Attempts to demist a fogging windscreen led to a hellish Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 for Tim Slade, who felt he was ‘cooking’ inside his Holden Commodore.
The 32-year-old was eventually pulled from the Brad Jones Racing entry under the final Safety Car on lap 153 after struggling to concentrate due to a rising core temperature.
Co-driver Andre Heimgartner, who was called in on Friday morning to replace the injured Ash Walsh, completed the final laps in the car to finish ninth.
Slade was meanwhile taken to the circuit’s medical centre, where he was put on a drip while his temperature reduced with the aid of ice packs and cold towels.
A television camera in the Freightliner Holden had captured vision of a distressed Slade during the race, and his and BJR’s efforts to cool him down.
Speaking on Sunday night after being cleared from the medical centre, Slade told Supercars.com that efforts to fix demisting issues had been the trigger for his distress.
“We had a lot of fogging on the windscreen. We had to stop Andre short, and for me early in the race I could not see. That was really tricky,” Slade explained.
“When I jumped back in the car to bring it home (on lap 95), basically there was no cooling because they were trying to do everything they could to keep the windscreen from fogging.
“I don’t think they topped up the dry ice box [due to being busy fixing the windscreen] and I plugged [the cool suit] in and couldn’t feel anything.
“Then the helmet fan wasn’t working, I think they’d tried to hook it up to something else to demist the windscreen, and from midway through the stint I was cooking.
“With no helmet air I used up all my water to spray it on my face to just get some form of relief.
“It was so steamy in there as well because of the rain and moisture and by the time we pitted I just needed water and any cooling they could give me.
“Then at the next stop they tried to put some more dry ice in again and I could feel it for a bit, but then it went away and started getting really hot again.”
Slade was seen banging on the driver’s side window during a pitstop as he looked for relief, with BJR having already removed the one on the passenger side.
“They were trying to pull that window out at one stage as well and I was like ‘sweet, I’m looking forward to this relief’,” Slade added.
“And when it wouldn’t come out I thought ‘you’re bloody kidding me’. I loosened the belts, just for any form of relief.
“When you’re that cooked, it’s a massively uncomfortable feeling. It’s like you’re claustrophobic.
“It’s like getting to that point in the sauna when you want to get out but there’s still 50 laps to go.”
Slade said that getting out of the car was discussed throughout his trauma, but he’d resisted the option until the team made a firm decision following two late errors, including a spin at Griffins Bend.
“It’s a tough one because every time I got a tiny bit of relief I thought I might be alright,” he said.
“It was really frustrating because you knew you could do a hell of a lot better than what you were doing but all your energy was sapped, you were cooked basically. You couldn’t press on with the car and I was just making stupid mistakes.
“We talked about it [over the radio], but it’s hard as a driver to decide that one. You’ve got the adrenalin and you’re thinking best-case scenario, but you’re not being of much use because you can’t push on.
“You don’t realise the state you’re in until you get out of the car, then you’re like ‘woah, I’m pretty spaced-out here’.
“In the car you’re concentrating so hard, or trying to, because when you start cooking it’s very hard to concentrate, things don’t really click.
“With the way the track was on slicks, you needed maximum concentration and that was the end of me.
“I made two stupid mistakes and they told me to pit for Andre. I said ‘that’s fair enough’ because I don’t feel that I’m far away from binning the car.”
Slade’s horror Sunday capped a weekend of drama that started with a heavy crash while atop the order in first practice that put the car out of Thursday’s running and required an all-night rebuild.
It was the latest major crash for the team, which had to hurriedly build a new chassis for Tim Blanchard/Todd Hazelwood ahead of Bathurst after their previous car was destroyed at Sandown.
“I was massively disappointing to shunt, not only to miss out on a day’s running, but just the year the team has had with crashed cars and whatever else, especially after Sandown, building a new car,” reflected Slade.
“You feel like the worst person in the world when you’ve done that and the boys have to spend the time and effort fixing it.
“You feel like it’s all a nightmare and you just want to wake up and it not have happened. It hindered our weekend, but the race was a different story altogether.”
Slade and Heimgartner ended up as BJR’s top finisher after Nick Percat, who had led with 17 laps to go, crashed out on the very last lap while running 12th.
Blanchard and Bathurst debutant Hazelwood took the flag 12th after surviving a day that included an early wiper failure.