Garry’s 2018 Tasmania SuperSprint Race Report

Tassie, I love it! The Symmons Plains event may not be the most glamorous event on the Supercars calendar, but for racing and spectator viewing it is one of our best.

The Symmons Plains Raceway was built by a local farmer, John Youl in 1960. Legend has it that his initial motivation to build the circuit on part of his grazing land was to give his boys a place to practice their racing as he was a keen and successful motor racing driver himself. What I really love about Symmons Plains is the circuit layout has not changed since John Youl jumped on his grader in 1960, it is the oldest race circuit that we race at in Australia. For fans there is no better place to watch Motor Racing as the entire circuit can be viewed from most areas but, is certainly enhanced if you view from the hill that runs between turn 2 and the hairpin. Not only is the viewing fantastic but you are also up and close to the action.

Over the weekend I took time to mosey on up to turn 2 and stand on the hill. I truly love watching the fans sitting in their chairs, on their picnic rugs, or parked in their cars in the park and view area. They are so orderly, and all seem to have such a great time watching, pointing cheering and laughing. I also admire the knowledge of Tasmanian race fans and let me tell you they know their Motorsport like no other fans in the country. They often tell me more about what we have raced and what we have done than what I can recall.

Joey (Joe Sullivan) the best Race Team Transporter Driver in the history of Australian Motorsport left our Dandenong South facility on Easter Monday to put the Super2 transporter on the boat to Tassie and returned to drive his pride and joy the Volvo FH16 700hp Globetrotter to the wharf on Tuesday and travelling with the truck to Devonport.

Joey loves the trip to Tassie but worries about his pride and joy parked down below, especially if the seas pick up. Thankfully, this was a smooth crossing and Joe and the other transporters travelled in convoy through the streets of Launceston and out to Symmons Plains. To Joe’s surprise he was featured on the front page of the Launceston Examiner the following day, thankfully he wasn’t the centrefold! Well done Joey.

This weekend of racing was the first Super Sprint round of the season with a 1x120km (50 laps) and 1x200km (84 laps).

Prior to this there was a number of practice and qualifying sessions. This round saw a new qualifying format that partly incorporated practice results. A quick summary of how qualifying worked is:

Following P1 and P2 on Friday the field is split in the Top 10 and Bottom 16.
Q1 (10mins) – The Bottom 16 take part in this qualifying session. The Top 6 from this session advance to Q2 and join the Top 10 from P1 and P2. The remaining 10 cars that do not advance make up positions 17 to 26 of the grid.
Q2 (10mins) – The combined group of 16 cars from the 6 that advanced from Q1 and the Top 10 from P1 and P2 take part in the qualifying session. Following Q2 the 10 quickest (Top 10) advance to Q3. The remaining 6 make up positions 11 to 16 of the grid.
Q3 (10mins) – Top 10 from Q2 take part in the session to determine 1 to 10 on the grid.

Personally, I found the qualifying format exciting and provided some real interest and purpose to Friday’s practice sessions. The fans certainly seemed to be drawn in by the theatre of the qualifying format.

Following qualifying Garth and the crew had done a very solid job to qualify the #33 10th after missing the Top 10 following P1 and P2. James “Bieber” Golding was racing at Symmons Plains for the first time in his career and as much as the circuit is not overly technical it still takes time to find the fastest line, particularly out of the hairpin and the entry on to the back straight. Back in my day we hugged that hairpin tight, but today’s drivers seem to drive deep in to the corner and up the banked curve before straight lining down the corner on to the straight. Bieb’s qualified 23rd. The 888 cars of Van Gisbergen and Whincup filled the front row. Again, the closeness of Super racing was evident with 7/10ths of one second from Van Gisbergen on pole to Bieber in 23rd.

Prior to Race 7 of the Championship the engineers and drivers spend quite a bit of time going over potential scenarios that may unfold throughout the race and determine what they believe the best approach is to these scenarios. One of the variables that is looked at closely is tyre wear. Throughout practice the tyre technicians (Joey and Squiddy – Mitch Feeney) measure the degradation of the tyres over a prolonged driving stint at race pace. From this measurement the engineers set about determining the number of laps that can be done efficiently on a set of tyres. The Symmons Plains circuit is not a high degradation circuit as the surface is quite smooth in comparison to the extremely rough (exposed aggregate) surface of Barbagello Raceway in WA.

Garth got away well and picked up one position off the line. Up front Van Gisbergen led from Whincup and Lowndes. Bieber also began well and passed three other cars on the opening lap to sit 20th. GT was going well but was being held up by Slade (BJR) in 8th. The pre-race decision was to pit early and put GT in clear air if he was being held up as it had been determined that the tyres were capable of a long stint.

Van Gisbergen pitted while leading on lap 5 and McLaughlin and Tander followed 2 laps later. This put GT in clear air and the aim was to put together a succession of consistent laps quicker than those battling up ahead and pass them later when they were pitting. This plan was slightly undone as the pit stop took approx.. 2.5 seconds longer than we would normally perform and to be totally blunt we miscalculated the life of the tyre and after doing his part in the early stages of the stint GT acknowledged the grip he had was deteriorating and he was unable to maintain the speed required throughout the stint and he was in survival mode battling hard to come home a disappointing 13th. The story for Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin was the same with Van Gisbergen finishing 6th and McLaughlin 9th. It was Whincup who won from Lowndes and Courtney (Walkinshaw). Bieber was inside the 20 and was swapping places with Waters (Tickford) over several laps until lap 38 when Waters hit Bieb’s from behind spearing him off. Unfortunately, this relegated #34 to the rear of the field and he finished 24th.

Saturday night and one of Tasmania’s greatest drivers (he told me this!) and I know you are all thinking is Garry talking of John Bowe or Marcos Ambrose, the answer is NO! I’m talking of Greg Crick the lesser known Tasmanian Legend, kindly invited Barry and I over to his house for a BBQ. Thanks Crickey for a lovely meal and the local Tassie reds helped ease a little of the days pain.

The Sunday program began with Practice 4 which would determine the Top 10 and Bottom 16 for the qualifying session. GT was straight in to the 10, sitting in the top 3 or 4 for the session before a couple of quick laps late left him 7th, but comfortably in the 10. Bieber didn’t have the same speed and was 24th and again 7/10ths off the quickest car of Whincup. Following the three qualifying sessions GT qualified 9th and Bieber 26th. This time it was the “old stager” Craig Lowndes who did a blistering lap to grab pole from Van Gisbergen. 

The 200km race would require a minimum of two pit stops where 120 litres of fuel must be added to the car and wheels changed. Again, this input of fuel allowed teams flexibility in stopping time. As the fuel flows at 4 litres per sec. the stopping time over two stops is 30 seconds and depending on track position this may be spilt evenly at 15 seconds each stop.

Following Saturdays disappointing result, it was important that we had a strategy rethink and GT was one of the last to pit on the first round of stops on lap 26. Bieb’s pitted on lap 24 and had made up some ground to be 20th. Lowndes was leading from McLaughlin and Courtney. Further back Van Gisbergen looked like he was about to pounce and then suffered a sticking throttle which hampered his progress.

The second stops began at lap 44 and were completed by the field by lap 54. When the race settled for the final 30 laps Lowndes still held the lead from McLaughlin and then Whincup. Tander was 8th and Bieber had battled in to the top 20 to be 19th. In the race to the flag both GT and Bieb’s picked up one spot each and the top 3 were unchanged. Well done to Lowndsey, a very well-deserved win.

The weekend also saw our two Super2 cars race and what a superb job the crew did. From the very minute the cars hit the track Chris Pither showed very consistent speed and led the time sheets throughout the weekend. Mason Barbera also continued along the improvement path and is now consistently battling either in or just outside the Top 10. Chris finished the weekend with 3 Pole Positions, 1 race win and two seconds and was the overall round winner and now sits second in the Championship. Very well-done guys and I’m sure if we continue to work hard there is no reason this form will not continue at Perth in 4 weeks.

To our supporters that take the time to read my race reports I apologise for the late posting as I spent a couple of days travelling through the north of Tasmania, particularly Ulverstone as that is where my Dad was from and where I spent a lot of my childhood. On this occasion I spent some time wandering through the grave yards and found a few old relatives. I hope it is a little while yet until I join them!

I arrived back at work this morning and the crew are all hard at it getting ready for Phillip Island in 10 days. I can’t wait!

MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT    -           Chris Pither’s weekend win.

MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT -    Discovering that Crickey didn’t cook the BBQ, he got one of Launceston’s leading Chef’s in! Your weak Crickey!

Garry

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