Garry’s Symmons Plains Notebook

Round 2 of the 2015 season and we headed across the Tasman to Symmons Plains Raceway located 20 minutes south of Launceston.

From a personal point of view I really enjoy going to Tasmania and the event is certainly embraced by all, being the largest sporting event held in the state each year.

Our Race weekend began on Wednesday when we made a visit to Performance Automobiles in Hobart, the states sole Volvo Car Dealer. It is really great to meet Dealership staff, and as an “old car salesman” I can’t help but offer a little advice. I think I might struggle these days with buyers using computers to buy cars, I am well out of my depth with this type of technology!!

As with every race/meeting our aim is to win, but the poor result that we had at the first round and subsequent Grand Prix weekend meant we really had to go back to basics and aim to put together three solid race results. As much as we aim to win we were not going to put ourselves in a vulnerable position or undertake any risky strategies. The Sunday race was the first time this year where we had soft tyres, and it would be important to be aware of exactly what distance we could sensibly get out of them. During practice we could use old soft tyres that were in our tyre bank from previous events in 2014. The engineers would aim to measure the wear on these tyres, following David and Scott running some laps on them. From the information gathered we would be able to ascertain how many laps we believe could be run on softs during Sunday’s race.

Over the weekend practice was broken down into four sessions. We were not quite where we wanted to be with Scott 12th and David 15th in the overall practice results. Saturday’s format was 2x10 minute qualifying sessions and 2x60 km (25 lap) races. The first of these sessions resulted in Scott being outside the Top 10 for the first time since Darwin in June last year. Scott was 17th and David 24th. The interesting point out of qualifying was that the track was approximately .5 second slower than last year, but we were approximately .8 of a second slower, therefore losing 3/10ths to the field.

The speed of the track can change year to year as a result of many factors including air temperature, wind speed and direction, the amount of rubber from previous racing on the track and other factors outside the control of individual teams. Of course teams can influence their improvement by further developing the race car and generally improving what they do. With 10ths of seconds covering the field in Supercar racing you cannot afford to lose any time to the field. To the contrary you need to make time if you are to move forward. The second qualifying session saw Scott find that lost time and put a good lap together qualifying 8th. David’s effort was within 1/100th of the first qualifying which left him yet again in 24th. Craig Lowndes did a great job to qualify on pole for both races. Other notable efforts were the Prodrive Ford’s and the Mercedes of Will Davison who all featured in the Top 10.

Race 4 was certainly going to be tough from 17th and 24th respectfully but points are important and any positions that could be made by Scott and David would all help at seasons end. Unfortunately Scott’s memories of Adelaide came flooding back as the engine in his car failed before the end of the first lap. David raced well and had a spirited dice with Tim Blanchard (LDR Holden) to finish 20th. Lowndes led from start to finish followed by Winterbottom and Courtney. Obviously our concerns were why we were having engine problems considering the reliability that we experienced last season.

The crew had just under 2 hours to complete the engine change and with the recent experience in Adelaide were confident that this would be achieved in time. Yet again the whole team got to it under the instruction of Cowboy (Team Manager Dean Cowling) and Car#33 was driven out of the garage with a few minutes to spare. The race was rather pedestrian and with Scott being a little conservative he lost a position off the start line to Will Davison and finished 9th. David continued his battle at the rear of the field and did well to gain 4 positions with some calculated passing and forceful driving to finish 20th. Yet again Craig Lowndes led from start to finish and was followed home by his team mate (Whincup) and James Courtney 3rd.

Saturday night and not quite the day we had hoped for. But, as in life not everything always works out as you hoped and when you have really focused and put everything into a particular effort it can be disheartening, but you have to refocus and move on quickly, nothing is gained by feeling sorry for yourself or your people. The engineers spent considerable time with the drivers to try and pin point the areas where we were deficient. Symmons Plains is only a small track (approx 2.5kms) but is technical with a tight banked hairpin, long rear straight (270km/h) and fast sweeping corner at the end of the rear straight. Often when you set up for one part of the track it adversely affects another part. The boys felt as though they were on the right path and fingers were crossed for Sunday.

Qualifying for Race 6 of the Championship was a 20 minute session. It was important to put a steady lap in early and then sit and wait as long as possible until maximum rubber was on the track and then have one final 2-3 lap run at setting a good qualifying time. The session was incredibly close and only .59 of a second separated the top 24 cars. Scott managed 11th (.3 off pole) and David 23rd. Craig Lowndes made it three from three with another pole followed by David Reynolds (Prodrive Ford) and Jamie Whincup.

The race was over 200 kms. With both hard and soft tyres to be used. The race also required teams to put in at least 120 litres of fuel throughout the race. In this instance you can choose to put less in early and more late or vice versa. Such a fuel drop takes approximately 30 seconds so if you are looking for track position early you may choose to put in only 10 seconds worth, but obviously the second stop would require a 20 second stop. Unfortunately mechanical issues struck us yet again. David Wall’s car had a mechanical failure on the first lap and his race was over. Scott started well and by mid race had worked his way to 6th. Craig Lowndes was jumped off the line by David Reynolds and in a desperate attempt to make up lost ground he bumped Reynolds off the track and was given a drive through penalty. Jamie Whincup inherited the lead and never gave it up and went on to win from Chaz Mostert and Shane Van Gisbergen was 3rd. Scott finished 7th following a late pass by Lowndes as he drove back through the field.

All in all not what we wanted and there is no doubt that we have work to do. Thankfully we have a little time between now and Perth to do some homework as to why we are having mechanical issues. I can assure you all that we will be head down and bum up in an effort to improve our performance come Barbagallo in May.

On a side note one of senior engineers Snakey (Jacob Rayner) is still in Launceston Hospital (to be released tomorrow, Wednesday 1 April) as a result of having to have his appendix removed on the Friday night of the race weekend. Snakey we missed you over the weekend, but expect you back at work on Thursday!!!

Garry

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