The highs? Well, Russell Ingall coming from position 22 on Saturday to finish in position 7 yesterday, and with a straight car to boot. Even Greg Murphy had a better run, which isn’t saying much considering a ‘better run’ meant a finish in tenth spot.
The real high point of the weekend was the resurgence of Dick Johnson / Jim Beam Racing as something to be reckoned with in season 2008. Certainly, over a series of three sprint races, finishing second, first and sixth and taking out the round win as a result is something to be proud of. However, one weepy V8 driver does not a championship make. It is somehow fulfilling though to watch a young man like Will Davison mentally harden to the frantic chaos which is V8 Supercars. The young man is disciplined, skilled and a credit to his racing heritage which goes back to his grandfather, Lex. The emotion of winning his first V8 Supercar event in race two was clearly with Will Davison when interviewed between races two and three.
Obviously, having sold half of his motorsport business to Charlie Schwerkolt has freed up capital sufficient to enable the team to go racing properly, but DJR isn’t yet out from under. The media over the weekend reported what those of us who follow the sport have suspected for a long time now. DJR took a massive hit to the finances when Westpoint went down three years ago, resulting in Johnson himself having to rationalise personal finances to bolster the team. Sadly, it hasn’t worked as smoothly as the sport might like to outwardly portray. DJR is effectively in receivership. Johnson himself doesn’t own a whole lot any more and many are likening his current situation to that he faced in 1980, after his last-ditch tilt at winning Bathurst that year was destroyed when his #17 Tru-Blu XD Falcon hit a boulder on the Mount Panorama circuit.
The current situation is a bit more desperate, given that Australian motorsport fans aren’t really likely to be contributing to the rescue of a major business enterprise’s recovery from bad investment strategies. Neither is the manufacturer, Ford, likely to come to his rescue. The Ford factory teams are Triple Eight and FPR these days. Effectively, DJR backed a dud in Westpoint, as did thousands of others. Shit happens. Knowing Dick though, he’ll stick around and fight. If it means he has to cut costs, sell assets and divest himself of all the trappings of success in order to sustain his racing operation, that’s what he’ll do. That’s what he’s always done when things were tough, right from when he built his racing Toranas and later, the racing Falcons out of a Shell service station at Woolloongabba. My heart and all of my hopes go out to Johnson. I’ve watched him race for a long, long time, and now his son, who I’ve never really believed had his Dad’s spirit. The real talent at DJR is young Will Davison. Watch him.
On the low side, there was the huge ‘off’ with Steven Richards in the FPR Castrol Falcon going off track due to a blown left front tyre, cannoning into the dirt-filled tyre barrier just off turn five. (See the photo above for the results.) The car is a write-off, according to team principal, Tim Edwards.
“We’ve got a spare shell, that’s about it,” revealed Edwards. “We don’t know what we’re going to do. You won’t be able to salvage anything from Richo’s car, no engine, no gearbox, nothing. Don’t think we’ll ever see that car again, it’s a complete write-off.”
That’s a quarter million dollars of race car he’s talking about. The ‘off’ wasn’t Richards fault, as endlessly revealed by Channel Seven’s almost continuous replaying of the incident. Apparently (I couldn’t make it out, endless replays) the wheel itself gave way, puncturing the tyre. Commentary claims there were sparks, as if something was ‘machining’ the back of the wheel just before it broke. There was a puff of dark smoke/brake dust, then blue tyre smoke as the #6 car arrowed off the track, across the kitty-litter and into the tyre-earth barrier at almost 200kph. Richards walked away, albeit a little sore. Whether FPR can field two cars this coming weekend for the AGP supports is yet to be seen.
Another low, which gives me the irrits, was the coverage by Seven. I’m not an Eastern Creek fan. I dislike the track for it’s technically difficult back curves and almost complete lack of passing places. Sure, the top five or six drivers can handle the place, but the also-rans, newbies and even talented drivers in dud machinery – Greg Murphy for example – just have to form the usual freight train and follow each other around. Like Barbagello Raceway in WA, it’s as boring as batshit to watch. Consequently, television only shows us the top six cars as they tussle. You rarely see the other cars because it’s not good TV. This means for followers of Jason Richards, Paul Dumbrell, Lee Holdsworth, Shane Van Gisbergen and Tony D’Alberto, you just have to suck it up and read the individuals websites. Hardly comprehensive coverage in my book.
So, anyway, that’s Eastern Creek out of the way. Thank Goodness. It’s a shitty track. Apart from the FPR dramas, few other teams have any car dramas before round three. Paul Morris managed another DNF with a wrinkled car, but there’s nothing untoward about that. He blamed Courtney, which from what I saw just might be right. Were I James Courtney, I’d stick to showboating as a V8 tune-maker. It amuses some people. Frankly I don’t like the kid. Too much uncontrolled aggression to be punting a tonne-and-a-half of high-speed motorcar. Crompton might think he shows promise, but for mine, he’s a smack in the mouth looking for a fist.
Unfortunately, we’re faced with a pony show in Melbourne this weekend, which will doubtless be covered by Network Ten, sans Neil Crompton as he’s contracted to Seven. AGP supports are a distraction, an undue expense for teams, and don’t contribute in any way, shape or form to the championship. But, it has to be done for corporate exposure. One wonders though, at what cost? We’ll find out by 5:30pm Sunday, I suppose.
Then it’s off to Hamilton, New Zealand for the Hamilton 400, 18 – 20 April, and back to championship racing. This event should be a really good one, being a street race where no-one has raced before, so it’s all level pegging. Given everyone comes away from Melbourne unscathed, Hamilton should really be something to see. I’m even considering taking an el-cheapo flight to Kiwi-land to see for myself, finances not withstanding.
So there you have it, KP. My view of a round I’m glad is over with. BROOM-BROOM!