Alex Premat was excited to read today’s announcement of Andy Priaulx and Mattias Ekstrom piloting the third Triple Eight Race Engineering Commodore for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in October.
While both drivers have strong and varied backgrounds, both race in the European DTM Championship, as Premat had before taking up his post with Fujitsu Garry Rogers Motorsport, making him the first full-time international driver in V8 Supercars.
He raced with Ekstrom for four years at Audi Sport and described him as a good friend and one of the best teammates you could have.
“It’s terrific news. I’ve been the first driver of DTM to come to Australia, and now for Mattias and Andy it’s terrific news for them.
“They have really good backgrounds, have won many races in the world – DTM, GT and even the Race of Champions – they are professionals.”
In fact, Premat spoke in depth with Ekstrom about the V8 Supercars Championship and its positives earlier this year, so he was not surprised to hear of his involvement with the wildcard entry, to run as the Xbox One Racing Team.
“I was talking to him in January – he wanted to do something else and asked about V8 Supercars,” Premat said.
“I told him the Championship was really awesome and then I gave him Ludo Lacroix's number – so that may be why he was in contact with Triple Eight.”
While Triple Eight confirmed it was the team who approached Ekstrom – he and Priaulx were high on the driver wishlist – the team's technical director Lacroix will be engineering the Xbox car at Mount Panorama.
Priaulx has featured in a handful of long distance V8 Supercars races previously, having driven with Walkinshaw Racing and David Reynolds at Mount Panorama in 2009, and with Craig Lowndes and Triple Eight as an international co-driver at the Surfers Paradise event, one of which the pair finished second in 2010.
Ekstrom, however, has never competed in a V8 Supercar and Premat warns it could be an overwhelming week.
“It’s not going to be easy for them – it’s one full week with lots of advertising, fans and quite a lot of driving time.
“Andy knows the race track, Mattias doesn’t, so he will need to learn the track, the tyres.
“It’s going to be a long process in the week, but they will do good. Everywhere they’ve been winning races and Championships.
“It’s nice to have more international drivers coming through V8 Supercars and one day … that could get more manufacturers into the series.”
Premat said it would be difficult to give advice to Ekstrom coming into the race, but in comparison to the DTM cars, suggested the V8 Supercar would have less downforce and braking ability, there would be less consistency in terms of tyre wear, and the ability to change roll bars in the car would be something to remember.
“It’s a very special race car and track they’ll have to learn – it’s about where to shift, the transition for the car turning, and the good line.”
While many would love the bragging rights, Premat isn’t interested in whether or not the #34 Commodore beats the #10. His sights are set on finishing in the top 10 with Greg Ritter at the endurance races.
“It’s not going to be easy – we can see many cars are really quick and it is tight between the top 15 or so cars. We don’t want to give up, we will do the best we can.”
GRM tested at Winton yesterday and team boss Garry Rogers was pleased with the progress made ahead of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.