Garry’s Townsville Race Meeting Report
The trip to Townsville began for Joey (Joe Sullivan) our transporter driver on the Saturday morning one week before the event. Joe had to meet myself, Barry and the drivers in Mackay on the Tuesday afternoon at the local Volvo Truck Dealer – Crokers Truck Centre.
I really enjoy these events and love meeting both the staff of the Dealerships and also the customers. The stories of both motivate me to keep doing what I do. Through these events I have met people that own and run Dealerships who started as the truck washer and I have met transport operators who run 100’s of trucks which all started several generations ago with a mere horse and cart – very inspiring and proof that if you have a good work ethic and keep persisting that there are very few limits as to what you can achieve in our lucky country.
Talking of achieving we certainly head to Townsville with the aim of achieving a positive result. The season to date has certainly been a roller coaster with some very positive performances, but also some very average ones that have been both influenced by mechanical reliability and racing incidents. But, we are only heading to the sixth event on a 14 event calendar and certainly have the belief that we can still make our mark on the season. I am extremely proud of the attitude of all members of my Team and sponsor group considering the wave of emotions that we have experienced over the past 18 months. I don’t want to sound like the eternal optimist but heading to Townsville I am really confident of a very good showing by the Volvo S60. We are confident that the main bearing engine issues that we experienced early in the season are behind us and also believe that we have made some progress with other areas of the car that had been earmarked for development.
The Townsville 400 consists of 2 x 200km (70 lap races). One race is on Saturday and the other Sunday. Each race has its own qualifying and the Sunday race also has a Top 10 shootout. The tyres to be used over the weekend are both hard and soft and the allocation is a new set of both for each day.
Friday practice and the pre event optimism appeared justified as Scott was right on the pace from the moment the cars hit the track. Following the three practice sessions car #33 was 8th on the time sheets but had several cars in front of it that had set their time on soft tyres while Scott had set his on hard tyres. The soft tyre provides better grip and is quicker over a short distance, but does not last as long as the hard tyre. David finished the practice sessions in 23rd.
Saturday and spirits were high for a positive showing. Early morning practice and both cars prepared for the upcoming qualifying session. David was 14th and Scott 17th, but we felt we had the set up required to put in a good showing come qualifying. The qualifying session was a 20 minute session that provided the time to go out put a solid run together, return to the pit and put a set of green tyres (new) on and return in the final few minutes to put three of the best laps together that you can. Scott did an exceptional job qualifying 4th, only 9/100ths off the pole sitting Ford of Mostert who was followed by the two other Prodrive Ford’s of Winterbottom and Reynolds. David did a solid job to be inside the 20 in 19th. Yet again the competiveness of V8 Supercars was evident with 8/10ths covering the entire field.
Consider this quick comparison. In the GT Class qualifying there was 1.6 seconds between 1st and 10th, let alone the field.
The strategy for these races is influenced by the requirement to use both the hard and soft tyres and put in a minimum of 120 litres of fuel in the car at the stops. With fuel flowing at approx. 3 litres per second that means a total standing time in the pits over the two stops of 40 seconds. Some teams choose to put less in at the first stop in an attempt to gain track position and others more so the later stop is shorter. Depending on your qualifying position the best approach to take with the tyres is to start on the soft tyre, at the first stop put the hard tyre on and return to the (used) soft tyre for the back end of the race.
During practice we measure the wear on both tyre compounds and the Engineers then determine a pit window for both stops. Race time and Scott began well settling 5th behind the three Prodrive Falcon’s and Whincup and David 19th. Teams began pitting as early as lap 1, with David Wall pitting on lap 8 and Scott on lap 12. Throughout the middle stages of the race Scott settled in to a good rhythm in 6th and David was 20th. Scotty and David pitted for their second and final stops on laps 36 and 37 respectively. Following this stop Scott rejoined in 5th position and David was 20th. The race was being led by the Winterbottom followed by Reynolds, Mostert and Coulthard (Freightliner-BJR) and McLaughlin. In the closing stages of the race it was evident that Mostert’s tyres were degrading and both Coulthard and McLaughlin closed in and passed him. The race was narrowly won by Winterbottom with Reynolds appearing the quicker of the two in the final laps but not passing his teammate. David finished strongly passing both Jason Bright and Van Gisbergen over the final laps to finish 18th.
A good day for the team and some good racing for the 50,000 plus crowd. It was now dinner time and as we headed to the catering tent the entertainment on the infield fired up. The younger members of my team seemed all enthused by the “Hillbilly’s” or whatever they are called (Hilltop Hoods – Garry!!). I’m more of an Elvis fan myself or if I was to go out on a limb maybe the Bee Gees!
Anyway dinner down and we headed back to base for what I thought was going to be a quiet beer. But, on the way home Barry reminded me I was back on the exercise program and would need to go running before a beer was consumed. As much as a beer sounded better than a run I was certainly appreciative of making the effort afterwards.
Sunday, yet again another glorious day in Townsville 20 degrees at 6.30am a far cry from the reports of freezing conditions back in Melbourne which I would worry about later. To those thinking of attending the V8’s Townsville is an absolutely fantastic event. Of course the 25-30 degree days are spot on, but the City is lovely with the beaches, mountains and Magnetic Island and the local people and businesses really put in an effort to make this event very special.
Qualifying and the aim was to get in the ten so as to have a shot at pole in the shootout. Scotty was good enough to do this and repeated Saturday’s effort and qualified 4th, yet again behind the three Prodrive Ford’s. The Top 10 was a mix that included all of the manufacturers. David qualified 21st (7/10ths off pole).
The Top 10 shootout and something Scott has been able to master in recent years. As much as the Ford’s appear to have a speed advantage over the field we were confident that if Scott put a strong lap together he may gain a mental advantage in a single lap shootout. He did exactly that, he put together a flawless lap that saw him go to the top of the sheet with the three Ford’s to come. First Reynolds then Mostert, followed by Winterbottom but they couldn’t put that one lap together to beat Scott’s time. I was extremely proud the boys for the persistence shown to get back to where we know we can be.
Race 2 of the weekend (Race 17 of the Championship) began and Scotty jumped off the line well and straight to the front from Reynolds and Mostert.
In the early stages of the race and on the soft tyres that you need to reuse in the final stint it is important not to “cook them up” and leave yourself with a degraded tyre in the later stages when you are trying to protect or gain positions. Crusty (Richard Hollway) guides Scott through these stages and makes sure Scott is aware of the bigger picture, not the immediate threat of cars pressing hard early in a 70 lap race. With this in mind both Reynolds and Mostert pass Scott in the opening 5 laps and he settled well in 3rd and conserving his soft tyres. David was caught up avoiding some rear of the field jostling on the first lap and dropped to 25th.
David pitted on lap 11 and Scott lap 16. By lap 20 David had done a good job and had worked his way to 19th, but unfortunately for Scott what had started as a really good day was now going to end as a mechanical failure ended his race.
The race was controlled by Reynolds all the way to lap 51, when his tyres finally started to feel the effects of the early pace that he had set and he was passed by his fellow Ford driver Winterbottom who went on to win from Reynolds and a fast finishing Courtney (HRT) completed the podium. David did a very good job in the middle stages of the race and looked set for a finish inside the ten until he was penalised for speeding in pit lane. Unfortunately this led to him finishing 22nd.
Overall I would be misleading you if I said that I wasn’t experiencing some disappointment from the weekend, because as the saying goes “you need to make hay while the sun shines” and it was certainly shining at lunchtime Sunday. But, both myself and my team including our sponsors are buoyed by the fact that we have certainly made some ground and have shown that we can compete at the top end of the field. We will again be analysing, reanalysing and re-reanalysing all aspects of our performance and hopefully gain some confidence and belief from the positive points, but also learn some valuable lessons from other areas. We can’t wait for three weeks time when we can get out on to Queensland Raceway and try yet again.