Is­land of sur­prises

Craig Lown­des

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

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.

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