Garry’s Townsville Wrap Up
As a team located in the southern state of Victoria, heading to Townsville is certainly something that we look forward to in the depths of our winter.
Townsville is a very picturesque place and the climate throughout winter is clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. The city is located on the coast and is highlighted by an area known as “The Strand” which is a long tropical beach with palm trees and manicured sand, a wonderful place to lie in the sun and watch the world go by. As much as I love racing our cars, this seemed a very viable alternative!
The Townsville 400 comprises of 2 x 200km races around a street circuit of 2.86klm in length which has 13 corners. The cars reach a top speed of 250+ kmh down the front straight and the track lends itself to overtaking. The layout of the Townsville street track is excellent for the fans with many grass mounds and other elevated areas that provide great viewing. Fans are even able to stand adjacent to the start/finish line only metres from the cars as they grid up and watch the start from the closest possible vicinity of any track in Australia.
Our week began in Mackay on the Tuesday where myself, Barry and the drivers met Joey and Simon (our DVS truck driver) at Crokers Truck Centre, one of Volvo’s major truck dealers in the country. The passion that we see from Volvo staff and customers at such visits is certainly something that inspires me to keep going. On Wednesday morning we headed to Townsville. This is certainly a drive I would recommend. A comfortable 5 hour drive where you pass through the beachside town of Bowen and see the Whitsunday Islands in the distance. The highlight of course is stopping and having a photo with the Giant Mango. We stopped in Bowen for lunch and the little beach at Horseshoe Bay is somewhere that you could sit for hours. But we had to press on to visit the Volvo Truck Dealership in Townsville later in the afternoon.
On Thursday the boys had all arrived and the truck was unloaded and the pit area was set up. The cars were rolled out and the build up for the weekend was in full swing.
Friday comprised of 2 x 40 minute practice sessions. Again, these sessions are used to fine tune the car for the circuit and the conditions, but to also test any changes that the engineers back at work had come up with. Following these sessions both Moff and Scotty were reasonably happy with the car set up. Scotty was 6th and Moff 14th. Yet again it was mere tenths that separated the majority of the 26 car field. Saturday qualifying and for the first time in recent memory Scotty didn’t quite get it together in the session and qualified 18th. He wasn’t unhappy with the car and didn’t encounter any on track issue that caused this result, he was first to admit that he “stuffed” it up. On the other hand Moff did a very commendable job to qualify 9th and I was very happy to see him get some reward for the effort both he and the #34 crew were putting in. The front row was taken up with the 88 cars of Whincup and Van Gisbergen.
Race time and with 70 laps and 200klm ahead it was important for Scott to be patient and not try and fix his qualifying disappointment in the first lap. When you qualify back there is fine line between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough. If you over drive the car you will take the best out of the tyres too quickly and are also likely to have misadventures with other cars. But, if you are too conservative you will be pushed around by those racing with you. Scotty got off the line well and had positioned himself well heading into turn 1 to have Dale Wood (Nissan) to try and slip in behind him and misjudge this move and he made contact with #33 left rear wheel with the Nissan’s right front wheel. Scotty radioed in saying he had damage and thought it was suspension component, he was directed straight into the garage only to find he had a flat tyre. The car then had to be pushed back out of the garage and under the pit boom for refuelling and tyre change. By this time the field had passed and Scott was lapped, any chance of a reasonable result were extinguished at that point yet it was important to press on and earn what ever Championship points that he could. Scott finished 24th.
Moff started well and hovered between 8th and 10th in the opening laps. Out front it was Whincup from Van Gisbergen and Courtney (HRT). The race required a minimum of 2 stops and at least 120 litres be put in the car during the pit stops. The plan was to stop Moff between laps 15 and 20, and as some began to pit at lap 13 we brought him in on lap 17. The risk of staying out when other cars around you have pitted is being “undercut”. Undercutting is when a car that is behind you on track pits before you and then puts together a succession of quick laps on new tyres while you are still circulating on “old rubber” and when you finally stop they pass you in pit lane because of the time they have made up. Of course if you stop too early and the initial effort on the new tyres will cause them to deteriorate earlier than those who pitted later. But, it is much easier to pass a car in pitlane than it is on the track. Following these initial stops Moff was still racing in the 10. Moff’s second stop came about a few laps earlier than what was planned as he was struggling with rear grip and it was deemed a ride height adjustment may help the rear grip and subsequent tyre wear. He pitted on lap 35 when he was 9th behind Lowndes (888). This turned out to be too premature as he then need to make it home to lap 70, unfortunately the changes helped a little but not enough and with a 35 lap stint required on the set of tyres Moff had no grip to race those around him and finished 17th. Whincup won from Van Gisbergen with Winterbottom 3rd.
To be honest not one of our best days at the track, but there were certainly signs that we could move forward on Sunday.
Saturday night and the atmosphere in Townsville and certainly at the track was fantastic with rock and roll bands playing and everybody generally having a good time. The behaviour of Supercar race goers always impresses me. Generally it is families and groups of people out to enjoy themselves and I have always found our crowds to be extremely respectful of each other and just enjoying a great time.
At the street race events the Sunday qualifying is followed by a Top 10 shootout. In recent years we have certainly enjoyed Scott’s qualifying ability and have been involved in many of these shootouts. First qualifying. Both Moff and Scott were confident of a good showing following Moff’s qualifying speed yesterday and Scott determined not to make the mistakes he made in qualifying again.
The first run looked good as both boys were at the top of the sheets, and as they headed out on their warm up lap for the second run Moff was crashed into by Bright (BJR) and the front right steering arm was broken. He limped back to the put and with four minutes of qualifying left the boys went straight to work and changed the arm in just over two minutes, but with the qualifying countdown clock down to 1.40 Moff was never going to get out of pit lane and around the circuit in time to complete a flyer. This was a real shame and no fault of Moff’s as Bright was later handed a three spot grid penalty.
Scotty’s determination paid off and he qualified 6th, a little over 2/10ths off the pole time of VanGisbergen, but in the all important Top 10 shootout. The shootouts are always exciting, particularly if a car that goes out early sets a good time and the crowd watch in anticipation as the following cars try and top the time. Qualifying 6th meant that Scott was the 5th car on track. A good position to have as he has had the opportunity to see a few go before him and be the beneficiary of the rubber they have put on the track, but also if able to put together a really good lap put pressure on those to come. Dave Reynolds (Erebus) was the early pacesetter and he headed the times as Scott came on the track. Scotty was right on his pace for the first two sectors of the lap and fell 8/1000’s short of Dave’s time. The final result was Winterbottom (Prodrive) who was 3rd last out did a tremendous job to out do the 888 cars of Lowndes, Whincup and VanGisbergen.
We certainly went into the race with spirits high. The engineers were confident that changes made to Moff’s car would help the issue with the wear and lack of grip that he was experiencing with the rear tyres on #34 car and if he could translate the speed that he had shown in qualifying and stay out of trouble a worthy result was expected. As usual the race start was frantic and off the 3rd row Dave Reynolds did unexceptional job to weave his way to second by turn 1, Scotty was also there amongst the top 3, but was positioned on the outside and had to give up a couple of positions to force his way back to the race line. Moff charged off the line and drove like a man possessed, clinically picking off cars lap after lap to force his way into the top 10 as the first round of pit stops began on lap 13. The race was led by Winterbottom from Reynolds and Whincup. Scotty pitted on lap 15 and Moff lap 18. The middle stages of a race are often a little confusing and mixed as teams often have different strategies pitting at different times. On lap 31 Kostecki (Team 18 - replacement for the injured Lee Holdsworth) had a coming together with the wall and the Safety Car was deployed. With 39 laps to go and the cars holding 109 litres when full and the fuel rate approx. 2.7 litres per lap the window was there to fill up and race for home. The only issue would be tyre degradation over a 36 or 37 lap race to the line once the race restarted. The changes the boys had made to Moff’s car and his driving had seen him racing strongly and in 9th with 9 laps to go. Scotty was also making ground on Whincup who was 3rd. On lap 61 Heimgartner (LDM) came to a halt around the back of the circuit.
Earlier in the race Snake (Jacob Rayner) had discussed the option of a late tyre change and had put to the boys what would we do if a Safety Car came with 10 laps to go. The decision was made that we would stay out if those in front of us stayed out. This decision ended up being the right one for Scott who was 4th at the time but didn’t work for Moff who was 9th. Unfortunately for Moff one car in front of him came in, Courtney (HRT) and the remainder of the field behind him except for Tander who was 11th. In normal circumstances it takes three laps for a restart following a Safety Car in these circumstances. But, the officials towed the car from the track rather than putting it on the truck and the track was cleared within a lap. This is the right thing to do as it racing we want to see and not cars being pulled up on trucks, but the with 7 laps to race it was going to be tough to keep the cars on fresh tyres behind. Moff did his best and with only 5 laps to go he did what he could to hold his 8th position, but the fresh tyre train behind him swallowed him up and he finished 19th. Scotty had a little more protection with four cars between himself and the freight train coming. He pressed hard and after overcoming the lapped Pither (111) he pressured the back of Whincup, Courtney was leading the pack through and in the final two laps passed Scotty, Whincup and Winterbottom on the line behind the winner Van Gisbergen (888).
It’s easy to look back now and say that we should have pitted Moff. But, if Courtney had have been the only car to pit he would have looked silly going from 7th to last, but because the field then all came in behind Moff we were the ones that made the wrong decision. That is racing and we move on. I am disappointed for Moff and the #34 crew that they didn’t get the result that they deserved, but I am buoyed by the performance of them. For Scotty great comeback following Saturday’s disappointment and I am confident that we can continue the push forward in two weeks time at QR.
Also over the weekend our two DVS cars were racing in Townsville. Both drivers performing well with James “Bieber” Golding in car #99 qualifying 8th for race 1 while Richard Muscat in car #99 qualified 5th and eventually finishing 5th, while James finished 9th. Sunday saw Richard start 6th again out qualifying James who started 8th. Richard finished 4th however was excluded from the race results due to a parc ferme breach after parking his car in the incorrect place at the end of the race, his exclusion bumped James up to 4th place.
A big congratulations to all concerned for the organisation of this event. The City of Townsville do an incredible job and the event is embraced whole heartedly by the entire community. If you haven’t been to Townsville either for the Supercars or for a family holiday, I would recommend that you do. I wish I was still there, I’m freezing!!
Townsville in 90 seconds: