A painted white line and a very small mistake stood in the way of V8 Supercars driver and Motorsport.com columnist Rick Kelly turning pole into a win in Darwin – but it wasn’t all bad in the Top End.
It sure is exciting to leave a race weekend with your name in the record books.
I think the Hidden Valley weekend exceeded our expectations, especially when you look at where we were last year. To finish the event with a pole, a podium and a new lap record is something we can be happy with.
Our recent form really shows the progression that we have made as a team. In the past three events at Barbagallo, Winton and now Darwin, we have set the fastest race lap at all of them.
There’s clearly nothing wrong with our race pace, we would always love more results-wise, and I’ll expand on that in a moment…
There’s a great vibe in the team at the moment, our results this year have definitely seen some improvement, and the attitude in the camp is fantastic.
From my point of view, it’s really enjoyable racing with a car that has serious pace relative to the front runners. It’s so much nicer to be able to move forward rather than just circulate or defend.
One that got away
Obviously our best chance to add to our W column ticking over was on Saturday afternoon.
We knew coming into the weekend that soft tyres were going to be an ace up our sleeve, so to score my first pole since Sandown in 2011 was a great feeling.
Unfortunately it all lasted about 600 metres. I was pretty determined to hold on to the lead, but the first corner squeeze led to a mistake.
Trying to cover off Shane van Gisbergen and keep on the inside of Fabian Coulthard, I caught the left front tyre on the painted white line. It locked, and we were off into the paddock with Fabian.
Apologies to Fabian and his crew; I’ve been punted off a couple of times this year, so I know how average their whole camp feel. When you put in a major effort to be up the front, it’s pretty crushing to be speared off the track.
At least they scored a podium on Sunday to slightly make amends.
On other results outside of our Jack Daniel’s camp, well done to Craig Lowndes on notching up his 100th win.
It’s a credit to his performance over many many years. It’s a hard job to win one race, and his continued pace this year against some more fancied opposition is very impressive.
Grip it and rip it
The first sprint race on Sunday certainly was a crazy one. I qualified in seventh, but with a combination of our raw pace and over ambitious driving by others, the JD rocket was back on the podium.
The new track surface was very smooth, and very grippy. It seems as though with the extra grip on offer, people got a bit braver, and an excellent show was put on.
It was enjoyable learning the new track surface; you have to figure out new race lines, and a new set-up for the car.
Another complicating factor with the repave was that a lot of the reference points you have used previously were MIA. A line, a crack or a bit of patchwork that you have relied on previously had to be replaced with a new landmark for braking or turning.
I guess Sunday bucked the trend of the past couple of 200km races we have had, although it should be kept in mind that the safety car didn’t find its way onto the circuit for a change.
A little yellow flag period late in the race would have definitely come in handy. Unfortunately in qualifying, we missed the set-up slightly with the changing track conditions, with the track starting to take on rubber.
That said, if we were one tenth of a second faster, we would have improved from our 17th starting position to be well inside the Top 10, and things would have been very different in the race.
To come through for 13th isn’t great, but registering that lap record is some consolation.
We can take a lot from the weekend, and now really focus on hitting the sweet spot in Townsville.