Pedersen Fighting Fit for Hamilton Street Race
NZ V8s fastman Mark Pedersen is almost fully recovered from the leg injury suffered in a freak accident at Teretonga, and says he’ll be fighting fit for the Hamilton street races. The NZ V8s cap their season with three non-championship races on the support programme for the Australian V8 Supercars at Hamilton. And Pedersen sees the event as a chance to really show what he and the United Video Ford Falcon BA can do. “Teretonga was going to be ours, but this will be the one,” the 36-year-old Manukau City driver said this week. “Mind you I’m running out of times to say: ‘this one is going to be ours.’ I’ve said that for the last six rounds (the NZ V8s points series, won by fellow Falcon racer, John McIntyre, was run over six rounds, finishing at Teretonga earlier this month).”
Things had been looking good for Teretonga, with Pedersen qualifying seventh in the blue Falcon after being 26th in a horror round for the team at Timaru the weekend before.
He said they’d worked in vain at Timaru to find a good chassis set-up, and the Teretonga turnaround had been a “testament to how strong this team is and the depth of character it has.” The outfit, engineered by Mark’s father Garry, had reverted to a basic set-up on the Falcon. “To go from 26th to seventh in one weekend is a hell of a turn-around,” Mark had said after the top-10 shootout at Teretonga. He brought the Falcon home sixth in Saturday’s race, and felt he had a car with podium potential for Sunday’s first race.
But fate intervened, though he did manage to drive the Ford to a fifth place finish. During a hailstorm which lashed the Southland racetrack on Sunday morning, Pedersen slipped on the steps of the team’s truck and landed heavily on his right knee. He could hardly walk and the team ferried him to Invercargill Hospital in Invercargill where an initial diagnosis suggested a ripped ligament in his leg. But his arrival had coincided with the arrival of the victims of a car crash and hospital staff said it would be three to four hours before he could be treated.
That wouldn’t do: Pedersen had a race to run – two, in fact, including the afternoon’s reverse-grid start 22-lapper. So they strapped his leg up, he promised to come back after the racing, and he took the grid for race two. He drove a brilliant race, especially given the injury, got the better of a battled with Clark Proctor, and finished fifth. But it hadn’t been easy. He’d lost the feeling in his right toes and was having difficulty moving his right foot from the throttle to the b rake and back again. So he adapted, mid-race, to left-foot braking, a technique he’d never tried before. “I had been missing braking zones, so I had to learn left-foot braking in one lap. “It isn’t that easy. I’ve got admiration for the V8 Supercar guys now (left-foot braking is commonly used by drivers in the Australian series).”
Pedersen said the injured leg hadn’t really been losing him much time. “It was just an endurance thing”: which would mean a tough final race.
Even so, Pedersen was optimistic. “We’re staring down our best result of the season here. “We’re just grafters who keep on going and going and going.” But a drive-through penalty for an alleged driving misdemeanour foiled Pedersen’s plans of a good race three finish. He had started 20th, passed eight cars in the mayhem-filled first corner, and was in fifth place and flying when the United Video Falcon and another car touched. Pedersen kept on-track but the other car left the tarmac, spun and got stuck, triggering a Safety Car period.
Officials ordered Pedersen to make a drive-through pit visit, effectively ending his race chances. But he fought his way back to 18th before learning he’d been docked a lap as well as having to serve the drive-through. That dropped him to 24th, on an afternoon when he’d felt a win was within his grasp, injured leg and all. He ended the series 11th on points after a fraught season in which the Falcon had plenty of pace but had been hampered by a strong of problems, including finding the right chassis set-up. Pedersen says his series chances had really ended in round two at Pukekohe.
“We finished only two of the first six races. “We’ve shown a lot of car speed during the season but no-one has noticed it because we weren’t winning.” The season’s up and down nature had been shown by the team running well at circuits it usually struggles at, and vice versa. But there had been an improvement after switching to an engine built by his father. “We put in Garry’s engine for the second half of the season and things were going up for us. “We’ve got a good engine package; now we need a good chassis package.” Pedersen says he’s told Garry that they need to get in a driver from Australia to test the car during the off-season and see where the improvement needs to come from – the chassis or Mark’s driving. “We need to get someone in – maybe Craig Baird – who can show us what the car can do. If he goes quicker than me, then I’ll have to lift my game. “We’ll never know unless we try that, and I have broad enough shoulders for that.”
But right now the focus is on Hamilton and getting the result he believes the car can achieve. The leg is coming right, though after getting treatment at Southland Hospital, Pedersen had tried to drive north but could only get as far as Oamaru before having to give up. “The first week was quite bad. I tore the ligament on the outside of the knee, but with just a little bit of work by everyone it’s coming right. “I’m not jumping around the house yet, but I’m looking forward to racing in Hamilton.”