Queensland Raceway in the past has not been a circuit that has yielded great results for Tasman Motorsport, with Jason Richards spectacular rollover last year being something that would stick in most peoples memories. Using this adversity, the team really wanted to make amends returning this year.
I felt that the two hour session on Friday afternoon to be the most productive that we have had this year. A big part of this can be attributed to some hardware changes being made to the steering on my car at the last test day that improved the 'feel' from the car. We had some planned changes that we wanted to make to the car early on, so we systematically went through them. With thirty minutes remaining in the session, I felt that we had been able to achieve a good balance from the car, so we changed to our second set of tyres for our simulated qualifying run. The time was better than our previous best during the session by four and a half tenths. We hadn't been able to achieve much of a new tyre gain in the previous rounds, so I felt this to be a step in the right direction. Both Jason and I were happy with our cars from a balance point of view, but they weren't generating enough speed. I finished the session in Position 21 and Jason was 17th with the time difference being 1 tenth of a second.
The thing with having a balanced car that is not producing a lot speed, generally means that it is not producing enough mechanical grip. We made some changes to the roll centres on the car for qualifying to try to generate this grip, but keeping the balance the same.
It made the car quite lazy through the corners and I wasn't able to carry very good speed. We did what we could to help fix this with the time that we had. I ended the session in Position 26, with Jason qualifying 23rd.
Again trying to get some more speed, we made some small changes for Race one (32laps). We lost the balance this time, with quite an amount of understeer in the car. Then on lap five, Steve Owen made a big lunge down the inside of me going into turn 4. He had way too much speed on and ran into the Left front wheel of my car and then off the road. (The contact bent the upright pin, giving the car 13degrees of left hand down on the steering) This made things worse with the understeer situation from the car, especially considering that four of the six corners turn right. The race for me was quite incident free from then on. I finished 23rd with Jason finishing 17th.
For Race two (45 laps, reverse grid) we used our tyres from the first race so that we had good ones left for the third race. I made a good start from 8th position to be in 6th at the end of the first lap. I remained in this position until we made our compulsory pit stop. The Front left wheel nut safety lug jammed stopping the guys from getting the rattle gun on to the nut. We lost around 5 seconds with our stop.
Towards the end of the race, I had quite a good battle with Murph for around five laps. I had a small issue with a long brake pedal for the last half of the race. I finished 18th with Jason finishing 24th. He received a drive through penalty for an incident with Will Davison on the first lap.
We decided to head toward a set-up for Race Three (45 laps) that was similar to how we ended the Friday Practice session, with some small differences. We also had Good tyres left for the last race. I started the third race from 22nd position and again got a good start. The balance in the car felt very good and the braking was very good. I was able to get by quite a few guys in the first few laps of the race including Paul Dumbrell and Jason. The car had good balance back again. On lap 8 the power steering pump started to fail, and you start to appreciate how well they work because the steering is very heavy without it. Very heavy. It was a case of just dealing with it. My compulsory stop was again not great, this time being a small problem with the left rear wheel and I lost a couple of positions because of it.
I came out behind Jason Bargwanna and Brad Jones and set about trying to get by them. I managed to get by Bargs on lap 26 and then focused on Brad. When Brad got by Lee Holdsworth under brakes into Turn 6 on lap 31, I made the most of an opportunity to stuff it up the inside of Lee also, and managed to get by. I got by Brad a couple of laps later into the same corner under brakes when he made a small mistake. Jason was the next car up the road and he had quite a reasonable gap. I was able to close the gap to just over one second by the end of the race. I finished in 17th position with Jason in 16th.
It was quite a difficult weekend for the team, but I think we made the most of what we could and I finished 18th for the round, Jason was 16th.
The next round is at Oran Park on the 11-13 August. Oran Park was Tasman's test track when it was based in Sydney so we should have a much better weekend than Ipswich.
I hope everyone is well and chat with you soon.