JACK DANIEL'S RACING DUO HEAD TO BARBAGALLO WITH RECENT HISTORY ON SIDE Returning to Barbagallo in Western Australia this weekend, the scene of his first V8 Supercar round win in five years, Jack Daniel's Racing driver Steven Richards feels his...
JACK DANIEL'S RACING DUO HEAD TO BARBAGALLO WITH RECENT HISTORY ON SIDE
Returning to Barbagallo in Western Australia this weekend, the scene of his first V8 Supercar round win in five years, Jack Daniel's Racing driver Steven Richards feels his team is on top of niggling new car problems that have affected his Commodore in the early rounds of 2006.
However, such has been the strength of the JDR Commodores this season, Richards sits a handy fourth in the championship after a fifth in Adelaide and 10th at Pukekohe in addition to two race wins at the non-championship Australian Grand Prix event.
Richards and his team have been busy, completing a test session at Winton last Tuesday, where he and team-mate Paul Dumbrell had the track to themselves.
"I think we've got our niggling problems solved and the test day gave us a lot better indication of what's been causing it," Richards said.
"It was one of the most important parts of the day in terms of working on that issue. The track was in reasonable condition so the times reflected that. We got through a truckload of things that we've wanted to try and it was a very productive day.
"Heading into Barbagallo, we know we've had a strong car there since 2004, even as far back as 2003. We comfortable with the fact our history has been good at that track, but we need to make sure we do a good job.
"Having Paul up the front is also great news for the team. It's ultra important that we can now have a change made to one car and it's instantly relevant to the other car, because both cars are now as close in specification as they've ever been, being the last two cars built by the team.
"With two cars up the front that leaves us in a strong position in the team's championship but it also steals points away from our rivals in terms of the driver's championship.
"I'd be disappointed if we weren't up on the first few rows in qualifying in Perth, that's for sure."
While Richards is perhaps seen as the 'lead' driver for JDR, team-mate Paul Dumbrell has more than proven himself in his fourth year with the Larry Perkins-owned team.
Dumbrell has been a consistent top 10 runner in 2006, finishing seventh in Adelaide and ninth in New Zealand in addition to strong finishes at the Australian Grand Prix.
"Perth may not have been that good to me in the past, but I've never been more confident of a good result than I am now - I'm driving the car Richo won with there last year, the season has started strongly for us and, with another test day under our belts we'll hit Barbagallo running," said the 23- year-old, who starts his 50th championship round this weekend.
"Our test went great; Richo and I began with different programs and we crossed paths during the day. We sorted a lot of things out and made good gains throughout the day. There were no other teams there to compare times with, but we were pleased with our performances.
"We swapped cars a couple of times during the day and both agreed the Jack Daniel's Commodores are the closest they've ever been, which is great as it means we're on the same page."
One man with special reason to do well at Barbagallo is Toll HSV Dealer Team driver Garth Tander. A native Western Australian, Tander has never won his home round and has a best finish of third in 2000.
Sitting third in the championship, the lanky 29-year-old is leaving behind the bad memory of a dubious jump start penalty in New Zealand.
"I only get one opportunity each year to race in front of my home crowd, so I look forward to it. Unfortunately, we haven't been that successful at Barbagallo over the years, for one reason or another," Tander said.
"This year, we are going into this race in good shape - we have carried our good form over from the second half of 2005 into 2006. I am looking forward to getting home and putting on a good race for my home crowd."
HOLDEN MOTORSPORT QUOTEBOOK
Rick Kelly (#15 Toll HSV DT Commodore VZ - 2nd in points)
"We had quite a good round there in 2004, but we struggled a little bit with the car we had there last year. But I am pretty happy to head there with the car we have this year, considering the speed we have had recently. Our new car is probably capable of finishing in the top three everywhere."
Todd Kelly (#22 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ - 11thin points)
"Basically, we can't have another bad round now. We need to make sure that New Zealand remains our worst round result so we can drop it after Bathurst and get on with fighting for the championship. The new format means that if you don't finish the first race, you're stuffed for the rest of the weekend. I'm confident we can press on from here, the next three rounds are at places where we usually do well so we're just going to make sure we finish every single race and play the points game because that's how you win this championship."
Cameron McConville (#50 Supercheap Auto Commodore VZ - 14th in points)
"I'm not sure what it is about Barbagallo, but I always seem to do well there. I suppose it dates back to my Formula Ford days when I won there in 1992, which set up my championship that year. I even held the FFord lap record for 10 years! While we haven't had the start to the season we hoped for at Supercheap Auto Racing, it's not time to start panicking just yet. We're not that far away, so I'm hoping we can get things back on track for the team in Perth. We just need to make sure we've got all our ducks lined up in the right order and have a little luck go our way."
Mark Skaife (#2 Holden Racing Team Commodore VZ - 16thin points)
"I've raced at Barbagallo every year, bar one, since my first full season of racing in 1990, so I'd like to think I know the track pretty well. Until it was resurfaced a couple of years ago it was always a tough track for tyre wear, and it has more sand traps with deeper sand than anywhere else in Australia so you can't afford to get complacent. It's a very cramped pit lane so pit stop strategy is also very important - you don't want your exit blocked by a car pitting in front of you." Jason Richards (#3 Tasman Motorsport Commodore VZ - 21st in points)
"Last year we had a reasonable car there but my engineer, Wally Storey, didn't make the trip due to an appendix operation. So this year we go into it with our full engineering department strength and we should be better with what we've learnt over the last year with the current model car and engine package. We have to maintain our focus on moving forward. The facts are that we have a very fast car, which is proven by the lap record at Adelaide and third at the Grand Prix meeting."