We had quite a successful weekend at Sandown.
Friday we rolled the car out and it wasn’t handling the best. We had a dodgy set of breaks on the car, which really hindered our performance and it certainly wasn’t giving us a lot of confidence. However, we knew car #99 was quick so we had something to work with.
I was wrapped to go out in qualifying on Saturday and put it in fourth and was three tenths off pole – where I then handed the wheel over to my co-driver Luke ahead of the next session, Race for the Grid 1.
Race for the Grid 1 was super stressful for me, as it started bucketing down with rain and even started hailing and Luke was obviously at the wheel. However, he stayed out and fought the rain and did a mega job, bringing it home in P2 which was a very good result for the team.
For my Race to the Grid (2), it was wet at the start and we were on slick tyres, which is probably the worst feeling for any driver – you’ve got no grip at all and it’s really hard to get any temperature in, so it doesn’t give you a lot of confidence. We knew the track was going to dry pretty fast, so we elected to stay on dry’s for the 20-lap race. I got a good start and managed to build a 3 – 4 second gap and then the safety car came out and nullified my positioning. We got underway again and then Whincup was firing through the field behind me. I did my best to hold him off and managed to claim pole position!
Come Sunday though it didn’t really matter as we used the warm up to try and tune the car a bit and we kind of went the wrong way with set up. We reverted back to our set up that we had for Saturday and the car was pretty strong in the race. We managed to do a really fast driver change and I re-joined the field in 7th. I then had to make a move on my teammate Anton, who was nice enough to let me pass. From there, we managed to build a gap big enough so that when we re-pitted we were able to maintain our position. The last stint was really good, I started to drive the car a little bit differently and I was getting a big gain from it. I then closed in on McLaughlin, but unfortunately I had used all my tyre life catching up to him and it was too late and I couldn’t get it done and brought it home in P5.
At the end of the day, I think our best position we could have hoped for was going to be fourth – we were never going to catch those Red Bull cars and Lowndes. However, over all the team did a really great job, our pit stops were great and it all worked well.
Can’t wait to get to the Mountain 4 – 7th October! We’re the reigning Champions… which means it should be easy and we can do it again … right? Let’s hope!
See you there!