The Aussie invasion of the USA has begun, with the V8Supercars circus settling into the magnificent Circuit of the Americas for thisweekend’s historic Austin 400.
As the teams on Thursday checked over their cars and preparedfor Friday’s (US time) Practice, several drivers faced the US media for thefirst time.
Here’s what they had to say in response to a wide range ofquestions.
Mark Winterbottom on changes since he visited the circuit lastyear when it was being constructed:
“It has changed massively obviously. We were here in June orJuly last year to check out the place and it was 11 corners completed at thattime and the other corners were still being rolled and there was no bitumen. Soit’s great to see it completed and they have done an amazing job. I know howhard the guys were working because it was about 110 degrees, which is over 40in our language.
“I can’t wait to put our cars on there and actually have ago. Driving around it, walking around it feels fantastic. Putting the cars onit should be fantastic.”
Fabian Coulthard on the reception from the Austin community:
“It’s been awesome so far. Everyone has been veryhospitable, if we ever need anything or we need to go anywhere, everyone steersus in the right direction which helps when you are relying on GPS so heavily.It’s been a massive highlight coming here, and driving the track a couple ofweeks ago was quite an experience.”
Todd Kelly on the priorities in Practice and Qualifying:
“You need to get the car right and learn how to drive theplace. It is a very, very different circuit to what we traditionally drive on,a lot of different corners that take a while getting your head around settingup for. There’s not a lot of time to get that right and it takes quite a lot oftime to change things on our type of cars so there is only a handful of thingsyou can change during the session and not lose too much time.”
Jonathon Webb on what American fans should enjoy about V8Supercars racing:
“The comments we get everywhere we go in the world is howmuch the fans love the bumping and rubbing and everything that goes on outthere. I think V8 engines are always going to be a good thing over here. It’sthe home of the V8.”
James Courtney on the unique aspects of COTA that will be achallenge for the drivers:
“Probably the craziest thing is turn one. It looks prettysteep but when you are sitting in the car you are down even lower that isprobably the biggest impact on the track. It feels like you are driving up theside of a mountain. So braking markers and stuff for that are really quiteunique. And then quite late in the stop the track flattens out a lot.
“At the start of races I think we are probably going to be28 cars wide going in to there and three cars wide coming out because it is alot wider on the entry than it is on the exit. So the way it is shaped promotesquite a bit of lunging. Also being uphill off the start if you don’t get a goodstart you will sink quite deep into the pack and cause a bit of drama.”
Mark Winterbottom on the critical factors that will comeinto play in the races:
“It’s obviously very wide so the passing is going to be oneof the big keys. The right-handers are all very long so I assume the left-reartyre is going to cop a lot of punishment.”
Fabian Coulthard on speeds at COTA versus tracks inAustralia:
“Top speed? I am not good with speed; I don’t look at thespeedo because it scares me! But 250-260km/h on the front straight. That’s notslow, that’s getting up there.”
Maro Engel on improving the pace of the Mercedes-Benz E63AMG:
“It’s safe to say the main focus still needs to be on theengine. In (the last round of the Championship) in Perth the straight-linespeed was still lacking quite strongly. That was making the racing aspect quitehard. On pure pace in Qualifying we could run top 15 quite consistently overthe weekend, and to crack the top 10 in Qualifying was a great achievement. Butto go forward from there we need more power.”