Highs and lows for Team PAYCE at Ipswich
Queensland Raceway hosted exciting rounds of Supercars and Touring Car Masters with some surprise results for some teams, while for others, including the Garry Rogers Motorsport team, it was less rewarding. One pleasant surprise for Garry Rogers was a birthday cake in the shape of one of the team race cars – something he said he had wished for over the past 72 years!
After a full recovery from injuries, John Bowe returned to the TCM winner’s circle and again sits on top of the championship leaderboard in equal first place with three rounds remaining.
The Wilson Security Racing GRM team had high hopes going into the Ipswich weekend after some good performances by Garth Tander and James Moffat in recent rounds, but this round did not deliver the same positives as the team continues with its development of the new Commodores.
All race teams were happy to enjoy the fine, warm weather over the three days, especially those based down south where the temperatures are less comfortable this time of year. Track temperatures did play a role in performances, as did wind direction, but not to the same degree at Townsville and earlier at Darwin.
For Team PAYCE, the action got underway with the Additional Drivers session on Friday to give its four co-drivers in the upcoming Pirtek Enduro Cup some track time in the cars they will share.
James Golding and Richard Muscat were in the #33 and #34 Holden Commodores respectively from the GRM garage along with Macauley Jones in the #8 Nick Percat Commodore from Brad Jones Racing stable. David Wall swapped his PAYCE/Wilson Porsche seat to get behind the wheel of the #15 Sengled Racing Nissan Altima he will share with Rick Kelly.
With the focus on learning more about each car’s characteristics, times were not critical. The co-drivers were also aware of the need to return the cars intact for the main drivers’ practice sessions to follow.
James Golding put in the quickest time of the quartet, but the times generally were similar over the half-hour session. The two GRM drivers and David Wall returned straight cars, much to the relief of each team. Macauley was unlucky not to be able to complete a fast lap owing to an engine malfunction that subsequently required an engine change.
The two practice sessions for Supercars were disappointing for the GRM team with the times well down the order in both sessions. The team used most of the time available testing different settings without making a lot of progress. Garth had the best run that gave him 15th in session two, while James Moffat and James Golding, who was having his second wildcard appearance, were further back on the timesheets. Garth and Moff reported their cars felt good but just lacked the speed of the other quick teams. No one problem area stood out, and the team was frustrated at not being able to come up with the right combination.
It was hoped Saturday’s third practice session could produce improved times, but that did not eventuate despite the discussions between the drivers and engineers that followed Friday’s runs. Session three saw little improvement and that left just qualifying to turn things around. Garth was getting the best from the #33 Commodore out of the three drivers, and on times was not that far behind the leaders. However, the Ipswich track being just over three kilometres long meant each fraction of a second was critical and a few tenths usually meant a huge difference in positions on the time sheets.
Saturday’s qualifying was short and hectic with many drivers baulked for a clear run on their good tyres. The GRM team made more changes but that had little impact on the previous day’s times. At session end, Garth was the best out of the Team PAYCE drivers, with his time of less than a half-second off the fastest time set by Scott McLaughlin putting him 17th on the grid, while James Golding was 25th and James Moffat 28th.
Race one over 39 laps saw an improvement in Garth’s fortunes, with the #33 Commodore taking him through the pack and up the order to finish just outside the top 10 in 11th spot. James’ luck completely deserted him when a hit from Wood on the first lap resulted in a visit to the pits for extensive repairs and a finish near the end of the field in 28th spot. James Golding was also an innocent party to the incident and suffered a bent steering arm that meant he had to nurse his #31 car to the end for 24th place. Scott McLaughlin led most of the race to come home in first place from Mostert and Van Gisbergen.
Sunday’s qualifying session was further disappointment for the team with its cars lacking competitive pace and neither James nor Garth were able to repeat the form of recent rounds. Garth clocked 18th fastest time while James Moffat could only manage 25th fastest, placing him one spot behind James Golding.
Race two was over the longer distance of 65 laps and the GRM team had their fingers crossed that the two cars could turn things around in the race as they had in the past with good pit strategies. Garth was set for a good result, working his way up to 12th before pitting on lap 17 for his first mandatory stop. Soon after making his second pit stop on lap 35 he was back up to 14th position and travelling well for a top 10 finish.
On lap 55, all the hard work came unstuck with a tyre failure that had him back in the pits in all but last place. A safety car intervention then was to work in his favour and over the remaining 12 laps he made it up to 15th place.
As it transpired, James Moffat had the best result of the three, and after a relatively quiet run throughout the race was able to finish a credible 14th, the best result for the team.
James Golding improved several positions to finish 21st and over the weekend gained valuable experience that will no doubt be of benefit when he tackles the three endurance races in the coming months.
For all the disappointment around this round, the GRM team will be hard at work over the next two to three weeks to come up with answers that result in a successful trip to Sydney Motorsport Park before taking on the first endurance race at Sandown.
Garth Tander 9th
James Moffat 12th
Wilson Security GRM 4th
Touring Car Masters
A strong field of 20 took to the track on Friday for the first practice session and John Bowe was quickly up to speed with both Steve Johnson and Eddie Abelnica hot on his heels. JB was looking very fit after his Winton crash and happy to be back to good health. He did compete successfully in the last round at Darwin, but at the time was still feeling sore.
The session went well and for some time JB sat on top of the timesheets, but as the session came to a close, Steven Johnson put in a fast lap that took him to the top of the times by just under two hundreds of a second. In the second practice session on Saturday morning, JB made no mistakes and once again returned to the top of the time sheets.
Qualifying was much the same as the practice session, with JB stamping his authority as the fastest qualifier and putting him on pole for the second race on Sunday morning, race one being a reverse grid.
Race one for the Dometic Trophy promised lots of exciting racing as the reverse grid format invariably does. JB did not disappoint and although he did not quite make it to the front, he thrilled the crowd with some great passing moves to finish 4th. Although the race forms part of the championship all drivers who start are awarded 50 points as are all finishers.
Race two on Sunday morning was a runaway win for JB, who was never challenged after Steve Johnson overshot turn one under brakes. JB went on to post another strong performance and come home four seconds clear of the field. Eddie Abelnica and Steve Johnson filled the minor placings. John also re-set the TCM lap record which he previously held. The race was JB’s 90th win competing in the TCM category.
The final race for TCM saw some close racing throughout the field and probably the best race of the meet, with Eddie Abelnica taking the chequered flag ahead of Ryan Hansford and Steve Johnson. JB was slow off the start and dropped a couple of positions before finishing in 4th place. The weekend’s results put him back on top of the leaderboard tied with Adam Bressington.
Once again, the TCM boys put on a great show for their fans, with three different winners from three races and some fantastic side-by-side battles.
The next round of the championship is at the Sandown 500 meeting on 15-17 September.
John Bowe eq 1st