Driv­ing in the bush is hard work

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport - Craig Lown­des V8 Su­per­car cham­pion

I DIDN’T re­alise how tough the Aus­tralasian Sa­fari would be. It’s phys­i­cally and men­tally chal­leng­ing and at times I’ve asked my co-driver, Kees Weel, when will it all end.

But I’ve also en­joyed it and would like to do more of this sort of driv­ing. You’re rac­ing for a lot longer, but it’s ex­cit­ing.

I’m writ­ing this a few days be­fore you read it be­cause the ar­eas we are in are quite re­mote and this is a rare op­por­tu­nity to com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world.

At this stage I don’t know where we’ll fin­ish, but we’re up at the pointy end and not push­ing too hard as any­thing can hap­pen.

I’ve seen peo­ple such as Tony Quinn, an ac­com­plished cir­cuit racer, side­lined by some­thing as sim­ple as a rup­tured fuel tank.

You can’t go hard all the time. You have to pace your­self and drive wisely and hope the luck falls your way. It’s like noth­ing I’ve ever done be­fore. It’s like fronting up for a Bathurst race ev­ery day. Speak­ing of Bathurst, even though I’m out in the bush of Western Aus­tralia fo­cus­ing on the dirt road ahead, I’m also fo­cus­ing on Mount Panorama in a few weeks.

Peo­ple have been ask­ing me if Skaifey will start like he did at Phillip Is­land. That’s yet to be de­cided. Skaifey bravely took on the start­ing du­ties at the is­land even though he wasn’t used to our clutch set-up and had a bad start in his sprint race.

But most teams ran with their B driver first so they could be as­sured of get­ting their min­i­mum laps com­pleted and be­cause there was only one driver change. That won’t be the case at Bathurst.

We’ll have sev­eral driver changes, so Skaifey won’t nec­es­sar­ily start. At the moment the plan is for me to start, but who knows what will be on the day? There are a lot of things to con­sider.

If Mark is do­ing bet­ter lap times than me, then I’m happy to give him the re­spon­si­bil­ity. He did a fan­tas­tic job at Phillip Is­land, at­tack­ing right from the start.

In fact, Skaifey has been dead se­ri­ous all year about these en­dur- ance races and is 110 per cent fo­cused on Bathurst.

He’d love to get his sixth vic­tory and I’d love my fifth. He’s re­ally pumped and he’s been work­ing ex­tremely hard on his fit­ness.

As he’s be­come more fa­mil­iar with the car, the team and our men­tal­ity, he has re­ally fit­ted in.

His hunger and keen­ness to do well have also re­ally grown.

Next year our team gets a boost with Wil­liams For­mula One en­gi­neer John Rus­sell join­ing us as the di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and pro­duc­tion.

His role will be to im­prove the re­li­a­bil­ity of our race cars. I’ve worked with him with FPR and he’s a fan­tas­tic man with great strength and tal­ent.

A lot of peo­ple might crit­i­cise him from his FPR days, but the po­si­tion he was in was not the cor­rect one. Our team prin­ci­pal, Roland Dane, is an as­tute per­son who will make sure John’s new role brings a great deal of depth and strength to our team.

Be­fore I started on the sa­fari, I be­came in­volved with Sun­corp In­surance to pro­mote road safety over the school hol­i­days.

It’s some­thing that I’m re­ally in­ter­ested and en­thu­si­as­tic about, just like Brocky was.

The idea is to tell peo­ple hol­i­day road safety is about more than not speed­ing and hav­ing plenty of rest. It’s also about things such as pack­ing your car cor­rectly and know­ing how to tow. We tow our car­a­van to race events and we’re re­ally into camp­ing, but you have to know what you are do­ing or it can be a recipe for dis­as­ter.

Bathurst ev­ery day: Craig Lown­des says the Sa­fari is as de­mand­ing as Mt Panorama.Pic­ture: Emma Weel

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