Abu Dhabi: IRWIN Racing preview

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ALEX DAVISON HEADS TO THE MIDDLE EAST WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS

In Abu Dhabi for this weekend's first round of the 2011 V8 Supercar Championship, IRWIN Racing's Alex Davison has never felt so confident of success.

With real speed gains and improved competitiveness at last year's final round of the series (in Sydney in December) and a solid test day at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway a fortnight ago, Davison is not only ready for the season to begin, but believes he'll be a contender this weekend.

Davison's IRWIN Racing Ford Falcon figured in the top 10 shootout at the Sydney 500, in December's final race of the 2010 season, he was in a position to snatch a podium in that weekend's Saturday race - prior to the downpour that stopped the race - and he was one of the surprises at the first test day of the year, at Eastern Creek Raceway.

Davison was eighth fastest in the morning session of the test and finished 11th in the afternoon session, without having used the faster, more competitive soft option tyre.

With further development gains made at IRWIN Racing's Queensland based workshop last week, combined with good form and a top 10 placing at the Abu Dhabi track in 2010, Davison is hoping to return to Australia with a bag of points and maybe even some silverware.

The Abu Dhabi, UAE, round of the V8 Supercar Championship begins this Thursday, with races early on Saturday and Sunday morning (Australian time).

What IRWIN Racing's Alex Davison had to say:

On competing in Abu Dhabi ...

"Last year was the first time that I've been to Abu Dhabi and I had a really good time. Everyone speaks about how good the facilities are and they are spot on; they are lavish, the garage is beautiful and we had a self-contained house at the back of the garage where we had a kitchen, offices and lounges to sit on. It's a very comfortable way to do a de-brief."

On the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit ...

"The track itself is fantastic. The surface provided a lot of grip and the more grip we have the more fun a V8 is to drive. Really, everything about the place is fantastic, it was immaculate. We don't travel overseas often, so to race in the Middle East is amazing. It is nice to have a change. I really enjoy the trip."

On his confidence levels going into the Abu Dhabi event ...

"I'm really confident, probably the most confident I've been going into a race meet. IRWIN Racing had a really good test at Eastern Creek Raceway, the car was running well and I was happy with our competitiveness. There is some time to come; there are some easy improvements that we have up our sleeve going to Abu Dhabi. We found some gains back at the workshop that we didn't see at the test.

"We were strong at Abu Dhabi last year, the cars really enjoyed the circuit and the track suited the cars. On top of that we were competitive at the Sydney 500 last December, we may not have got the result but we were strong. All of this leaves us pretty confident."

Expectations this weekend ...

"Our minimum requirement for qualifying is to qualify in the top 10 for both races. It would be great to get a podium, but at least if we left in the top five or 10 it would be a great start, which is important. If we left in the top five it would be really good, if it was the top 10 it is a solid start and gives us something to build on. Anything less and I will be disappointed, that's for sure."

What IRWIN Engineer Daniel Kroehn had to say:

"The Yas Marina circuit is pretty challenging, it's a high grip, fast flowing type of circuit, very different to what we are used to in Australia. We've got to work pretty hard to get used to the high levels of grip and then you add to that complexity with the introduction of the soft option tyre. No one has ever run on these tyres here before, so it will require a lot more thought and careful testing during the Thursday practice sessions to ensure we get the most out of the IRWIN Ford. We did well at Abu Dhabi last year, so we have a good starting point, with some strong data to focus on. The IRWIN Ford has changed since this time last year but at the same time there are some aspects that are the same and have been refined. As an engineer it's my job to rationalise everything, which is what we've been working on since the test. Working out what went well last year, what is going well with the car now and combining this to ensure we maintain our competitiveness. We need to continue to develop and not go backwards. We're definitely running with a good package at the moment so we are feeling confident. We're looking forward to the weekend, we're not racing to be bridesmaid, our job is to get the most out of the car, do well for our sponsors, IRWIN Tools and Ford, and win races. We're confident that we can do well."

-source: irwin racing

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Series V8SUPERCARS