Adam Sharpe Down Under
Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series – R1 Adelaide

dailysportscar.comAdam Sharpe Motorsport had a promising first outing in the extremely competitive and popular V8 Supercar feeder category at Adelaide last weekend (March 24 – 25) - in the Phronim / LifeForce / VelocityWise.com Ford Falcon. Here Adam reports on the first pair of races - and comments on the V8 Supercar races, and the whole event.

I hadn’t even sat in the Falcon prior to the first test session on Thursday, and went out on the Adelaide Clipsal 500 Street circuit having only driven the track half a dozen times the day before, in our team’s rent a van vehicle - including a couple of laps during which I gained some useful insight from the very experienced Mark Howard, of the Howard Racing Team.

The Falcon is considerably different from the cars we run in the UK. We run a different construction and compound Dunlop tyre in Britcar, which enables us to run a much stiffer car. The Falcon in Australia is very softly sprung, as the tyres seem to be a much harder compound, and this is the way they are able to find the much needed grip.

During the second test session on Thursday, I set a 1:31, bringing that down to a 1:29 in the afternoon.

I was able to push the Falcon ever harder. It was very interesting for me to follow the series’ experienced V8 drivers and compare our older AU against their newer BA Falcons – it seems as though the biggest difference is the ability to turn in better and brake stronger in the BAs. We were still learning lots as a team and planned to change some more on the setup of the car for qualifying.

Friday brought qualifying and even quicker times. I was desperate to get back in the car in the morning, and managed to put in a 1:26 lap, 22nd on the grid in a field of 33 cars. The team was overjoyed with the first three days of the meeting, with Darrell Dixon managing the mechanics and the very experienced ex-Howard Race Team engineer, Alan Stoodley, overseeing the car; all was working very much to plan.

That was a great leap forward for me and the Aussie ASM team. I felt very comfortable in the Falcon and it was well set-up for the race to come.

Race 1 – Friday March 24
I moved up a few places quickly in Friday evening's race and was 19th by lap 7.

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A hefty dose of oversteer on the very slippery final corner turning into pit straight dropped me back to 24th but steady progress over the next 11 laps saw progress, up to 18th - until an incident brought the safety car out on track. Shortly after the safety car appeared, I was shown a black flag (enforced stop) owing to sparks created by the left side exhaust pipe dragging on the tarmac. A swift stop and some running repairs to the exhaust and I was back out during lap 20. I came home 19th - which wasn’t too bad for a first race in the series, especially bearing in mind the two delays. At least I’d got the first one under my belt.

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It’s fantastic racing! Bumper to bumper and door to door, the first half of the race was brilliant.

Race 2 – Saturday March 25
With the grid positions based on the result of Race 1, I started 19th. The car was going well and during the first few laps I moved up to 16th. Unfortunately, the engine then started to overheat, and in trying to find cooler air off the racing line, I lost a couple of places. You can’t get away with a problem like this in this series.

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I pitted for a check over, resumed racing – but the problem was still there, and I had no choice to retire. Following a more detailed post-race inspection of the engine, it was diagnosed that an injector had failed causing the drop in power.

At least I saved the engine. I’ll be back in Australia in May, for the Wakefield Park meeting, where I’ll be able to seek out some more of the goings on in the main Supercar Series. Now it’s back to the UK, and Britcar at Oulton Park.

The V8 Supercars
Having played my part in the Fujitsu races, next up were the ‘main game’ teams, cars and drivers. The crowd was ever increasing in the build up to the first race – a record crowd was predicted and it was said to out-sell the Melbourne GP next week! Both races were to be 78 laps and approximately 250km in length. Craig Lowndes (Q - 3rd), of Team Betta Electrical run by 888 Race Engineering, went on to take victory with his team mate Jamie Whincup taking third. The two were split on the podium by Holden Racing Team’s Todd Kelly who took a second place finish. It was a remarkable effort by all the drivers, with one car’s internal temperature soaring as high as 61oC. Most of the drivers were heavily dehydrated, with some of them resorting to drastic methods of recovery, including ice baths and IV drips. The gorgeous pit girls that roamed the paddock had little problem in the heat, as most were wearing little more than hot pants and bikini tops!!

Saturday night in Adelaide was a real party night, with a huge concert and a street party that rolled in to the small hours of Sunday morning. Some of the large team sponsors included Jim Bean and Jack Daniels, whose presence was greatly appreciated by revellers at the street party. It included Aussie rock music on the main stage, private parties in the surrounding bars, arcade and racing games, entertainment areas and even the loud roar of the Coopers Ferrari, which won the 2004 Bahrain GT Festival, being revved up in the main street, much to the crowd’s delight!

With Craig Lowndes on pole for the second race, the crowd seemed to be waiting with bated breath in the build up to Sunday’s main event. The race was unfortunately littered with bad luck and dramatic incidents, with Mark Skaife running wide and crashing into the wall - the same wall he had hit at 207 km/h on Saturday - at the very quick turn eight, following Greg Murphy who had been forced out wide by one of the Jack Daniels Racing Holdens, giving Skaife no chance. Following this, a pile up on Wakefield St, just after turn three, saw Craig Lowndes running right at the back of the field - he had been unlucky in having to run a long pit stop due to a broken front splitter, as a result of a tussle at the front of the pack with Cameron McConville. James Courtney was to have a turn of bad luck too: as he and others moved to avoid a slower car in turn 2, contact was made which sent Courtney into a spin across the circuit and he was then T-boned pretty hard to put him truly out of the race. This left the 888 driver, Jamie Whincup, up front to lead the race after a great team effort by Team Betta Electrical. Jamie went on to take the well deserved chequered flag and his first V8 Supercar victory in the #88 Betta Electrical Ford Falcon, Todd Kelly made the podium for his second runners-up position of the weekend and his younger brother Rick Kelly of the Toll HSV Dealer Team finished third to complete the podium line up.

The podium celebrations included a loud chant from Ford fans to the 2nd and 3rd place Holden drivers of the Kelly brothers, which mainly consisted of ‘I wish I had a Ford, I wish I had a Ford’ repeated continuously – this was in response to the commentator’s question to Kelly of ‘So, what did you think of the race?’ They then followed with ‘Whincup, Whincup, Whincup’, until he appeared on the top step of the podium. Then to top it off a rather different chant was started by the same group of blokes, this time aimed towards the bikini wearing grid girls who were presenting the champagne to the podium drivers – a great atmosphere, the fans really do make the event special.

I had a quick word with 888 founder, Ian Harrison, who was very happy with the team’s efforts during the weekend. He said ‘this meeting is always brilliant – a great result for the team and the young lad (Jamie Whincup)’. This result will see Whincup at the top of the championship going into the next championship round.

I had been lucky enough to experience the whole of the second race from the Stone Brothers Racing pit garage, watching the race on the big screen whilst seeing all the action that goes on behind the scenes during the race itself. The pit stops were as quick as F1 and the team spirit was very noticeable, with back room staff cheering as they saw their drivers passing other cars during the race. However, Ross Stone and his team will have a long and hard week ahead of them repairing and setting up the damaged Courtney car for the Melbourne AGP race. It had been a hard day at the office for the Stone Brothers Racing team.
Adam Sharpe

 

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