CROWNBET DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN - V8 SUPERCARS WRAP UP
- PAYCE Head Office, Sydney NSW.
Hidden Valley produces action-packed, exciting V8 Supercars racing and multiple Team PAYCE podiums
Team PAYCE drivers and teams, chasing the warmer climes after some cold racing in Australia's southern states, weren't disappointed when they arrived in the Top End for the Hidden Valley 2016 meeting.
Brian Boyd, PAYCE's Managing Director, said Darwin shined with some great fine weather again this year. The only concern with the warmer temperatures was the wavering conditions that affected grip levels during some of the qualifying sessions.
"Everyone loves coming to Darwin as the locals make you so welcome and treat the weekend event like a big party and family outing," Brian Boyd said.
The Hidden Valley track had been re-surfaced along with other developments just over 12 months ago. There were no complaints about its condition from the teams, though the track temperature reached into the mid 40s over the course of the day.
"Once again, tyres and pit stops were key factors to be considered in the teams' strategies, although tyre degradation wasn't as extreme as Perth," Brian Boyd said.
Team PAYCE drivers and teams were on hand to do battle in three categories – Supercars (Scott McLaughlin and James Moffat), Porsche Carrera Cup Australia (David Wall) and Touring Car Masters (John Bowe).
Brian Boyd said the standout result for Team PAYCE over the weekend was David Wall's three podiums, including a well-deserved first win of the season in the #38 PAYCE/Wilson Security Porsche GT3.
Setup is the Focus for the Practice Sessions – Brian Boyd
Friday's two practice sessions saw the Wilson Security Racing GRM team settle in with Garry Rogers and the team members focusing on their setup program and not aspiring to be the quickest on the day.
The circuit was new to James in his Volvo S60, so he was on a steep learning curve to understand every aspect of the track.
James unfortunately had an off in the closing stages of the first session, ending up in the tyre barriers on turn 10, although without any major damage.
The first session finished with Scott 8th on the timesheets and James in 17th position. The crowd witnessed some great progress in the second session by both drivers that took them into the top 10 timings.
Scott finished the day 4th fastest and James had a good run to move himself into 7th on the time sheets, being a very promising result for the weekend ahead.
Scott said at the end of the day: "It was a hot day, but we made lots of changes and got a lot done, so we are happy with the result and think we have a good package for the weekend."
GRM Team Quietly Confident Heading into Qualifying – Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd said the team seemed generally satisfied with their position following the practice sessions and were quietly confident heading into qualifying.
"Both practice and qualifying have become a bit of a juggling game with tyre selection. The decision whether to use good tyres or tyres from previous sessions or build up a 'bank' of green tyres for a later session is just another challenge for the teams," Brian Boyd said.
Weather Plays its Hand in Qualifying Session – Brian Boyd
Race 1 qualifying on Saturday commenced with low cloud cover, keeping the track temperatures down for the opening minutes. Many of the teams, GRM included, sent their drivers out on warm-up tyres with the motive of pushing for a good time in the closing stages of the stint.
The strategy didn't work out for any of the teams when the cloud cover quickly cleared, the wind speed increased and track grip became a concern.
Unlike previous rounds in the 2016 series where the lap times plummeted dramatically towards the end of the qualifying session, Hidden Valley delivered a trump card and the trend was reversed.
Only Van Gisbergen, who went out immediately on green tyres, put together a solid lap time that was never bested, making him the eighth different pole-sitter this season.
Despite their very best efforts, Scott posted 15th quickest and James 20th.
GRM Made the Same Decision as Most Teams – Brian Boyd
With the fore-knowledge of Race 1 being a challenge for the GRM team and racers, Scott pushed hard and was able to make the most of his mid-field grid position, battling on to post a very respectable 10th spot finish.
Luck was not on James side, pitting his Volvo with steering problems and ultimately finishing with a DNF.
Prior to the steering problem, he had moved up a remarkable nine positions into 11th and was all set for a top 10 finish – A stellar effort from James.
Brian Boyd said the team made the same decision as most teams in hoping the cloud cover would increase as the qualifying session progressed and held back with their green tyres.
We all Felt for Moff – Brian Boyd
"Unfortunately, that put them along way back from the front of the grid. Some good pit work saw them work their way through the field and a strong drive by Scotty was rewarded with a top 10 finish," Brian Boyd said.
"We all felt for Moff as he had a great passage through the field on the first lap to get up to 11th before the mishap that damaged his steering and sent him into the pit garage," continued Mr. Boyd.
The GRM team made multiple setup changes to the cars overnight and the qualifying session on Sunday delivered a better result for Scott, finishing 5th on the timesheets.
James was not able to increase his performance from the previous day's lap time, but was able to move up the grid to 17th overall.
Qualifying on Sunday for the top 10 shootout and grid positions for the longer race saw Scotty achieve a top 10 shootout spot in 6th place.
With a slippery track everyone had trouble improving their times and although he was up in 4th spot at one point, Scott had to settle for 6th spot on the grid when all was done and dusted. James had qualified at 17th and prepared himself for the usual action back in the pack.
The Team was Happy to Make it into the Shootout in 6th Spot – Brian Boyd
"Generally, qualifying to determine the shootout is exciting as the times drop progressively in the closing minutes, but that was not the case this time," explained Brian Boyd.
"Scott made it to the top of the timesheets at one point, but the team was happy to make it into the shootout in 6th spot with the plan to go all out in the one timed run," Mr. Boyd said.
"As it turned out, Scott was 5th car out and while his run was solid, it wasn't one of his 'rocket' laps he has produced in previous shootouts," finished Brian Boyd.
Crashes on Lap 1 a Hectic Turn of Events – Brian Boyd
The 200 km race that followed was blighted by a number of crashes on the first lap, resulting in Lee Holdsworth being taken to hospital to assess his injuries. Lee sustained a broken pelvis and will be absent from the next round at least. \
Several other lead drivers were also taken out of the contest in the hectic turn of events. Fortunately for James, his Volvo was involved in the melee but by-passed the worst of the carnage. He was pushed off-track but able to recover to re-join the field.
As a result of the crashes and the obligatory appearance of the safety car, most of the remaining teams decided to pit for fresh tyres at the same time. Chaos ensued in the pit lane as cars were double stacked, while others tried to make it past to their pit and then get out again into the heavy pit lane traffic.
Brian Boyd said the Volvos had alternating luck under the safety car as Scott went down two positions to 7th when he finally managed to clear the pit lane traffic jam.
"James fared better and was able to muscle his way through and rejoin the race in 13th place and continue to improve his position," Brian Boyd said.
Two more safety car periods throughout the race delivered changes to track positions that continued to work in Scott and James' favour as they moved up the order. Beyond the last safety car session, the race became a nine lap dash to the finish with both the #33 and #34 Volvos holding on to top 10 positions.
At the chequered flag, both Scott and James were more than pleased to finish the race without further incident and with excellent results, given what had occurred around them.
Scott was happy with a 7th and James equally satisfied with 10th spot.
Scott's muscled performances over the weekend keep him in contention for the championship in 3rd place and just 45 points away from the top spot, while James remains in 20th place on the 2016 leaderboard.
Competition is More Intense than Ever – Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd said the Darwin round was exciting for the fans and once again demonstrated how close the racing is and how important it is to start near the front of the pack in races.
"The competition is more intense than ever and luck also plays a big part in the results," Brian Boyd said.
"The good news is that Garry and the GRM team have come away with some respectable performances and will no doubt be hungry for some wins at Townsville in a couple of weeks," finished Mr. Boyd
The next round of the Supercars Championship is the Castro EDGE Townsville 500 on 8-10 July 2016.
Go Team PAYCE!