Short cir­cuit lev­els field

Herald Sun - Motoring - - What’s On -

TWO cru­cial days this week will de­cide the re­sults in the Gold Coast 600 this week­end. One was the rookie test day on Wed­nes­day when the in­ter­na­tional driv­ers part­ner­ing some of the reg­u­lar driv­ers, like my­self, got their chance to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the car.

The other was the track walk yes­ter­day morn­ing. That was when we all got a chance to look at the new short­ened cir­cuit.

I’m lucky my co-driver is the three­time world tour­ing car cham­pion Andy Pri­aulx.

He’s not driven this track be­fore, but he’s driven street cir­cuits in sim­i­lar cars and he’s driven V8s be­fore, in­clud­ing a HRT Com­modore in last year’s Bathurst 1000.

He had a drive at Queens­land Race­way on Mon­day and Wed­nes­day and did as many laps as he could, while I was limited to 10. His times were within a few tenths of a sec­ond of our times on a track that was get­ting warmer and slower, so that’s pretty quick.

He says it quickly brought back mem­o­ries of driv­ing the HRT car.

We also prac­tised driver changes and pit stops while race en­gi­neer Jeromy Moore fa­mil­iarised him with ev­ery­thing I take for granted, such as switch­ing to re­serve when the fuel is low and ad­just­ing the anti-roll bars.

On the Wed­nes­day we spent more time with the set-up on the car to get him fa­mil­iarised with how the bal­ance changes.

We also had to find a com­pro­mise driv­ing po­si­tion for Andy — who is shorter than Skaifey, my part­ner in the last two rounds.

Andy takes a very level-headed ap­proach to rac­ing and he’s well aware of our cham­pi­onship po­si­tion and how his role can af­fect that.

I can’t re­mem­ber a dual driver lineup on a street cir­cuit, so this will be unique. The in­ter­na­tional driv­ers will be a piv­otal part of the cham­pi­onship.

The driv­ers ahead of me in the stand­ings — James Court­ney and Jamie Whin­cup — are teamed with the same co-driv­ers they’ve had for the past two races.

This time for us it’s a whole new ball game, but Andy knows what is re­quired of him. At least he will be on level terms with ev­ery­one else in the race when it comes to the two new cor­ners on the short­ened cir­cuit.

Even in­ter­na­tional driv­ers like Dario Fran­chitti who have driven here be­fore haven’t done those cor­ners. The new sec­tion is af­ter the sec­ond chi­cane on the main straight where it turns left and joins the beach road. We’ll have a good look at those sec­tions when we walk the track on Thurs­day morn­ing.

With a street cir­cuit there is so much more to take into ac­count than a track, such as man­hole cov­ers and white lines which can af­fect grip lev­els, and crowned roads with cam­ber ei­ther sides that can add an el­e­ment of sur­prise. And then there are the un­for­giv­ing con­crete walls if you get it wrong. In a street cir­cuit the brakes also get a pun­ish­ing; you have to con­cen­trate so much harder and the cabin heat is greater.

The Gold Coast 600 is a 300km race on the Satur­day and again on the Sun­day, with one driver do­ing a min­i­mum of 34 laps in each race.

The reg­u­lar com­bi­na­tions like Jamie and Steve Owen, and Court­ney and War­ren Luff will have a lit­tle bet­ter flex­i­bil­ity in their strat­egy.

I imag­ine I will qual­ify like at Bathurst, but it could be that Andy starts the race to en­sure he gets his min­i­mum laps done.

Skaifey started both races with me and it worked well, al­though I do miss start­ing a race.

We will plan on two pit stops in each race, but it de­pends on the fuel fig­ures and safety cars.

And there could be quite a few safety cars as there is al­ways a high at­tri­tion rate on a street cir­cuit.

What­ever hap­pens on Satur­day will be a test and then the teams will be all the wiser come Sun­day.

I al­ways say you know whether you are in or out of the cham­pi­onship af­ter Bathurst and I’m happy that I’m still in with a good chance.

How­ever, from here on it’s al­most like the NASCAR Chase where you start with a clean slate.

Craig’s co-driver: Andy Pri­aulx is a world tour­ing car cham­pion.

Craig Lown­des V8 Su­per­car cham­pion

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