Its been an interesting start to the year that’s for sure. There is luck, both good and bad and I suppose over the past 9 years since forming our racing team in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia and Australian GT, we should be pretty happy to have not had any major incidents that have required any trips to the panel shop, so the good luck has been on our side. With that said, I’m a great believer that with good management and organisation, in most cases the bad luck can be pretty much avoided.
With that said, the first two rounds of the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia Championship has been incredibly challenging.
Adelaide was pretty unfortunate and it was great to get the car repaired and sorted for the Australian Grand Prix round of our Championship. But I wasn’t expecting Thursday’s practice, qualifying and racing to finish the way it did!
Thursday was the busiest day of on track action with practice, qualifying and the first race of the weekend. For O’Brien Racing, it was more about making sure the car was in good shape from the repair and kickoff our new Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia campaign after missing the first round in Adelaide due to the accident.
Practice went really well. The team had the car in tip top condition and it ran faultlessly. We finished the session in 7th position.
After a really good look over the car, as practice was effectively its first time on track since the Adelaide accident, we started to have a better think about the car and how to make it perform a little better for the upcoming qualifying session. With the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia Championship, once you qualify in your grid position the remaining race start positions are based around your finishing position from the previous race.
Qualifying was all a bit strange as we qualified in 12th place, but in the heat of the day we couldn’t really get any more than 1 lap out of our green (new) tyres. With that said we were actually closer in terms of time than in practice. For the first time the O’Brien Racing team actually had the opportunity to learn something from the car on a new Michellin tyre. It was always going to be a weekend to learn something about the car due to missing the whole weekend at Adelaide.
Thursday afternoons’ race started ok. We made a couple of places off the start and were tracking along fairly well on the first lap. There was some pretty intense racing going on in front and I was just cruising along waiting for an opportunity. That came at the end of the second lap and I made a clean pass into the turn 13 corner. However on the exit it all went pair shaped and I had a tap in the rear of the car that put me straight into the concrete wall. The damage was extensive. Once again the whole front of the car had to be removed. The damage was not as extensive as Adelaide, but it would require the O’Brien Racing team to work through the night just to make the next days race at 3pm.
Luke, Kev, Rohan and I, plus our Engineering graduate Kyle worked flat out to have the car pulled apart and ready to send to LA Auto Body by about 11.30 pm. The whole front of the car had to come off and be replaced. Fortunately it was a straight on hit and no suspension was damaged. While Kevin and I left at 12pm and headed home for some sleep, Luke and Rohan worked straight through the night with the LA Auto body team.
The car arrived back to the track at 5am. Luke and Rohan had about 2 hours sleep while LA Auto Body put the new front tub on the car, but they were straight back into it before we arrived to the track at 6 am.
We just made it out for race 2 at 3pm on Friday. Naturally the car had not been tested and starting from the rear of the grid due to the non finish, it would just be an exercise of making sure that everything was in good condition. We started in 23rd place and drove through the field to finish in 14th place. The car felt OK, but there were still some damaged parts that needed replacing for the next race.
For Saturday’s race the car was as good as new, so this meant we could do a little more learning with the new Porsche GT3 Cup car from the lessons learnt during the Friday race.
The car was much better. We started 14th and got boxed in a bit at the start and dropped back to 17th. It was great fun and I had some excellent battles with a few of the other guys, eventually getting back to 12th position. The car was much more competitive and we could log good data from the car being in better condition.
Sunday is a big day at the Australian Grand Prix and our race is at 1pm. It was a hectic morning as we made more changes to the suspension in the car based around our learnings from Saturdays race. I made a great start and got around the outside of Nick McBride into turn 2. He conveniently ran me wide into the dirt and I dropped a couple of places. I managed to get them back and pass a few other guys eventually finishing in 10th place after dropping one position on the penultimate lap. The best part about it was the car was very competitive, for the first time in the weekend we could see second position and on some laps we were catching them.
So good progress was made from the accident on Thursday. We learnt a great deal about the car, which would have happened in Adelaide if not for the Thursday accident, but we are now well and truly on track.
We had many of our O’Brien Racing Team partners enjoying the weekend with us, including new Team partner RPM Hire who had many of their clients at the Australian Grand Prix on the weekend. It was great to catch up with many of our O’Brien Electrical and Plumbing, Laser Plumbing and Electrical members and BP guests who enjoyed the Porsche hospitality.
We’ll have a test day before Phillip Island before the April 12-14 weekend, learn a bit more and be ready to go.
Thanks for everyone’s support.