Race Report Ipswich SuperSprint

For a third consecutive round we southerners were very thankful to be heading north and again, when it came to the weather we were not let down. I often wondered about the grey nomads and why they held an annual pilgrimage north and now that I am nearly grey I think I know the reason why. Unfortunately when it came to the reason why we were in Ipswich we were very disappointing and certainly need to regroup, get back to the basics and work hard to find the consistency we have shown for a big part of this season.

This round (races 15 and 16 of the Championship) saw James Golding (Bieber) race in his second “wildcard” event. I must admit I think the option to run young, up and coming talent in specified sprint rounds is a positive move for our sport and those that have competed throughout the sprint rounds this year have performed well and shown maturity in their ability to not only race with the more seasoned campaigners but also they have not impacted negatively on those fighting for the Championship.

Our problems over the weekend really came from a lack of speed on the green (new) tyre in qualifying. This is certainly something that we have struggled with since the beginning of the year, albeit both Moff and GT have shown glimpses of what can be achieved when we get it right with Moff having a second row start in Darwin and GT having several Top 10 starts, but we haven't been unable to find this qualifying speed on a consistent basis. I don’t want to continually gone on about the past and our lack of data when it comes to the Holden, but in reality we are arriving at every track with limited knowledge and are really learning from the first practice session. Of course we have found the sweet spot several times, but not consistently.

Following practice Garth was 15th and Moff and Bieber in the 20’s. The feedback from Garth was that he couldn’t pin point an exact fault with the car, but it just wasn’t quick enough. Simply the car felt okay to drive but lacked speed. On these occasions it makes the engineer’s job very difficult as it is much easier to make changes when there is an obvious issue with the car’s handling. Krusty, Manuel and Swenno (Engineers #33, #34, #31) spent some time together along with the drivers on Friday evening in an attempt to find some reasons and make the relevant changes to improve the car for Saturday.

Saturday, and with a final 45 minute practice prior to qualifying several changes were made but they did little to improve the cars and if anything we were closer with how we went about it on Friday. In these times it is vital to keep everybody upbeat and I am always conscious that everybody is trying to do their best and unfortunately there are times when the harder you try the further you can find yourself away, but unless you give your guys the freedom to experiment and try different things you are never going to move forward. By this stage the focus was on having a good race car and as we have seen in previous meetings a reasonable result can be obtained through good race speed.

Prior to qualifying I was pleasantly surprised with a wonderful race car birthday cake and it was very special when my whole Team sang happy birthday. Of course as you get older you appreciate every birthday and to have a race car birthday cake is something that I have always wanted since I was a little boy, I only had to wait 72 years!

Following qualifying GT was 17th, Biebs 25th and Moff 28th. Scotty McLaughlin continued his domination in qualifying just pipping Lowndes (888) for pole.

Race 15 (39 laps) and Lowndes led the way from McLaughlin. GT was away well and yet again showed his ability to pass and consistently picked up places lap after lap. Moff who has also shown a consistent ability to slice his way through the pack was unfortunately turned around on the first lap by Wood (Erebus) that eventually resulted in him losing several laps due to a damaged cooling system. Wood’s effort also saw Moff make contact with Bieber resulting in a bent steering arm and the #31 car had to be driven conservatively through to the finish. Up the front McLaughlin reeled Lowndes in on lap 3 and was not headed for the remainder of the race and went on to win from Mostert (Prodrive) and VanGisbergen (888). Garth did a very solid job to finish 11th. 

Saturday night and the boys had a bit of work to repair the damage to the front of the #34 and the best thing I could do was leave them to it. Barry gave me a big spoil for my birthday and took me to the Brothers Leagues Club in Ipswich and insisted I order the “pensioners roast of the day”. Gee, for all I have done for him over the years and I get the $7.95 roast for my birthday! I will be making sure Barry helps Joe wash the truck when Joe returns on Wednesday.

Thankfully Sunday arrived and apart from some happy personal memories from the previous day, I would rather forget the racing. Yet again a crisp, clear morning followed by another delightful 25 degrees cloudless sky sunny day. Today’s race was 65 laps (200 km) that required each car to stop at least twice where a minimum of 120 litres of fuel must be put in the car along with fresh tyres. Each car is allocated three sets of tyres that are first used in qualifying and then the race. During qualifying the normal procedure is to complete one (and sometimes two) flying laps on a new set of tyres and then they are put aside for the race. Following qualifying the tyre technicians (Joey and Squiddy) inspect the tyres including measuring the depths and put them in sets ready for the race. At a circuit such as Ipswich with six corners, four of which are right handed it is the left hand side tyres that have the most wear. Joey and Squid pay particular attention to these tyres and they are normally allocated to the right hand side of the car for the race.

Yet again qualifying was not where we needed it to be, but with 200 kms of racing there was an opportunity to exploit our ability to race. GT qualified 18th, Bieber 24th and Moff 25th. Yet again Scotty led the way, but this time was joined by Chaz Mostert (Prodrive) on the front row.

Race 16 and it was Mostert that got away best from Whincup and Coulthard. Scotty was 4th and the DJR team called him early for his first stop on lap 11. In the meantime GT again was racing with controlled aggression and had worked his way to 12th. Moff was 20th and Biebs 22nd. GT was called in for his first stop on lap 17. As mentioned earlier 120 litres must be put in the car during the race. The fuel flows at 4 litres per second and therefore takes a total of approximately 30 seconds over two stops to get this fuel in. As the car is preparing to pit the data engineer (Brucey) calculates how many seconds of fuel the car will take on and this calculation allows for the exact time to enter the pit bay, drop to the ground off the jacks and exit pit lane. The data engineer endeavours to time it so as the car re enters the track in clear air and in a similar if not better track position as to where the car was racing previous to the stop. Unfortunately at this stop we let Garth down as the stop took longer than planned. When Garth re entered the race circuit he had lost much of the ground that he had made up in the first stint. To his credit he got straight back into it and by the time he stopped for his second scheduled stop on lap 35 he had made his way back up to 14th and was in the top 5 cars in regards to race speed on the track. Meanwhile Moff also had worked his way inside the top 20. Whincup was now leading from Mostert and McLaughlin.

On lap 55, just as GT was looking at achieving a very respectable top 10 finish his left hand front tyre failed as he braked at the end of back straight. Garth did well to control the car and not end up bogged in the sand trap, but limped back to the pits in all but last place, the incident and debris on the track triggered a Safety Car period. The crew quickly changed the damaged tyre and with only 12 laps remaining when the race restarted GT fought hard to finish 15th with Moff one spot in front. Bieber finished 21st and gained some very valuable experience which I’m sure will be beneficial come enduro time. Chaz Mostert went on to win from McLaughlin, and I must congratulate Tim Edwards and his crew as they have really shown some solid performances in recent rounds and well and truly deserved the win.

To be totally honest the weekend was certainly not one that any of us were satisfied with and there are areas in which the entire team can improve. The positive is I know that my Team will not hope that things improve, they will all be hard at work with their head down and bum up in an effort to achieve a better result at Sydeny Motorsport Park in three weeks. I can’t wait!




MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT:   My racing car birthday cake

MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT:  The pensioner’s roast Barry shouted me for my birthday when all I wanted was a chicken parma!