It’s an even more perfect day in Paradise Sunday for the third and final day of the Armor All Gold Coast 600. The sun is hot, the skies are clear blue with just a hint of wispy clouds on the fringes, and the flags are waving gently in the breeze. Doesn’t get much better than that.
In the garages the 29 teams are busy readying their cars – some are still repairing, while others are on the spit and polish detail. Most of the teams worked late Saturday night also.
Sunday’s V8 schedule calls for qualifying at 11 am local time and then all the hoopla, pomp and circumstance which comes on race day – driver intros, driver parade laps, etc. The winner of the Sunday race is the winner for the weekend.
After Saturday’s mechanical problem (inside right rear bleeder screw) which couldn’t be fixed, the No.30 Gulf Western Racing Team Holden Commodore VE retired on Lap 24. The crew is repairing still, and is in hopes of making the qualifying session. The team is concentrating on the race setup. Guest International driver, SCOTT PRUETT of California will qualify the car. His goal is to finish the race. Pruett’s co-driver is NATHAN PRETTY, who crashed the car once each preceding day.
MIKA SALO of Finland is the Guest International driver with No.24 Bundaberg Red Racing Team Holden Commodore VE. He started the Saturday race, and was caught up in the Turn Four melee. It took him awhile to get sorted out as he couldn’t get the car in reverse. Salo said it’s been difficult with no practice on new tires or the standing starts – he had not done a standing start for four years. But all in all, Salo would run this race again if invited.
The V8 series took over the Gold Coast race event this year from IMG, and has a three-year contract to make it work. The V8 Series also promotes several other events. The budget this year from the Queensland government is $6.5 million, half of what it was when IndyCars ran.
The V8 Board, comprised of four V8 owners, two alternative directors, plus driver MARK SKAIFE (who won Bathurst 1000 this year with CRAIG LOWNDES) and ROGER COOK from the Adelaide Clipsal V8 race – another street circuit. TONY COCHRANE is Chairman of the V8 Series and there are three directors from his company.
Late last year the BoD came up with the idea of International drivers, posed it to all the teams, and it was welcomed. The ball started rolling. Every one of the teams had to have a guest driver, one for the one-car teams, and one for the two-car teams. There’s a lot of talk of having 29 guest drivers next year, one in every one of the 29 V8 franchised cars. Already drivers seem to be lining up. There were several drivers who got turned down for this year’s event when the roster was full.
A last minute change – about four months ago – HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN decided he was retiring for good. This came after MARK WEBBER’s accident in the Valencia F1 event. HELIO CASTRONEVES filled HHF’s place.
The driver matching/pairing came several ways. The names were put out, teams could choose, or in some cases made their deals directly. One driver, PATRICK LONG of California, heard about the race concept at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – when it was announced. He wanted to be part of it so contacted LEIGH DIFFEY, a sports car analyst and broadcaster for SPEED TV. Diffey put Long in touch with GREG ROGERS, owner of the two-car Fujitsu team for which Long is driving.