All co-drivers have arrived in Australia ahead of the Wilson Security Sandown 500, with Supercheap Auto Racing’s Ryan Briscoe the last of the ‘internationals’ to hit our shores this morning.
Both TEKNO Autosports co-drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen (Shane van Gisbergen) and Marc Lieb (Jonathon Webb) arrived yesterday and are spending the day adjusting and enjoying Melbourne city.
“I am really looking forward to the whole program, all three races,” Bleekemolen, who drove with van Gisbergen at last year’s Gold Coast 600 event, told v8supercars.com.au.
“I haven’t driven the car yet, so I’m definitely behind the other guys from the beginning, but hopefully will catch up.
“It’s hard – the weather prediction is not so good for this weekend. It would be good for us to have consistent weather at least to get up to speed. But we have the same amount of track time as the others, and we can’t control that, so we will see what happens.”
While Bleekemolen has driven various cars in his career, he believes the V8 Supercar is one of the more difficult machines to handle.
“I enjoyed last year a lot, which was my first time in V8 Supercars and have heard the new car is even nicer to drive …
“I should be alright, I am used to jumping into difficult cars, racing a lot of different cars every weekend. I must say, V8s are one of the hardest cars to race with. They’re very different to European racing cars, so it’s definitely going to be a difficult job.”
Briscoe, on the other hand, isn’t having the day off, out at the Walkinshaw Racing workshop for seat fittings and to catch up with Russell Ingall ahead of the race weekend.
Ingall has sung the praises of Aussie Briscoe, who is based in the US.
Despite having only contested a handful of V8 Supercars races, he has been a high achiever, with a provisional pole position on debut at his only previous outing at Sandown Raceway (2006), and top five finishes at the Gold Coast 600 event (with Garth Tander last year).
“I’m really excited, it’s great to be doing the three endurance races – I haven’t done them since back in ’06, when I did Sandown and Bathurst,” Briscoe said.
“The team’s been doing an amazing job and had great performances lately, they’re really excited about where they are, at the moment, with speed and changes with the car.”
Laughing about his blistering time recorded on debut, Briscoe said he had some high expectations to live up to.
“Back in ’06 I was able to spend a lot of time out here and do a lot of testing and so on. This week I’m jumping in a little bit cold.
“I’ve been driving these cars off and on for years, so hopefully I get right up to speed and comfortable … I feel like the team is very positive and they’re familiar with me, and I with them, so it’s a good situation to be in.
“Testing would have been nice, but it wasn’t possible.
“I feel like the past couple of years when I came out to do the Gold Coast, it hasn’t been too difficult to get back acclimatised with these cars. I think it’ll be ok.”
Matt Halliday, to be paired with Dean Fiore, tested the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Dodo Insurance Commodore at Winton Raceway yesterday, and is the only one of the internationals who has had the opportunity to steer the new generation V8 Supercar before hitting the track on Friday.
The two paired up last year when Fiore drive for Dick Johnson Racing, and Halliday was the West Australian’s co-driver of choice for the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
The test ran smoothly, with the team making gains with both the car and process ahead of the enduros, and Halliday is comfortable in the driver’s seat.
However – while all the international drivers may have arrived in Australia, Halliday’s race suit does not get here until tomorrow. So for the test he had to use Fiore’s – fortunately it fit perfectly!
The first practice session of the Wilson Security Sandown 500 begins on Friday at 11.30am AEST.