The Super 2 series has had a two month break since Queensland Raceway, where we had a really strong finish of 4th. The team at Image Racing, spent that time stripping my car to a bare chassis, the chassis went to the jig to tweak it back into perfect alignment. It then received a full paint job thanks to Rustoleum and was sent back to the team.
Back at the race shop the boys installed a brand new race seat with the new Supercars leg protection. With the new seat they were able to move it closer to the transmission tunnel giving the car a better corner weight balance. To do this they had to also move the steering column and pedal box to match. The result is a far more balanced car. The next job was to replace the dampers all round. A new engine was installed plus many other bits a pieces to bring the car up to scratch.
A test day was organized the week before Bathurst to shake the car down a get me comfortable with the new seat position. The day went pretty well, but as you can expect after a full rebuild, there were a few teething issues that took up most of the day but that’s what shakedowns are for, the only problem is that we did not get enough time to work on perfecting my seat position so we will have to do that at Bathurst. All in all the car felt pretty good.
I flew in from Perth the day before so we could get everything set up, scrutineered, track walk and final data and fuel burn sorted, not forgetting I still needed to do a seat pour to get my seating position correct. A seat pour is vitally important in a race car to make the seat mould to the drivers particular body shape. With cornering G Forces and the pressure from continually applying about 100kg brake pressure if your back is not 100% supported you could not make the end of the race.
To perform a seat pour the team use a product like expander foam, pour it into a big green wheelie bin liner and then place it in the seat. The driver then climbs in and wriggles into his perfect driving position and once this position is achieved you sit very still for about 15 minutes until the foam sets. Once set the seat pour is removed and surplus bits trimmed off, it is then covered and ready to go. Our first seat pour was a disaster, for some reason the stuff just did not go off, the second was not big enough, and on the final pour we probably used a little too much product and as the foam was expanding it was literally pushing me out of the seat. This should not be a problem because you can just cut off the excess or linnish it into shape. We finished that night with what I thought was a good seat pour.
The format for Bathurst is practice 1 on Thursday, practice 2 and qualifying on Friday and then one 250km race (41 laps) on the Saturday, which is equivalent to a triple stint in the main game race. We hit the track at 2.25pm for a 40 minute session and the first thing that became apparent was that my seat pour although comfortable, was way too thick and had pushed me out of the seat and therefore offered no lateral support and the mountain being what it is with very fast corners if you are not fully supported you just cannot commit fully to the mountain. My steering wheel was also way to close, I pitted so the team could move the wheel further away and bleed the brakes as they felt a little spongy and out we went again.
By the end of the session I still had not put in a decent time as I just wasn’t supported enough to commit hard enough to the corners.
Back in the pit bay it was time to cut that seat pour down so we could create the support I needed.
The team also changed the tune on the engine as it was a little rich on fuel which made it felt very flat.
Also, not on a racing note. It was cold…. Very cold, Adam doesn’t like cold.
We were on track fairly early and instantly the seat felt much better, still not perfect but it would get me through the weekend. Although we had another tune in the engine my straight line speed was still down and costing me time and as a driver I needed to improve my approach to a few corners, which was also costing me time. I finished the session last on the time sheets although I was not too worried as the car had good balance so all we need to do is find the speed in me and the car.
The weather had been threatening to rain all day and was scheduled to rain as we went out for qualifying. As usual the strategy was to do a couple of laps on my best practice tyres to set a banking lap then pit for a green set and do a one lap dash to set a good time. Unfortunately the rain fell on top of the mountain on my second lap and when I saw it I backed off way too much to make sure i didn’t bin the car. I pitted for my new set of qualifying tyres but by the time I reached the top of the mountain it was way too wet to do anything but pit and sit out the session. When the session finished I was second last on the grid, somewhere I have not been for a long time. In hindsight I should have started on my new set, and although wet the track was still giving enough grip for me to push hard and set a time as was evident by some other cars times.
I had made the biggest race of the season very hard starting from the back of the grid, but being such a long race there was enough time to move forward and finish in a good position. Overnight the team found a couple of things that they felt was causing a loss of straight line speed and my data engineer found a few things I needed to change to go faster, and they were actually braking and slowing the car earlier in a few corners so I could get on the gas earlier to gain some time.
Race day! We had a 10 minute warm up early to mainly practice our pit stops, then the race was to start at 3.00pm. If the boys had cured my straight line speed I was confident that had fixed the bits I need to in my driving to move through the field for a great result.
I was starting 14th on the grid and as the lights went green got a pretty good start but the realised the car in front of me was not moving, these cars accelerate so fast you literally have a millisecond to react and miss him so I swerved onto the grass and only just got through. I actually made up one position in the first turn and started my first run up the mountain.
After a couple of laps I set into a rhythm and was really fast across the top of the mountain but was losing about 4 car lengths up the mountain and the same on the way down making it very hard to overtake. I would lose time on the way up, then catch them across the top (the hard bit) and then lose them a bit on the way down.
I made a few positions before pitting on lap 21 for my fuel and new tyres. The pit stop was fantastic, I hit my marks perfectly and the team did a brilliant job of fueling me and changing the tyres, and the net result was I jumped another couple of cars in the pits and was now in 9th setting faster lap times than the next few guys in front, I was thinking to myself that we could end up with a 5th or 6th quite easily which would be a great result from where we started.
On lap 25 it all came undone, I was heading up the mountain approaching turn 2 when the engine started to knock, the team saw a sudden loss of oil pressure on the telemetry, but before they could tell me, or me tell them the engine let go in a big way. All I could do was coast into someone’s driveway to get the car off the track as I knew it would be spewing oil everywhere - Race Over.
Whilst I was standing next to the car a Marshall brought me a Conrod that he found on the track that had departed the engine.
This DNF is going to hurt my Championship as it was a double point’s race. As we all know Motorsport is character building, from a tough start to the weekend we were looking at a good result then before you know it, it’s all over.
The team have a month before Sandown to turn the car around and fit a new engine. I have every confidence that we will be back on and pushing hard for the Soft Tyre round – I am very exciting!
I would like to once again take this opportunity to thank all my sponsors, Penrite Oil, Rare Spares Fabcon, Altrex, Carplan, Industrial Chemical Technologies, DB Connect, Bremtec Brakes, CoolDrive, Ultima Shock Absorbers, Supercharge Batteries, Wesfil, Tridon, PK Tools, Nova, Red Emperor Constructions, Day & Night Towing, Pit Stop Karting, Lockyer Bins, IPlay, Cox Legal, Abruzzi Racewear and 2 Thugs Customs.