Firstly, I love Clipsal, but man am I happy to be back on the Gold Coast. The racing side of things was intense as per usual but PR and media wise was absolutely crazy to say the least. We clocked over 20 hours of media activities over the 5 days which means my brain has been in recovery mode for the last 48 hours. I think its due to the freshness of the Fox/Ten deal which I am hoping will settle down over time.
Heading into the weekend we were a little unsure about our performance mainly due to the difficult test conditions forced upon us at Sydney Motorsport Park 3 weeks earlier. As it turned out, Friday panned out well despite lacking a little bit of pace in the first couple of practices. The crew did a top job in turning the car around for the final practice and the two qualifying sessions that earned us a couple of pole positions.
The hour leading up to the start of the first race of the year is always a fairly anxious time and full of nerves, and the fact it was delayed due to car 33 blowing an oil line certainly didn’t help. Once the race eventually started we got into a rhythm and lead from the front. Everyone wants to start a long championship off well so it was nice to grab the first race win of the year.
Unfortunately race two didn’t quite play out that well for us. I picked up some debris while leading after an earlier crash and although I felt it and called it in to Cauchi I just didn’t want to give up. I’ve actually had a similar thing happen a few times where I thought I had a deflating tyre but it was just a lump of pick-up that suddenly cleaned itself off and the car ended up being fine. I always push the limits, that’s what it’s all about, that’s sport. It was either come into the pits and just give up or think maybe there was some debris on my tyre that’ll come off, maybe with the amount of sliding I was doing it was going to increase the pressure… who knows. I had actually made the decision to give it one more lap and go in if it didn’t get better. In the end I was very lucky not to eat the dashboard when the tyre eventually blew out at the worst possible place 100m before the treacherous turn 8. Lucky for me the rim still has a little bit of grip that kept me and Lizzy safe and off the wall. All we could do after that was get another tyre on the car and circulate at the back of the pack to score some points.
After a very promising Saturday unfortunately Sunday didn’t live up to our own high expectations. The first thing you ask yourself after a big weekend was were we fast enough, if the answer is yes then generally you go away with a smile on your face but Sunday we just didn't find the pace so it was a matter of survival. We just aimed to stay out of trouble and keep as far up the pointy end as possible. A few cars faded late, which was nice as we were able to get a few back and finish a respectable 4th.
The talking point after the race was about the contact I had with Chaz Mostert on the last lap which resulted in a few wrecked cars which I never like to see. My story is that at the start of the last lap I started slipping and sliding on what ended up being oil from a wounded 111 car that was driving around slowly to finish the race. I was trying to get in front of him before turn eight, but unfortunately he got there just before I did. I really backed it right off to make sure I got through there safe. Chaz was oblivious to all this and went through there flat out and got a big run on me into the hairpin, so I covered. We had a bit of contact on the exit and I am sure he thought he was clear of me and turned into turn 10 but I was still alongside. I was hoping to go through there side by side like last year but it didn’t workout that way.
I’ve got a week back on the Gold Coast before heading to Melbourne for the AGP where we’ll do it all again. I’ll spend some time with the crew at the workshop reviewing the weekend gone and what we’ve learnt and we’ll come back stronger next time.
Just a quick one to say I am all good after, what you have probably already heard, getting bitten by a snake this morning.
It was a V8 Supercar press call at Taronga Zoo in Sydney ahead of this weekends official test day at Eastern Creek where it all happened.
To be honest I don't mind snakes and respect their importance in the food chain but know they are hunters so I don't mess with them at all. I was asked by V8 Supercar officials to get a quick photo of myself the Championship trophy and the snake which I had no problems with. The zoo keeper put the snake around my neck and it wasn't until then that the media decided I wasn't in the right position for the photo and asked me to move across 5 meters for a better back drop. I wasn't keen on this but shuffled across slowly making sure I was gentle with what I believe was a non venomous black headed python about 1.5 meters long. After about 30 seconds I said to the crew that I thought I had over-stayed my welcome and wanted to get out of there as the snake was getting fairly active in particular sniffing the wooden base of the trophy.
I got the zoo keeper to take the snake back but then there was someone that didn't get the shot they were after. In hind sight I should have said no but did the polite thing and had the snake put back on me so the crew that missed the shot could get what they wanted; that was when bang, it latched onto my hand.
As soon as it latched on to me it started to curl up around me and the zoo keeper and I were there for about 4 minutes as we tried to get it off, mainly by pouring water down the side of its mouth so that it would hopefully cough my hand back up.
Eventually it let go, I cleaned the blood off my hand at the zoo and then went down to the local GP to get a couple of tetnis shots and a fortnightly dose of antibiotics.
Already the swelling has gone down and I will no doubt be 100% good to go for day 1 in the car this Saturday.
All in all I feel bad for the zoo, they have had that snake for years and often have it around children and never had a problem.
So eventful days indeed, not everyone can say they have been bitten by a snake but I certainly don't recommend trying it anytime soon.
With the Christmas break now seeming like a distant memory we roll into our first test day for the 2015 season this weekend. This test is feeling more and more like a regular race weekend with me coming down to Sydney last night, media commitments today and the on-track weekend ending with a full grid shoot out.
As I enter my tenth year with Triple Eight, I feel like I’ve got just as much passion for the sport now as I did when I first went to RD asking for a job back in 2005. Because of this, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be continuing my position at Red Bull Racing Australia until at least 2018 after signing a 3-year extension.
The decision to renew firstly came from the strength of the V8 Supercars category – I think there are some exciting times ahead, especially coming into the phase with the new TV deal and then in time, the new generation cars. I can see a really strong future for the series.
Secondly, I’m honoured that Triple Eight, the best team, wants to retain my services, which I try very hard to maintain, to showcase their engineering.
I’m always into new challenges so with the new cars coming in 2017 this deal will include me in the R&D stage along with giving me at least two years driving with Triple Eight under the new generation.
Let’s see what this weekend brings – and with so much coverage live on Fox there’s no excuse not to watch!