OTR SuperSprint – The Bend Wrap Up
The first big test for The Bend circuit at Tailum Bend has been hailed an unqualified success by all teams and the tens of thousands of fans who watched trackside over the three days of Supercars and Porsche Carrera Cup rounds.
The accolades were flowing to the owners of the circuit, who have given Australian motorsport one of the best circuits in the country with facilities second to none and great viewing for spectators.
Weatherwise, the conditions were near perfect for this time of the year, with just some small wind changes over the two days of racing adding to the challenge of a new track.
Even the dusty conditions created on track when cars left the bitumen and re-joined – and there were plenty of those occasions – were forgiven due to the newness of the turfed infield.
In the lead up to the meeting there was a lot of speculation about which teams and drivers would struggle to come to grips with the track’s challenging 18 corners and who would shine.
Friday’s practice sessions saw some high speed off-track excursions as drivers explored their limits, but fortunately there were no expensive incidents or injuries as all corners had generous run off areas.
For Team PAYCE/Paynter Dixon drivers, the weekend racing was a mix of highs and lows. The Wilson Security Racing GRM team showed initial promise but as the weekend unfolded they had more than their share of issues. The Wall Racing team on the other hand bagged some well-deserved podiums in the Carrera Cup, marred only by David Wall losing his win in race one due to a questionable penalty.
Despite the best efforts of drivers and their engineers, most teams went away from the track after Sunday’s races with lots to think about, which will add to the interest next time they race at The Bend.
A number of Supercars drivers had sampled the track at an earlier GT meeting and at a Kumho test day, but that did not appear to give them much of an edge over their rivals.
All drivers struggled with the hard tyre for grip and as the weekend unfolded it was apparent that tyre wear was not going to be the issue it had been in recent rounds. The grip improved on Sunday with more cloud cover, but the smooth near-new track still had drivers searching for the best line, especially in those sections of track where dirt and pebbles had been dragged back onto the track.
Team PAYCE/Paynter Dixon driver, Garth Tander was one who had banked some earlier track time and his 8th fastest in the first practice seemed to indicate some benefit, but then he was not able to back up that performance in the next two practice sessions where he finished well down the order.
GRM’s James Golding got off to a slow start on Friday, but in Saturday’s practice he bounced back to be just outside a top ten time finishing in 11th place on the timesheets.
The other Team PAYCE member, Macauley Jones, having his second wildcard run in Supercars, put in a best practice time in session two to finish 8th, well ahead of drivers with far more experience.
Garth and his team found some answers in qualifying for Saturday’s race and the team would have been lifted with his 10th fastest time. James finished the session midfield in 16th and Macauley clocked 19th fastest. Interestingly, James’ time was only two-tenths of a second slower than Garth’s, but it equated to six positions down the order.
As the field exited the pit lane for race one, Garth’s #33 was in trouble with an engine malfunction that left him on the side of the main straight.
Quick action by the recovery and pit crews had him back in the pit garage where the computer was reset to hopefully cure the problem. Garth was able to join the field on the grid and everyone in the team held their breath hoping the problem would not re-surface.
Garth made a great start and by the end of the first lap had made up three positions to be 7th. Meanwhile James was under attack but holding position until lap three when he ran wide and dropped four positions,
Just when the team was feeling Garth’s earlier problem was behind them, the #33 engine started misfiring and the car ground to a halt, triggering the Safety Car. The Safety Car set off a lot of activity in pit lane which as it turned out gave Van Gisbergen an advantage over his team-mate, Whincup and Van Gisbergen went on to win and creep closer to Scott McLaughlin for the championship lead.
Meanwhile, James was having some great battles with name drivers and showing good speed, but he was not able to get clear air and eventually had to settle for 21st. It was a similar situation for Macauley and while the experience was invaluable his 25th finish did not reflect his commendable efforts.
Qualifying on Sunday was expected to yield better results for Team PAYCE/Paynter Dixon but neither Garth, James nor Macauley were able to get clean runs and were hampered by dirt on the race line. Consequently, they had to settle for 18th, 25th and 20th respectively on the grid.
The field got away cleanly in race two and once again Garth showed his start technique was spot on with a gain of seven positions on the first lap. The decision was taken to pit him early so on lap three he approached pit lane at the mandatory 40kph, only to receive a high speed hit from behind by Heimgartner who used Garth as a means of braking from 100kph to 40kph. The resultant crash did not put Garth out of the race but severely inhibited the performance and all he could do was nurse the car over the remainder of the race.
James’ race started badly on the first lap when he came in contact with the rear of another car in the cut and thrust that left the front spoiler damaged. A 21st finish was the best he could manage as Whincup went on to take the win. That result meant the lead in the championship was handed to Van Gisbergen from Scotty, making the remaining four rounds to come even more interesting.
For the Wilson Security Racing GRM team it was a weekend that could have seen better results, but one thing is certain, they will be back at Sandown in three weeks with more hard work behind them, a positive outlook and full of confidence as they take to the track for the first of the endurance races, where they have an impressive record over the years. The team will be joined by co-drivers Chris Pither and Richard Muscat. Young Macauley Jones will continue his Supercars career as a co- driver to Nick Percat and they are considered by some as a ‘dark horse’ in the field.
Garth Tander 14th (down 2 places)
James Golding 23rd (no change)
Wilson Security Racing GRM 9th (no change)
Porsche Wilson Racing Carrera Cup Australia
Team PAYCE members, David Wall and James Moffat dominated practice on Friday with James fastest in both sessions, while David topped the times during the sessions before settling for a 3rd and 5th. Dale Wood picked up a 3rd and 13th across the two sessions.
James carried his strong form to qualifying on Saturday morning, topping the time sheets while David was 2nd and Dale 3rd. That put the three PAYCE backed cars 1-2-3 on the grid for the endurance race over 20 laps. It was also James’ first pole since joining the category this year.
The 4.9 km circuit appears to suit the Porsche’s characteristics more so than Supercars and some of the other categories and made for some exciting close racing over the two days.
David led the field off the start of race one, but his lead was short-lived as a Safety Car was called soon after to remove crashed cars back in the field. David lost a couple of positions but a concerted charge had him at the front with two laps to go, from where he was never headed.
Unfortunately, the stewards saw fit to impose a five seconds post-race penalty on David for not leaving enough racing room during a pass on Jaxon Evans and that put him back to second place. Dale drove strongly to come home 3rd while James was caught up in traffic and had to settle for 9th. Local Michael Almond took the victory in the Pro class, while track owner, Sam Shahin was first across the line in Pro-Am.
Race two also went to Almond with David picking up another podium in 3rd, while Dale finished 6th and James battled the pack for another 9th place.
The final race of the round saw Dale Wood repeat his Phillip Island rounds and take out a convincing win, while David and James had their own battles to come home 5th and 6th respectively.
The overall round winners were locals, Michael Almond in Pro class and Anthony Gilbertson in Pro-Am class.
Overall, a good round for Team PAYCE with four podiums between them.
The penultimate round of the championship is at the Bathurst 1000 meeting on 4-7 October.
David Wall 3rd (no change)
Dale Wood 4th (up one place)
James Moffat 5th (down one place)
Contact: Bill Smith 0412 446 058