Tony D’Alberto is contesting his 100th Supercars event at the Gold Coast 600 this weekend, but the DJR Team Penske co-driver is more focussed on celebrating a strong result than his milestone outing.
The 42nd Supercars driver to achieve the centenary, the former full-timer has shown strong from across the Pirtek Enduro Cup in the #17 Ford Falcon FG X alongside regular pilot Scott Pye.
But competitive pace didn’t produce a result in the Wilson Security Sandown 500, while a fifth in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 was a better return for effort without being as satisfying as the duo hoped for.
“Both Scott and I have done well here at the Gold Coast in the past and we are both hoping to go a little bit better than at Bathurst and sneak on that podium this weekend,” the 30-year old told supercars.com.
“That’s a realistic goal although we have a lot of work to do before we get there.”
D’Alberto, the 2007 development series champion, raced full-time in the Supercars championship from 2008 to 2013, mostly for his family-owned privateer team.
His best championship result was 16th in 2013. But his best Bathurst finish is this year’s fifth, while his best individual race result was second at the Gold Coast in 2014 co-driving with Tim Slade in the Supercheap Holden Commodore.
“I’d like to celebrate it (the centenary) with a bit of champagne and a trophy this weekend,” D’Alberto said.
“I am really happy to be in the sport for so long and a long time being a full-time driver. I would still love to be a full-time driver.”
D’Alberto was speaking in the lead-up to today’s exclusive co-driver session, which he regards as crucial for his preparation leading in to Saturday and Sunday’s two 300km races around the spectacular concrete-lined track.
“It is important because we don’t actually drive the car tomorrow until the race so all our prep is today and they have actually cut a session out of the day.
“Generally we have had two co-driver sessions but this year there is only one, so I snuck in for the first one and did a couple of laps to get my eye in a little bit before my 30-minute session.
“You don’t get a lot of mileage around here and its one of those places you do have to build up to … it’s a very enjoyable circuit, it suits these sorts of cars bouncing over the kerbs and it’s a great atmosphere.”
D’Alberto said he had been impressed with DJR Team Penske, which he joined this year to co-drive Pye after two years at Walkinshaw Racing backing Slade.
“They have got myself and (Fabian Coulthard’s co-driver) Luke Youlden in the cars as often as they can. They even flew us to Perth when there wasn’t a co-driver session just to get us some more laps.
“They have kept us up to date with the car and how it has developed over the year. And that has been good because it has been a new car for Luke and I this year.”
D’Alberto said he had also been satisfied with his own performances in the Pirtek Enduro Cup so far.
“I was quickest in the co-driver session at Sandown and if we didn’t get turned around in the co-driver race I think the weekend would have turned out a lot better. So that put us back for Sunday’s race and that meant we had to be super-aggressive on strategy and with the changeable weather it didn’t work out.
“Bathurst was tricky because we had a pretty bad tyre bank leading into the event and we just had to trust that when we put a set of half decent tyres we were going to be at the front.
“In the co-driver session I was up the front again so I have been happy with my performance and the team has been reasonably happy.”
However, that has yet to lead to an offer to drive with the team again in 2017.
“They are reviewing it at the moment, they haven’t confirmed anything for Luke or I just yet,” D’Alberto confirmed. “They are probably going to see how we go this weekend!”