Garry Roger’s from Wilson Security Racing GRM writes his thoughts on the final V8 Supercars round at Sydney…..
Following a season that began with the Sydney Motorsport Park test back in mid February we packed the transporter early last week for Joey (Joe Sullivan – Transporter driver) to head off on his final journey for the year. The remainder of the crew flew into Sydney on Thursday morning and headed straight to Sydney Olympic Park (SOP) to set up the garage facility.
The facilities at SOP are fantastic. The transporters are parked in a huge “shed” that was utilised for competition during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the associated garage/work bays for the cars are adjacent to the transporters also in the shed. The pit lane area is a temporary construction and the cars move between the two areas.
The race circuit is a street circuit utilising the roads within the SOP precinct. The track is approximately 3.4 kms. in length and with most street tracks it has manmade chicanes and unforgiving concrete barriers. The race format over the weekend involved 2 x 125 km. Saturday races and 1 x 250 km. Sunday race. Each race had separate qualifying. The tyres to be used over the weekend were the Dunlop HARD tyres and each car was allocated 5 sets.
During practice your initial runs are done on what are referred to as pre marked tyres. That is tyres that you have used at previous race meetings and we were allowed to bring 2 sets per car. As a team you are not permitted to “share” your tyre bank between cars and each set is barcoded and allocated to a particular car. The quality of your pre marked tyres differs between cars and as much as early exits from races is not what you want it does help stock up your tyre bank with “better” tyres.
In practice it is all about car setup and having the driver as confident in the car as possible. During this period you often have to find a compromise as what may make the car really good in one part of the track can do the complete opposite in another part. The early tuning of the car is done on your oldest tyres and the final set up is completed on the newest tyres that you have. It’s important to point out that a V8 Supercar reacts very different depending on the tyre condition. In the final stages of practice a green (new) set of tyres is put on and the driver completes a lap similar to the effort that will be put in during qualifying and if necessary some final suspension, camber or ride height changes are made.
By the end of Friday’s three practice sessions Van Gisbergen (Tekno) led the way, Scotty was a mere 1.4 tenths of a second back in 5th and David was 22nd. As usual both Crusty (Richard Hollway) and Lewis (Manuel Sanchez) the respective Engineer’s on #33 & #34 put the heads together and shared ideas prior to Saturday’s qualifying.
The Saturday qualifying was 2 x 10 minute sessions for Races 34 and 35. Again with a lap time of approx. 1.28 there was probably only an opportunity to have 2 qualifying runs with each only having one flying lap. Scotty had trouble getting a good flowing lap in and was outside the Top 10 for the first time in many rounds finally qualifying 11th. David had certainly found some improvement in his car and was only 1/10th behind Scott in 13th. The pole time was set by Mark Winterbottom (Prodrive) followed by Van Gisbergen.
Qualifying for Race 35 followed immediately and Scott found some clean air and qualified the Volvo S60 on the 3rd row in 6th. Unfortunately for David he couldn’t match his earlier effort and was 19th. Whincup (888) was on pole.
The 125 km. races (37 laps) required that the teams stop once for a “splash” of fuel and change at least 2 tyres. The reason for the fuel was the cars with full tanks could only do a maximum of 36 laps and why most teams only chose to change two tyres was so they had more left for Sunday. If you used two full sets in each of the Saturday races you would only be left with one new set for the Sunday 250lm race. Tyre management is vital and the tyre technicians Squiddy and Joey are constantly measuring tread depth, tyre pressure and temperature. The result of this was the discovery that the front tyres wear least and they would be the ones that we would save from Saturday’s races to help get through Sunday.
Scotty did a good job finishing 8th in Race 34 after starting 11th and David was unfortunately caught up in some early mayhem back in the pack and what was deemed a racing incident sent him off track. He recovered to finish 19th. The race was won by Whincup and Mark Winterbottom finished 5th which was enough for him to secure his first V8 Supercar Championship in his 11th season. A very worthy Champion and it goes to show how hard it is to win and it certainly is a credit to him and the Prodrive Team who from both sides have shown fantastic loyalty to stick together for 10 seasons to achieve this result. Well done!
Race 35 and off the 3rd row we were hoping that Scott could have a “demon” start and jump a couple off the line. He did just that and heading into turn 1 it appeared he would hold 4th but Courtney (HRT) held his nerve and on the outside of Scotty for turn 1 he was suddenly on the inside for the upcoming chicane and held 4th with McLaughlin settling 5th. Whincup led from the start and completed back to back Saturday wins, David finished where he started in 19th.
Saturday night and the boys had a bit of work to do on the cars. The street circuits certainly knock the cars about as the drivers strive for every millisecond as they rub up against the walls scrapping the sides of the car and smashing the side mirrors. The work was finally complete by 11.00pm and off to bed looking forward to our last race of the year.
Qualifying for the 36th and last race of the season was a 20 minute session which was enough time to do two complete qualifying runs each incorporating two flying laps. Both Scotty and Dave were extremely keen to put their best foot forward but in saying that I am sure the other 23 drivers were of the same mindset.
On Scott’s second qualifying run he put together an excellent lap to qualify second. David too was showing some great pace and with several cars still yet to complete their final qualifying runs and all the team watching the time clock for qualifying wind down, the #34 sat inside the Top 10 in 9th. Lowndes, Coulthard, Tander and Pye were all still out on track and early sector times for their final laps looked threatening. Everybody in our garage watched with much anticipation and there was so much happiness for David when he held on for 9th.
I don’t want to harp on it because we all move on and must do so in life, let alone V8 Supercar Racing but David Wall has been an absolute pleasure to have as part of GRM and I am pleased that he has chosen to stay at GRM as part of our Endurance Driver line up.
Scotty was pipped by Van Gisbergen for provisional pole, but the shootout was to come. David was second car out and after all of the excitement didn’t nail his lap and dropped to 10th, similarly Scotty was quickest through the first sector and was looking good until he had a little mishap that cost him a couple of tenths and ended up 7th. James Courtney (HRT) claimed pole from Van Gisbergen.
Race 36 would require the teams to drop a minimum of 140 litres into each car throughout the race and do the best you could out of the tyres left of which the two new Sunday sets had been used in qualifying and the best from Saturday. The build up to the race was as usual really fantastic with the sun shining and crowd on the grid providing plenty of colour and excitement. The National Anthem was sung by a lady with a lovely voice from the Australian Defence Services and I encouraged my team to sing along. For the first time ever I think I saw Crusty sing a few words. I will work harder on them in 2016!
The lights went out and Scotty was 5th by the end of the first lap with Courtney leading. David was 12th. Our plan was to pit #34 on lap 5 and Scott a few laps later. Of course all pre race strategies can be affected by the Safety Car which at these type of events is more rather than less likely. Courtney was leading the way from Van Gisbergen who was applying the “blowtorch” to the rear of Courtney. Finally on lap 4 he dived up the inside of the HRT car who attempted to take the corner only to make contact with Van Gisbergen resulting in Courtney turning himself around and dropping back to 4th.
David pitted on lap 5 as planned and unfortunately for Tim Slade (Walkinshaw) a sticky throttle led to him slamming into the wall as his car careered forward rather than around the corner. This resulted in the Safety car being deployed on lap 10 and those that hadn’t stopped earlier darted in for the first of two compulsory stops. This included all of the lead cars. Scotty came out 5th from this stop with Van Gisbergen still leading from Whincup and Rick Kelly (Nissan) 3rd. David was doing a very commendable job working his way back inside the 10 in 9th.
By lap 38 when Scotty stopped for the final time he was fourth and looking strong. David stopped a lap later and was going well in 8th. With 25 laps remaining Scott was starting to radio in explaining he was having difficulty with right hand turns and the car wasn’t reacting as it should. He pressed on for several more laps and then the problem was getting worse. With 20 laps remaining #33 pitted and it was discovered that the left hand front steering arm was bent. The boys did a good job to change it in less than 10 minutes, but the race was over in regards to any worthwhile result.
In the meantime #34 was still pressing on well but with only 4 laps to go David had a brake lock up ruining any chance of a top 10 result. VanGisbergen drove unchallenged even with a late Safety Car that compacted the field to win from Whincup and Rick Kelly did a very good job for Nissan to finish 3rd.
Wow! The season is over. I am not one to think back too much but it is important to analyse what has occurred throughout a season. I feel as though we promised plenty and at times delivered, but were far too inconsistent when you consider the entire season. Some of our issues were out of our direct control but when you lead the team you are the one accountable to the many fans that we have and the Sponsor group that enable us to do what we do. Throughout the season we address what we can and I believe that our second half of the season did illustrate that we are on the right track heading into 2016.
Thank you all for supporting GRM in 2015 and I and all at Wilson Security Racing GRM will be doing everything we can to make 2016 as successful as possible.