The Racing Academy’s Cody Gillis burst onto the scene at Hi-Tec Oils Race Winton with three podium finishes in what was only his third round in the National Trans Am Series category.
Joining the series this year straight from go-karts, the 24-year-old set the tone early on, powering his Ford Mustang into second place in the all-important qualifying session on Saturday morning, ahead of many series veterans including James Moffat, Ben Grice and Owen Kelly.
The New South Welshman then proved to the category, and himself, that qualifying was no fluke, holding off the instant pressure from Grice and his All-American Driveline-backed Ford Mustang to hold the position at the exit of turn two in the opening race.
He would then go on to cross the line in second place, just over one second behind round winner Lochie Dalton for his first podium finish in the category.
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In a similar fashion, Gillis would repeat his efforts in race two by finishing over a second and a half clear of series leader Moffat in third, while also claiming the fastest lap in the process.
A third-place finish in the extended race three would then all but seal his well-deserved place on the second step of the outright round podium.
After making such a big leap into the category for 2023, Gillis was thrilled with his performance at Winton.
“The whole team had been chipping away for a while, thankfully, it all came together at once in Winton,” Gillis explained.
“I’m getting more and more experience as time goes on, and I proved that in qualifying to set up the weekend.
“Going into the first race I was a little bit nervous, I started thinking I might have just fluked it in qualifying, but a couple of laps in I realised we were actually pretty strong.
“It felt like we belonged there.”
Approaching the second half of the season, Gillis said he would take all the lessons learnt in the series to date and change his perspective on how he wants the rest of the season to play out.
“It’s a big learning curve joining the series,” Gillis said.
“It’s good to be in a racing car, it’s what I have always dreamed of and everything that comes with it.
“The Racing Academy wanted to do something where I could race a car, and everything started to come together to join Trans Am.
“It’s a great way to learn, no aero, heaps of horsepower and a decent tyre with not much grip, everything you want to learn is right there in front of you, so it was great to land myself here.
“A weekend like that definitely changes the perspective.
“We were getting top five finishes and hoping to try and find our way on the podium by the end of the year, but now that we got there, it would be nice to get a race win and continuingly be in the mix.
“As a team, a win would be very rewarding, but podiums are now the goal.”
Gillis and the National Trans Am Series will next feature as part of the fifth round of the Shannons SpeedSeries at Queensland Raceway on 11-13 August.
Tickets for the event are now available from motorsporttickets.com.au.