After more than a decade karting, Hayden Jackson decided to make a step up and join the national Toyota 86 series.
Little did the Metford-based 22-year-old know that the season-ending race would be in his backyard.
Jackson will contest the Supercars support category in front of family and friends at the Newcastle 500 from Friday through to Sunday.
“We’d committed to do it [Toyota 86] anyway before we knew the race calendar,” Jackson told the Newcastle Herald.
“It will be awesome. Newcastle always puts on a great show. Everyone gets around soccer, footy, Supercars, whatever it is and makes such a good atmosphere.”
Jackson, who has a best finish of 18th from five previous rounds in his maiden Toyota 86 campaign across the country, was trackside all three days at last year’s inaugural Newcastle 500.
This time around he and father, also team manager, Colin will be in the pits while supporting in the stands is mother Lurrene as well as sisters Beth and Holly.
“There’s a lot of added pressure being in front of family and mates,” he said.
The Maitland Vale-bred driver said practice sessions and qualifying on the opening two days would be “important” for “maintaining track position” in all three races because of the tight street circuit.
Berry Park father-of-two Gavan Reynolds knows all about that, having competed in the same Toyota 86 category in Newcastle last year.
“I’ve got as much experience here as anybody else,” he said. “That’s the beauty of street circuits, especially a new one, because everyone’s on a level playing field.”
Reynolds, an auctioneer by trade, crashed out at Sandown in September but the 39-year-old’s team turned around the car in 20 days for the following round.
He will have seven-month-old daughter Brooklyn on debut at the Newcastle 500 while eldest child Sienna, four, and wife Kate return as fans in 2018.
“I can’t believe it’s been 12 months since the first one,” Reynolds said. “It seems to have flown, but I can’t wait.”
WHATS ON: Complete guide to Newcastle 500 in 2018
Woodrising 27-year-old Aaren Russell and Warners Bay 20-year-old Charlotte Poynting are also back on track at their hometown motorsport event, but in much different vehicles.
Both are experimenting in the SuperUtes section.
Russell changed gears recently after missing a Supercars drive while Poynting shifted with her usual Aussie Racing Cars not in action at this year’s Newcastle 500.
“Hopefully being up a bit higher I can take in the awesome beach views,” Russell said.
Russell, who said he last raced the old V8 ute category on the Gold Coast in 2015, had a test drive in Sydney a fortnight ago.
“To be honest it handled better than what I thought it would and I’m just looking forward to a fun weekend of racing without any pressure or expectation,” he said.
Russell considered, but eventually opted against, adding the Dunlop Super2 series to his Newcastle 500 program.
Poynting had her maiden SuperUtes appearance at Bathurst last month.
Cameron Mason, who works at Beresfield, rounds out the local contingent in the Touring Car Masters.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.