Last year’s Toyota 86 Series was won by Jimmy Vernon, while Cameron Hill came second. Nothing too surprising there; a couple of young guns with professional career ambitions finishing at the pointy end of the field.
There were plenty of other drivers who could accurately be described as young guns scattered throughout the rest of the top 10 – drivers like Liam McAdam, Ben Grice and Dylan Gulson. But beating these competitors was a driver who, while he may not be classified as young, is certainly a gun – and that was CXC Global Racing’s Dylan Thomas.
Although he may never have had ambitions to make a full-time career out of racing, Thomas (not the Welsh poet)’s career has followed a logical, well-executed pathway, and as a result he has amassed a racing CV that would embarrass many professional competitors.
After participating in tarmac rally events aboard a Mitsubishi Evo in the early 2000s, Thomas decided he wanted to go circuit racing, and targeted the Bathurst 12 Hour (at that stage, a race for production cars) as an event on his bucket list. But to race at Bathurst, he needed a certain level of CAMS licence. Enter Formula Vee.
Starting in 2006, Dylan raced in the 1200cc class in 2006, ostensibly to obtain the necessary licence signatures to qualify for an upgrade. But Dylan soon discovered he enjoyed the category, was able to improve his driving and was having a lot of fun. The Vees would become a permanent fixture in Dylan’s motorsport calendar, and a series he remains heavily involved in to this day.
There’s no doubt Dylan has enjoyed plenty of success off the track, especially in property investment. But unlike a lot of other successful entrepreneurs-turned-racers, who immediately race in the highest level of category they can afford, Dylan instead focused on fine-tuning his craft at a lower level, ensuring he was competitive before moving up the racing ladder. It’s an example many other “gentlemen racers” would do well to follow.
Dylan progressed to production cars, racing a variety of Mitsubishi Evos in state and national-level events, and scoring plenty of race victories. He also dabbled in the Mini Challenge one-make series and did some one-off events in V8 Utes and Aussie Racing Cars.
Having achieved success in Vees (Dylan won the NSW title in 2014), production cars and competed at the Bathurst 12 Hour, it would have been easy for Dylan to maintain his reputation as a very good state and occasional national-level competitor, and we may never have realised how good he really was.
But Mick and Maria Ritter from Sonic Motor Racing Services had other ideas. When Porsche introduced the Pro-Am one-hour endurance format at Phillip Island, Sonic needed a skilled “Am” driver to partner their title contender, Nick Foster.
Due to his non-professional status, Dylan suddenly became a very attractive proposition, due to his proven results and reputation for being able to swap between completely different types of cars, and received the call-up to drive alongside Foster.
And so it was that, at Phillip Island in 2015, we finally got to see a true representation of Dylan’s ability, and the sight of him managing a race-winning gap to Nick Percat at the end of the Sunday race will continue to be remembered as one of the defining moments in his career. It’s worth noting he scored another Carrera Cup enduro win at Phillip Island in 2017 as well, this time driving with Nick McBride.
But Dylan’s finest hour came in the 2017 Toyota 86 Series. He may not have grabbed the headlines throughout the season, but when the points were finalised, there he was in third place outright, much to the surprise of many series observers.
When Dylan was asked how he managed to finish so high in the standings, his response was typically self-deprecating.
“It’s actually been a tough season for us, at quite a few rounds our pace wasn’t where it needed to be,” he said at the time.
“But with only five rounds in the series and points awarded to all finishers, we always knew it would be about consistency and making sure we kept finishing races, even on the bad days.”
Dylan did this better than all but two drivers last year. It was just one of many performances that has seen him recognised as one of the best non-professional drivers in the country.