Hi, and welcome to my fourth Rookie's Corner column for TMR.
Recently we had our fourth round of the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series at our ‘home’ track, Queensland Raceway (QR). Knowing the circuit and how bad the track surface can be at the best of times, the threat of rain for the weekend meant things were looking like they would get pretty hairy.
The first practice session was an up and down affair. We started with a different setup to what we usually run around QR and I wasn’t a fan of the way the car handled.
So, in Practice Two, we changed the #10 simPRO Falcon back to something closer to what we ran in our last test day; which made me a little happier, but I still felt the car wasn’t at one-hundred percent.
During qualifying, our first couple of laps were a struggle, and with me being a bit of a weak qualifier, I didn’t really get on it quick enough. But with our second set of tyres, I had a lot more confidence and was better prepared.
With ten minutes left in the session I was sitting in tenth, but with the track becoming faster with each lap, I probably made my run a little too early. When qualifying ended, I'd dropped back to 18th - which was very disappointing, after working on the car very hard.
I got a great start in Race One and managed to avoid a couple of big shunts in the opening laps. For some reason, after a big break between events, some drivers forget there are another two races over the weekend and try to win from way back in the pack on the opening corner.
Thankfully I dodged the carnage, but from that point there was a lot of oil dropped around the track, making it difficult to use parts of the circuit you would normally have as your racing line.
I had worked my way up into seventh place before I was forced on to the oil and slipped off track - finishing 14th, which was a bit annoying after being that high up at one stage.
To make matters worse, Race Two was wet - and I mean wet! Puddles and streams had formed on the circuit and so much spray was coming off the cars in front of me that I could not see a bloody thing on the warm-up lap.
Prior to the race, my mechanics and engineers talked about starting the race from pit lane to avoid what was sure to be a rough start and opening lap - especially if the previous race was anything to go by. I agreed it would be a smarter and safer option, since it was my first wet V8 Supercar race.
The start from pit lane paid off. For some reason I just felt comfortable in the wet. The car felt predictable – just like the turn one shenanigans which saw three cars taken out from the start.
Once I was let go from pit lane, I just put my head down and raced as hard I could to catch the pack. There was a lot of spray in the opening laps, and as you'd expect, visibility was virtually zero.
Eventually the field spread out a little and the spray thinned out enough for me to clearly see the cars ahead.
At this point, I had no idea how I was going. Was I fast? Slow? What position was I in? I know I had passed a few cars, but not many.
Then I started passing guys like Andrew Thompson, Nick Percat and Scott McLaughlin who are the benchmark in the Series, and I was thinking "what position could I possibly be in?"
When I finished the race, I asked my engineer several times what position I'd finished in, and hearing him say fourth was just too hard to register.
“Are you sure,” I asked. “Can you please repeat that?"
Again he answered fourth. I couldn’t believe it, and scoring the fastest lap of the race topped it off. The car was a beast in the wet so I was hoping there would be more rain for race three.
My prayers for more rain later in the afternoon weren’t really answered, and race three was again a pretty dry affair.
I started from ninth on the grid, but soon slipped back to 11th. I was stuck behind Andy Jones who is a very experienced racer, and I knew it was going to be tough to get past him.
Running out of laps, I knew I would have to make a move soon, and the guys behind me were also closing in. So at turn six I seized my opportunity and got past, but on the exit I ran a little wide and Jones did an ‘over and under’ on me.
Running side-by-side, he gassed it a little too much and, while working to correct his error and getting off the power, he pushed into me - a move that spun me into the infield with only a couple of laps to go, leaving me to finish 17th.
It was a tough way to finish the weekend, but it also illustrates the highs and lows of motorsport. And really, it’s those highs that keep you coming back for more each race.
Well, it’s on to Bathurst now for our next round. Last year I ran the same car I’m in this year and we snagged a fourth place in my debut on the mountain, so I’m really looking forward to getting back there and hopefully going one or two better.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the fourth column from me about my life as a rookie in V8 Supercar game (hopefully still on the road to bigger and better things!) and that you'll continue reading and following me for the rest of the season and beyond.
#10 simPRO Racing Falcon