Looking Ahead To The Sandown 500

Twelve months ago Tasman Motorsport was tasting champagne from finishing third on the podium at Sandown, but now the team's attention is on taking things two steps further.

After a pre-race build-up which included a pre-Sandown test at Winton on Monday, the team will hit the track with uncertain weather conditions sure to have an impact over the course of the weekend.

Traditionally a race affected by wet weather and run to a time limit rather than the full 161 lap distance, the Sandown 500 is the warm-up race to the Bathurst 1000 and the perfect chance for teams to test new co-driving combinations.

Tasman will pair team regulars Jason Richards and Andrew Jones in the #3 Firepower Commodore, while Jones' regular #23 mount will be driven by endurance signings Owen Kelly and Mark Noske.

Richards finished third in the event last year and came perilously close to victory in the dying stages of the 2003 race.

Of added bonus for the team is that all four drivers have finished in the top 10 in the Sandown 500 previously.

Jason Richards (#3 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"Normally Sandown has rain at some point in the race. Last year we braved it out on slicks for the majority of the race and got quite an amazing result. This year we'll be more competitive in outright speed and hopefully survive in the wet as well . I quite like the format of Sandown too. The length, the race and particularly the weather element makes for a tricky day." Best Sandown 500 Result - 3rd, 2005 with Jamie Whincup.

Andrew Jones (#3 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"Jason and I didn't do a massive amount of laps on Monday but we did all of the things we needed to do before Sandown. One of the things with the endurance events when you share a car, you have to compromise on most things. Luckily, Jason and I are similar in size but there are small differences. I'm longer from the waist down with longer legs so we've modified the steering wheel height slightly and the seat insert as well. But in comparison with other years and drivers I've driven with for the enduros, the compromises between Jason and I have been pretty minimal." Best Sandown 500 Result - 10th, 2005 with Cameron McConville.

Owen Kelly (#23 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"We haven't been trying to set blistering lap times during our tests. Getting comfortable in the car is the important thing and you can only achieve that by running lots of laps. In terms of qualifying and starting the race, we'll make a decision on who does what during the week before we go to Sandown. Rain would level it up a bit and I don't mind the rain at all. It will be a matter of rolling the car out of the truck at Sandown and seeing where it's placed in the first session. I think we're capable of finishing the race in the top 10. Both Mark and I have done it enough to know to stay out of trouble. If we can do that and look after the tyres, we'll be alright." Best Sandown 500 Result - 8th, 2003 with David Besnard.

Mark Noske (#23 Firepower/Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ)
"It was good to get back into the swing of things at the last test on Monday. It all felt a bit more like it should rather than being so alien, which happens when you don't spend much time driving the cars. Owen and I have taken part in three test days now and we shared the #2 3 car on Monday between ourselves, so that was a major help. With the forecast of rain, I don't think we'll struggle with race pace. It will be qualifying pace, if anything, that we'll struggle with, because you need to be in these cars all year to get the best out of new tyres. But anything can happen when it's wet and we're quietly confident we can do a good job." Best Sandown 500 Result - 6th, 1998 with Greg Murphy.

-credit: tm