Tim Slade's Recap of Mount Panorama 500
18 Mar, 2021
Well, we definitely made headlines over the first race weekend at Bathurst, there was lots of good, but unfortunately some bad also…
It’s been a massive task for all involved since the team started to take shape at the end of last year, it’s crazy to think we literally had nothing at the start of November 2020 and a few months later, BRT is a fully-fledged top-flight Supercars team. The level of effort and workload that has taken the team to this point is immense - from the build of the car, acquiring and rebuilding the race car transporter, building and fitting out the workshop from scratch, sourcing spare parts, recruiting staff, working with sponsors, etc etc
So, onto Bathurst, it was confidence inspiring heading into the weekend knowing we had in theory the same car and setup that was on pole for the Bathurst 1000 only 4 months previous with Cam Waters. The car felt quite good straight up in practice 1 and despite ending the day with practice results of 7th and 4th, I wasn't fully satisfied as we were a fair chunk away from Cam who was 2nd and the leading Tickford car. We have access to Tickford’s data, so we did a bit of analysis and gave both myself and the car a little tune-up that night.
Qualifying was a bit of a nail-biter as we only did 1 good flying lap right at the end of the session which was good enough for 5th. Obviously, we were all super happy to be top 5 and more importantly in the top 10 for the following Top 10 shootout. The car in both sessions was extremely good, I think the hotter conditions for the shootout suited us more than others and I believe the car was definitely capable of being on pole, I just lost out to Cam a bit coming down the hill. To qualify P2 and start BRT’s first-ever race on the front row at Bathurst was an amazing result for the team and validates all the hard work we have put in and shows our potential as a team.
Onto the race, my start was terrible! Supercars have made some more technical changes this year and that included removing the clutch load lights we previously used for race starts. We did a practice start at the end of practice 2 and I didn’t load it enough so I knew I obviously needed to load it some more for the race. I did this, but loaded it too much! I was probably lucky the lights went out when they did as the clutch went to the floor and the car started moving, it massively bogged down and hence the slow getaway.
We were around 5th when that first safety car came out and we pitted with most others, except we put in less fuel than the guys we were directly racing so that we could jump them and get some good track position. Unfortunately, a slower car that had already pitted ended up in front of us in the safety car train and we lost some valuable time behind him until he pitted again for his 2nd stop. We had some really good pace once we had some clear track and pulled away from the guys behind although that gap wasn’t quite big enough in the end as both Mostert and Will Davo popped out just in front of us after their 2nd stops. I had better pace than Will, but knowing how hard it is to pass at the Mountain, I decided to not push too hard and risk anything and just stay as close as possible to benefit if he was to make a mistake. Aaaaannnddd I think you all know what happened from there… (crying face emoji). The breakdown of that was not selecting a gear properly while downshifting, it went to a false neutral in-between gears so I pushed the stick again to get it into gear and it has gone down 2 gears instead of 1, compression locked the rears and sent me into the fence.
I was massively gutted for the team as they put in a hell of a lot of work to get to that point and I would have loved nothing more than to deliver a great result for them and everyone at CoolDrive in our very first race. It really is the worst feeling in the world, knowing what would be involved in fixing the car in terms of workload for the team, missing out on a potential podium, the costs involved and I feel responsible for letting our team down, It's like having the final kick after the siren and missing.
I don’t think many expected us to do anything special at Bathurst, but I’ve said all along we’ve ticked all the main boxes to run a successful race team and achieve good results, so in my mind, it was more when not if that was going to happen. You never know in this game though as there are so many variables, so I’m very cautious with specific goals and expectations as I’ve been disappointed many times before! I’m more of a believer in controlling what you can control – processes, hard work, etc, but where that places you with a brand-new team in a car you’ve only driven twice in an extremely competitive Supercar field is an unknown.
There were a massive number of positives that we can take away from Bathurst and I can't see any reason why we can't compete at this level consistently throughout the year. I can’t wait to rip back in at Sandown and get some results everyone deserves.