Sorry seems to be the hardest word in V8 Supercars, but plenty of drivers had to say it after three frenetic races at Hidden Valley. Our racecraft expert Tony D’Alberto takes a look through all the thrills and spills from the Top End.
Maybe it was all that grip on offer from the new surface. Maybe it was five weeks worth of pent up aggression after another long break in the schedule. For whatever reason, it was a wild weekend at Hidden Valley.
Let’s start with the James Courtney/Shane van Gisbergen clash that happened on the Saturday.
I don’t think for a second that James knew Shane was there. We spoke about James’ mistake at Winton, where he took out his team-mate Garth Tander, but this was a completely different scenario.
There was obviously a bit of confusion at the restart, and James seemed to be a little bit baulked. He looked as if he was trying to have a go at Rick Kelly in front of him, not knowing that Shane was there.
As I’ve said before, it’s very difficult to see what’s around you when you’re strapped into a V8 Supercar. He would have known Shane was there somewhere, but he obviously thought that he’d cleared him.
When the opportunity to have a go at Rick came up, James went for it – and that’s when he hit Shane. Shane was definitely the innocent bystander in that situation, as was Garth... again.
For a second round in a row, it would have been an awkward debrief for the HRT boys.
Sorry seems to be hardest word
It’s always a bit awkward when you have to apologise to another driver after making a mistake, but I can tell you from experience it is much better to go and have a chat to them than just ignore it.
Even if it results in a bit of a blue at the time, it’s good to acknowledge that something has gone on. If you leave it and don’t say anything, it builds up. It goes on from round, to round, to round.
If you just apologise and say “I out-braked myself” or whatever, people understand that. They’re all on the limit as well, and it’s so easy to make little errors. We’ve all done it before.
But if you say nothing, it makes it worse. You have to man up, head down to the garage and admit you’ve made a bit of a blunder, and move on.
Nick Percat’s TV outburst after getting caught up in the crash between Andre Heimgartner, Will Davison, and Jamie Whincup was a good one, I’ll say that much!
He was clearly very emotional, and he admitted afterwards that he said things he probably shouldn’t have.
But you have to remember that Nick is investing a lot of time into trying to help his relatively small LD Motorsport crew find its way.
And when you have an incident like that, and tear half the car off, it means that small group of mechanics needs to work all night to fix that, rather than concentrate their efforts on making the car faster for Nick.
It’s like a backwards step, which is why Nick would have fired up so easily.
But hey, he bounced back on Sunday and had a ripper race. That shows the true character of Nick, and also the team of guys he has working around him.
Rick gets it wrong
At the start of Sunday’s second race, pole-sitter Rick Kelly clearly out-braked himself. No doubt about that.
It was clumsy, and he would have been shattered about it. But it’s also a very easy mistake to make.
What you have to appreciate is how difficult it is to brake into turn one after a standing start. Picking your braking point when you’re at the front is not easy. When you’re in the mid-field, you use the brake lights from the guys in front to help pick a braking point, but at the front you have no reference.
Your braking marker is on the outside of the circuit, and you’re not going as fast as you would be on a flying lap, so you’re basically guessing as to where to hit the pedal.
Starting from pole is a skill in itself, and guys like Jamie Whincup who start at the front all the time are probably a bit more conditioned to it. They probably have a system they work to, and have it all figured out prior to the start.
But in Rick’s case, with a new surface, Fabian Coulthard on his outside, and a lot of pressure to get a result, I can appreciate how easily a mistake like that could happen.