Alex Davison made his full-time return to the V8 Supercar Championship series at season opening Clipsal 500 - joining younger brother Will at Ford Performance Racing as the driver of the #18 Charlie Schwerkolt Racing Team JELD-WEN entry, and he quickly settled into his new team with what he describes as a “..really positive weekend.”
“We have worked really hard throughout practice to improve the car balance and have definitely made some progress. There is still plenty of room for improvement but we are heading in the right direction, so we’ll keep at it and see where we qualify.”
The answer to that was 16th, less than half a second off team-mate and 2012 title contender Mark Winterbottom. “I would have liked some more pace out of the car, but first time back in [the car], I’m pretty happy with that.
“We’re improving every session, and that’s what counts. I was a little concerned after the two tests we had prior to Clipsal that I wasn’t as comfortable as I would have liked, but Campbell (Little - #18 crew chief) and the team have worked tirelessly on the setup - it’s easy to see why they were in the title race last year, they’re a fantastic outfit.”
Alex made a strong start to the race and began moving forward whilst avoiding the traditional opening lap melees. “The goal was for two solid results, so I was looking to avoid trouble spots early,” Alex admitted post-race. “We decided to go long for our first stop, and I’d climbed up to fourth before we came in.”
Emerging 12th, Alex again climbed into the top five before his second stop, again rejoining at the tail of the top ten, before moving to ninth at the flag.
“Our pace was fantastic, and we achieved our goal of finishing in the top ten, so that’s all the boxes ticked for today, I can’t wait until tomorrow,” he beamed post race.
At the time, what he hadn’t realised was that he had set the fifth fastest time in the race, topped by (just 15 one hundredths of a second), team-mates Will and Mark, Craig Lowndes and Shane Van Gisbergen.
Sunday started in much the same fashion as Saturday ended; with improvement.
Alex found another three tenths of a second in qualifying to narrowly miss the top ten, but his 12th place start was good enough to launch an assault on the leaders and his goal of completing the weekend inside the top ten in the points.
Another solid start saw Alex battling Rick Kelly and Tony D’Alberto for a place inside the top ten. By lap five he was through, by lap 18 he was second, but then disaster struck as he lost 15-20 seconds in the pits with a sticking wheel nut, a situation which also plagued brother Will and Mark Winterbottom costing them all valuable track position.
“It was one of those things,” Alex admitted afterwards. “It hit all of us, it wasn’t an isolated incident, so we just had to deal with it and regroup.”
Alex again made his way forward and was up to third before his second stop, rejoining in 16th, before moving his way forward again.
On lap 63 though, his weekend came to a premature end after contact with the notorious turn eight wall, when an overtaking move on Scott Pye put him onto the dirty part of the circuit.
It was my error, plain and simple”. That said, I did not think I was taking a huge risk when overtaking Pye. He backed off and let me through well before the corner and I thought I had slowed down enough and had it all under control. I just underestimated how slippery the track was off the racing line there and even going significantly slower than you normally would, I just had no grip.
“I was a little frustrated, because I’d been held up by Rick [Kelly] and Scotty earlier, so I wanted to get around them as quickly as I could.
“Rick made an early move on the exit of turn seven, and Scott had slowed right up on the run up to turn eight, so I followed Rick. I was past the point where the furthest car forward takes the corner, but I’d underestimated the grip level on that part of the circuit.
“The impact with the wall wasn’t bad, and I was hoping to drive back around to the pits for repairs, but it also broke the steering and I ended up being a passenger from there as it took off towards the inside wall.
“I haven’t heard about the full extent of the damage yet, but the team are expecting to have it ready for the AGP support races next week.
“It was a frustrating end to an almost perfect return to the series. I’m happy with the progress we made, I’m happy with our pace, and I’m happy with the direction we’re heading. For me it was a weekend of positives, book-ended by an error on my behalf.”
For Alex and the JELD-WEN FPR Falcon, their next commitment is the Rolex Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park (March 14-17), a venue where Alex has always been a contender, having made the podium in Carrera Cup in 2012, and placing fourth in his last visit to the venue in a V8 Supercar , with two podium finishes from three starts.