Sunscreen need not apply. An abrupt and unexpected weather change in Willowbank, Australia changed the program for the V8 Supercars testing at Queensland Raceway. It was a dark and gloomy day Wednesday and and early on quite wet on the 1.988 mi/3.2 km six-corner road circuit. The teams got a chance to test the Dunlop wets, which to some resembled intermediates because the grooves weren’t deep. V8’s run on a control tire.
The one-day test was geared toward orienting eighteen ‘International’ drivers for the upcoming Armor All Gold Coast 600 race in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia. They were paired with existing V8 teams for two weekend races.
One driver laughed at the morning rain and deliberately stayed out on his slicks. GIANNI MORBIDELLI/No.12 Triple F Racing Ford Falcon wanted to push it to the limits to see what the car could do. Morbidelli, eight-time DTM champion, held his own. His co-driver is DEAN FIORE.
PATRICK LONG/No.34 Fujitsu Racing/GRM Commodore VE hopped to his car, trying to keep his pedal foot dry. His crew/valet then wiped down both feet before he went on track, the idea being to keep his pedal foot from sliding.
Other drivers came in during the rain, including SCOTT PRUETT/No.30 Gulf Western Oil Racing Commodore VE. His co-driver is MARK NOSKE, who hans’t run the full V8 season. Pruett didn’t feel there was much to be learned in the rain.
The rain cleared and the track dried….until an hour after the lunch break, when down it came and the cars all came in. After that, only a lone car here and there ventured out.
There were some offs, but nothing major. HELIO CASTRONEVES/47 Wilson Security Racing Falcon FG met the the gravel trap up close and personal. He will be co-driving with TIM SLADE.
WILL POWER/No.6 Dunlop Super Dealer FPR Falcon FG found the grass. He co-drives with STEVE RICHARDS.
During the lunch break all the drivers and media met for an informal lunch and some brief chatter. Castroneves hung out with two of his IndyCar pals, past and current: SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/19 Dick Johnson Racing Falcon FG, who left IndyCar for overseas racing including F1, and ALEX TAGLIANI/No.11 Rock Racing Commodore VE. Tag’s co-driver is JASON BARGWANNA.
For Castroneves and Bourdais, the test was their very first experience in a V8 Supercar and it was an eye-opener. They both were cognizant of their inexperience. They wanted to help their series drivers, who were in a points championship, but even more they “didn’t want to screw up.” They thought their IROC experience (run in stock cars) would have helped, but no.
Bourdais said the V8’s were very different cars, and even with sequential gearing instead of the old H gearbox patter, left hand shifting was a challenge. Castroneves admitted it took him awhile before the sequential gearing became easier. Tag just smiled. He’d raced a V8 in 2006 and had the H pattern gear, so he adapted quickly to the sequential.
Castroneves said it was fun to drive different cars, and he was getting lots of tips from Slade and the team. He said it was an adjustment driving a heavier, bigger car. Bourdais said the V8’s were very different, hard to handle and not easy to drive. When asked about downforce, Castroneves said “What downforce?”
Mastering the driver changes was another new experience.
SCOTT DIXON/No.7 Jack Daniels Racing Commodore VE and co-driver TODD KELLY practiced their driver changes over and over in the garage.. At first glance it looked like friendly rough housing. One driver stood outside the driver’s door, hoses in hand. The doors have handles to open, the window net comes down, and the exiting driver jumps/is yanked out, and the new driver gets shoved in. Each driver needs help keeping his HANS device from getting caught in the roll cage. The departing driver pulls down the visor, pushes in the legs and generally seems to be shoving 10 pounds into a five pound sack. One assisting person is allowed, and is usually the co-driver.
Castroneves admired the flexibility of his young co-driver during pit stops. The Brazilian said he was 35 and not able to bend into a pretzel like Slade.
Castroneves also practiced pit stops in pit lane.
WILL POWER/No.6 Dunlop Super Dealer FPR Falcon FG said for him the pit stops were different, and hard. His co-driver is STEVE RICHARDS.
TONY COCHRANE, Chairman V8 Supercars Australia said they were expecting a big race crowd, of 135-150,000.