Tasmania Race Report

I’m sitting here in Cradle Mountain (Tasmania) writing this report on my way to Gunns Plains to visit some old relatives. Unfortunately most of them are 6 foot under, but the older I get the more I find some real interest in my Tasmanian heritage. As a young child I would board a plane from Essendon and be sent to Wynard to spend my school holidays with my cousins and I have extremely fond memories of those times. I know I can be a cranky “old man” on occasions but there is a lot to be said for the simple things in life, like playing hide and seek, throwing cow dungs at each other, catching rabbits and my favourite game kiss chasey (with my cousins friends!). But today if the kids aren’t on an electronic device they never seem satisfied, anyway life goes on and generations evolve.

I may be a little vague with some of my detail from the weekend as I normally write these reports in the office and have the benefit of being able to run out the back and ask Stiffy (Team Manager - Stefan Millard) questions, but on this occasion it’s from memory only (with a little help from Kaye).

Barry and I arrived in Hobart a couple of days before the event and drove up early on the Friday morning. For those who haven’t been to Tasmania I can assure you that it is a place well worth visiting and especially so in early autumn. There is unbelievable history in this state and the old towns such as Richmond and Ross that you can detour through on the drive from south to north are places steeped in history.

Anyway enough waffle, let’s talk racing. After the non-championship AGP event we are into races 3 and 4 of the Championship. The Symmons Plains circuit is the shortest (2.4kms) that we race at, but it is also one that we reach one of our fastest speeds (in excess of 260kmh). For fans it provides fantastic views of the race circuit and it is one of the very few track circuits in the world (except Nascar ovals) where fans have the opportunity of seeing the entire track.

Friday and following practice Moff and Garth were mid pack (15th and 13th), but as expected on such a tight track the field was well bunched up with only 10ths of a second meaning up to ten grid positions.

Probably the most important corner of the circuit and the slowest point that we reach all year (40kmh) is the hairpin that leads on to the rear straight. It’s vital that the car exits this corner and the power is transferred to the track with traction (avoiding wheel spin) as it is in the long back straight that a lap can either be a “winner” or “loser”. The engineers and drivers spend a lot of time adjusting the setup of the car, but their main aim is to have good drive and grip about of the hairpin.

As per normal Friday night is spent analysing, re analysing and sometimes over analysing the day’s activities. After an absolutely pristine day on Friday, Saturday began the same but the weather then turned sour. Practice was run in mixed conditions beginning wet and finishing dry. Heading into qualifying and it was evident that it was going to be a wet session.

On these occasions the car is set up a little “softer” than it would be on a dry track. The reason for this is so the wheels stay on the track and provide the biggest footprint possible to provide traction. Unfortunately we couldn’t emulate our early practice speed that had Moff in 8th and Garth just outside the ten, and we struggled with the wet conditions and Garth qualified 16th and Moff 18th. As the day went on the weather became worse and with a 4.45pm race start I was concerned that it may be dark before the 120kms were complete. Unfortunately there was no need for concern as the race came to an abrupt halt on lap 2 when a major incident occurred hiding uptown the hairpin that involved nearly half of the field. It began with Coulthard (DJR) and Rick Kelly (Nissan) coming together and it resulted in the entire field following including Garth and Moff, who both had blistering starts and were on the tail of the lead pack being halted in their tracks.

Unfortunately for four of the cars (Courtney, Rick Kelly, Davison and Douglas) there race weekend was over. For half a dozen others including both of our cars it required an all night effort to have the cars repaired for Sunday.

In these instances I am amazed as to the team work and commitment of all of the guys and girls to turn what appears to be a pile of nuts, bolts and sheet metal into a race car. They are driven and pride themselves on being able to complete these challenges. Thank you to all of my staff and also to those of the other teams that repaired their cars. I know that we race and this is all a part of our job, but it is certainly the most trying part of it.

What followed this major crash was quite bemusing. Without getting too technical I will try and highlight the events that unfolded. I don’t have the rule book in front of me but if a race runs less than 50% and does not restart no points are awarded. But, if it is restarted Championship points are awarded regardless of how long it runs. With such carnage on the race circuit and limited resources to clean top such a mess it took 50 minutes for the clean up, for some reason with tow trucks in pit lane, people everywhere and cars still abandoned on the circuit edges it was decided to restart the race behind the Safety Car. This so called restart was a farce with the SC releasing the field on the final corner to only race 100 metres to the finish line, hence under the rules permitting a result with only 2 and a bit racing laps completed and 1/2 of the field being unable to take part. Thankfully overnight common sense prevailed and no points were awarded. For interests sake the result was the three Triple 8 cars 1, 2 and 3.

Sunday, and the Saturday afternoon rain continued and on occasions it appeared that the day may need to be abandoned. Thankfully, the rain eased and the schedule continued. At this point I would like to acknowledge the Tasmanian fans and their incredible resilience. For 16,000 odd people to attend and the majority stay through the torrential rain and cold winds they certainly deserve some credit. To any of you that did this, you are always welcome at our pit garage and I will gladly shake your hand (or give you a kiss) to say thanks!

Heading into qualifying and after $50,000 plus damage to the cars the previous day including some chassis damage. Luckily for us one of our best fabricators is also one of our tyre men (Squiddy - Mitch Feeney) was able to perform a masterstroke and repair the damaged chassis overnight and the rest of the crew replaced front ends, gearboxes, panels, wiring and other components to have the cars in a presentable, but not ideally set up to perform at their best.

Whincup (888) nabbed pole from McLaughlin (DJR) and Garth and Moff were 14th and 19th.

Race time and the rain had stopped, yet the track was still very damp. A field of Supercars can dry a track in only a few laps and it was a toss of the coin as to whether go out on slick or wet tyres. All of the field with the exception of Bright and Waters (both Prodrive) chose wets. Early on this appeared to be wise choice as Bright speared off the track, but as the laps went on Waters weaved his way through the field and it was evident that slick tyres were required. Just prior to this call Moff was in a battle with Todd Kelly (Nissan) and a third car and they all exited the hairpin together but Moff made contact with one of them and was sent into the infield sustaining damage to the left rear suspension. Garth pitted for fuel and slick tyres and the guys quickly fixed Moff’s car, but his race was over in regards to a reasonable result having lost several laps.

Up front Mostert led but was being chased by the two DJR Penske cars. Garth had a done a commendable job battling with a less than perfect race car to work his way up inside the Top 10. Unfortunately Mostert had a misadventure braking at the end of the back straight and he slid off into the kitty littler allowing Coulthard and McLaughlin through followed by Whincup. This is how it finished a one two to DJR Penske, well done! Garth was passed on the final lap by Van Gisbergen (888) and finished 10th. Moff was 19th.

Overall a weekend that will probably be remembered for the Saturday crash and heavy rains, but let me assure you Tassie is a place you must come and watch Supercars.

See you all in two weeks at Phillip Island!



Round 2 – Tasmania SuperSprint

MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT: The ability of our crew to repair the two cars on Saturday night/Sunday morning

MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT:  The shambles that unfolded in regards to the race restart on Saturday