Red flag may­hem

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

IRE­ALLY had to scratch my head and think hard to re­call the last time I drove in a race that was red-flagged. It was about six years ago at Pukekohe, New Zealand, when some­one— I think John Bowe— hit the wall. Then there was my fa­mous Calder crash that red-flagged the race in 1999.

But I don’t think any­one can re­mem­ber two red flags in the one event like we had at the week­end. That’s pretty bizarre.

There’s noth­ing wrong with the Sandown track. It is an ex­cel­lent cir­cuit where I’ve en­joyed a lot of suc­cess, a great track to race on and view all the ac­tion. Both in­ci­dents are ba­si­cally the re­sult of driver er­ror.

Garth Tan­der’s crash was self­in­flicted af­ter hav­ing bumped into Paul Dum­brell. I think GT took of­fence at PD join­ing the track af­ter his off-field ex­cur­sion at turn one. The tyre blowout was the same re­sult Shane Van Gis­berg had in the clos­ing stages of Sun­day’s race.

If you bang doors with a car on its left-hand side, you can eas­ily cause con­tact be­tween the ex­haust out­lets and the rim or wheel, lead­ing to a tyre blowout. You’d think driv­ers would be aware of that. I’ve never done that and had a tyre blowout be­cause of con­tact, but I have had tyres let go be­cause of a de­sign fault.

And you’d think driv­ers would know some­thing was wrong with the tyre and slow down, as they would have felt the steer­ing pull one way.

The sec­ond in­ci­dent also should not have hap­pened. That’s an ex­cep­tion­ally fast corner, with cars go­ing about the same speed as turn eight at Ade­laide: over 245km/h.

If you have con­tact at that point you are go­ing to end up in the wall.

We all know what the pro­ce­dures are for a red flag, but be­cause it hap­pens so in­fre­quently there was still a lot of con­fu­sion about what to do.

Even af­ter the first red flag on Satur­day I didn’t know on Sun­day whether we would re­form the grid like the pre­vi­ous day and have a stand­ing start or do a rolling start.

Our car wasn’t too bad and we should have qual­i­fied up in the top 10 on the Satur­day but I had trou­bles with traf­fic.

On Sun­day we qual­i­fied sixth, but then I got a ter­ri­ble start with heaps of wheel­spin. We had bet­ter pace in the clean air, but when I was chas­ing and got be­hind Greg Mur­phy it strug­gled to main­tain bal­ance in the tur­bu­lent air. Then I had an en­gine mis­fire at the end and fell back.

I’m pretty dis­ap­pointed in the week­end be­cause I’ve had great suc­cess in the past at Sandown. I’d like to put it be­hind us so we can fo­cus on Home­bush.

Math­e­mat­i­cally I’m out of the run­ning for the cham­pi­onship, but at least we have the team cham­pi­onship sewn up and can all con­cen­trate on my team­mate Jamie clinch­ing the driv­ers’ ti­tle.

Our team boss, Roland Dane, was de­lighted with the team cham­pi­onship. That was one of our aims of the week­end so we can go to Home­bush with one less dis­trac­tion for the team.

For me, my job will now be to get in front of James Court­ney and stay there. I’m not overly con­fi­dent of leapfrog­ging Frosty into third po­si­tion, but I won’t be giv­ing up just yet.

There are more than 100 points be­tween us so re­al­is­ti­cally I can only grab third if Frosty has a re­ally bad run and I don’t think that’s likely to hap­pen.

He’s come good in the lat­ter half of the sea­son.

Sandown cer­tainly turned on the weather for us af­ter such a soggy week­end in Tassie. It was nice and warm but I didn’t use the cool suit all week­end.

Those long straights at Sandown give you plenty of time to cool down.

Some did wear it at the week­end, but I just love the heat. It doesn’t worry me at all. I train in the heat of Queens­land to ac­cli­ma­tise my­self.

How­ever, I’ll use the cool suit for Home­bush be­cause it’s a street cir­cuit and they tend to re­tain heat be­hind those big con­crete bar­ri­ers.

We had rea­son­able cars at Home­bush last year but we didn’t have the re­sults we should have be­cause both Jay­dub and I clouted walls.

I hit the third last corner but two cor­ners back from there ev­ery­one was hit­ting the wall.

The prob­lem is that any­thing off race line is very slip­pery from the rub­ber build-up.

I sup­pose we can’t do much about that ex­cept to stay on the rac­ing line and make the car nice to drive and for­giv­ing over the kerbs.

We need to go there with con­fi­dence and fin­ish the year on a high, then re­fo­cus on next year.

Crunch time: Garth Tan­der’s Holden Rac­ing Team af­ter it crashed dur­ing the Nor­ton 360 Sandown Chal­lenge at Sandown last week­end.

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