By TOM HAYES
THE 2023 National Sports Sedan series has now wrapped up, and Traralgon’s Jordan Caruso was up among them at the top once again.
Caruso won the series last year, and this year set out on a mission to go back-to-back in his blue Audi A4.
The Sports Sedan series takes place across five events around Australia.
Round 1 started the season in Victoria’s Winton Motor Raceway, before they headed north for Round 2 at Queensland Raceway.
New South Wales was the home for the next two rounds, with Round 3 at Sydney Motorsport Park and Round 4 at Australia’s most famous racecourse – Bathurst.
The season wrapped up on the streets of the Gold Coast, with the championship coming down to the final weekend, Caruso still in the mix.
Caruso was off to a blistering start at Winton, claiming the first pole position of the season.
The Sports Sedan series use a rolling grid, so only one qualifying session is run per weekend, and positions at the end of races determine your starting grid position for the following race.
Veteran Tony Ricciardello got the jump on Caruso in the race however, making him settle for second in the opening race of the season, which finished under safety car regulations.
Also, while at Winton, Caruso picked up his first win of the season during Race 3 at Winton, coming from beyond the front row.
Following one fifth of the championship, Caruso sat fourth in the standings, but with plenty of action to resume, there was no reason to panic just yet.
Almost a month later, the grid headed to Queensland Raceway for Round 2, and once again Caruso secured pole position during the qualifying session.
He finished on the podium in each race that weekend, locking in third during the first race, before taking back-to-back wins, which moved him up to second in the championship at the end of Round 2.
At the beginning of September, Sydney Motorsport Park was the destination, and it became the norm that Caruso would have enough in him to lock out pole position – for the third time in a row.
Caruso held onto the lead position during Race 1, and followed suit in Race 2, and just when it looked as if he would complete a clean sweep, he was hit with a costly DNF in Race 3.
Allowing all other competitors to cash in on points, despite the two wins on the weekend, Caruso dropped to third in the championship with just two rounds remaining.
Round 4 was the round everyone had been waiting for – Bathurst.
In a massive weekend on the Australian motorsport calendar, hundreds of thousands of people flock to ‘The Mountain’, to watch up to four days of racing action.
“It was pretty insane, I feel like you read about how full on it is and people talk about it, until you’re actually doing it in a high-powered car, after the first session I was like “Far out, this is insane”,” Caruso said following the event.
“It was good to soak in the atmosphere I guess, everyone camping – just thousands and thousands of people, it’s just as big as it gets for Australian motorsport.”
Caruso stayed for five days, not only for his own events, but stayed to watch the 1000-kilometre marathon on the Sunday.
The track on Mount Panorama is one of the only tracks in Australia where fans can park themselves up around the track, and the amount of people that attend is more than any other racing event in the country.
“I didn’t really notice it until in one of the races we were under a safety car, so we were just crawling across the top, and you see so many people there watching,” Caruso said.
“There’s nowhere else where there is so many people right next to the track.”
For the third time this season Caruso topped the qualifying times with a monster 2:02.544, which happened to be the fastest lap time of the weekend out of any class – including the Supercars.
“It’s sort of the only track that is limited by fear to an extent,” he said.
However, he couldn’t translate that form in the races, with the amount of safety cars during the timed races, made it almost impossible to launch into the lead.
He was relegated to fourth in the first race, before securing two second place finishes in the second and third races.
With one round remaining, Caruso promoted himself to second in the championship, 59 points shy of championship leader, Ricciardello.
Caruso completed a qualifying sweep of the competition, taking the fifth and final pole position on offer, in a complete one-lap pace display.
But once again, during the first race, he found himself looking at another car in front of him, finishing in P2, but the championship remained on offer, as Ricciardello finished behind him in 15th.
Category debutant Cameron McLeod was making an impression in his first race weekend in the series, taking out a win in his first race.
Caruso dropped out of championship contention with a DNF in Race 2 due to an electrical issue.
Ricciardello was able to wrap up the championship with a race to go, but second was still up for offer, with Caruso a chance to pick up the pieces.
Starting the final race of the season at the rear, Caruso was now third in the championship and had to make up some serious ground in order for him to jump back into P2 in the championship.
And that he did, going from last to second in the final race, ending the championship in second, 23 points behind the now 12-time Sports Sedan series champion, Ricciardello.
“Overall, I’m happy to come home second in the championship,” Caruso said.
“Unfortunately, reliability became a deciding factor, despite being consistently the fastest car over the season, one too many DNFs meant we miss out on the win.
“I’m proud of my improvements over the year, by the end of the year I was happy with my driving.”
Coming from a simulation racing background, Caruso spoke on how driving on a sim translated to the real thing.
“It definitely did help a lot. Sim racing has made me a better driver in real life, but I think specifically for Bathurst I’ve done literally thousands of laps on the sim. I’ve done Bathurst 1000s, Bathurst 12-hours,” he said.
“When I first got (to Bathurst), similarities didn’t seem as obvious. The hill perception was a little off, but once I was becoming more comfortable in the real car at Bathurst, it all started to come back, the rhythm, the bumps and the flow of the track.”
Not even Caruso knows what the future holds for him, but he does have aspirations to get into higher classes and race on a level playing field.
“Sport Sedans has been great, but ideally I’d love to get into a Super3 or a Super2 car or something like that,” he said.
“It’s a more even playing field, I’d love to see what I could do. I feel like I could do really well, I think Sports Sedans has prepared me really well for that.”
Traralgon’s Elly Morrow currently races in the Super2 class, which is directly beneath the Supercars championship.
“I’d very much enjoy driving the car (in the Sports Sedan series) for another season and try to take back the Number 1, but we’re not sure what the future will hold.
“Sim racing is gonna keep going, that’s like my full-time job at the minute. I’ll be getting involved in as many championships as I can.
Caruso is taking part in the IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship, which began on November 5, a four-race schedule which carries on until mid-December.
Speed: Traralgon’s Jordan Caruso was the fastest man at Bathurst this year. Photographs: Jordan Caruso Racing/Facebook