Red flag mayhem
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.