Exclusive Motorsport.com columnist and V8 Supercars driver Rick Kelly reflects on his weekend in the west, and the podium that could have been.
While we didn’t quite manage to be 'winner winner chicken dinner', the Barbagallo Raceway weekend was a bit sweet and sour for our Jack Daniel’s Racing camp.
The big positives to come from the event were that we seemingly solved some of the issues that we’ve struggled with in the past, and we had solid form in qualifying. Okay, a couple of Top 10 finishes on Saturday isn’t the ultimate result we are looking for, we want to be up the front and challenging for wins. However, when we have our engine programme on track, we now have a very good base to work from.
Our trouble in recent times has been getting the Nissans to turn into the second last corner, and on the weekend we found a workable setup for that part of the track. While the solution won’t be applicable to every circuit we visit, it will be a good thing to keep in our pocket for the future.
After visiting our two toughest tracks of the season, it’s good to still sit in the Top 10 of the points standings.
Unfortunately our weekend unravelled a bit in the final race when we had a wheel nut issue on our second pitstop. The timing with the safety car and the short lap time bit us, and we went a lap down.
When we got back racing again, we were able to clear the leaders, hoping for another safety car which would have brought us back on to the lead lap. For much of the early portion of the Sunday race, as well as the Saturday races, I battled pretty hard with Will Davison, who was running the same tyre strategy as us on Sunday.
Could we have finished up on the podium? We will never know, but we would have definitely been in the running to finish somewhere between fifth and seventh.
During the final stint on Sunday, our car on soft tyres was fantastic.
With the car on song, and perhaps with the driver a bit fired up after the pit stop issue, old car #15 managed to sneak in the fastest lap of the race out of everyone.
Barring Sandown, Bathurst, Phillip Island and Sydney Olympic Park, all of the other races this year use soft tyres to some extent, so having that as a strength is something to look forward to.
Although we weren’t enjoying the finish to the Sunday race we wanted, I did wind up getting a grandstand seat to take in the finish. For a while there it really looked like Craig Lowndes was about to bring up win number 100!
Will Davison however won the race absolutely on merit, his car really took care of its tyres better than anyone. It’s refreshing to see a different winner, and it’s definitely good motivation for us to step up in the coming rounds.
Although our car was good, we will have to go back and have a look at what Will was doing out there with his lines, because he was flying.
I guess if there is one positive to take from the finish, it’s that we managed to get in some good TV air time for Jack Daniel’s while mixing it up with the leaders!
The Sensor Issue
While a fair quantity of the talk before the race weekend centred on the new tyre sensors, when it came to reality, they didn’t exactly change how we operated over the course of the race meeting.
Basically knowing what the tyres were doing live in real time is nicety, but in terms of tuning the car it proved more to validate what we have already assumed over many years.
It was interesting seeing some people over the weekend attempt some different qualifying simulations in practice, to see if they could find an advantage bringing the tyres up to temperate at different rates.