Fresh from racing at the Kingaroy Speedway Nationals in Queensland the previous week, I was full of enthusiasm for more night race action at the fifth round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia.
I love the short 2.4k, seven turn complex with it’s medium to high-speed layout, while the bumps and undulations make it a real bullring circuit that invites close racing, and I’ve also enjoyed some prior success at the venue. For this year though things were different with the circuit having been completely resurfaced and we were racing under lights on both Friday and Saturday night.
What an event. It really did tick all the boxes and the venue just came alive and shone under lights. I was a little worried that the West Coast AFL game that was taking place at the same time in downtown Perth might have lessened the crowd on Saturday night but my fears were unfounded with the biggest, and most receptive, crowd I have ever seen out West. Pre-race the pits were packed and the razzmatazz build-up where the drivers were all introduced individually, while driving their respective mounts with fireworks lighting up the sky, gave the whole program a real sense of occasion.
The cars felt faster too and I was amazed at just how many sparks were coming from them as they bellied out at certain points around the circuit. I’ve since managed to watch the race on television and the images were fantastic. The venue, which is primarily surrounded by sand dunes, looked great under lights and the short lap and nature of the circuit only served to make for an excellent show all round.
I enjoyed a strong weekend too, qualifying in the top-five on both occasions and after a somewhat lacklustre eighth on Friday night my car was really strong on Saturday where I managed to claim third place after a strong battle with seven-time champion Jamie Whincup for second, which took place with Fabian Coulthard and Shane Van Gisbergen hot on our heels. One mistake and I could have so easily been fifth but I kept it all on the black stuff and was delighted to claim my fourth podium of the year.
The team at Tickford Racing has worked tirelessly of late, with changes being made to the new Mustang at two of the last three events, so to reward everyone with some champagne and another sizeable trophy was very satisfying indeed.
My previous weekends, prior to Barbagallo, were not as good as I hoped and we had a tough Tasmanian event for round three, which was the first time our cars ran with the extra weight that was added to all of the Mustangs after the first two events, then at Phillip Island I lost a certain sixth place in the first race before finishing there on the Sunday.
I’m very happy with the Mustang and the progress that has been made by the team over the off-season and despite the parity adjustments, that have included adding weight to our cars and trimming the rear wing, we have a very competitive package. I feel I should be well inside the top-six cars in the points and my qualifying average of third, season-to-date, confirms that but my three failures to finish have hurt my accumulated points score. Mind you, I’m only 60-points off being in eighth position with plenty of racing still to come.
Winton is up next, and despite the pair of disasters I had there last year it’s another track I have enjoyed success at in other categories, so I’ll be looking to maximise things in qualifying then banking some really handy points in the races.
That’s the plan at least.