I can improve, how to get off the mark faster. Perhaps I need to not be too afraid to make a mistake and to push harder from that first qualifying.
"The time I had in our new FWD car at home made a big difference, I was more relaxed and the speed is coming more naturally. Each time I felt I knew what I needed to improve on. So it's been a really good step forward."