Just 14 days after being blooded for the first time at Bathurst’s Mt Panorama, Chris Pither today had another baptism of fire – new type of car and another new track lined with concrete walls.
Pither’s first ever drive in the Kanga Loaders Aussie Racing Car displayed the talent for which he has become known in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar series, but a mechanical failure robbed him of any chance of a decent result in Race 1.
The concrete canyons of the challenging but exciting Surfers Paradise street circuit are not exactly the ideal place to learn the behavioural traits of these “go-karts on steroids”, but Pither showed he was up to the job at hand.
In qualifying Chris hung out his tremendous talent for all to see. After only 12 laps experience of both the car and the circuit, he qualified 4th, just one second slower than guys who’ve been punting these things on Australian tracks for years.
Seven laps down and the fastest time not surprisingly was on lap 7.
Asked about the handling characteristics of his Kanga Loaders Aussie Racing Car and what they are like to drive, with a broad smile on his face Pither enthused: “Fun! They are really positive, but nervous at the same time. They’re really sensitive and a lot of fun. You can really hook them around. You’ve got to really push them. Whereas with a lot of other cars it’s really easy to over drive them; in an Aussie Racing Car you can really get stuck in, which is fun.
Session Standings: 1 Percat, 2 Simmons, 3 Kemal, 4 J. Ward, 5 Clews, 6 Smith, 7 Hunt, 8 Wolki, 9 Edwards, 10 McCashey, 15 Pither
Pither quickly moved up the order as he gained familiarity with the car and circuit, moving almost immediately to 9th.
When Campbell spun at turn 1, the session was red flagged, reducing the opportunity to do quick laps, because the first lap out from the pits is from a standing start.
But on lap 5 Pither put in what would become his fastest lap of the session, a time good enough for 2nd when it was posted.
The next lap promised to be his quickest in the “mini” Kanga Loaders Falcon, but Kemal “had a moment”, which baulked the young Kiwi.
With 41 competitors, the track was very busy and Pither ended up in a gaggle of cars for much of the session, holding him back from laying down the sort of time he believed he was capable of.
Given his experience in these cars: an outstanding job! And the smile on the dial told the story of how much fun he was having.
Grid Positions: 1 Hunt, 2 Kemal, 3 Masini, 4 Pither, 5 Corbet, 6 Edwards, 7 McCashney, 8 Clews, 9 Simmons, 10 Kipper
Race 1 (6 laps):
Mechanical woes robbed Pither and his Kanga Loaders Falcon of a good finish. Chris got off the line well, but hadn’t noticed that a leak (probably fuel) had put fluid all through his pedal box.
Chris sums up his race: “When I got to the first corner, because of the fluid my heel slipped when I went for the brakes and I touched Josh Hunt and lost a few spots.
“I gathered myself up and got going, but my foot slipped again going into turn 3. I tried to turn in early to avoid the guys in front and ended up spinning.
“I got going again, but something went wrong with the gearshift; it went all sloppy and loose.
“Not long after that I got onto the front straight and it looks like I ran out of fuel, which is why I’m pretty sure the fluid on the floor was fuel.”
Race 1 Results: 1 Kemal, 2 Masini, 3 Hunt, 4 Clews, 5 Kipper, 6 Duckworth, 7 Dale, 8 P. Ward, 9 Quinlan, 10 McHugh, DNF Pither
The Kanga Loaders Falcon Aussie Racing Car lines up tomorrow for Race 2 and will compete in Race 3 on Saturday, 21 October.