F1 a grand ges­ture

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport - Craig Lown­des

IWENT within a sec­ond of claim­ing my sixth Mt Panorama ti­tle last week­end, so that’s a bit dis­ap­point­ing.

But the whole Bathurst 12-Hour ex­pe­ri­ence was fan­tas­tic and I’m now even more hopeful about my prospects of driv­ing in the Le Mans 24-Hour race.

It would be great to take an Aussie team to France for the race and I’d be more than happy to go with my team­mates from the week­end, War­ren Luff and Mark Eddy.

We had a great Audi team re­sult with a 1-2 fin­ish – less than a sec­ond part. Our car was right on the pace and set a GT Pro­duc­tion lap record of 2:09, which is a sec­ond faster than Tony Quinn in the Porsche GT3 R last year.

And we could have won the race, ex­cept for some of the tac­ti­cal calls our crew made dur­ing safety-car pe­ri­ods.

It was mainly be­cause of a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion back and forth be­tween the driv­ers and the Ger­man crew who were get­ting to know each other, but we also had some bad luck.

In one case, I was com­ing through the Chase when the safety car came out and it was too late to slip down pit lane.

We may not have come first, but I still had a few per­sonal firsts, in­clud­ing the first time I’d driven a race car with ABS and sta­bil­ity con­trol and my first rolling start in 20 years.

The Audi R8 LMS GT3 race car was great to drive.

It is about 25km/h slower in ter­mi­nal speed than the V8, but it is the quick­est I’ve been across the top of the moun­tain.

The car is re­ally well bal­anced, with great aero, and I held it al­most flat across the top.

We di­alled out the ABS and sta­bil­ity con­trol at first as a cau­tion, but as the tyres wore down we di­alled it back in.

With sta­bil­ity con­trol on, you could come out of the Cut­ting and ba­si­cally put your foot hard on the throt­tle and let it do its job.

I wouldn’t mind if they in­tro­duced elec­tronic driver aids such as this in V8s. It would make the car eas­ier to drive be­cause it does a lot of the work for you.

The next time I’m at Bathurst could be in an F1 car. Team Voda­fone is try­ing to stitch to­gether a deal where I drive Jen­son But­ton’s F1 car and he drives my race car at Bathurst in the lead-up to the Aus­tralian Grand Prix in

Jamie Whin­cup drove an F1 at Al­bert Park last year and has been rav­ing about it since

Mel­bourne next month. I’m not sure yet if it’s 100 per cent con­firmed, but it would be a great op­por­tu­nity.

I have never driven an F1 car. The clos­est I got was rac­ing For­mula 3000 in Europe. Jamie Whin­cup drove an F1 at Al­bert Park in Mel­bourne last year and has been rav­ing about it since.

I’d be de­lighted with the op­por­tu­nity, but I have con­cerns about tak­ing it around Bathurst. There are safer paces to drive an F1 car. Bathurst is a cir­cuit we driv­ers hold in high re­gard and I’d be con­cerned about dam­ag­ing the car; even just clip­ping a wing would be quite ex­pen­sive.

Speak­ing of F1, I’m in Abu Dhabi for the first round of the V8 Su­per­car sea­son this week­end and by the time you read this we should have vis­ited Fer­rari World.

It wasn’t fin­ished when we were here last year and I want to ride the roller-coaster that goes from 0-250km/h in five sec­onds. It’s sup­posed to be the same ac­cel­er­a­tion as an F1.

Team Voda­fone blitzed the field here last year with a new car and we’re keen to do it again, but there will be one ma­jor dif­fer­ence. This time the whole event is be­ing run on soft tyres. That’s prac­tice, qual­i­fy­ing and two races on softs.

It’s an un­be­liev­able smooth, fast and flow­ing cir­cuit, but the sand drifts across and acts like sand­pa­per rub­bing the tyres away quickly.

It will be a real chal­lenge to get the tyres to last and ex­tract the best out of them.

Tac­tics will be im­por­tant be­cause of the big speed dif­fer­en­tial be­tween worn and fresh rub­ber. That should lead to lots of pass­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In­ter­est­ingly, we qual­ify in the heat of the day and race at night, so the race pace will po­ten­tially be the same as, or faster than, qual­i­fy­ing. Lap records should tum­ble. My race en­gi­neer, Jeromy Moore, was at the Bathurst 12-Hour and he saw the way they stiff­ened that car up. We may do the same on our car for this cir­cuit with the com­bi­na­tion of soft tyres and a smooth track.

Pic­ture:

MARK HORS­BURGH

Un­der lights: V8 Supercars driver Jamie Whin­cup races at the YAS Ma­rina Cir­cuit in Abu Dhabi.

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