What a difference a day makes at Albert Park in Melbourne for the Wednesday of the Rolex Australian Grand Prix weekend. The scorching temperatures dropped nearly thirty degrees, with a cloudy breezy day. Construction continued at a feverish pace.
Meanwhile in Pit Lane, there were signs of activity. The top tier teams were all but invisible, hiding behind barrier walls. Further on down pit lane, there was a more Open Door policy.
Thursday morning the F1 teams start their Scrutineering process, while all of the weekend’s support races take to the track, including the popular V8 Supercars.
The V8’s have their own Pit Lane, further on down the line from F1. All the teams were feverishly working away with no restrictive barriers to prevent viewing. On site were several drivers, including points leader, CRAIG LOWNDES/Red Bull Racing Australia Holden; third place points holder, WILL DAVISON/Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford; and RBRA Development Driver, Rookie CASEY STONER, who is only a Rookie on four wheels, having won two MotoGP World Championships.
Friday was a very busy day for the V8 Supercars on the second of the four-day Clipsal 500 Race in Adelaide Australia. The 28-car field had six sessions, almost back to back, with 55-90 minute spans between sessions. If there was a mechanical problem or crash damage in one session, there was very little time to make it right for the next session.
The weather was warm and dry, with none of the expected rain.
The lap times dropped with each successive session, and Fords led the charts for all except the last and perhaps most important – Top Ten Shootout. There are 11 Fords and 17 Holdens. It’s always been an intense rivalry between the two manufacturers.
Next season Nissan will be joining the series, running with RICK and TODD KELLY.
Friday morning’s two half-hour practice sessions were not well attended, with only 14 cars in the first, and 15 cars in the second. The rationale seemed to be that it was better to wait until later to save tires and wear and tear on the car.
DAVID REYNOLDS/No.55 The Bottle-O Racing Team Ford was fastest in P1 at 1:23.0067. P2 was ninety-minutes later, and topped by TONY D’ALBERTO/No.3 Tony D’Alberto Racing Ford at 1:22.2988.
Forty minutes later P3 took place, with all 28 V8’s taking part. Frosty, aka MARK WINTERBOTTOM/No.5 Orrcon Steel FPR Ford, was fastest, turning 1:21.8112.
Fifty-minutes later, the V8’s had their fourth/final Practice session, again with a full field. That was quite a testament to the teams, as there was continuing and ongoing drama with the sturdy sedan class – I call some of it carnage. More than one team could have made good use of a panel beater for a sponsor.
In P4, Frosty was again fastest, at 1:21.1303.
Winterbottom continued his winning ways by taking the first Qualifying race, and on Lap Ten he turned the fastest lap (1:20.8159 – the greatest margin under the record. CRAIG LOWNDES/No.888 TeamVodafone Holden was runner-up.
Third through fifth finishers were Frosty’s teammate, WILL DAVISON/No.6 Trading Post FPR Ford, JAMIE WHINCUP/No.1 TeamVodafone Holden, and SHANE VAN GISBERGEN/No.9 SP Tools Racing Ford.
Second through fourth also ran times under the lap record.
In V8’s, there are two Rounds per weekend, and they are each a stand-alone race. Previously the grid for the second race was based on the finishing order of the first race of the weekend. Now, there is a separate Qualifying race for each Round. I guess there’s something to be said for having another go at it and trying for a better second round.
V8’s have a Qualifying Race #1, and the top ten finishers of that race run the Top Ten Shootout, which determines the starting order for the Saturday race. It’s a big deal.
Off-track, Clipsal 2002 winner, JASON BRIGHT/No.8 Team BOC Holden did well. He wrote a Spectator Guide for the official race program, entitled “Get The Most Out Of The Race” and “Track Tips.” And, he got a call from his race buddy, STEPHANE SARRAZIN, with whom he’s raced before, with a racing invite. Sarrazin is running the 12 Hours of Sebring American Le Mans race next weekend and he invited Brighty to drive with him in the No.44 Starworks HPD ARX Honda, with RYAN DALZIEL and VICENTE POTOLICCHIO. That team had the overall and Daytona Prototype pole in the 24 Hours of Daytona in January, and finished second overall and in class. But that is a conflicting date for Bright, as he’s racing in the non-championship V8 races at the Australian Grand Prix F1 race in Melbourne.
On track Brighty was having his challenges. Friday he got beached in gravel, causing a TV moment for the cameraman on that corner, who showed the volunteer Track Marshals using their hands to dig out the deeply embedded car until he could be pulled out. He also had other moments during the day with other cars and walls – some spectacular. He ran five laps in the Qualifying Race, and didn’t make the Top Ten Shootout.
Friday’s attendance was 62,700, compared to 66,200 last year and the best Friday of 73,300 in 2008.
The Clipsal 500 Adelaide event didn’t go to four days until 2003. Since then the Thursday of each event is a bye for the V8’s, who start on Fridays.
The 14th Annual Clipsal 500 Race in Adelaide Australia started out on Wet Wednesday with the downtown/residential street circuit unexpectedly deluged with rain. Despite the mud and muck, the course was set up and good to go on time for Thursday’s opening day. .
The 2012 Clipsal 500 will be a hard act to follow: last year’s race meeting was the eighth time the Australian V8 race was judged the best of the V8 season. The race is the only event inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall of Fame.
Thursday turned out to be dry, sunny and warm at times, and somewhat breezy. The V8’s were still in preparation mode for their first of three track days starting Friday.
But, there was no lack of Thursday activity on the 3.22 km/2-mile (modified) Formula One circuit. All seven of the support series took to the track and between their sessions were various Demonstrations and exhibition, for a very long ten and a half-hour day. The Aussies are serious petrol heads.
The widely varied slate includes: Auto One V8 Ute Series, Touring Car Masters presented by Autobarn, Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, V8 Development Series, Australian GT Championship, FW1 Aussie Racing Cars, and Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia.
Among the 40,700 fans Thursday were lots of school kids, especially invited for the day. The nearby Christian Brothers College borders on Turn Four, and on the roof all the lads were lined up for primo seats.
There are 28 V8 Supercars drivers entered for the weekend, with a Qualifying Race, the Top Ten Shoot Out, and two weekend races – Rounds One and Two of the 2012 session. JAMIE WINCUP, the 2011 V8 Champion, is again running the familiar red No.1 Team Vodafone Holden, with teammate CRAIG LOWNDES in No.888.
The Series had 29 available franchise licenses for driver/teams, but two years ago the Series bought back the 29th license (A Ford Falcon), meaning that last year and this the field is permanently capped at 28 cars and the field is full. Drivers/Teams have to run all races on the 2012 schedule. As of now, the schedule lists 16 events, although one weekend in November is TBA. Fourteen of the race meetings are for championship points. The glitzy glamour weekend as part of the Australian Grand Prix two weeks from now in Melbourne do not count for points.
The idea behind the V8 Series owning the last franchise was for the opportunity to field a car as a wild card entry, similar to Promoter’s Option in the US – not widely used any more. The past two years it had been hoped MARCOS AMBROSE could be the driver at the season’s December finale at Homebush in Sydney. Ambrose is currently running NASCAR Sprint Cup with Richard Petty Racing, and it’s season ends in November. However, it never worked out.
DAVID MALONE is the new V8 Series CEO, and TONY COCHRANE continues in his role as Chairman.
The V8 Series Board determines whom, if anyone, will drive that car, and money is not the deciding factor. It’s more of justifying the value to the category and the particular venue. For Bathurst, there are two available rides. The V8 Series Board consists of Cochrane, four V8 team owners, and two shareholders.
Thursday’s attendance was 40,700, less than last year’s 41,800, The best Thursday was 2008 with 44,200.
Except where otherwise noted, all photos are provided by Ron Searle
This impromptu memorial to Dan Wheldon greeted me each morning as I walked along the river path to the pit lane. It was in the fenced in landscaping and grew from two pictures the first morning to three on the next day.
It was just one of the many different kinds of tributes to the late English open wheel racer, who was to have driven in the Armor All Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercar Championship at Surfer’s Paradise
As I paused to reflect Saturday morning, I was joined, first by PATRICK LONG, and then JOEY HAND, both California drivers. Each shared memories of racing against Dan years ago in times gone by, before any of them had started making a name for himself. It was a nice way to start the day.
Earlier in the weekend, racers from England who belonged to BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club), led by OLIVER GAVIN and RICHARD WESTBROOK – displayed their tribute to Dan, who was also a BRDC member. The International drivers were joined by Honorary BRDC members.
Saturday morning in Pit Lane, the V8 drivers and community held a Memorial for Dan Wheldon. The inaugural Dan Wheldon Trophy for the top finishing International driver was unveiled. It was awarded to the SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS based on points accumulated in the two Rounds. He won Saturday and finished runner-up on Sunday.
Throughout the weekend one observed various individual, team and series remembrances
During the Gold Coast weekend, there were two public Memorial Services for Wheldon back in the US. The first was held in his American hometown of St. Petersburg for friends and neighbors, as well as his family-personal and IndyCar. Fellow drivers, DARIO FRANCHITTI, BRYAN HERTA, and TONY KANAAN, along with Wheldon’s three brothers, served as pall bearers. Sunday another, larger service was held by IndyCar at Conseco Field in Indianapolis with the IndyCar community and public. Wheldon’s family, IndyCar drivers and officials, and many others attended.
At Talladega, NASCAR also honored Dan. NASCAR provided Lionhearted decals for every race car – based on the Lionhart sticker Wheldon wore on his helmet; and NASCAR also provided helmet decals for any driver who wanted.
BRAD KESELOWSKI finished fourth Sunday in the Sprint Cup race, with a rear bumper sign – “In Honor of Dan.”
NASCAR held a moment of silence for Wheldon prior to the Sunday Sprint Cup race.
SUNDAY ARMOR ALL GOLD COAST 600 V8 SUPERCAR RESULTS
1. MARK WINTERBOTTOM & RICHARD LYONS – Ford
2. JAMIE WHINCUP & SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS – Holden
3. LEE HOLDSWORTH & SIMON PAGENAUD – Holden
4. GREG MURPHY & OLIVER GAVIN- Holden
5. RICK KELLY & JORG BERGMEISTER- Holden
6. JAMES COURTNEY & DARREN TURNER – Holden
7. STEVE OWEN & BORIS SAID – Holden
8. RUSSELL INGALL & JAN MAGNUSSEN- Holden
9. TODD KELLY & RICHARD WESTBROOK- Holden
10. TIM SLADE & HELIO CASTRONEVES – Ford
11. DAVID REYNOLDS & ALEX TAGLIANI- Holden
12. STEVEN JOHNSON & DIRK MUELLER – Ford
13. JONATHAN WEBB & GIL de FERRAN – Ford
14. WILL DAVISON & MIKA SALO – Ford
15. FABIAN COULTHARD & PATRICK LONG- Holden
16. SHANE VAN GISBERGEN & EMANUELE PIRRO – Ford
17. JASON BARGWANNA & ALAN SIMONSEN- Holden
18. ALEX DAVISON & MARC LIEB – Ford
19. TONY D’ALBERTO & VITANTONIO LIUZZI – Ford
20. CRAIG LOWNDES & ANDY PRIAULX- Holden
21. MICHAEL CARUSO & AUGUSTO FARFUS Jr- Holden
22. KARL REINDLER & FABRIZIO GIOVANARDI – Holden
23. GARTH TANDER & RYAN BRISCOE – Holden
DNF JAMES MOFFAT & JOEY HAND – Ford
DNF DEAN FIORE & GIANNI MORBIDELLI – Ford
DNF JASON BRIGHT & STEPHANE SARRAZIN- Holden
DNF WARREN LUFF & MARINO FRANCHITTI – Holden
DNF PAUL DUMBRELL & CHRISTIAN KLIEN – Ford
MARK WINTERBOTTOM/No.5 Orrcon Steel FPR Ford won the Armor All Gold Coast 600 by taking the lead from JAMIE WHINCUP/No.88 TeamVodafone Holden on Lap 93. It was a graceful pass and off he went, never looking back. It was Frosty’s first win of the season, and moves him up to fourth in the standings with three races remaining.
Winterbottom’s International Guest driver was RICHARD LYONS of Ireland, who had about five minutes notice whilst in Japan that he could fill in for WILL POWER, who was injured in last weekend’s Las Vegas IndyCar race.
Whincup took over the points lead, with a first on Saturday and a second on Sunday. He now leads his TeamVodafone teammate, CRAIG LOWNDES by 143 points. Lowndes, and International driver, ANDY PRIAULX, finished fifth Sunday and DNF on Saturday.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS of France, co-driving with Whincup, won the inaugural Dan Wheldon Memorial Trophy for Top International driver over the two days. The usually reserved driver got emotional on the podium when winning the award. He said “It was a tough trophy to win.”
Whincup and International driver, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS of France, had led much of the race. Bourdais is the only driver to have won the Gold Coast race in two series – CART and V8’s.
Finishing third was LEE HOLDSWORTH & SIMON PAGENAUD of France/No.33 Fujitsu Racing GRM Holden. Pagenaud was the top International Rookie driver. It also didn’t go unnoticed that two French active IndyCar drivers were podium finishers.
GREG MURPHY & OLIVER GAVIN/No.11 Pepsi Max Crew Holden finished fourth, with RICK KELLY & JORG BERGMEISTER/No.15 Jack Daniel’s Racing Holden coming in fifth.
Two of the top ten cars, first and tenth, were Fords. The other eight were Holdens.
Another big winner this weekend was Queensland. The government underwrites the event, and attendance was up this year by more than 11,000. This year overall the attendance was 180,486, compared to last year’s OA at 170,900+.
The weather is really hot in Surfer’s Paradise for the last race of the day, the Armor All Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercars. There are mobs of people everywhere. I have never seen so much team/driver merchandise on so many people. And the long queues for each of the team merchandise trailers was mind-boggling. These Aussies really take their racing seriously – and loyally.
Several incidents and issues sidelined some International drivers before they had time to show their potential, most notably RYAN BRISCOE of Australia/No.2 Toll Holden Racing Team. On Lap Nine, he was running P6 after starting second. On Lap 10 he slowed considerably, puttered back to the pits. The team changed tires, and twice made adjustments of some kind inside the driver door. But neither Briscoe or co-driver GARTH TANDER went back on course. They retired in P26. The team owner said it was a broken axle. The problem was exacerbated by lack of radio communication between the car and pits.
Two other International drivers who hardly had a chance were MARINO FRANCHITTI of Scotland/No.30 Gulf Western Oil Racing Holden, who made it to Lap 15 before retiring-leaving co-driver WARREN LUFF all dressed up and no place to go; and CHRISTIAN KLIEN of Austria/No.55 The Bottle-O-Racing Team Ford, who was bumped by JAN MAGNUSSEN of Denmark/No.39 Supercheap Auto Racing Holden. Klien hit the wall and bounced back into traffic. Cars were going every which was around him, but only one pranged his nose as getting by. Klien’s day was done and ditto for co-driver, PAUL DUMBRELL, who wanted a better result for one of his last V8 races. Magnussen served a Pit Lane Penalty for the incident.
JOEY HAND of California/No.18 Jim Beam Racing Ford had brake problems from Lap Two on, and finally pitted. The car was worked on and Co-driver JAMES MOFFAT went back out, about nine to ten laps down.
Sunday morning Bulletin No.3 came out from CAMS – V8 Stewards regarding Additional notes for Kerb Overuse Guidelines. It had to do with Bollards and Detection Loops in T2, T6, T7, T8, T9, and T10 chicane. I couldn’t follow it, but did notice that when a driver hit five HOP (kerb jumping, the number five lit up the screen in yellow. PLP=Pit Lane Penalties could be applied, and then the driver’s count would be zeroed out. On the race’s last lap, a minimum 25-point penalty will apply to any car that reaches a count of six on the last lap of the race.
There was one funny moment during a pit stop. A green car which shall go nameless had problems with the left front tire not coming off for the tire changer. So he just kicked it, and sent out the car.
Shortly thereafter, a very unfunny moment occurred when the Mother Energy Racing Team No.19 was refueling and the hose got loose, splashing fuel everywhere. It was contained, but it was scary for JONATHON WEBB. His co-driver is GIL de FERRAN of Brazil, who had already swapped seats.
If he didn’t have bad luck this weekend, JASON BRIGHT would have no luck at all. He gambled incorrectly on the rain-interrupted qualifying session on Saturday, and ended up starting last. His co-driver in No.8 Team BOC Holden is STEPHANE SARRAZIN of France. They finished P21 in the Saturday race.
Sunday’s qualifying didn’t go as well as planned, and Bright qualified twenty-fifth. He was moving up the pack when he was hit by DEAN FIORE/No.12 Westrac Racing Ford. Fiore had spun and was getting back into traffic and broadsided Bright. Fiore continued. Bright had to be towed.
Fiore’s co-driver is GIANNI MORBIDELLI of Italy.
Bright has known his co-driver for years. They ran the 2006 Sebring 12 Hour race together, with PEDRO LAMY, and finished second in GT1, behind OLIVER GAVIN of England, who is also racing this weekend.
So far the cautions Sunday have been for incidents rather than Bollards. Except for one – that may have been for the leader being 23 seconds ahead of second place. That could explain Bourdais’ remark Saturday about his commanding lead – not wanting to get too far ahead, for fear of causing a caution to bunch the field.
JAMIE WHINCUP/No.88 Team Vodafone is on pole for Round 22 of the Armor All Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercar race Sunday afternoon at Surfer’s Paradise. His time was a sizzling 1:10.9615, literally set in the last few seconds of the forty-minute qualifying session. Whincup’s co-driver is SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS of France. The duo were on pole for Saturday’s race and won.
Whincup had been fastest early on, and then the top position changed regularly, with CRAIG LOWNDES (ANDY PRIAULX of UK)/No.888 Team Vodafone Holden, GARTH TANDER (RYAN BRISCOE of Australia)/2 Toll Holden Racing Team, and MARK WINTERBOTTOM (RICHARD LYONS of Ireland/No.5 Orrcon Steel FPR Ford all being on top at least once.
The Tander team was all set to celebrate after the checkered flag flew, but Whincup was still on his hot lap, and pipped Tander.
Whincup’s lap was a record, as were the laps turned by Tander, Winterbottom, WILL DAVISON (MIKA SALO)/No.6 Trading Post FPR Ford, and Lowndes.
Tander has been widely quoted of late as wanting to be the cat among the two pigeons – the Team Vodafone Holden drivers, CRAIG LOWNDES and JAMIE WHINCUP, who are battling for the V8 Championship. It should be an interesting race, with that in mind, and PAUL DUMBRELL (CHRISTIAN KLIEN)/No.55 The Bottle-O Racing Team Ford having some publicized scores to settle in his last three races before retirement.
ROUND 22 ARMOR ALL GOLD COAST V8 Supercars Qualifying
1 – JAMIE WHINCUP & SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS – Holden
2 – GARTH TANDER & RYAN BRISCOE – Holden
3 – MARK WINTERBOTTOM & RICHARD LYONS – Ford
4 – WILL DAVISON & MIKA SALO – Ford
5 – CRAIG LOWNDES & ANDY PRIAULX- Holden
6 – STEVE OWEN & BORIS SAID – Holden
7 – GREG MURPHY & OLIVER GAVIN- Holden
8 – LEE HOLDSWORTH & SIMON PAGENAUD – Holden
9 – JAMES MOFFAT & JOEY HAND – Ford
10 – DAVID REYNOLDS & ALEX TAGLIANI- Holden
11 – MICHAEL CARUSO & AUGUSTO FARFUS Jr- Holden
12 – ALEX DAVISON & MARC LIEB – Ford
13 – PAUL DUMBRELL & CHRISTIAN KLIEN – Ford
14 – RICK KELLY & JORG BERGMEISTER- Holden
15 – FABIAN COULTHARD & PATRICK LONG- Holden
16 – RUSSELL INGALL & JAN MAGNUSSEN- Holden
17 – TODD KELLY & RICHARD WESTBROOK- Holden
18 – SHANE VAN GISBERGEN & EMANUELE PIRRO – Ford
19 – JONATHAN WEBB & GIL de FERRAN – Ford
20 – TONY D’ALBERTO & VITANTONIO LIUZZI – Ford
21 – STEVEN JOHNSON & DIRK MUELLER – Ford
22 – TIM SLADE & HELIO CASTRONEVES – Ford
23 – JAMES COURTNEY & DARREN TURNER – Holden
24 – JASON BARGWANNA & ALAN SIMONSEN- Holden
25 – JASON BRIGHT & STEPHANE SARRAZIN- Holden
26 – DEAN FIORE & GIANNI MORBIDELLI – Ford
27 – WARREN LUFF & MARINO FRANCHITTI – Holden
28 – KARL REINDLER & FABRIZIO GIOVANARDI – Holden
It was a sunny Sunday morning at the Surfer’s Paradise street circuit, site of Sunday’s big Armor All Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercars Championship race. Saturday’s race was Round 21, and Sunday’s race is Round 22.
The Team Lowndes folks are out in droves handing our packets (sachets) of sunscreen, and it is a good idea.
Sunday’s race is the one being televised live in the US on SPEED TV Saturday night 11pm ET/8PT.
I’ve found at least two female team members who work on the race cars. They don’t think of themselves as female crew members, but as just one of the team
JANELLE NAVARO has been working in motorsports for the past four years. This year she’s the No.2 on The Bottle-O Racing Team No.55 Ford. In garage parlance, that is high up in the pecking order. I’m told she’s quite good, and is a faster tire changer than some of the lads. Her drivers are PAUL DUMBRELL, who is retiring at the end of this V8 season, and CHRISTIAN KLIEN of Austria.
JESSE NOORT has been working for the past six months on the Fair Dinkum Sheds No.21 Holden, raced by KARL REINDLER and FABRIZIO GIOVANARDI of Italy. Noort, seen here checking tires, works on the sub-assemblies and gearboxes.
Saturday night the V8 garages were mostly open, with the crews beavering away. Only two cars seemed to have it done at 8pm – Mother Energy Racing Team whose No.19 Ford was locked up tight behind closed doors (drivers JONATHON WEBB and GIL de FERRAN of Brazil); and the No.6 Orrcon Steel Ford raced by WILL DAVISON and MIKA SALO of Finland was nestled under a snug car cover.
Everywhere else there was lots of work going on.
Other work going on Saturday night centered on cleaning up and repairing the circuit before Sunday’s races. I saw at least two different kerb areas being reworked. The painted kerbs had lost more of their color scheme, which was peeling off in chunks. That had to be repaired, and it looked like a long, tedious job on the part of the workmen, some of whom didn’t quite seem to know how to attack the task. I looked for but didn’t see any Bollards.
It’s not just the V8’s who abuse the course. There are all the support races, such as Formula Fords, Porsche Carrera Cup, Touring Car Masters, and V8 Utes. And don’t forget the Formula One Minardi making many thrill-seeking exhibition laps. Because of the wide variety of vehicles on the course, it’s not easy trying to find ways to monitor the short-cutting and kerb hopping. What works for one series may be wrong for another.