Garry’s Perth Race Report
The long haul to Western Australia and across the Nullarbor is certainly a trip that Joey (Joe Sullivan – Transporter Driver) looks forward to. The trip from our headquarters in Dandenong South is just over 3,500klms and it is only the trip to Darwin that Joey prefers as he gets to spend an extra 250kms in the Volvo Globetrotter FH16 700hp prime mover.
With only two weeks between the Perth round and the next round in Winton (Vic) we called upon the services of Zoe Brewis a young lady (22) from Hamilton in Victoria who is an exceptionally talented driver of all types of heavy machinery and a person who we trust at the wheel of our B-Double carrying our very precious race cars and equipment. Having two drivers allows us to get the cars back to the workshop early to mid Wednesday rather than later in the day on Thursday.
We met Zoe last year when Joe and Barry took the transporter to Hamilton to deliver a new Volvo XC90 for a Volvo Dealer in Melbourne wanting to do something special for a customer. Joe was immediately impressed with Zoe’s interest and knowledge regarding the transporter and before we knew it she had jumped behind the wheel and was driving up the farm drive.
Following this initial meeting we offered Zoe the opportunity to drive the transporter to Sandown last season (the shortest trip of the year approx. 10kms!), which saved us several hundred dollars on diesel because Joe likes to go via the border! Zoe also assisted us getting to the pre season test in Sydney and on to Brisbane for a Volvo Trucks function. Thank you Zoe!
The Barbagallo circuit is the second shortest in regards to lap measurement that we race at, being 2.42kms around and only 20 metres longer than Symmons Plains in Tasmania. The circuit is particularly abrasive and the surface is similar to the finish of exposed aggregate as a result of the sandy soil which blows across the track wearing away at the asphalt. The weekend of racing comprised a 120km (50 lap) race on Saturday and 200klm (83 lap) race Sunday, both with lead up qualifying sessions.
Prior to the racing there were three practice sessions (2 on Friday and 1 Saturday morning). Since Phillip Island the Team led by the engineers had been focusing on finding ways to improve qualifying speed. People often ask why a car can be “slow” in qualifying but “quick” in a race. Without getting too complicated the reason is tyre wear. That is if a team is able to unlock that one quick lap in qualifying, they then often need to wind the car back slightly in regards to the race set up so as to maintain the tyre life for as long as possible. We have been able to reasonably quickly find the set up that gives us a very competitive race car, but have been constantly working on the set up that gives us that one “really quick” lap. Following practice it was evident that we had made some progress in the few days that we had at home following Phillip Island and found ourselves mid pack. Again it was the DJR Penske cars that set the pac e along with the 888 car of Van Gisbergen.
For those who have not been to Wanneroo/Barbagello Raceway it is certainly a place that I would recommend travelling. The circuit provides excellent viewing for the fans and the WA weather in autumn is as good as anywhere in the world. On Friday afternoon following practice I was so enthused by the sunshine that I put the Speedos on and had a swim (maybe paddle) in the beautiful Indian Ocean off Hillarys.
Saturday and the weather was pushing into the high 20’s with early 30’s for Sunday, I rang home with glee, but was met with very little response, except for “that’s nice dear!”
For the weekend each car is allocated 5 sets of tyres and it is up to you in how they are used. The obvious way is to use two sets on Saturday in the 120km race and three on Sunday in the 200km race. Following qualifying on Saturday Garth was 11th and Moff 21st. Coulthard and McLaughlin (DJR Penske) shared the front row and were 36/10ths clear of Whincup (888). This is a massive gap and to illustrate just how dominant the DJR cars were in qualifying, that same margin (36/10ths) covered the next 14 cars. I know it’s easy to say “if this or if that”, but if Garth had have been 14/10ths quicker he would have been on the second row.
As we know qualifying is very, very important but much can also happen within a race. The unfortunate part about today that with only 120kms of racing and the likeliness of only one pit stop assuming a non Safety Car race that time was not on the side of those having to utilise strategy and race craft in order to advance up the order.
Off the line Scotty got the jump on Coulthard and led. The two DJR Penske cars drove into the distance and it became a race amongst the rest. Moff was doing a superb job and was working his way through the mid pack which requires some controlled forcefulness. By lap 19 when Reynolds (Erebus) and Courtney (Walkinshaw) were the first to stop he had worked his way up to 15th. In the meantime Garth had maintained his starting position of 10th and was in a battle with Holdsworth (Team 18) and Lowndes (888). Garth and Moff pitted for tyres on laps 23 and 27 respectively and Garth although trying hard maintained his Top 10 finish and Moff continued his forward movement within the competitive mid pack to finish 12th. McLaughlin won from Coulthard and Whincup (888).
Saturday night and as usual the Team analyse the days result and from inside we felt we had a reasonable day. Sure, we don’t race to finish 10th and 12th but we felt that we had achieved a result as good as possible and we were very satisfied with the performance of our crew throughout the tyre dependant pit stops. Tyre dependant pit stops are those that are performed without fuel being put in the car. Many of the stops today including the 250km Phillip Island races and the 200km Sunday sprint round races require fuel, and in most cases the time it takes the fuel to be put in the car far exceeds a “slow” wheel change. But, when fuel is not required the wheel changing crew are under pressure to get the wheels off and on as quickly as possible (low to mid 4 secs.) and our guys did this extremely well.
Saturday night and again the thought of that beautiful Indian Ocean beckoned, but so too did a nice cold beer. It was a tough decision, but just on dusk I thought it much safer to have a beer. Following dinner I had to put up with Barry carrying on as his beloved Tigers (Richmond) gave up a five goal lead to the Western Bulldogs to lose by less than a goal. I could hear him cursing and carrying on all night and he was surprisingly very quiet on the drive out to Barbagello on Sunday morning. Toughen up Princess!!
Sunday, and I was looking forward to the 200lm race where a little more strategy and variables are at play. With three sets of tyres the option is to put in three separate qualifying runs during the qualifying session. Krusty (Engineer #33) and Lewis (Engineer #34) chose to only do two runs as did several other cars. This left 4 green (new) tyres that could be used throughout the race. The Barbagello circuit as mentioned earlier is very abrasive on the tyre surface, particularly the left hand side of the car due to five of the seven corners being right hand. The strategy with tyres is to start with the best two from qualifying on the left side of the car and the next best two on the right side. Throughout the race each car must put in at least 120 litres of fuel over a minimum of two pit stops. At each of these stops the two new tyres (saved) from qualifying are put on the left side of the car and the best of the others on the right side.
Following qualifying McLaughlin was on pole followed by the Prodrive Ford’s of Mostert and Winterbottom. Moff and Tander were separated by 3/100ths and in 15th and 16th. Again the Team had to devise a plan on how to work our way forward. There are many ways to go with this and they are all about when you stop. In many instances this can be influenced by the intervention of the Safety Car, but Barbagello is not a place that often sees a SC in a Supercar race as there are reasonable run off areas where the cars can usually find their way back on to the circuit. From the point of view of doing the same amount of work on each set of tyres stopping on lap 28 and 56 (of the 83 lap race) divides the race into virtually equal thirds. How this type of strategy can come unstuck is if a car/s you are battling with stop earlier than you and put together a string of quick laps on new tyres while you are still rotating around trying to reach the 28 lap point. When you stop and rejoin the race those cars that you were battling with have either passed you or have moved much further in front. Of course that you are now on fresher rubber you will be able to catch them, but passing is another thing and the tyres can be quickly degraded in failed passing manoeuvres.
The Engineers analyse very closely the movements of the other cars and often a pre planned strategy may change as a result of what others are doing. The entire GRM Team including the drivers did a very credible job on Sunday with Garth finishing 9th and Moff 11th. Scotty again cleaned them up beating home Mostert and Whincup.
Overall, I believe the weekend was another step forward for our Team. Of course on results alone the Phillip Island round appeared better, but of course there were other factors that had a bearing on that result. This weekend we illustrated our true race speed with both cars consistently in the top 10 in regards to race pace and our tyre preservation/life is as good as anybody.
It’s only 10 sleeps until Winton and it will be the first time in my 50 years of racing when our Team will present 3 cars at a main game Supercar event with James “Bieber” Golding making his solo Supercar debut.
Perth Super Sprint – Barbagello Raceway
MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT: Looking in the mirror when I put on my Speedos
MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT: See above, especially when I put my glasses on