This tome has been quiet so far this weekend because I haven’t been here during the day to write anything. I’ve been at Queensland Raceway instead.
A friend who works for GMAC had the opportunity to get hold of some cheap tickets to this weekends seventh round of the V8 Supercar Championship. I say cheap because I’d regard $50 for three days access pretty damn good. We only took advantage of Saturday & Sunday because Friday doesn’t include actual racing, as such. Besides, my friend was working and I was still recovering from the wog.
To those of you within reasonable driving distance of Queensland Raceway who haven’t yet made the journey, I’d highly recommend it. The viewing is superb from anywhere around the circuit, and you can view the racing from as close as 20 metres from the track. The facilities, even with the thousands of people there today, are excellent and well maintained. Food, drink and merchandising is quite a business, but then you’d expect so when there’s a captive audience to cater to. The race gear merchandising is more than quite a business. It’s an industry all on its own and almost totally divorced from the race teams themselves. Separate business enterprises carrying the logos, trademarks and faces of the V8 heroes people flock to see, yet completely divorced from the race team operations.
The pit area of Queensland Raceway is one of the most well laid out I’ve see outside of Mount Panorama. Plenty of room, lock-up garages, tent/marquis facilities for corporate entertaining. It’s all there. My friend had never been to the motor racing before, and she commented several times how surprised she was with the whole presentation, including the racing. We watched a unique Queensland series – MX5 racing – which is essentially a club level support event of three classes of modified Mazda MX5’s. The Porsche Carrera Cup title chase was exciting, with millions of dollars of rich peoples playthings tearing around the track at high-speed; the Formula Three feeder series, Formula Ford was interesting to watch, especially the differences in driving style for open-wheelers as opposed to tin-tops; the Procar sponsored unique series for Holden and Ford utes; and the cream of the supports, the Fujitsu Development V8 Supercar series. Magnificent support racing and more than enough to hold even the novice’s attention for a six hour day of motorsport action.
But the real action – the Tier One V8 Supercar competition – was as fierce as ever and eye-openingly different to watch ’in the flesh’ so to speak. Compared to the old Group C touring cars of the seventies and eighties, and even the Group A category of the late eighties and early nineties, the current V8 Supercars are both deceptively refined and brutishly coarse. They don’t sound at all like I remember a V8 sounds, in fact seemed somewhat muted to me. I was chatting with a fellow enthusiast on Saturday and he agreed with me that the Group C cars had a sound much more pleasing to the ear. Perhaps I’m just showing my age. I won’t attempt to give a blow-by-blow of the three races because it’s now after the fact. I can tell you, dear reader, that the strength in the field this weekend was clearly much more limited than might appear at other tracks the circus frequents.
To my mind, there were three teams with a chance to put their drivers on the stepped podium this weekend. Toll/HSV, Triple Eight Racing/Team Vodafone and Ford Performance Racing. HRT didn’t stand a ghost of a chance for some reason, and even though Skaife had a reasonable run in Race 1 until a wheel fitting drama during his compulsory pitstop added unnecessary seconds to his pit time, he wasn’t ever really in the hunt. Todd Kelly had a terrible weekend, just not seeming to be getting the handling and performance from Car 22 that he’d have liked. The two Toll cars were quite easily the best machines on the track the entire weekend. Tanders Car 16 was simply a rocket ship. There is no other way to describe the way it accelerated away from the pack after the several safety car periods which occurred, leaving the Team Vodafone cars of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes each struggling to maintain pace with him, but unable to gather enough momentum to effect a telling pass. The Ford Performance Racing Falcon of Mark Winterbottom had three reasonable runs, but was never really threatening up front.
Despite the unstoppable speed and stability of the Tander car, the real charger over the whole weekend was Rick Kelly in the Toll Car 1. Kelly had a reasonable run in Race 1, starting from position 8 and ending up in 7. Starting there in race 2, he ran foul of both pit vagaries and back markers to end up sixteenth, and out of the points for that race. In race 3, he showed the real ability he has in spades and the power of a Toll/HSV prepared machine to come from position 16 to positon 6 and this with two safety car periods thrown in. I’m not a Holden supporter, but watching these two guys – Tander & Kelly – man-handle their mounts around that track was a joy. Both Lowndes and Whincup impressed with their car speed and adroit handling, but were clearly just that edge off the pace of Tander, who took out all three races over the weekend quite easily.
The Consistency Award for the weekend has to go to the Will Davison driving Car 18 for Dick Johnson Racing. Starting from position seven, he brought his car home in the three races to positions 6, 5 and four respectively. Unmarked and straight. An unexciting but very well thought out and considered drive by the young man with a motor racing heritage to be proud of. I’ll go so far right now to say that he deserves close attention come the endurance races in a few months time. Providing DJR can provide him with a car worthy of his talent, then he’ll threaten the favoured runners in my estimation.
The Round Dill Award has to go, yet again, to James Courtney who still hasn’t learned that punting fellow drivers in the rear on the outside apex of fast corners is not the way to endear oneself to the meeting’s stewards. Courtney has the car and the backing in the Stone Brothers team, but until he comes to terms with the way V8 Supercars drive, steer and handle in combination with his youthful zeal and enthusiasm, he’s not only wasting Ross and Jim Stones money, but betraying the confidence of people like Neil Crompton who pushed for his inclusion in a top level team in the country’s top level motorsport category.
Here’s the points after this weekend’s round.
2007 V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS
They’re probably pulling 50% more rpm than the older style group C or A I’d guess, which would contribute to the different sound – think about the noise an F1 car makes which is nearly double again. Combine that with much more sophisticated valve overlap timing, differences in exhaust specs etc.
I think it’s to do with the precise computer management of what essentially are old engines in technological terms. More alloys are used today while the Group C cars used the older ‘iron’ engines. It’s interesting to note that both makes still use overhead pushrod valve actuators. We were privleged to be given a personal tour of Tony D’Alberto’s Futjitsu car (sponsored by GMAC) and quite frankly, the electronics sitting in the floor of the passenger well would rival the space shuttle in terms of data logging, engine management and real-time information telemetry. One look into the cockpit of these cars shows you very clearly that they are NOT anything like a standard road car. From the metres and metres of high-strength roll cage tubing to the driver positioning back past the ‘B’ pillar, these machines are purpose designed to race.
My nephew won the his race on Saturday although I didn’t get to see it myself. He was invited over to America to race near the end of the year. We are very proud of him. His name is Ashley Walsh.
Indeed he did, AJ. Formula Fords I believe. If I remember correctly, he drove a spotless couple of races as well. I wish that the support categories, like FF, would attract more publicity in the media. It’s people like Ashley who struggle to be recognised by the sponsors they need in order to excel at what they’re best at.
Tell Ashley for me that I’d be only too happy to host him here if he’d like to write the occasional supporting piece for his sport.
The family said thanks for the kind words Niall and I’ll pass on the message to Ash. I got the destination wrong I’m afraid it was England not America. doh!