Lessons at the front of the field
- By Kassie Gadeke - Bruce Newton
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Supercars newcomers Cameron Waters and Chris Pither hope to carry learnings from Perth to Winton next week, both having had the chance to race the front runners after strong qualifying results.
Waters, who steps up from the Dunlop Series this year, qualified on ARMOR ALL Pole Position after reading the rainy conditions well on Saturday and revealed that racing wet weather specialist Shane van Gisbergen in particular was a helpful experience.
Van Gisbergen pounced from the second row and pressured the young racer for the lead – would there be anyone more intimidating to have behind you in those conditions? But having the quick Kiwi pass actually paid off for Waters.
“He was obviously pretty quick – he always is quick in those conditions,” Waters said of the Red Bull racer.
“It was pretty cool having Shane van Gisbergen behind and once he got in front of me I actually got a fair bit quicker because I looked at his lines and how he was attacking it.
“Towards the end of that stint I was starting to hunt him down because he used his tyre fairly hard, so that was cool.”
For Pither, who qualified eighth and fourth across the two races, the standard of driving was different up the front – his best start before Perth had been 15th.
“The guys race hard and clean and there seems to be good respect for cars that are on different strategies and different tyre conditions – what goes around comes around at the front of the field,” he said.
“There seems to be a certain amount of respect for each other and (ability to) race hard. But it’s good to get amongst it and run door-to-door with those guys and know you can have some good hard racing.”
Both Pither and Waters completed races as PIRTEK Enduro Cup co-drivers last year and stood in during the season, with Waters subbing for injured Chaz Mostert at Phillip Island and New Zealand, and Pither replacing Andre Heimgartner at Super Black for Phillip Island and Sydney, as well as stepping in for injured David Wall in the Volvo S60 at the non-Championship grand prix.
“Being up there and racing door-to-door with those guys is a good feeling is a massive confidence booster,” Pither said.
"I guess I was confident I could run there with those guys but I need to prove it for myself. It was awesome.”
With Prodrive teammate Mark Winterbottom having won Sunday’s race, the team was back in the winner’s circle. While Winterbottom and Mostert have not quite been happy with their Ford Falcon FG Xs, Waters said he was still learning about tuning the car.
“I think the big thing is working out what to do with the car and drive it to get the most out of it – the more I drive it the easier it is getting for me,” Waters said.
“The car does some things really well and does some things poorly – I think we’re all the same, we’re just gelling with it differently.
“For me I’m learning quite a lot every race I go to – what to change and what does what, sort of thing, [along with] my engineer Brendan Hogan. Every race we go to we’re learning and I guess with Chaz and Mark who are a little bit more experienced than me, they go out and know what’s happening and they kind of know what to change to fix what.
“I’m still kind of building up those tools, so to speak.”
Waters had exceptional success at Winton last year in the Dunlop Series winning all three races, while Pither’s best finish there in the development category was fourth.
Waters was hesitant to claim too much glory from his pole position given a red flag prevented any cars past 11th from setting a fast lap on a slick soft tyre. But there was plenty of pressure on the young racer, who handled and maximised the situation.
“It was an interesting session, that’s for sure,” he said.
“The weather all weekend was a big factor and we didn’t even get a chance to run on a good tyre in Friday practice. So to go out there for qualifying and be told ‘you’ve got to do it in one lap’ when you haven’t driven the car that day was a bit hard. But everyone was in the same boat and I managed to get pole.
“I was stoked to have gotten it, it was hard in trying conditions, it wasn’t a normal session but I had to do it, I guess.”