Wyhoon wins, Garioch stars.
New to the program for the Eastern Creek round was Saloon Car regular Paul Pennisi who had purchased the ex-Smiths Trucks VY Commodore that had kick-started the career of Supercar hot-shot and former Commodore Cup pilot Lee Holdsworth.
Pennisi was full of hope for his maiden event but arrived on Thursday morning having failed to turn a single lap in the car after a proposed test session at Calder Park was rained out earlier in the week. Sadly his luck didnt change during the opening session on day one as the team were unable to fire the car.
Eventually they uncovered the culprit the failure of a brand new starter motor. Once a replacement had been sourced Pennisi was able to get mobile and from the broad smile on his face he was clearly pleased with his new purchase.. â€œThat was awesome he beamed afterwards â€œ..what a ride!
After an epic journey to just make the Eastern Creek event the United Racing team of Dean Kovacevich was quick early but a close inspection of the man behind the wheel revealed reigning Touring Car champion Tony Evangelou. â€œTonys giving us a hand in getting the car balanced as he was pretty quick around here last year Dean admitted.
Sadly the popular West Australian team were faced with a leaking engine seal on their ex-Perkins Engineering VY a leak which on further investigation revealed serious damage.
â€œIts a new engine we purchased from PWR just recently Dean confirmed. â€œIt had been completely rebuilt so were all at a loss as to what happened. Hopefully we caught it before anything serious developed but I only got about six laps in the end.
Quick early was Mallala sensation Michael Bartsch who revealed that hed recently sold his ex-Steve Ellery AU to an un-named Adelaide buyer who was looking to join the Kumho Tyres backed series.
â€œWere looking for a replacement but it has to be the right car.. doesnt matter if its a Holden well just see whats available he said.
For those quick enough to notice though Bartsch did manage to get some laps behind the wheel of a Sieders Racing BA Falcon – another ex-Ellery car – although the team were non-committal about any arrangements.
Whilst arch-rival (and part-time team-mate) Terry Wyhoon (Lubrimaxx BA Falcon) was running without his timing transponder in the early sessions Chris Smerdon was buried in the pits searching for a solution to a low oil-pressure warning from his MoTeC.
â€œIt says were down on oil pressure but weve been through the system and spoken to the team back at SBR [Stone Brothers Racing who originally built the car and engine] and were all at a loss as to why when everything checks out. It will certainly go back to the after the weekend hopefully everything will be okay.
By Friday morning the team had clearly resolved the issue as the points leader set the quickest time of the weekend in the final practice session (1:34.9394). Right behind him Terry Wyhoon was more than happy with his pace having elected not to fit old rubber but the Touring Car veteran quickly lost his wide smile after seeing the rearranged front on team-mate Michael Hectors (Carrington Equipment Group BA) Falcon.
â€œIve done a lot of homework prior to this weekend Hector admitted. â€œIve been over hours of onboard footage and been out on track with the team from V8 Race Experience to learn some lines and my goal for the weekend is to make Time Attack – sadly thats now not going to happen.
On another hot lap – whilst holding down position eight at the time – Hector just ran a wheel off onto the lip of the ripple strip on his run onto the front straight. â€œI did roughly the same thing the lap before he admitted â€œand it was fine so I didnt expect to get spun around and into the pit-lane wall.
Whilst damage looked mostly superficial once crew-chief Mat Lagoon had removed the broken front splitter it revealed two bent chassis rails making Image Racing team boss Terry Wyhoons face even longer.
Before long offers were coming from all corners of the very full Eastern Creek paddock with production car regular Steve Briffa sending the car back to his workshop and returning it to the circuit before the end of the day..
Hector wasnt the only one in the pits repairing damage the Bartsch team too effecting repairs although they were a lot luckier. â€œI wasnt travelling particularly quickly on my out lap but I spun coming over the tunnel between turns three and four and hit the wall pretty hard he confirmed. â€œWere lucky though theres a pretty solid steel section behind the front bar so its pretty much just a replacement splitter so well be back in action next session.
Third quickest and on new rubber like Smerdon was West Australian Matt Hansen who was looking forward to finally getting some miles in his ex-Skaife VY Commodore after an engine failure in practice at Mallala ended his weekend early.
â€œWe had that engine rebuilt after Mallala and it detonated again on the dyno so we purchased a brand-new one from HRT [Holden Racing Team] and its a real jet he admitted with a smile.
As he predicted post practice Wyhoon was quick on new rubber in qualifying and immediately to the top of the timesheets with a best of 1:34.2184 more than a second quicker than Evangelous pole time from September 2010. Wyhoon returned to the pits to sit and wait and watch Valley Longwall International BA Falcon pilot Justin Garioch continue his improvement to take pole from the Victorian by a mere nine one thousandths of a second.
Wyhoon stayed where he was handing the former Saloon Car pilot his maiden pole position in just his third V8 Touring Car event. â€œThats incredible he beamed afterwards â€œI certainly didnt expect that. Full credit to Jos [Fernandez] and the team for preparing the car so well.
Third fastest – continuing his steady progress up the order – was Jim Pollicina in the ex-Tasman VY Commodore that took [then] car owner Sam Walter to victory in race two in 2010. Pollicinas time was almost half a second adrift of Garioch but a tenth up on opening round winner Scott Loadsman (Beautiful Tiles VY Commodore).
Smerdon was fifth ahead of the ever-improving Mark Shepherd (CEG Rental BA Falcon) Hansen Nathan Garioch Bartsch (Cavalier Homes) and Chris Delfsma (Century 21 AU Falcon).
Time Attack was held in damp conditions making a close contest unlikely. In the end it was Loadsman who would prevail with a best of 1:44.4830 to Wyhoons 1:45.3309 with Hansen a further five seconds adrift in third.
Off his maiden pole position Garioch bogged down off the line allowing Pollicina through to follow Wyhoon into turn one. Chris Delfsmas (Century 21 AU) Falcon came to grief on the run through the first turn with plumes of white smoke coming from the left front as the brake bound on ultimately spearing him off at the exit of turn two.
By turn nine Scott Loadsman and Nathan Garioch (BA Falcon) were also off after contact between the two spun them around bogging Loadsman in the gravel trap on the outside of the turn calling out the Safety Car.
At the resumption of proceedings Mark Shepherd (Warby Lodge/CEG Rental BA Falcon) grabbed the initiative to get up the inside of Justin Garioch on the run into turn one with Smerdon following him through the points leader also taking third from Shepherd before the end of the lap.
From there things were fairly precessional until race end where Shepherds outstanding run was brought to an end four corners from home with a tyre failure something which also plagued Smerdon after hed crossed the line the culprit – low tyres pressures and a high degree of camber both causing issues on the long straight and super-fast turn one left-hander.
Up front though despite pressure from Pollicina behind Wyhoon was declared the undisputed victor a second clear of Pollicina with Smerdon two seconds back in third. Justin Garioch recovered for fourth from Hansen and younger brother Nathan who had worked his way back through the field after the lap one off with Loadsman.
In one of many new track records set during the weekend pole-sitter Garioch grabbed the fastest lap of the race smashing the old V8 Touring Car lap record by more than 1.7 seconds!! In the end 11 cars broke the 2010 record (set by Sam Walter in the car now campaigned by Pollicina) raising the bar well above the old benchmark.
Courtesy of his race one win Wyhoon sat on pole for race two with Jim Pollicina (Poll Performance VY Commodore) alongside.
Pollicina got a lightning start so good that he was judged to have gone before the light’s had gone out. In the end video proof suggested that Pollicina had made the most of a start that saw Wyhoon bog down but with a drive-through penalty the result Pollicina’s race was all but over.
Behind the front row Smerdon (Lubrimaxx BA Falcon) got a strong start but so too Matt Hansen (Australian Custom Moulders VY Commodore) the Holden pilot firing into turn one inside Wyhoon but he backed out despite holding track position.
“I saw him coming and moved over but then I got a call that he’d gone” Wyhoon admitted afterwards “so I moved back across and went for broke.”
Smerdon ultimately inherited third and became very wide as he battled to find the perfect setup for his ex-SBR Falcon. As ‘team-mate’ Wyhoon bolted away with Hansen in tow Smerdon kept fastest qualifier Justin Garioch (Valley Longwall International/Hi-Tec Oils BA Falcon) at bay but ultimately the young Falcon pilot got through leaving younger brother Nathan to battle with the experienced former champion behind him.
Hansen’s solid run too was thwarted late in the race after miss-shifting to top gear as he ran onto the front straight allowing Smerdon and Nathan Garioch (Valley Longwall International/Hi-Tec Oils BA Falcon) through.
Once clear of Smerdon Justin Garioch set out after Wyhoon and hauled the Victorian in crossing the line three seconds in arrears with Smerdon hanging on for third.
“That was good” Wyhoon grinned post-race “we’ve just got to keep it up.”
And keep it up he did storming away from the start of race three to lead comfortably into turn two as Smerdon again jumped into second forcing Justin Garioch back to third and defending from Hansen.
Justin Garioch was clearly the fastest car on the circuit and as Wyhoon again jumped away Garioch was forced to push Smerdon as hard as he could to find a way past looking up the inside on the run into turn two – Smerdon was wise to the move. Garioch ultimately prevailed though taking the veteran at turn one on lap three.
He then set out in pursuit of Wyhoon and hauled the former NASCAR champion in catching him but unable to find a way past.
His final run at the lead was out of the last turn the Queenslander pulling alongside Wyhoon but unable to get past before the line – the difference at the line – nine one hundredths of a second..
“I really needed that” Wyhoon admitted post-race unaware that the result had given him the championship lead (by one point over Smerdon) “but full credit to Justin if Chris hadn’t held him up I’m not sure I could have kept him behind me.
“Early in the race I could see Chris behind me so I felt he had my back” Terry laughed. “I’m happy we won now the next step will be to get all three team drivers in the results (Mark Shepherd and Michael Hector) as they had a mixed weekend.”
Despite Wyhoons win Justin Garioch was the undisputed star of the weekend with second his best result of the season with Matt Hansen a well deserved third. â€œThis thing has plenty of power and its also an HRT car and they come out of corners probably better than any cars in the country he admitted.
Coming into the round Scott Loadsman looked to be a threat to the Falcon drivers title aspirations but he suffered a myriad of dramas with an off on the opening lap of race one before mounting a recovery in race two and then stalled on the grid for race three. “I haven’t done that before” he admitted post-race. “That messed the weekend up completely because I was always coming from rear of field very disappointing..”
In the end he recovered for fourth in race three and sixth for the round. Fifth was Nathan Garioch who took another strong step forward from Chris Smerdon who fell back in the closing stages of the race towards the battle between Shepherd and Bartsch.
Pollicina (ninth) made late race contact with the returning John Vegotis (JCV Automotive AU Falcon) who post-race was shattered to have yet again been the recipient of what he felt was someone elses incident.
â€œIm pretty disappointed about how this weekends turned out he said.
â€œIve been one of the pioneers in this class since it started and its been a lot of fun as all the guys will tell you. Theres been a lot of camaraderie and there still is but some of the driving standards are not ideal.
â€œPeople here are at different levels both financially and in terms of ability but sometimes youve just got to give someone a fair goÂ¦
Steve Ingwersen (Steve Ingwersen Painting VX Commodore) was classified eleventh with Michael Hector the last classified finisher after a late race spin.
â€œDammit he grinned. â€œI was on target for three top ten finishes which was my goal for the weekend and got passed by four cars when I spun. Honestly it was a cracker weekend now its off to study for Sandown and turn some more laps with V8 Race Experience down there!
After a baptism of fire Paul Pennisis final race ended with more tyre dramas whilst Chris Delfsma was out with what he felt was a broken valve spring. â€œWe had a pretty big over-rev in race two and it let go two laps from home he confirmed.
Aaron Tebbs weekend looked promising early but he too DNFed the final race after a weekend that saw him move from his regular mount to Stephen Voights Valvoline liveried VY Commodore.
â€œSteve was crook again (an issue which plagued him at Mallala) and he wanted me to drive his car the problem is the car was built for Dean Canto so I was crammed in pretty tight the six foot plus teenager admitted. â€œTrouble was whilst the team said theyd go and get my car back for me I was over a second faster in a cramped cockpit than I had been in my car..
Sadly despite a solid run all weekend Tebb was out early in the final race with a lack of fuel pressure.
Whilst the Nationals now heads to Morgan Park in Queensland for round five of the seven round series the Kumho Tyres V8 Touring Car series enjoys a brief sabbatical before the penultimate round of the series at Sandown in Melbourne on September 9-11.