David Reynolds shone on his return to racing with a superb charge through the field before stunning rivals with a scintillating wet-weather qualifying performance at the Beaureparies Sydney SuperNight.
Wild weather and ever-changing conditions tested drivers and saw the cancellation of the final race, with the Kelly Grove Racing driver having already delivered a strong performance in the lead-up to the final event of the year, the Repco Bathurst 1000.
“I felt good. I feel like I’m back in the groove and I got the most out of the car when I needed to,” said Reynolds. “Our dry pace was pretty average, but our wet pace was pretty amazing.”
The event was designed to test the field, who’d faced three weeks of sprint racing at the Sydney track, with two longer 64-lap 250km contests over the weekend. The longer races bought with them two mandatory pit stops, super-soft and hard tyre compounds as well as the return of refuelling for the first time since Townsville in July.
Qualifying for Saturday’s Race 29 of the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship saw an extremely tight field, with Reynolds 17th in a battle that saw positions two to 19 separated by just less than a second.
Race 29 held under lights was declared ‘Wet’ by officials before the cars headed out for warm-up, and with no rain falling ahead of the start, Reynolds was one of only five cars to line up on the super-soft Dunlop.
“We started on the super-soft tyre because we thought it could rain, and once it rains no-one gets to use their tyres,” he said. “The softer tyre is way better than the hard tyre in those conditions.”
On the green flag, Reynolds instantly took three positions before he was pushed off the road by Garry Jacobson as the pair exited Turn 2.
“I was just going around the outside of him and it’s like he didn’t see me. He just drilled me and shoved me off,” said the Kelly Grove Racing driver. “I probably shouldn’t have gone around the outside and been a bit more selective.”
The dramatic TV footage saw Reynolds react brilliantly, the #26 Penrite Mustang launching in the air as David wrestled the car away from the concrete barrier. “I didn’t realise that wall would jump out so bad! It just dragged me off the track, but I didn’t touch it all. It was really quite close!” he said.
From there, Reynolds was the biggest mover in the field, picking off Jack Smith, Macauley Jones and Race 28 winner Will Brown on Lap 2 before passing Fulwood to recover to 15th.
On Lap 4 Reynolds posted the fastest first sector of the field in the Penrite Racing Mustang to claim 11th before charging past Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters in a double-pass to storm into the top ten. Reynolds would overtake Todd Hazelwood and then Nick Percat, posting purple sectors along the way, before a Safety Car on Lap 7 was prompted by an engine failure for Jones.
“The Safety Car kind of stuffed us, because it negated our strategy of starting on the super-softs early, and after that our hard tyre pace wasn’t flash at all,” David admitted.
The entire field having pitted, the Safety Car peeled off with a return to racing on Lap 10, Reynolds now sitting in fifth place but on the slower hard tyre, with those on the super-soft rising up the order.
By the halfway point 32 laps in, Reynolds was in a solid 14th position after losing ground quickly, and would battle hard with Jacobson, the driver who’d nearly put him into the wall on the opening lap. Light rain began to fall on Lap 35, but not enough to impact the track or drivers.
By Lap 42 when David came in for his second stop, several drivers completed more than 30 laps of the race on super-softs, proving their durability. With 22 laps remaining, the #26 Penrite Racing Mustang pitted from sixth and re-fitted the barely used super-softs from the opening seven-lap stint and completed its fuel drop.
Reynolds would rejoin in 21st before pit stops pushed him up the field, with on-track passes on James Courtney and Goddard to come home in 17th where he had started the race.
Sunday morning qualifying saw a torrential downpour present miserable conditions, yet Reynolds rose to the occasion by pushing the #26 Penrite Racing Mustang into tenth for a place in the Top Ten Shootout.
The 57th career shootout for Reynolds saw a masterclass in treacherous conditions, made more difficult as the first car on track. David had no feedback or other driver’s times to reference in negotiating a waterlogged 3.93km lap, which saw significant standing water and large streams flowing across the track.
Reynolds took it all in his stride, posting a clean 1:44.3977 that was a significant 1.48-sec faster than the lap time he’d posted to make the top ten (1:45.8823).
It took several top runners’ slower laps to show just what a special lap it was from Reynolds in the Kelly Grove Mustang.
Next car out was Cam Waters, who missed Reynolds’ time by a huge 1.6 seconds – while Mostert, seven-time champion Jamie Whincup and Tim Slade couldn’t better the Kelly Grove Racing Mustang’s lap time.
It took until the sixth car out, Nick Percat, to finally pip Reynolds’ time with only Shane van Gisbergen keeping David off the front row in the performance of the shootout – Reynolds from 10th to lock in third place on the grid for Race 30.
“The Shootout was when I had new tyres and a decent crack at it, and I was really happy with that lap,” said the #26 Penrite Mustang driver. “I thought it was going to be hard to beat. When Chaz and Cam didn’t get near it, I thought it was pretty good. But the sun got a bit brighter and the track got a bit dryer, and I knew someone would beat it eventually.”
Sadly, the conditions meant that David didn’t have the opportunity to capitalise on his stunning qualifying performance, with Race 30 red-flagged after only six laps under the Safety Car.
The next Supercars race will this year’s Repco Bathurst 1000 from November 30 to December 5, where David and 2017-winning co-driver Luke Youlden will campaign the #26 Penrite Racing Kelly Grove Mustang. Tickets are available here with live coverage on the Seven Network, Fox Sports and live streaming via Kayo.