Garry’s 2018 Townsville Race Report

Our trip to Townsville began the weekend prior to the event with both Joey (Joe Sullivan) and Chucky (Andrew Pearson) leaving our Dandenong South headquarters and heading to Bundaberg for a fundraising event on the Monday afternoon and evening.

As most would know that read the race reports Joe drives the main game Volvo FH16 Globetrotter, but most would not know Chucky our Super2 truck driver and #99 mechanic.

We met Chucky via the Barbera family (Mason Barbera drives the #99 Super2 car). Chucky is from Bundaberg and travels to Melbourne the week prior to each Super2 round and helps finish the car prep and then packs the truck and takes the Super2 cars to each round. When Chucky first arrived, he had the nickname “Spew”, and this was a result of his fishing experiences with the Barbera’s in Bundaberg. I am sure you can imagine what happened! As you all know we like a nickname here at GRM and I am extremely open minded with what they are, but the name “Spew” just didn’t work for me and in conjured up all sorts of unpleasant thoughts, hence “Spew” is now “Chuck”.

Joey and Chuck arrived in Bundaberg on the Sunday and washed their trucks up at Barbera Farms and Barry, Stiffy (Stefan Millard-Team Mgr.), Garth, Chris Pither, Bieber (James Golding) and myself arrived in Bundaberg midday Monday.

The Barbera family had wanted us to come to town to show the people of Bundaberg our Supercars and to particularly see the one that their local boy drove. The event turned in to a fundraiser and the proceeds went to Bundaberg Health Services and enough money was raised to present them with a new car, wrapped the same as Mason’s Super 2 car that they can use to pick up and drop off patients having treatment who are unable to drive. I really love Motor Racing, but I also get an enormous amount of satisfaction seeing the smile on people’s faces, particularly kids when they get to see a “real” race car up close. To top this off the excitement from the ladies who volunteer for Bundaberg Health Services when they saw the racy car that they now had to run people around was priceless!

From Bundaberg Barry and I ventured on a road trip to Townsville which was very enjoyable. It’s not often I get the time to sit in a car for a couple of days and just look out the window and admire the wonderful country that we are all lucky enough to live in. I don’t want to become a travel agent, but I would highly recommend visiting Bargara (a seaside village 15kms out of Bundaberg), 1770 and Rockhampton. As we always tend to hover around the capital cities we often miss some wonderful and historic parts of our country.

One final stop on our way into Townsville was at Giru. A small town of around 300 people and 60 kilometres south of Townsville. Last year I spent a few days up north and found this little town and while having a beer at the local pub, the Giru International Hotel I met a bushy looking local and discovered he and his son (David and Brendan) had a local workshop where they appear to only repair Ford’s and nothing is newer than a mid-1990’s Falcon. Barry and I dropped in and as they were the previous year working in bare feet, jeans and a singlet. Snake skins hung from the rafters and with spider webs and other creepy crawlies about we were a little nervous. To top it off Dave explained how he often finds snakes under the bonnet of cars and then proceeded to lift a few to try and find one. What an experience and it was topped off when he gave me the honour of lying in the back of his XC Falcon hearse, what an experience and I’m certain I won’t be able to remember next time that happens.

We had such a good time at Dave and Brendan’s that we invited them to the races but pointed put that they would need shoes. I wanted our crew to meet these local legends and see what Dave could offer as advice to help improve our performance, he had a one-word answer “Ford”!!

The Townsville event is certainly one that we all look forward to. Of course, the climate is spectacular but, so it is the city of Townsville which is a coastal city fronting the Coral Sea in an area with reefs and Islands, yet to the west and on the edge of the city is Castle Hill a near 300m high predominantly rock hill that provides a walking or running challenge and the result once at the top are amazing views over the city and surrounds.

The Townsville Street Circuit is walking distance from the city centre and provides excellent vantage points for fans. The weekend of racing is 2x200 kilometre races, each with their own qualifying.

Prior to the racing beginning we had an event to attend on the Friday evening with our sponsors, Wilson. As many are probably aware our cars are wrapped with an Indigenous livery painted by Hazel Cowburn. The artwork was inspired by her mum’s life story of culture and struggles, strength and love. Like many of us Auntie Hazel’s hero was her mum. We proudly carry her message on our cars. The evening was fantastic with young Aboriginal dancers and one of the very best didgeridoo players that I have heard. Thank you.

In recent rounds our performance has certainly not been consistent, yet in the most recent round in Darwin GT did show some form with a 5th position race finish and a Top 5 qualifying result. Our inability to qualify consistently well has certainly hampered us throughout the season and unfortunately in Townsville this was the case again.

Following Saturday’s qualifying GT was 15th, and again small margins equate to many grid positions with a 2/10th improvement moving you forward 8 positions. Bieb’s was a further 4/10ths back from GT in 23rd. Pole was achieved yet again by Scotty Mac with Whincup and Van Gisbergen behind. Garth has certainly illustrated over the years that he is one of the best when it comes to race starts and the ability to cut his way through the field. Of course, you cannot hang your hat on his ability to do that week in, week out and this was a weekend when things did not go Garth’s way.

From the start of race 17 of the Championship it was McLaughlin who got the jump, but Whincup pressed hard on the opening lap and managed to find a way past. GT had first lap contact with Courtney after making up 4 positions in the first half lap that impacted the balance of the #33 and he was unable to dive with aggression from there. GT really had to defend throughout the race rather than his natural style of attack and did well to hold onto a 16th place finish with a battle-damaged car. Bieb’s had a tremendous first lap and had moved forward 7 positions by its completion. Throughout the race Bieb’s held his own and fought hard for every position and came home one position behind GT. Out front it was the two 888 cars of Whincup and Van Gisbergen who won from McLaughlin.

Saturday night and following the usual debrief between engineers and drivers several changes were put in place in an attempt to unlock the qualifying box. Sunday is straight in to qualifying and unfortunately, we unlocked the wrong box and went further back. Bieb’s and GT were 25th and 26th respectively. The 888 cars continued from the previous day with Van Gisbergen on pole from Whincup.

From near rear of the field things did not start well for GT who contacted Stanaway (Tickford) on the opening lap incurring a 15 second penalty to be taken at his first stop. Bieb’s again started well and was inside the Top 20 by the end of lap1. Van Gisbergen led and it was Reynolds (Erebus) and Rick Kelly (Nissan) who followed off the second row. Whincup soon rectified his poor start and by lap 5 tailed his teammate.

As the race unfolded and pitstops were taken GT went a lap down because of the 15 second penalty and could not get the lap back. Bieb’s was racing well with experienced campaigners like Winterbottom (Tickford) and Caruso (Nissan) and did a very good job to hold his own and finish 16th following some late race action through turns 5 and 6 where he went around the outside of Will Davison (23 Red) at turn 5 and held the inside line into 6, where Will tried to keep the advantage but contacted the #34 and went into the tyre barrier. Of course, Bieb’s doesn’t want to be racing around the 15-20 mark, but it is a positive that he is showing fight and race craft when he battles with the more experienced drivers within the field.

We know our issue is qualifying and I wish we knew exactly what needed to be done to improve this very important part of our performance, but what I do know is yet again we will be head down and bum up between now and Queensland Raceway in 2 weeks-time to improve that situation.

A big highlight for GRM over the weekend was the performance of our Super2 Team. Chris Pither had a pole position and race win on Sunday, while Mason Barbera may not have shown improvement in the end results due to some both unfortunate and self-inflicted misdemeanours but throughout the weekend he did show that he has found pace and is only a couple of tenths off his teammate.

I can’t wait for Ipswich!

MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT - My Crow’s losing to Barry’s Tigers on Friday night
MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT - Being able to get myself back out of the hearse.

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