NO LUCK FOR ROLLINSON AT GRAND FINALE
A jammed gearbox in qualifying, being taken out by a hit from behind in Race One, and a wrong gamble on tyres for a wet Race Two meant a frustrating weekend for Kiwi driver Gene Rollinson in the final round of the 2008 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series at Oran Park Raceway in Sydney over the December 06-07 weekend.
It was another learning experience for the young Kiwi, having never been to the technical Oran Park circuit before and stepping back into a V8 Supercar for the first time in four months with Race Image Motorsport, in the Chantillys Motor Lodge/Cannon Signage Falcon.
"It's great to be asked back by Race Image to drive the beast again for the final round this year, especially as I'll get to experience the circuit before it's torn down to make way for housing development in the near future" Rollinson said before the meeting.
Previously having driven car #61, Rollinson moved across the team garage into the #60 car with a different engine and suspension package, and spent Friday's testing sessions adapting to the changes and learning the demanding 2.62km circuit.
Making a few tweaks to the car overnight after going over the data, the team was confident of a good qualifying session. Not all went to plan however, and just as the new tyres were bolted on the gearbox jammed in gear, prematurely ending any chance of a decent starting position for Race One.
"It's hugely disappointing," Rollinson commented. "We've done 40-odd laps around here already this weekend, and unfortunately this happens just before the most important lap of the whole weekend! I guess at least now the only way is forward!"
With the team diagnosing and repairing the problem before the first race, Rollinson started in the 37 degree heat from 27th position and made up five spots by the first corner after a great start off the line. He then proceeded to make up seven more within half the race, up to 15th position with good race pace, catching the cars in front.
Disaster struck soon after however, going into Turn 1 he was unceremoniously hit from behind by another competitor and turned around, undoing all the hard work and eventually ending the race in 21st position.
"Well we had good pace and were on for a good result after our qualifying problems," said Rollinson, "but then through no fault of our own we end up being punted off into the gravel trap! The tyres took a while to clean up after that as well, and unfortunately I lost the rear going into Turn 3, losing a couple more spots in the process. So it didn't get any better!"
Determined to end the weekend and season on a high, Rollinson focused on getting another good start for Race Two. A big downpour while lining up on the grid delayed the start as the field dived into the pits for wet weather tyres, and the Race Image Motorsport team took a gamble by putting on old and hard wet 'traveller' tyres in the expectation that the shower would be brief and the track would dry quickly.
Starting from 21st, Rollinson struggled with traction on the very wet circuit, and although making it up to 16th at one stage the track remained too wet for the tyres and he fell back to 19th, struggling for grip.
"Unfortunately it just didn't go our way," he said post race. "The idea was the track would dry quickly, but we had four or five safety cars and it didn't dry quick enough to make a difference. It did in the last couple of laps but it was too late by then! That's racing."
Despite the end results, the team took heart from the fact that the Race Image Motorsport Falcon had the potential to challenge for top-ten placings in the super-competitive Fujitsu category, despite driver Gene Rollinson having never been to the technical Oran Park circuit before.
Gene wishes to thank the Race Image Motorsport team, and Chantillys Motor Lodge Lake Taupo and Cannon Signage Racing for their support.