The circuit commonly referred to as the “paperclip” because of the similarity of the layout to the stationery item opened in 1999 and is a fantastic venue to watch Supercars. The circuit is a little over 3klms in length with 6 corners and spectators can view the entire circuit from many different vantage points.
As the event included Super2, both Joey and Ben (Super2 transport driver) hit the highway in the Volvo Globetrotter’s on Monday, arriving in Ipswich on Wednesday. Thankfully for Joey he had Ben following along on the highway as the trailer on the main game truck experienced an issue with one of the inner wheels and Joey certainly appreciated the energy and strength of having Ben there to help resolve the problem.
Following on from Townville was Michael Caruso (“Robbo”) in the #33 as Richie Stanaway was still not fully recovered from his neck ailment yet seems to be finally showing some notable improvement.
I travelled up to Brisbane on Friday morning and following the freezing walk from the long-term carpark to the terminal in Melbourne it was a delight to feel the warm sunshine as I exited the plane in Brisbane. As Barry and I drove from Brisbane to Ipswich we chatted about the season so far. We cannot help but feel a level of disappointment as to how we have performed for our fans and sponsors, but we also understand there is still a big part of the season ahead and if we all stay committed and perform each of our individual jobs to the very best of our ability as a Team we will progress.
The Queensland Raceway circuit has not been resurfaced for some time and the aggregate is beginning to become more exposed, particularly around the fast turn 1 which will require the drivers to be aware and manage tyre degradation throughout the weekend of racing.
Friday’s schedule involved 2×30 minute practice sessions. The word “practice” doesn’t accurately define these sessions in modern Supercar racing as they predominantly are spent fine tuning what you have, rather than trying to find what you need. I am certainly a supporter of limited test days and it is up to us as a Team to determine the areas where we need improvement and work away at those. Following Friday practice both the #33 and #34 cars were close to 1 second off the pace set by McLaughlin. Improvement was found prior to P3 on Saturday with Caruso finishing 6/10ths off in P13.
Friday night and Barry was keen to watch the AFL with the Tigers (his team) playing Collingwood. I dread it when we are away and the Tigers are playing, he is a nightmare! I recommended that we first go to the Brothers Leagues Club which is opposite where we stay. Barry was so eager to get back to the motel room to watch the AFL that I had hardly finished my meal and we were gone. I would much rather have stayed back and watched the Elvis impersonator at the Club. Arriving back at our room and he puts his lucky Tiger socks on and his “jarmies” and there we are like two old men lying up in bed (separate ones!) watching telly and eating chocolate. I’m not sure what is worse, when the Tigers lose or when they win. Secretly, I prefer it when they lose as Barry is really easy to wind up, but when they win you can’t shut him up, although it is nice that he is happy. Unfortunately, tonight they won, and he’s convinced that it is all because of his lucky socks. I can’t believe we are related sometimes!
Saturday’s race was a traditional 120km (39 lap) sprint race and starting from 20th (Golding) and 22nd (Caruso) strategy was important to try and make some ground throughout the race. The conservative approach to a one-stop race where tyre degradation is relatively high is to divide the race into half or at least only a few laps either side of halfway. An aggressive or attacking approach is to stop early and race in clean air when you exit pit lane and put together a sequence of quick laps on fresh tyres while the train of cars ahead race amongst each other. The initial outcome of this strategy is quite a significant gain in track position as the rest of the field pit and re-join the race. The downside is that because of pitting early and driving hard in the initial stages of the second stint that the tyres on your car often deteriorate well before those that are behind you and quite often the gains made are totally lost and the end result is worse than what it would have been by dividing the race into two.
Scotty McLaughlin off pole, was jumped by Whincup (888) and Will Davison (23 Red) and he took the punt on stopping early to try and “undercut” those ahead of him and he pitted on lap 10. Initially this certainly assisted his track position but, in the end as his tyres deteriorated, he had to settle for a very rare 4th with Whincup winning from Davison and Mostert. From our perspective James Golding and his engineer (Manuel Sanchez) did the opposite to stopping early and were one of the last cars to pit on lap 20 and as the race unfolded Bieber was able to make up several positions and came home 13th. Robbo pitted on lap 13 and battled on to finish 18th.
Sunday and the longer 200klm (65 lap), compulsory two pit stop and minimum 120 litre fuel drop race was also an opportunity for different strategies. Another variable that has an impact on strategy is the Safety Car and unfortunately over the weekend there were no SC periods. Of course as Teams we don’t like to be the one that is the cause of a SC as this usually means a DNF and damage, but SC periods certainly add to the “show” and when they occur at times when some have pitted and others haven’t they can be a very positive impact on the racing. I know that we do not want contrived results, but it is vital to remember that we are an entertainment sport and come the end of any season, regardless of Safety Car periods the best Team and driver will win.
Qualifying on Sunday and Bieb’s in the #34 qualified 15th and only 1/10th out of the Top 10. Again, Scotty McLaughlin topped the time sheets and led from Mostert and Whincup from the start. Bieber picked up one spot on the opening lap while Robbo was 21st. The race itself was not the best spectacle as Scotty dominated out in front and the only real change was VanGisbergen replaced his teammate on the podium in second with Mostert finishing third. The GRM crew performed faultless pit stops with Bieber coming home 15th and Robbo 20th.
I would like to thank Michael Caruso for his input over the past two rounds and also acknowledge the sportsmanship of Tickford Racing for allowing Robbo to return to GRM for Townsville and Ipswich.
Our Super 2 boys had a reasonable weekend with Mason and Dylan finishing 7th and 5th respectively on Sunday, but for both the results could have been better if not for poor starts with Dylan dropping from 3rd to 6th on the opening lap and Mason 9th to 12th. To the boys’ credit they both raced cleanly while overtaking some much more experienced racers.
I can’t wait for Tailem Bend!
MOMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT – missing out on watching Elvis
MOMENT OF EXCITEMENT (maybe laughter)- Barry’s jarmies