Hard work at Hidden Valley
There is no doubt that the Darwin event is one of the absolute favourite Super Sprints on the calendar. The atmosphere in Darwin is tremendous and the local community led by the Northern Territory Government really get behind the event. Hidden Valley circuit is great for spectators in that you can locate yourself on the inside of the circuit and see most of the track. Spectators are able to get close to the action as the track is in an amphitheatre type setting. Also, heading to the top end from NZ & Melbourne in June is certainly a great improvement weather wise and you can be assured that it will be 30+ deg every day. The trip to Darwin is 3850 kms and and we use a couple of thousand litres in our Western Star prime mover get there .
On the Friday practice teams are able to use tyres from previous race meetings and each team is also given a new/green set which at the conclusion of the day must be handed back therefore cannot be used over the weekend. Teams that have a good bank of tyres because of previous races DNF’s may opt to hand the new tyres back and save them for another practice session. The aim in practice is to set the car up as close to what is perfect for the driver. This set up can be totally different on a new tyre as to what it is on a used tyre. The engineers and tyre technicians go through the bank of tyres and choose the best that we have from previous race meetings and work up to putting the green set on when the driver is most comfortable with the car. The problem is that sometimes the dynamics of the car can change so much that you are almost starting from scratch again. In our case we just didn’t feel we had the car right for most of the weekend and during the qualifying sessions couldn’t attack like we wanted to.
From Chris Pither’s view:
I was exited to be heading north to the warmth of Darwin for the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown. After a number of years racing Utes at Hidden Valley I was looking forward to my first assault at the track in a Supercar. This season I’ll be visiting three circuits for the first time in a Supercar including Hidden Valley, Symmons Plains and Pukekohe.
Friday: During the two one-hour practice session, it was important for me to adapt quickly to the circuit in a Supercar so we could focus on working through our test program and tuning the balance of the Super Black Racing car. The day went well and we made steady progress.
On Friday evening I attended the Chief Minister’s Reception at Parliament House to learn that the contract has been renewed to see Supercars at Darwin through to 2030 and racing under lights as soon as 2018 which is pretty exciting news.
Saturday: After our final practice session on Saturday morning we were ready to bolt some new tyres on and see what we could do in qualifying. I found the car quite nervous to drive when I pushed on the new tyres which hurt our potential and put us 19th on the grid for race 12 with a difference of only 3 tenths of a second to be in the top ten.
The opening lap was eventful, thankfully we made it through unscathed! The race went well and we moved forward with some fun wheel to wheel battles. The heat was intense and challenging! The general rule of thumb is that the cabin temperature is 25 degrees above ambient so it was over 60 inside the car which was physically draining and some of the hottest temperatures I’ve contended with. We crossed the line just inside the top 15 in 14th place. I was encouraged by our consistency and pace over a race stint so the focus was to find some one lap speed in qualifying on Sunday.
Sunday: We rolled out for qualifying on warm up tyres. This gives me the chance to get the brakes up to operating temperature and get a feel for the track conditions and grip level before we bolt our first set of new tyres on. The car still felt quite nervous on corner entry but we had improved it and my critical lap felt solid. I was disappointed to discover we were down the wrong end of the field and the time didn’t replicate how the lap felt. I put that aside and took confidence into the race that our speed over a longer stint was strong on Saturday and we had the potential to move forward in the race.
I didn’t think the first lap could get any wilder than Saturday, but I was wrong! There were cars going in every direction but I was able to claim some clear track and get around the carnage without a bruise. With a few cars stricken on the track we took the opportunity to pit under safety car, as did everyone else. Pit lane was like a Westfield carpark on a Sunday morning and everyone was fighting for the last car park! My crew did an awesome job in a very challenging situation to get the Super Black Ice Break car serviced and back on its way jumping a few positions in the process.
From that point the strategy worked well and our pace was strong again. We kept moving forward and collected the chequered flag in 11th place. Although we just missed out on a top ten result I was happy I moved forward 13 places to gain a solid result and a good haul of points. I’m encouraged by our race pace and take confidence from the weekend that more top ten results are on the horizon but we need to work hard to improve our one lap speed in qualifying.
Now I’m excited to get to Townsville and with a busy few weeks ahead it will come around fast. I look forward to catching up with lots of you there.
Thanks to everyone for your continued support and all our Super Black Racing partners Ice Break, Only Domains, SLW Transport, MightyMite, Auto Racing Tours and NWrap Graphics, Neil Wright Builders.
Super Black Racing Team