Holidays over, it’s back to work … and into the deep end!
Under the V8 Supercar rules, which are pretty restrictive these days to keep costs down for the team, pre-season testing isn’t allowed … so the first time any car turned a wheel was at the season launch event, the V8 Supercar SuperTest.
Held at the Sydney Motorsport Park complex (previously called Eastern Creek) in early February, the SuperTest ran over two full days with practice sessions on Saturday, another one on Sunday morning, and then a fastest lap Shootout for the whole field.
There were a couple of important things that were new for me coming into 2015.
Firstly, I had a ‘new’ #888 Holden Commodore … or perhaps to be more accurate, it was actually my old car pressed back into service as the team decided that my ‘new’ car needed a thorough rebuild.
I’d debuted a new Red Bull racer for the endurance races in the last part of 2014 but that car had a couple of big hits in accidents at Bathurst and Homebush, so the team felt it was wiser to put it aside for a complete birthday.
Instead, I’m back in my older car … which was brand new for the 2013 season anyway (so it’s hardly old) and it’s a car I’ve always liked racing.
The other important change for me this year is that I have a new engineer, after 10 years with the same engineer, Jeromy Moore, or ‘JJ’ as he is better known.
JJ has made the big career move to work for Porsche in Europe on its World Sportscar Championship program (Mark Webber is among the drivers), so our Red Bull Racing Australia team quickly snapped up a young guy called Grant McPherson.
Grant engineered Mark Winterbottom last year, and Will Davison for three years before that, and had spent almost a decade at FPR … so he came to us with huge experience and a thorough understanding of V8 Supercars.
Outside of actually driving the car, having a good working rapport and a trusting relationship with your engineer is the most important factor of success … it’s what I had with JJ and what I’m working hard to build with Grant.
Having an understanding of how each other thinks, having that rapport and feel for what each other is saying, saves an enormous amount of time in setting up and sorting out a racecar.
And having that trust means that when Grant makes a call over the radio to me to pit or stay out, during a race, I just follow suit because I trust he’s on top of the race strategy.
It’s a partnership, a vital one, and the SuperTest gave me my first chance to work with Grant at a track.
Grant is very passionate, he communicates clearly and he’s an easy going guy, so by the end of the weekend I felt like we had that all-important rapport going, and we’d worked hard together on improving the car.
We treated the whole weekend like one giant test session, tried a huge number of different things and I was really encouraged with the progress we made, and where we ended up with the car.
Ahead of us now is the first round of the 2015 V8 Supercar Championship, the Clipsal 500, on the Adelaide street circuit at the end of February.
It’s an event that really takes over Adelaide, they get huge crowds every year, it’s a fantastic atmosphere and a great way to open the season.
Clipsal is also just about the toughest event of the year … it’s usually very hot, the concrete walls that ring the track reflect heat back into the cars, and the long race legs – 250km on Sunday – really take their toll on drivers who haven’t raced for a few months.
I’ve had lots of success there over the years, I love the event, and I’m confident we can start the year strongly there. Let’s see how we go.
Stay safe, talk soon.