V8 Touring Cars come of age at Wakefield
The beauty of the depth of competitors on the grid was that for many theyd never driven a V8 Touring Car previously and of those some were new to motor racing full stop.
â€œIve always wanted to drive one Image Racings Michael Hector grinned â€œand now I can afford to. I dont know what the weekend will bring but my plan is to keep out of everybodys way and try and get my laptimes down to within five seconds of Terry [Wyhoon]. I cant wait to get out there!
Fridays practice sessions really didnt provide any clear indication of what to expect for the weekend with a number of cars circulating without their transponders so no times were recorded for the likes of Wyhoon and the Garioch brothers. One driver MIA was reigning champion Tony Evangelou who was unable to make the session due to work commitments his car was there though fresh from some love by renowned engine guru Mike Exell and some engine parts from Ford Performance Racing.
The on-track action though was pretty lively with the early timed pace-setter being John Vergotis in the ex-FTR Falcon complete with new Dick Johnson Racing engine and Johnny showed that it wasnt just the main game that benefitted from DJRs technical prowess something a number of drivers would attest to over the course of the weekend.. â€œThat thing is a jet in a straight lineÂ¦
With so many new cars on track for practice it was nice to see that there werent too many failures although both Garioch cars suffered from niggling issues that in the end only cost them a session. â€œWe only finished the cars on Thursday crew-chief Jos Fernandez admitted. â€œNathans car suffered from a broken weld which dropped the catch tank for the dry sump and allowed some oil spillage but the car is fine and Justins car had a linkage issue with the shifter so we fixed that pretty easily as well.Â
The full quota of 20 entries lined up for qualifying on Saturday morning although that quickly became 19 after Sean Fardell was forced to put his VX Commodore back in the trailer. â€œWe discovered a leaking front engine seal yesterday and havent been able to do anything about it he admitted. â€œThe engine had a complete freshen in the last few weeks so we dont want to risk doing any serious damage so well take it away and work on Mallala.
Qualifying was somewhat predictable with veterans Wyhoon Evangelou and Loadsman trading times towards the top of the field Wyhoon setting the early benchmark of 1:00.3961 before a final minute lunge by Loadsman saw a Commodore on pole his best just four one hundredths of a second faster (1:00.3524).Â
â€œIt was a good clean lap Loadsman admitted. â€œI wasnt sure I could catch Terry but after he pulled in I thought Id have a good dig and we just got him.
â€œI pulled in early because I was baulked [on a hot lap] Wyhoon admitted. â€œI looked at the time and thought we may just have pole with it but when Scott did his time there was no time left to respond.
Wyhoon regained the advantage though in the point-scoring Time Attack (which gives the top ten contenders additional series points but doesnt change the qualifying positions for the start of race one) after Loadsman put a couple of wheels off the track on the back straight dropping him back to seventh.
Jim Pollicina was having an outstanding debut in his ex-Jason Richards Tasman built VY Commodore the former Production Car competitor second at the close of the Time Attack session just nine one hundredths in arrears of Wyhoon.
â€œThat was fantastic I really enjoyed it Jim admitted with a smile afterwards.
After a strong run in qualifying Aaron Tebb was forced to sit the session out with a broken flywheel the team working hard to ensure he made the afternoons opening 15-lapper. For the young Commodore pilot a run inside the top ten was just reward after a tough season in 2010.
â€œMy biggest problem was confidence he admitted. â€œLast year I had a real issue with the rears locking on the car which made it difficult to predict so over the off-season we went right through the braking system and it looks like weve sorted it. Thats all it takes having the confidence that you can attack and arrive at a corner carrying good road speed and knowing youre not going to throw yourself off the track under heavy braking.
Loadsman led the field away for the opening 15-lapper but was quickly taken by Wyhoon before the close of the opening lap. Wyhoon then stuck his head down and charged re-setting the lap record for the category on three separate occasions.
â€œMy crew kept telling to back off and conserve but the car became easier to drive and the times came he said.
Behind him Evangelou had jumped into third off the start and followed Wyhoon through on Loadsman but almost immediately he pulled to the side of the circuit after a fuel relay cut out stalling the pack behind him in the process which allowed Wyhoon all the break he needed.
Evangelou quickly diagnosed the drama and continued losing almost an entire lap in the process.
Behind Loadsman Smerdon Pollicina and Justin Garioch battled over third place with the young former Saloon Car pilot working his way past his more experienced counterparts to take third on debut. â€œI was pretty nervous before the race started and even more so when I was battling with Chris Smerdon but I got used to it and just pressed on with the job Justin admitted matter-of-factly post race.
Behind fifth placed Pollicina Voight steered his ex-GRM VY home ahead of John Vergotis whilst the younger of the Garioch brothers Nathan improved to eighth from his P13 starting position.
Chris Delfsma ran strong early before a fuel pressure issue dropped him down the order and Mark Shepherd suffered from clutch issues off the start and had to fight his way through the field to finish tenth behind Matt Hansen in the ex-HRT VY Commodore.
Terry Wyhoons dream run in his new ex-Ingall SBR BA Falcon came to an almost immediate stop off the start of race two the multiple Touring Car race winner creeping forward on the grid after selecting gear just prior to the start. He stopped it immediately and missed the start but that was all it would take.
â€œI put the car in gear when I thought the five seconds was signalled and it crept forward a foot he shrugged afterwards. â€œIt was my fault the new car is actually fitted with a handbrake and it would have been useful but I didnt use it. Whilst he ran away with the win having countered Scott Loadsmans lightning start Wyhoon was handed a 15 second penalty post-race dropping him back to fifth overall.
That handed Loadsman the win with reigning champ Evangelou second and Chris Smerdon hanging on to third. Fourth and one of the standouts for the round was Justin Garioch the youngster quickly coming to terms with his BA Falcon to turn laps within four tenths of Wyhoons fastest.
â€œThat was brilliant he grinned afterwards. â€œRunning around with Chris Smerdon was almost surreal. I just settled into a rhythm and the rest just came. I have to work on my starts though theyre costing me.
Whilst he may have inherited the race win second time around Loadsman threw it all away at the start of the final 15-lapper stalling on the grid as the field streamed through off the start. â€œI just stuffed it up he explained later.
That allowed Evangelou through to the lead with Smerdon in hot pursuit. Fortunately Loadsman was able to restart and rejoin the field but he had his work cut out for him having dropped back as far as 15th.
Up front Wyhoon was on a charge through from fifth and battling John Vergotis who had made a blistering start to be third at the close of the opening lap.
On lap four though the inevitable happened and after two clean uneventful races the first big accident of the series took place on the infield fish-hook after Steven Voight clipped the rear of Vergotis spinning him around into the path of the ever-improving Aaron Tebb who had nowhere to go after being hit from behind in the ensuing melee.
The impact did serious damage to the once-immaculate Vergotis Falcon and winded Tebb who took some time to catch his breath and alight from the car. Both cars were out which was frustration for them and for Pollicina and Stuart Inwood who in his debut Touring Car event (ex-Wyhoon AU) had also found himself involved in the incident. Both Pollicina and Inwood were fortunately able to carry on.
The big winner out of all of this was Loadsman who had been creeping up the order and by now was holding down eighth place a position he improved to third by chequered flag time after Wyhoon came to grief with Garioch in the closing laps after a late-braking move into the final corner went awry.
Wyhoon recovered for eighth (and third in the event) whilst an almost certain maiden podium by Justin Garioch was scuttled by the move although both he and brother Nathan proved more than capable of matching the veterans on debut.
Steven Voight held on for fourth and was almost as saddened by the mid-race incident as Vergotis. Matt Hansen recovered for fifth on his debut with the ex-Skaife Commodore and admitted that he and his team had a bit of work to do. â€œIts different to the old DJR AU and whilst I have one of the guys that worked on the car at Greg Murphy Racing for Geoff Emery (the cars previous owner) here today he hasnt seen the Kumho Tyres before and nore has my new data engineer so were just working ourselves up to speed but fifth is a good result for the final race.
Behind Hansen was Nathan Garioch who turned in a solid run for sixth and Michael Bartcsh who like Vergotis showed theres still plenty of life yet in the old AU.
The result cemented Loadsmans victory for the round with Smerdon classified second and race one winner Wyhoon third just a single point clear of Evangelou.
â€œLucky I cant believe it that never happens to me Loadsman grinned afterwards. â€œYou couldnt have expected the day to pan out like that. This was Terrys weekend he was fast none of us could touch him and if he hadnt had those little dramas [in the end] we would have been looking at a very different result.
â€œIm very happy with that Chris Smerdon admitted. â€œWakefield Park isnt one of my favourite tracks and I struggled to get the setup sorted early but with some help from SBR [Stone Brothers Racing] and later in the weekend from Terrys [Wyhoon] engineers I found the half second I was looking for.
â€œI stuffed that last race up plain and simple Terry Wyhoon admitted with frustration. â€œI was catching Chris [Smerdon] and Justin and I probably went in deeper than I should have and just locked the rears. Im sorry I took Justin with me because he was having a ripper run but when youre starting to get fields of this size these things will happen more often but all up a great weekend.
Round #2 of the V8 Touring Car Series will be run at Mallala on May 14-15. For more information on the Kumho Tyres V8 Touring Car Series please visit their website; http://www.v8touringcars.com.auÂ
V8 Touring Cars is proudly supported by Kumho Tyres (www.kumho.com.au