Race Report Sydney SuperSprint

As usual plenty happens throughout the year, but my goodness time flies! It only feels like a couple of months ago that we arrived at Eastern Creek and unloaded the two new VF Holden’s for the pre-season test. Since then we have attended eight race meetings and travelled to the far extremes of our great country. Joey (Joe Sullivan-Transport driver) doesn’t mind the drive up the Hume as it is a place where he gets to see a lot of trucks and he enjoys his rest stops every few hours and the opportunity to talk about the Volvo FH16 700hp prime mover, the only problem is everybody he talks to are more interested in what is inside the trailers!

This round is our last Sprint round prior to the Endurance Cup part of our season which incorporates the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 600.

The Eastern Creek circuit is 3.9 kilometres in length with 11 corners. The top speed reached is 270kph and the fuel usage is 3.3 litres per lap. The race format is a 120km (31 laps) Saturday race and a 200km (52 laps) Sunday race with the requirement of a minimum of two pit stops where 120 litres of fuel must be put in the car.

I travelled to Sydney on Wednesday and along with Moff and Garth we joined one of our sponsors JBL which I found very informative. I had no idea about the technology these days regarding speakers and electronic equipment in general as I still have an AM transistor!

On Thursday, again I was bewildered with the advancement in technology as I spent some time with Valvoline. The advancement in automotive lubricants is amazing over the past few years and Valvoline lead the way with much of this technology and Motorsport is certainly the ideal environment to test the performance of these products. The viscosity (oil thickness) of oil today compared to what it was like even 10 years ago is amazing. The best analogy I can give is if you had a tea spoon of our current Valvoline race oil and tipped the spoon on its side the oil would run off not too much different to how water would run off, but oil of 10 or so years ago would run off the spoon more like honey. This type of oil development assists in fuel consumption and power.

Friday and time for practice. As usual for the sprint rounds there are 2 x 45 minute practice sessions Friday and 1 x 45 minute session on Saturday morning. Following practice, we found ourselves in a similar position as to where we have been for much of the year. During the early and mid-stages of practice we are competitive lap time wise, but our inability to find the speed that normally comes with a new tyre has certainly been something that has hampered our progress. There is no simple solution or so called “magic bullet” to this problem and if there was we would implement whatever was necessary. Krusty (Richard Hollway) and the engineering group are continually trying all sorts of things and with a test day in a couple of weeks they have put together many things they want to try on the car. Many of these changes are very, very minimal but together create a change to the handling and performance of the car. Of course, there are changes that a computer may say will be advantageous but in many instances, this may not be the case.

Probably as expected following practice the qualifying results were very similar. McLaughlin (DJR Penske) continued his absolute domination again earning pole from Winterbottom (Prodrive) and Van Gisbergen (888). GT and Moff were 18th and 20th.

As much as qualifying has been disappointing, the Team’s ability and the ability of both GT and Moff to work their way into a race and vary rarely lose positions has certainly been a very big positive. Garth did a tremendous job to yet again race his way forward and the longer the race went the more positions he picked up. By race end GT was 10th and Moff was 17th. Moff also raced very well but was unfortunate to drop from 16th to 23rd during the pit stops that took place on laps 15 and 16 during the Safety Car period resulting from Todd Kelly (Nissan) blowing a tyre.

Upfront the race was certainly exciting with Winterbottom leading Van Gisbergen off the line as Scotty slipped to third. Following the SC and on the restart Van Gisbergen took the initiative and slipped up the inside of McLaughlin who was now leading and took the lead, but only until turn 2 when Scotty made contact to the rear of the 888 Holden sending Van Gisbergen off the track. As the race unfolded, McLaughlin was handed a 15-second penalty (later increased to 33 seconds) and Coulthard (DJR Penske) won from Mostert and Whincup (888).

Of course, this report is about our race weekend but I must give credit to Jamie Whincup for a brilliant drive. Whincup collided heavily with the rear of Reynolds (Erebus) on the restart and caused significant damage to the front of his car. The bonnet was bent so badly I don’t know how he saw his way around the track for the final 11 laps and with his right hand front tyre smoking as it contacted the damaged work it’s incredible it didn’t blow. With all of this and his calmness to keep his head down and bum up and press on without coming in to the pits I think was one of the drives of the year so far. Well done!

Saturday night and Barry and I walked to the Hidden Valley Tavern for a nice cold pot. After a day that was “ok” we were about to get lucky. From the early 1960’s through to 2013 we had motor vehicle dealerships, and from 1985 until 2003 I employed a cleaner/handyman/car washer/jack of all trades fellow named Ernie Walker. Ernie was a very committed and reliable worker and most importantly a lovely “old” man. Ernie passed away a few years following his retirement and as Barry and I sipped on our pot we spotted a greyhound about to run named “Ernie’s Legacy”, with only $5.00 left in his pocket Barry put the bet on. Guess what? Good old Ernie rewarded us with two more pots as our five dollars returned $22.00, thanks Ern you never let me down!

Sunday and for the third straight day the normally mild Sydney weather was freezing. Of course, the locals blamed us southerners for the burst of cold air!

Qualifying and it was a repeat of the previous day for us. With both Moff and GT qualifying next to each other, but well back. McLaughlin did it yet again with pole position by 13 tenths and over half a second quicker than his teammate (Coulthard). There is no doubt that his confidence is so high that he approaches these sessions knowing and truly believing that he will be the quickest and he is doing a great job to stay on this wave.

Race time and yet again both GT and Moff picked their way through the field and by lap 11 when Rick Kelly blew a tyre causing a Safety Car period they were 15th and 16th. Unfortunately, Moff had to queue behind GT and upon the restart had dropped to 21st, yet GT had worked his way to 11th. Whincup led from Mostert and McLaughlin.

The second round of pit stops took place between laps 27 and 34. Those that stopped earlier in this window can “undercut” those that stay out longer. What this means is if you stop prior to somebody that you are racing behind and then put together a sequence of “quick” laps following your stop then you can “pass” them while they are pitting. The risk is if you stop too early then your tyres may not last until the end of the race and the final laps may allow others to pass you. The timing of all of this is very dependent on what the engineers ascertain is the probable tyre life. Of the frontrunners, it was McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen (4th) that stopped first, followed by Whincup two laps later and Mostert and Coulthard who were now 1-2 stopped five laps after Whincup.

Having stopped first Van Gisbergen was hot on Whincup’s tale as he re-joined the circuit following his stop and on cold tyres Whincup locked a brake into turn 2 and Van Gisbergen went to the front. As the race entered the final few laps the hard charging by Van Gisbergen in his effort to undercut Whincup was showing as Whincup pressured from behind and with the two DJR Penske cars catching quickly, Van Gisbergen did the sensible thing and let the faster Whincup past and did his best to hold off McLaughlin and Coulthard. With only two laps to go and having passed McLaughlin, Coulthard on fresher tyres moved into second and Van Gisbergen did a tremendous job to defend and finish 3rd.

Moff drove very solidly in his final stint and after been positioned well back in the pack because of the earlier stacking in pit lane he came home 14th. Similarly, GT who was 11th mid race, but shuffled back to 14th following the second pit stops battled hard in the final twenty or so laps to finish 11th.

We are certainly looking forward to the Wilson Security Sandown 500 and believe that Moff/Muscat and Tander/Bieber (Golding) will both be very competitive combinations in what should be a tremendous race.

I can’t wait!




MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT :  The Adelaide Crows succumbing to the Swans