Dick Johnson Racing headed back to Sydney’s west today for the first time in four years, for the opening of the Sydney Motor Sport Park 360 at the Eastern Creek circuit.
A promising start for the four-car squad in practice this morning did not result in good grid positions at the end of the 20-minute qualifying session.
The newly married Steve Owen led the team for Race 18 in 18th position, followed by Steve Johnson in 20th, James Moffat in 24th and Dean Fiore in 26th.
A great start by the DJR Falcons was marred by an incident between the two Jim Beam drivers at Turn 6 on the first lap. Fiore was bumped by another car coming into the turn, forcing him into Johnson and then spinning him straight across Johnson’s path. Great driving by Johnson saved car #17 from more damage, but Fiore went off into the dust and putting car #12 over 12 seconds behind the field.
However, the Jim Beam Falcon showed fantastic speed throughout the rest of the race and according to Fiore’s race engineer, Nathan McColl, “Despite the Lap 1 incident, we were really pleased with the speed of the car. We legitimately had pace matching those in the Top 10 today. We decided to save our soft tyre allocation for Race 19 tomorrow, only completing 3 laps on the soft tyres we had from qualifying. So we are in a much better place for tomorrow.”
Johnson suffered a bent steering arm in the incident with Fiore. His engineering team, led by Mark Fenning, also worked around a similar tyre strategy to car #12, finishing the race in 27th after a second pit stop.
“We decided to get Steve to just run one (compulsory) lap on the soft tyres he used for qualifying, before he returned to the pits again for hard tyres to complete the race. This tyre strategy will come into play tomorrow when we have an extra set of softs compared to the majority of the field,” said Fenning after the race.
Steve Owen and the V.I.P. Petfoods Falcon finished Race 18 in 20th. According to Blake Smith, Owen’s race engineer, “We had rather a troubling day today. Steve drove really well, but we need to go and do our homework for tomorrow and give him a better car.”
James Moffat was the most improved of the day, making up 5 places from his starting position, moving up to 19th. The whole of the DJR squad have been working hard on improving the pit stops. All the practice paid dividends today, with the Team Norton DJR Falcon being the quickest in the field during the pit stop.
Moffat’s race engineer, Ian Walburn, “We need to put some more work into the car performance when we are running softs. Our hard tyre speed was good, but now we just need to match this with soft tyres tomorrow.”
The Team will be back out at the new Sydney Motor Sport Park tomorrow for a longer, 56 Lap, 200km race at 1535 (EST).