We keep hearing about the highs and lows of motorsport. How cruel the sport can be, if ever a non-physical happenstance can have human emotion attributed to it. That’s the crux really, that human beings should feel the emotion of success or failure in a single moment of time, such that it takes on an almost sentient form capable of kindness or cruelty. Doubtless Rick Kelly felt the slap of cruelty this afternoon, judging by his immediate reaction to his team mate, Paul Radisich, destroying the #15 Commodore at McPhillamy Park, Mt Panorama.
To be fair to Radisich, and also to Kelly, a jammed throttle linkage and expression of bitter disappointment can hardly be said to be the fault of or innate emotional response attributable to either. When a mechanical part fails at 180 kilometers per hour, a driver suddenly becomes the passenger. No fault attributable at all. When that failure snatches away a once-a-year opportunity to scale the national motorsport heights by winning the biggest event on the calendar, even before qualifying ends, disappointment is understandable.
So it was with both individuals as Paul Radisich rode an out-of-control #15 Toll-HSV Commodore into the unforgiving concrete barrier at the outer apex of McPhillamy Park turn. The car, as we were to discover, is a write off, or at least unrecoverable this weekend. Radisich has escaped serious harm, with a broken right ankle and some chest pain, but seems to be otherwise well. Kelly, in accordance with the rules of V8 Supercar racing at the Mountain, has assumed the seat of David Reynolds in the sister car #16. Reports claim Reynolds has been under the weather, even to the point of being on a saline drip, so perhaps, for the Toll-HSV team, the cloud hanging over Rick Kelly has a silver lining. There would seem to be little point in putting a driver into a car for a six hour race when that driver is less than 100% fit.
While the rule-makers were deciding Kelly’s fate, the annual made-for-TV, risk-everything-before race-day top-ten shootout was held. Frankly, has a highlight of the Saturday’s events, it was pretty much a let-down. A one-make race for BMW-Mini’s held thirty minutes before the time set down for the big cars to run off, resulted in two of the boxy cars coming together on the second lap at a part of the track known as ‘the esses’. The resultant fluid and oil spills, not to mention unmovable cars, took twenty minutes longer than expected to attend to, and left the track in that critical area with a coating of oil soak material, or ‘kitty-litter’. In times past, the feline faecal absorbent was actually used, but these days I suspect it’s something of a more artificial nature. That aside, the first car around after the mess was hastily cleaned up – Max Wilson in the WOW Racing Commodore – visibly skated across the material putting paid to any dreams of a quick lap.
Not that it matters much anyway. Historically, the first car out in the top-ten shootout – the tenth fastest qualifier – inevitably has the job of street-sweeper for dust, ‘marbles’ and sundry other debris which may have covered the track surface. The further toward the top of the qualifying list, the later a car gets to run, and consequently, the more likely the track is to be conducive to putting down a good time. So it seemed to pan out. Until the fifth fastest car came out. Don’t get me wrong, because anyone who takes a car around the Mountain at speed needs to be respected, but Messrs Wilson, Ingall, Coulthard, Dumbrell and Davison respectively just didn’t seem to have their stuff together sufficiently to pull off a magic lap. Garth Tander in the #1 HRT Commodore did.
Running around the Mountain at speed isn’t so much a matter of being quick, smooth and a complete master of your own emotions as well as a master of the moment, the car, the weather conditions, etcetera. It’s a matter of realising what you have to work with and doing your best with it, without screwing up. That’s what Tander appeared to do. 2:07.2963 was good enough to put Tander on pole. Greg Murphy’s phenomenal lap record time of 2:06.8594 set in 2003 is safe for another year. It’s highly unlikely that any team, car or driver will threaten it under race conditions.
Of the Fords, no-one managed to pull off a clean, quick lap, but Mark Winterbottom in the #6 FPR Falcon went close. He and co-driver Steven Richards will start alongside Tander tomorrow. Thankfully, no-one hung their ride on the concrete barriers. The full starters list is as follows:
The race coverage starts tomorrow at 07:00, daylight time, I suppose. Racing starts at 10:30, again, daylight time unless I’m sadly mistaken. If you’ve missed the coverage from yesterday and today, then plonk yourself in front of the boob tube from 07:00 and catch up. I’ll be sleeping in and probably tuning in around nine o’clock. Anything worth seeing will be on from then. Who’s going to win it? Whichever team has their car still going and across the line at the end of 161 laps. Or 17:30 hours, because that’s when television has to be someplace else.