IT’S FUNNY and sometimes slightly frustrating how many people assume the Supercar season is over, once Bathurst is run and won.
In fact, the season is anything but over when we roll out of Bathurst … there are just two weeks to turn the cars around and be ready for the Gold Coast 600, and then a further two weeks to prepare the cars, fly them to New Zealand, and roll out into the pitlane at Pukekohe.
The Gold Coast 600 is the last leg of the annual Endurance Cup, which runs across the three endurance races at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast, and it’s a particularly tough one, because it runs on the very bumpy and very fast concrete-lined Surfers Paradise street track.
Steve Richards was once again in the co-driver seat of the #888 TeamVortex Commodore and, with the way the safety cars and driving stints fell, ended up doing more laps than I did on both days of the Gold Coast.
We had a strong run both days with a sixth on Saturday and a fourth on Sunday, which wasn’t too bad in the end, and turned out to be our best weekend of the 2016 Endurance Cup campaign.
Ten days later, as most people touched down in New Zealand, there was some big news with the sudden departure of my engineer, and long time Triple Eight team Technical Director Ludo Lacroix.
Ludo had worked for our team owner for around 17 years, so his decision was a surprise. Fortunately his understudy, John “Irish” McGregor, had been working closely alongside Ludo all year, with the intent of moving into the role next season, so was able to step straight in.
As you’d expect it took time to bed in the new partnership … for a start I had to get used to hearing a thick Irish accent on my radio after listening to Ludo, with his heavy French accent, all year!
Pukekohe had switched to a format of four short sharp sprint races this year, and on a track where it is difficult to pass when all the cars are so incredibly even, that meant qualifying was all important.
You can measure the progression of my new engineering partnership when you see that I finished 16th and 15th in Saturday’s races, and then grabbed a 4th and a 7th after qualifying much better on Sunday.
By the end of the weekend Irish and I had built a really good rapport, I felt like we were understanding each other very well, and making positive steps with the changes we made.
We’ll be working hard on that between now and the Supercars grand finale, at Homebush in Sydney the first weekend in December.
I am currently third in the championship going into the last round, behind my two Triple Eight teammates, and in the first year that we’ve run three cars I know the Boss would like nothing better than the team finishing 1-2-3 in the title!
So no pressure then!
Hopefully we can finish off the year with a great result and start planning for a bigger and better 2017.
SPEAKING of racing in New Zealand, I actually snuck over there a week or so early at the invitation of well-known motorsport driver and entrepreneur, Tony Quinn.
Lara and I used the time to catch up with some friends and get a few days break, before rolling into Pukekohe.
At Tony’s invitation I also dropped by the Hampton Downs track, just a bit south of Pukekohe, to take in a round of the Australian GT Championship.
It was my first visit to Hampton Downs, which Tony bought not that long ago and has treated to a massive investment including a significant track extension and an impressive new pit and corporate complex.
He’s done a great job and it’s a really interesting track … I could certainly see the Supercars visiting there one day.
Tony threw another incentive at me to visit too … he was going to let me loose in his amazing $4.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan!
There’s only 24 of them in the world and as far as I know, this is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. The spec sheets says the 7 litre V12 all-carbonfibre supercar is good for a 360 km/h top speed and over 800 horsepower.
From the inside it had grunt but from the outside and some footage we took, it sounded more like an old school Formula 1 car – I didn’t quite get it going that fast but I can tell you that it fairly shifts along, as some of the lucky passengers that did some laps with me during the lunch break can attest!