I’m ready for Mount Panorama
YOU can bet on this. There will be no tie at Bathurst this year like there was in the AFL last weekend.
The only time I’ve ever had to come back for a race meeting was at Lakeside in 1996 when it flooded.
Though a photo-finish after 161 laps of Mt Panorama is a possibility, I can’t see it happening. Anyway, the digital cameras can separate the slimmest of margins.
I usually sit down and watch the AFL Grand Final, but of course at the time I was behind the wheel of the Holden Colorado on the last couple of stages of the Australasian Safari.
However, I managed to catch the last few exciting minutes of the game. I believe it’s only the third grand final draw in AFL history. Maybe they did it just so I could watch the full game this weekend!
I normally support Essendon, but I’ll back St Kilda as the underdogs. In the NRL I go for the Broncos, so I’ll back St George on the Wayne Bennett factor.
As for the safari, there is no better way to start my off-road career than with a win.
It was a long week, but it was quite relaxing. There is none of the tension of a V8 race where you race side by side with other com- petitors. You are racing yourself and the clock.
I feel great and have no physical or mental tiredness. In fact, I would have loved for the safari to continue. It was a great experience travelling through some interesting country.
I said I’d like to do other rallies, maybe even the Dakar, but whether I come back here again next year depends on a couple of things, such as whether it fits into the V8 calendar again. The calendar is usually released at Phillip Island, but it’s been held back until Bathurst this year.
If the timing is right and my codriver Kees Weel invites me again, I’d be happy to re-run the safari. After all, they change the route every year so it will be different scenery.
It was one of the great wins in my career, like my first gokart race or Formula Ford victory.
I dedicated the win to my mentor, Peter Brock, because he was passionate about this race and he was my inspiration to compete. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to win it.
My wife, Nat, was delighted with the result, but probably more happy that I finished in one piece.
After several weeks on the road, it’s been great to be back home and spend some time with Nat and the kids in the last week of the school holidays. However, we still had to do a test day at Queensland Raceway on Wednesday.
We’re still not 100 per cent sure of our strategy for Bathurst, so Mark (Skaife) put in some practice starts in case he’s called on to start the race again like at Phillip Island.
While I was in Western Australia our team was busy reworking the oil cooler on both cars to make them more bullet-proof after Jamie Whincup’s problems at the island.
Test day was basically about running in the race gear for Bathurst and checking the oil coolers.
We ran about 100km then changed everything from the engine back: bellhousing, gearboxes, tailshafts, complete rear ends. Also front uprights, brakes etc so we know it all works when we bolt all that stuff into the car on Saturday night for the big race. It’s very timeconsuming, but something we’ve always done to make sure we have no hiccups at Bathurst.
Other than that, there was the usual pitstop practice for several hours. We didn’t test anything major. It was just more about getting Skaifey more laps and getting our fuel consumption versus lap times closer to each other.
I fly out on Monday for Sydney and the long PR haul to Bathurst. I won’t be caravanning with the family down to Bathurst like I have been in recent years because Nat needs rest for her spleen condition.
High flyer: Jamie Whincup fires up a jet ski ahead of the Bathurst 1000.