Last weekend’s V8 SuperTest provided a chance to not only have a look at the new cars and drivers for the season but also allowed teams to shakedown their machines for the first time this year. Held at Sydney Motorsports Park, it was the first time the pre-season test had been held over two days, giving the teams more data logging time and the fans a pointer towards the best prepared teams ahead of the 2015 Championship opener with all 25 cars in a shoot-out for the fastest lap time on Sunday afternoon. And there were plenty of interesting points to come out of the weekend with the new aerodynamic packages, and Ford’s all-new FG X Falcon making its much anticipated public debut.
Saturday’s opening session was the was the first time on track for the cars and after the two and a half hour long blitz, it was the freshly homologated Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima of Rick Kelly that topped the session, pipping Prodrive Racing Australia’s Chaz Mostert by an incredible 0.0065 seconds. Tim Slade back behind the wheel of the Supercheap Auto Racing Holden was third fastest, just 0.0154 seconds behind Kelly. The only incident of the session was when new Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport recruit Nick Percat lost a wheel, having to limp back to the pits and causing a red flag. His team-mate Tim Blanchard did not post a time as the team was still preparing his car. Jonathon Webb and Dean Fiore completed laps in the #97 and #10 cars respectively, making use of the long morning to test the cars they’ll co-drive in later this year.
The second session mirrored much of the first with Rick Kelly again at the top of the timesheets, dropping around 0.4 seconds on his earlier time. Tekno Autosports’ Shane van Gisbergen was second fastest but still 0.66 seconds down on the Nissan. All three FG X Falcons made it into the top ten with Mostert again featuring in the top three, the last car to be within a second of Kelly after the one and a half hour session. Dean Fiore again climbed into the #10 Nissan Altima while Alex Davison and Macaulay Jones (son of team owner, Brad Jones) cut laps in the cars of Will Davison and Dale Wood respectively.
The last practice of the day was again headed by a Kelly but this time it was Todd that climbed to the top of the leaderboard. All four of the Altima’s featured in the top ten while David Reynolds and Ash Walsh were the only Ford and Erebus drivers to be in the fastest ten. Todd Kelly only just beat the Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney by 0.0008 of a second, with Fiore placing Caruso’s car in third, just 0.08 seconds behind Kelly. There were dramas for new Wilson Security Racing GRM recruit David Wall as the Volvo lost a wheel near the halfway point in the session, not returning to the track for the rest of the day.
Sunday was to be the biggest test for the cars, drivers and their cool-suits as temperatures soared to 34 degrees Celsius at the Eastern Creek circuit. The opening two hour long blast ended with the FG X Falcon of Mark Winterbottom at the head of the pack, relegating James Courtney to second again, 0.35 of a second behind the Ford man. The biggest shock of the session was Marcos Ambrose finishing in fifth position, which really got the fans’ talking! Will Davison was able to strangle his Erebus E63 AMG into fourth place, the best placing for the Erebus Motorsport V8 team all weekend.
Despite the day finally starting to cool down, the action on the track was just about to heat up. With each car rolling out on a new set of hard tyres, the last commitment for the drivers was the Shootout, an opportunity for everyone to go out with no one else on track and prove who has the best one lap pace. Unfortunately for Caruso, he was excluded from the shootout after arriving at pit exit too late while Dale Wood and Lee Holdworth’s times were not allowed due to kerb hopping. It was again an FG X Falcon that came first in the session, this time in the hands of Chaz Mostert. Mostert only just edged Shane van Gisbergen to the bragging rights by just 0.01 seconds while James Courtney again finished in the top three with a lap only 0.03 seconds off the pace of the Ford. Scott McLaughlin was the best of the two Volvos in fifth and James Moffat was the quickest Altima in sixth. Representing four different makes these six fastest drivers were separated by just four tenths of a second. Conversely it was a lacklustre performance for six-time champion, Jamie Whincup, who finished in 23rd, while Red Bull Racing teammate, Craig Lowndes, finished in 20th.
Times may have been inconsistent over the weekend and pace was unclear as everyone was running last year’s worn in tyres, but there’s no doubt that the test has given an indicator of what may come this season. The new aero setup has brought the Altima closer inline with the rest of the field and the signs are the new Ford Falcon FG X is a real contender after last year’s FG struggled with one-lap qualifying pace.
The championship proper kicks off on the streets of Adelaide at the Clipsal 500 in just under three weeks’ time, could we be set for one of the closest season of racing on record?
SuperTest - Shootout Results
|1||Ford Pepsi Max Crew||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG X||01:30.7|
|2||Team TEKNO Darrell Lea||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||01:30.7||00:00.0|
|3||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||01:30.7||00:00.0|
|4||Ford Pepsi Max Crew||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG X||01:30.7||00:00.1|
|5||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Scott McLaughlin||Volvo S60||01:30.9||00:00.2|
|6||Nissan Motorsport||James Moffat||Nissan Altima||01:31.1||00:00.5|
|7||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.2||00:00.5|
|8||Red Bull Racing Australia||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.3||00:00.6|
|9||Freightliner Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.3||00:00.6|
|10||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.4||00:00.8|
|11||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||01:31.5||00:00.8|
|12||Red Bull Racing Australia||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.6||00:01.0|
|13||Supercheap Auto Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||01:31.6||00:01.0|
|14||DJR Team Penske||Marcos Ambrose||Ford Falcon FG X||01:31.8||00:01.1|
|15||The Bottle-O Racing Team||David Reynolds||Ford Falcon FG||01:31.8||00:01.2|
|16||Erebus Motorsport V8||Will Davison||Mercedes E63 AMG||01:31.9||00:01.2|
|17||LD Motorsports||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||01:32.2||00:01.5|
|18||Erebus Motorsport V8||Ashley Walsh||Mercedes E63 AMG||01:32.2||00:01.6|
|19||Nissan Motorsport||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima||01:32.8||00:02.2|
|20||Super Black Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Ford Falcon FG||01:32.9||00:02.3|
|21||Wilson Security Racing GRM||David Wall||Volvo S60||01:33.4||00:02.7|
|22||LD Motorsports||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore VF||01:33.5||00:02.9|
|23||Team GB Galvanizing||Dale Wood||Holden Commodore VF||N/A|
|24||Walkinshaw Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||N/A|
|EXC||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||N/A|