GRM takes Garry on a trip down memory lane
Virgin Australia Supercars
Teams have once again embraced the retro spirit of the Sandown 500 endurance round, with a procession of memorable past liveries being wheeled out over the past couple of weeks.
Some of the liveries go back so far that many of the present day Supercars drivers and team members weren’t even born, but they are most respectful of the lasting memories that were created in Australian motorsport.
The Wilson Security Racing GRM team has in the past celebrated its involvement with Volvo, the Moffats, Garth Tander and Garry’s 1980 Bathurst car. This year, the PAYCE and Paynter Dixon supported team is again celebrating two memorable Bathurst cars – the Bob Jane 1978 Holden Torana A9X that Garry co-drove with Pete Geoghegan and the Soundwaves Discos 1983 VH Holden Commodore Garry shared with Clive Benson-Brown.
The red, orange and white A9X livery transfers well to the #33 ZB Commodore of Garth and Chris, while the black and white livery of the VH Commodore is interpreted on the #34 ZB Commodore of James and Richard. Both of the original cars played an important role in Garry’s long racing career and although he did not win a Bathurst race in either they hold lots of special memories.
The whole GRM team went retro for the launch of this year’s Sandown liveries and it is likely we will see some more very interesting outfits over the weekend as team members, fans and even commenters get into the retro mood.
Sandown is the first of the endurance races and just 11 of the 26 pairings of last year are back this year. Last year, James Golding partnered Garth Tander, while Richard Muscat partnered James Moffat.
This weekend, Chris Pither will team with Garth, while James Golding will have Richard as co-driver. Both Chris and Richard have put in some respectable track time in the #33 and #34 cars in recent co-driver sessions.
Last year’s Sandown race went reasonably well for the GRM team. The wet conditions over Friday and Saturday meant the drivers and engineers had to gamble on what was required for Sunday, which as it turned out, was fine for all races. Both GRM cars performed well, with Garth and James Golding just missing a podium with 4th place and James Moffat and Richard Muscat finishing well inside the top ten in 7th place.
It should also be remembered that Garth Tander won this race in 2016, albeit with a different team, so he knows what it takes to come home the winner. Chris Pither is also on form and is currently second in the Super2 championship.
PAYCE supported driver, Macauley Jones from Brad Jones Racing will be co-driving this year with Nick Percat and they could be considered a dark horse for a podium, given Macauley has had two wildcard starts in Supercars this year and some impressive performances of late in Super2.
Shane van Gisbergen has taken over the championship lead from Scott McLaughlin by a small margin and some late bloomers are rapidly closing the gaps behind. It is still too early to call who will take the title, but one thing is for sure, all drivers will be out to win this race, no matter how the season finishes.
Track action gets underway on Friday morning with a 30 minute practice session for co-drivers only, followed by a 30 minute session for all drivers around noon and then a second 30 minute practice for co-drivers to round off the day.
Saturday is a short 15 minute practice in the morning then a 20 minute qualifying session just before noon to set the grid for the first of two short races over 20 laps each in the afternoon.
The cars will have a last chance to assess conditions with a 20 minute warm up on Sunday morning and then the Sandown 500 over 161 laps gets underway at 1.20pm.
The regular PAYCE and Paynter Dixon supported teams are back after their long break since Townsville. GRM will field two cars – the #44 Commodore for Chris Pither and the #99 Commodore for Mason Barbera, while Macauley Jones will be in the #14 ZB Commodore from Brad Jones Racing.
The big news for this round is that Super2 cars will have the use of the super soft tyre, usually reserved for some Supercars rounds. It is five years back to the Townsville round since this faster rubber was last enjoyed by the second tier V8 drivers.
For this round, each team will have six new super softs as well as six pre-marked hard tyres for practice. All teams then get a further eight new super softs for the weekend of qualifying and racing.
This arrangement should suit the eight drivers doing double duty in the two series over the weekend, including Chris Pither and Macauley Jones. The added grip will be welcome and will make the transition from Super2 to Supercar a little less challenging.
The two Wilson Security Racing GRM cars of Chris and Mason are performing well and Chris, who is currently 2nd in the championship, is a leading contender for the 2018 title.
PAYCE supported driver, Macauley Jones should have been in contention for the title, but his two DNFs at Townsville while leading both races, have dropped him down the order.
Action on track starts on Friday with two 40 minute practice sessions, one early morning and the other early in the afternoon. Saturday and Sunday’s format is the same with a 15 minute qualifying period and a 22 lap race on each day.
Paynter Dixon Touring Car Masters
It’s been a long break of nearly three months for the series since the last round in Townsville, but on the plus side it has given teams time to get some new cars built or re-build and upgrade others.
Sandown will see the first appearance of two XD Falcons, now eligible for the series and, equally exciting, the re-appearance of Cameron Tilley’s giant-killing Valiant Pacer now fitted with a V8 in place of the six-cylinder engine.
Also returning after missing recent rounds will be Rusty French (1970 Ford Mustang), Paul Freestone (Chev Camaro), Brett Curran (1964 Ford Mustang) and the father-son combo of Brad and Jamie Tilley (1964 Ford Mustang). In all 27 cars are entered for the round of four races.
No matter the result this weekend, for series points’ leader, John Bowe it is an important milestone, clocking up his 1100th race start in a 40+ years’ career of driving a mix of open wheelers, sports, GT and touring cars.
Despite Stephen Johnson’s DNF in the last round at Townsville, Stephen is still hot on the heels of JB for the lead as the Paynter Dixon TCM championship goes into round six, with just two rounds to go – Bathurst and Newcastle – after Sandown.
John Bowe is no stranger to the winner’s circle at this track, having won three Sandown 500s during his career. At last year’s TCM round at Sandown he took one win and a second placing as he battled with Stephen Johnson at the front of the field.
Action on track gets underway on Friday with a 20 minute practice session in the morning then qualifying over 20 minutes in the afternoon.
The series kicks off the race program on Saturday with the reverse grid trophy race and in the afternoon there are two 10 lap races. Sunday’s race is another 10 lapper to wrap up the round.
Bill Smith 0412 446 058