Alice Buckley scores historic Grand Slam in TGRA 86 Scholarship Series
Australian teenager Alice Buckley enjoyed a breakthrough weekend in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Scholarship Series, sweeping the weekend at Queensland Raceway with a pole position, three race wins and lap record.
Australian teenager Alice Buckley enjoyed a breakthrough weekend in the brand new Toyota GR 86 Scholarship Series, sweeping the weekend at Queensland Raceway with a pole position, three race wins and lap record. Buckley, 16, was selected for the 2022 FIA Girls On Track finals in Paul Ricard, where she was named among the four finalists for the Ferrari Driver Academy Scouting Camp in Maranello at the end of the 2022 season. Competing for a spot in the FDA and a seat in Formula 4, Buckley had a few test days in F4 machinery and immediately proved competitive. Previously, the Queensland-native had been making waves in Australian karting, where she consistently ranked among the most interesting up and coming talents before making the step up to race cars in 2022. Since then, Alice has been racing the Hyundai Excel in the Series X3 Queensland - a competitive platform that allowed her to learn the racecraft and build experience in touring cars. In 2023, Buckley has then seized the opportunity to make her debut in the new TGRA 86 Scholarship Series, a championship established by Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia as a second-tier to the popular 86 Series, given the outstanding number of entries in what has become Australia's premier grassroots circuit racing category. At Philip Island, Buckley bounced back from a DNF in the first race to complete a great charge in race 2, where she recovered from P29 to P20. Race 3 was a further step forward, with a P17 in mixed weather conditions. Alice made more impressive improvements at Sydney Motorsports Park, where she qualified eighth and then scored two top ten finishes, a P10 and P9 that qualified the 16 year old for the main Toyota 86 series. At Queensland Raceway, Buckley continued her outstanding progression and was the star of the show in practice, where she topped the times in the second session and recorded the fastest time of the day, beating Lachlan Bloxsom by three tenths of a second. Alice then carried that speed into qualifying, where she secured pole position by seven hundredths of a second over her main rival Bloxsom. The performance was even more impressive due to the fact that Buckley was contesting a double program on the same weekend, alongside the Excel category. A front wheel drive and a rear wheel drive car, the differences in driving style made for a particularly challenging quick adaptation session after session, but Buckley kept momentum and was able to survive the pressure of Lachlan Bloxsom throughout the first race of the weekend in the TGRA 86 Scholarship Series. Alice in fact converted the pole position into her first win in the series with a mature performance that saw the young racer keeping her cool throughout the 11 lap contest, holding off the pressure in a flawless run that resulted in a 0.3 second gap across the finish line. Buckley started on pole again in race 2, but was overtaken around the outside of turn 1 by Bloxsom; she immediately fought back and was able to restore positions on the run towards turn 3. The two continued to battle after a restart from a first safety car intervention and traded positions - but it was again Buckley to eventually emerge as the leader on lap 8, when the race was brought to an end by another safety car for a multi-car accident in the midfield. In almost a replay from race 2, Bloxsom had the better start in race 3 and took the lead at turn 1. Buckley, though, wasn't ready to give up the place and made a great move stick on lap 3, then defended well over the next couple of laps where she could open a half a second gap. Buckley set the fastest lap, but on lap 7 Bloxsom managed to come back and apply more pressure. With clean driving and a flawless run, though, the #50 Castrol-sponsored Toyota 86 of Alice Buckley held off the attacks and crossed the finish line to make history, claiming a dominant third win at Queensland Raceway. "Double duty’s racing two categories on the weekend", Alice explained after the historic achievement. "In the Toyota Gazoo Racing 86 category we had an awesome weekend, I was the first ever female to qualify pole position, to win a race and to clean sweep the weekend by winning all three races", she recalled. "To top it off we got the lap record." By winning three races out of three, Alice Buckley became the first female racer to score a grand slam in a Toyota Gazoo Racing event in Australia. On the other hand, the Excel series proved to be more challenging than expected, as a few technical gremlins made for a charge from the back of the pack.
"The Excel category didn’t get the best start to the weekend, we went straight into qualifying and had a gearbox failure", she told us. "Race one I went from 25th to 8th. In race 2 we finished 6th and race 3 finished 4th, before another gearbox issue throughout the race, finishing in eight place. The team then did an amazing job changing the gearbox in between the races but sadly the clutch broke which meant a DNF in race 5." "It was a rollercoaster weekend, but overall lots of learning over the weekend and we have moved forward in the TGRA 86 Scholarship Series, now holding second place overall and can’t wait for the next race weekend!"