After 19 races of the 2012 V8 Supercar Championship, the ‘Season of Endurance’ is finally upon us, starting with this weekend’s Dick Smith Sandown 500 in Melbourne.
This will be my fourth ever V8 Supercars endurance race, and my first main series endurance race at Sandown – and I can’t wait!
I still pinch myself when I put on the iconic red Holden Racing Team race suit because it’s the team that I looked up to as a young kid. With a driver roster that has included Brock, Grice, Percy, Lowndes and Skaife, it’s such an honour to now be driving for this team! Trust me, I never take this feeling for granted and I always appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given.
In preparation for the Sandown 500 the team undertook an endurance driver test day last week, where we ran through a regular test day program and added in some driver changes as well.
I haven’t had to do a pit stop since the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 last year (there are no compulsory pit stops in the Dunlop Series races) so it was a good opportunity to refresh my techniques and procedures.
Fifteen seconds is considered a pretty standard changeover time and my enduro partner Garth (Tander) and I achieved well under that, so we’re feeling well under control in that area.
Garth and I are roughly the same height, so I have the same driving position in the #2 HRT Commodore as I do in my #222 Coates Hire car. We’re fortunate that we don’t have to compromise on the seating position, because it’s quite common for one driver to have to adjust their driving set up in endurance races.
Our training ahead of the enduros has been solid and recently we’ve amped it up to be 110% race ready. Our trainer also works for the Hawthorn Football Club so he’s super busy with football finals. I support the Adelaide Crows and Garth is a West Coast Eagles fan so there’s plenty of ribbing between us all at the moment! When he asked us to practice our goal-kicking the other day we had to remind him which athletes he was training…
This weekend’s endurance format is a little different from last year’s 500km race.
There’s a full day of practice on Friday ahead of a 20-minute Qualifying session and two 20-lap Qualifying races on Saturday. Unlike last year, there are no compulsory pit stops in either qualifying race.
The co-drivers (me) will compete in the first race, and the finishing positions will be where the regular driver (Garth) will start the second race. The finishing order of this second race is the grid order for Sunday’s 161-lap Dick Smith Sandown 500.
I think the lap times will be much closer this year at Sandown than they were at Philip Island, and looking after the rear tyres during a stint will be critical due to the two low speed left hand corners that join the two longer straights.
As is typical for Melbourne, the weather will be unpredictable and the chance of rain could make it difficult to get the strategy right.
Last year Garth and I finished fourth at the Phillip Island 500, but we had the potential for a podium finish. We showed good pace and so we expect to do well this year at Sandown.
I would love nothing more than to be a part of Holden Racing Team’s first win for the season. Fingers crossed!
Don’t forget, you can follow my progress across the event through twitter: twitter.com/NickPercat
and my facebook page : facebook.com/nickpercatpage