Island of surprises
V8 Supercar champion
FUEL economy and the weather hold the keys to success at Phillip Island this weekend.
After all the terrible flooding in Victoria this week, we’re still not entirely sure what the weekend weather will be.
It’s a big unknown, but most teams will have wet-weather strategies because it’s always so unpredictable at the island.
The other unknown will be fuel economy because we go back to 120-litre tanks.
This year we went to 75-litre tanks for more pit stops in the sprint races and we’ve just got used to the range. Now we go back to the 120-litre tanks for the endurance rounds.
So we don’t quite know how many laps we’ll get out of a tank and that will affect our pit strategies.
The format for the weekend is the same as last year and quite complex.
We have separate qualifying on Friday for the A and B drivers, then two sprint races on Saturday. In only one of those we have a compulsory pit stop.
The combined finishing positions will determine the grid for Sunday’s 500km race.
It’s all very confusing, but after the first race you have a much clearer idea of who will pit in the second race and who your main competition will be.
I suppose for drivers we’d like a bit more certainty, but for teams and spectators it’s exciting because it adds an element of surprise.
Skaifey and I haven’t worked out yet who is the A and the B driver, who will do the pit-stop sprint race or who will start in the Sunday race. We’ll see who’s comfortable in the car and wait to see what the economy is like before deciding.
I have no issues if Skaifey wants to start. Not only will we have to look after fuel economy during the main race, but also the tyres.
It’s not a sprint race so you have to conserve the front right-hand tyre, in particular, because of the last
We don’t quite know how many laps we’ll get out of a tank
few high-speed, left-hand corners. Phillip Island is one of my top three circuits in the country. It’s fast and flowing and you need to be confident with the car at high speeds, especially around the back at the Hayshed.
You need a car that flows through the corners and you’ve got to have the confidence to brake deep and late into Honda, Siberia and over the top into MG.
You get a lot out of it if you commit deeply into the corners. You have to be brave on the brakes and carry your corner speed, especially coming into the last corner on to the main straight or you can lose a lot of time. It’s a ballsy track.
I’M LOOKING forward to seeing the Australian Superbikes at the Island this weekend. It’s like back in the old Triple Challenge days of the late 1990s with drag racing, motorbikes and cars.
Having cars and bikes combined is good for the spectators. I’ll be hanging over the fence watching them race and I’ll go down and say hello to the Suzuki guys, though Josh Waters won’t be racing after his accident in the US.
I don’t know how they’ll go if it’s wet. I will certainly be a lot more comfy in my race car than they will be sitting on a bike in the rain.
The race drivers won’t have any problems sharing a racetrack with the bikes, but I wonder what the riders think about all the rubber we leave behind on the track.
I get to do some riding myself on the Monday after the race. Our team have all their bikes loaded on the transporter and we’re heading to Broadford with the Suzuki team to let off a bit of steam.
Then I’m home for two days for a debrief and on Thursday I set off for Perth and the Australasian Safari the following weekend.
I had my final test in the Holden Colorado at John Hederics’ property at Mildura this week. We had a full day of running around and I didn’t roll it this time like I did on the first training day at Jimna.
I’m more in tune with the car now and it was good to be on sandy, limy soil like we’ll experience in WA.
Hederics is a former Safari winner and was on hand to offer advice and insight into the feel of the truck, suspension and tyre bounce.
We also practised tyre changes. It’s a bit different to V8 Supercars’ pit stops. My navigator Kees Weel has a lot of the tools on his side and I operate the jack and retrieve the spare wheel. It’s definitely no eight-second stop.
Testing track: Craig Lowndes on the Phillip Island circuit he rates in his Australian top three.