Dylan O’Keeffe had just 20 minutes to prepare for an out-of-the-blue Supercars debut for Garry Rogers Motorsport at the Vodafone Gold Coast 600.
Called up in place of Richie Stanaway, who had been stood down for missing an autograph session on Sunday morning, O’Keeffe had never previously turned a lap at Surfers Paradise in Supercars machinery.
In fact, the 21-year-old GRM Dunlop Super2 driver was only at the event to fulfil his role as a driver-coach for sponsor Dean Cook, who competes in the Pro-Am class of the Carrera Cup support category.
Upon arriving to the track on Sunday morning, O’Keeffe was told by GRM boss Barry Rogers there was a chance he could be driving Stanaway’s #33 Commodore.
“I thought nah, it’s a long shot and it would never happen,” O’Keeffe recalled to Supercars.com.
“So I walked down and watched the Porsche race and the guy I’m coaching had the best weekend, he finished second, so really good.
“I was walking back and said g’day to Baz and he was like ‘you’re in for quali’.
“I looked at my watch and it was 9:30 – I’ve got 20 minutes – so it was literally run back to the Porsche area and tell the guys I’m going, run back, grab [co-driver Chris Pither’s] gear and go straight in.
“I didn’t have time to think about anything. It was very hectic.”
Hailing the opportunity a “dream come true”, O’Keeffe jumped in the car for qualifying on old rubber, simply to clock some miles before the afternoon’s 300km race.
He and Pither were GRM’s sole finishers, in 18th.
O’Keeffe took the wheel for the opening stint and did a fine job to stay clear of lap 1 carnage, holding 16th or 17th place for much of his 34-lap stint.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he reflected.
“I would have liked to have been in a bit more of a better groove but I had never driven on the soft tyre and I absolutely leaned on it too much.
“After about 10 laps it just fell away and I had no drive, so I’ll put that in the memory bank to conserve the tyres.”
O’Keeffe thanked Pither for being a “father figure”, coaching him through the day, and believes he can put on an even better showing at the Penrite Oil Sandown 500 next month if given the chance.
It has yet to be confirmed whether Stanaway will return to GRM, or if his season is done.
“Sandown would be really good because I’d love to have the opportunity to actually prepare for it,” O’Keeffe said.
“Like I would study my arse off and make sure I could perform to the best of my ability.”