Easter is usually reserved for quality time off with the family, but the opportunity to get more laps around Mount Panorama as part of Holden’s Bathurst 12 Hour team was just too good to pass up.
Unlike October’s V8 Supercar race, this race was for production cars, with Holden entering two Astras for the first showroom showdown at Bathurst since 1994.
I shared an SRi Turbo Coupe with V8 Supercar rookies Jack Perkins and
Shane Price, along with Bathurst specialist Nathan Pretty.
Fellow Kiwi Christina Orr made the trip over to drive a pink CDTi Diesel Hatch with Leanne Tander, Samantha Reid and Lauren Gray.
To say this race was different to the usual 1000km sprint is an understatement, with the lap times more than half a minute slower than the V8s, it was easier to take in some of the spectacular sights that Mount Panorama has to offer.
After starting 15th and having run as high as 11th, by the end of the 12 hours, we were back in 15th.
We had completed 230 laps and coped with a couple of blown tyres, a persistent gremlin created by removing the standard exhaust that periodically cut turbo boost, and a broken driveshaft.
For an absolute showroom standard Astra that hadn’t been developed for racing, nor really tested before the race, it was a fairly impressive result.
Christina and the girls didn’t finish, but before a blown turbo seal stopped their run eight hours in, they surprised many with their performance as did the diesel Astra, which could go for over three hours without stopping for fuel. From Bathurst it was straight to Winton for the second Tasman Motorsport test of the year.
It was our first opportunity to test both VE Commodores side-by-side, and the day proved to be worthwhile. My teammate, Greg Murphy and I back-to-backed each others’ cars to find out where we’re both at and where we should be going.
Murph’s car ran the new development Holden Motorsport engine and we were both impressed with it. Each of our cars had some better points than the other and in addition to the new motor, we also ran through a development programme on brakes, some thermal areas and aerodynamics.
It wasn’t a trouble-free day. My car‘s alternator caught fire during the morning warm-up and the repairs delayed our start until lunch.
Though the late start was frustrating, we lapped consistently in the 1m 24s range and a best of 24.1, was as quick as I’ve ever been around Winton for any test.
After a quick go over, the cars were loaded on the plane for the trip home.
I’ve never had much luck at Pukekohe, but Murph’s got four wins under his belt so I’ll be leaning on him for as much information and advice as possible.
I’d like to change my fortunes there before we move to Hamilton for the street race next year, but having either of the Tasman Motorsport VEs on the podium will be satisfying enough.