Adam updating you on round 2 of the Dunlop Series Supercars at Phillip Island. A tough weekend at the office is probably the best way to describe my weekend. We showed promise, but struggled for good car balance all weekend, and with Phillip Island being one of the highest commitment tracks on the calendar with an average lap speed of 175kph if you don’t have a perfectly balanced race car, you can lose a lot of time on this track. Any way have a read and find out how the weekend unfolded!
It was an early start as I had a 6.00am flight to Melbourne, by the time I had landed, met up with Luke my Engineer and driven the 2 hours to the Island it was around one-ish. Then the team and I had a prebrief, we did a track walk, got my race gear scrutinised, looked at some data and it was time for dinner. I have to say, just walking Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit with its spectacular views, undulations, and wide open turns you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe.
Today we have our two 40 minute practice sessions, with qualifying and Race 1 on Saturday and Race 2 and 3 on Sunday. In the Dunlop Series there are two formatsto racing, forstreet circuits we have, 2 qualifying sessions and two races, where all permanent race trackslike PI have 1 qualifying session and 3 races. We hit the track at 12.35 for practice 1, and all I could say at the end was, WOW! This track is fast and spectacular. Generally for all 1 out on our worst tyresjust to get used to the flow of the track asthere is nothing to be gained burning a good set of tyres, so given that, the car did not feel that good, but with bettertyres and a slight tune to the suspension allshould be good for the next practice session. At 3.35pm it was time to roll out again and see what we could do, during the session I was still struggling to find balance with the car.
Let me just explain balance, a perfectly balanced car will turn into a corner, hold st practice sessions we will go mid corner traction and then allow you to get the power down and accelerate of the turn well. A car that wants to go straight when you try to rotate it has “understeer” and a car that wants to drift sideways when you put the power down has “oversteer” neither are very nice to have especially at a fast track like this as your confidence factor of making turn 1 at 200kph slips slightly when you are sideways. In addition to the confidence factor, if you have either of these problems you will experience high amounts of tyre degradation, which will cost you a lot of time over a race distance. Another point to mention is that the car set up for this track is vastly different from Clipsal, where Clipsal set up was soft for the tight turns and curbs, here, the spring rate is very stiff to take the fast flowing corners. Fortunately the team have historical data from each track as to how the car works best but for PI where this car has not raced before we have no data so we are flying slightly blind. Any way we finished practice 2, 18th fastest but still not overly happy with set up. But I know the team will work tirelessly overnight to give me the car I need to be competitive.
We started this morning with sponsor hot laps, I had the enjoyment of taking Darren from PAT and Maurizio from BMC filters around for a couple of laps, it’s always great to have sponsors share what I am lucky enough to experience on a regular basis. By the smiles on their faces, I think they enjoyed the laps, and as usual they all get out of the car commenting on the acceleration and braking performance as it’s something you cannot comprehend unless you have been for a ride in a Supercar.
Qualifying was to start at 12.25 but before then the team had to remove the passenger’s seat, remove the false passenger’s floor and seat belts and re-install my cool suit equipment and then do a final tune up and set down of the car. We rolled out the gate on some pretty reasonable tyres and the car felt better but not perfect, so I banked as many laps as I could, our strategy was to save the green tyres until the dying minutes and put in a couple of fast laps. At one stage before we pitted for the new tyres I was down in 22nd spot, then I came in put on a new set and went out and managed to climb from 22nd to 16th front of me a “car of the future” which we know are faster, I had still hoped for better.
Race 1 commenced at 3.15 I was starting 16th line, we had all been caught out with the change in diff ratio from the previous track and heavy fuel load. Over the next 8 laps I slowly worked my way back from 23rd to 16th only run too hot into “Honda” (turn 4) and although I could have made the turn we were advised at drivers brief if you cross the designated line you must drive around the back of the sand trap before re-entering the track. That little episode put me at the rear of the field again. Lucky these are fairly long races and I had enough pace and laps to fight my way back to 17th . What hurt the most is without those two rookie mistakes I had the pace to race my way forward to a good position.
The final two races for the weekend, we were first on track this morning I was starting from P17, as the lights went green I was determined not to stall again and probably gave it a little too much right foot and spun the wheels off the line, and although not a perfectstart wasn’t too bad. We had made some rather large changes overnight in an attempt to find the balance I was chasing but to no avail, the car was actually slightly worse. Whilst racing I can fine tune the car with the in-car sway bar settings. The car has front and rear sway bars that we can adjust, and i adjust them every few laps to compensate for the fuel burn and tyre degradation. Softening the front bar allows the car to roll more and therefore (to a point) will give you more steering. Alternately you can gain more drive, which will create understeer if the rear bar is softened. The trick is to find balance, but unfortunately, no matter where I changed the bars to I still could not find that happy medium. We finished in p18.
The final race of the weekend had a start time of 12.55pm, which only gave the team about an hour to turn the car around between races, thankfully we had no damage so it was really just a service, refuel, try anothersetting and give it a polish. I started in p18 and got probably my best start of the weekend, the first lap was really hectic with everyone jostling for position, the upshot of it all was I made some good track position choices, avoided the carnage and crossed the line at the end of the first lap in 11th . I then tried my hardest to get into a rhythm, but the car was a little off and no matter how hard I tried to push I couldn’t hold as much mid corner speed as the others and definitely could not get on the gas as early. I lost a few positions and was sitting in 13th with a good buffer behind me, when the safety car was called with only a handful of laps remaining. With the bunch up of cars I just could not hold them off and on the last lap got bumped off at Hayshed and finished an eventual 16th
On the bright side, I moved from 13th in the Championship to 12th outright, out of 26, and I learnt so much over the weekend in terms of driving and car set up, it was great. And although at the outset of this report I said it was a tough day in the office, having the opportunity to race a Supercar at this level, no matter what happens, a tough weekend in a Supercar is still way better than a good day at work.
As always, and I would like to sincerely thank all my sponsors: Auto One, Valvoline, Supercharge Batteries, SP Tools, Tridon, Raceworks, Wesfil, PK Tool, Meguiar’s, ACS and Nova 93.7 along with my personal sponsors Coolabah Tree Café Coomera and No Limits Events. Because, without their support we would not be able to race at this level. I would also like to thank the Matt Stone Racing team for all their hard work before, during and after each race meeting. They all work so hard to try and keep me competitive.