Hino Engineer Preview: Darwin

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 16/06/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

With his eyes on a top 10 finish for Darwin, Cameron Waters’ engineer Brendan Hogan is enjoying working with the rookie racer this year.

Hogan joined Prodrive from Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, and while Hogan shifted from Holden to Ford this season, he says the biggest adjustment isn’t the car, it’s the new environment.

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“The main difference is from a team perspective rather than a difference body shape,” he told supercars.com. 

“There is a lot more information and adjustability available with PRA, which really helps to tune the car.”

Waters earned his first ARMOR ALL Pole Position in Perth and finished fifth at his team’s test track last round.

“Winton was a really good confidence booster for the both of us – we stuck to what we needed to make the car better for Cam to drive and he converted,” Hogan said.

“Even though he is a ‘rookie’ he definitely does not mind getting up on the wheel.”

Hogan missed the round in Tasmania earlier this year after breaking his leg, but says he is well on the mend now: “No crouches now which makes getting around with a laptop a lot easier.”

He explained the ins and outs of Hidden Valley Raceway and this weekend’s format.

The circuit

Hogan says the best part of 2.87km Hidden Valley is its good mix of elements.

“It has a massively long front straight with a big stop at the end. Slow corners – turns one, five, six and 14 – are all below 100km/h, which makes the drive off these slow corners a big importance to the lap time around here.”

Those corners offer up four genuine opportunities to pass, and with a change to the drop gear ratio this year to prevent cars from sitting on the rev limiter on the front straight, Hogan thinks it will improve the racing. 

“With the new drop gear ratio I think there will be more action at T1,” he said.  

“Last year, cars were getting a tow but could not complete the pass because both cars where stuck on the limiter at the same speed.”

After a track resurface last year, Hogan expects grip will have dropped a little, but he’s not concerned about degradation. He is hopeful work at high-grip Winton will transfer this weekend.

“At Winton we made the car really stable to the apex which should carry over to the high grip surface of Hidden Valley. We are going to have to be mindful that making the car understeer too much might cause tyre problems.”

The cars

Watch out for your right front.

“The circuit is really hard on the right front tyre as it is loaded for a long time in the last sector and in T1,” Hogan said.  

“This was not as bad since the resurface as it has less sliding across the surface of the track.

“You need to have a car that has good drive and puts is power down well – but is not too hard on the right front.”

The soaring temperatures also give teams another thing to be mindful of.

“[We can often see] overheating – even though it’s winter, it is not unusual to see air temps pushing 35°C.

“Cooling is an issue at this track and it’s not unusual to see cars popping out for clean air along the front straight.”

Tyres

Supercars will race on all soft tyres this weekend, with five sets for racing.

Hogan explained his plans for tyre use.

“I will use two green sets on Saturday for qualifying, then those two sets will be the race tyres for Saturday. I’ll use another two sets of greens for Sunday qualifying and save a set of greens for the shootout,” he said.

“There was almost no tyre degradation at Darwin last year. I think that it will be the same this year.”

Practice and qualifying

Waters will race a Supercar in Darwin for the first time, so practice will be crucial to get him up to speed.

“[We’ll focus on] making sure that Cam is happy with the car in the braking zones and make sure that we are getting off the corners well,” Hogan said.  

“Fans should look out for a flurry of times at the end of Practice 2 when most of the category bolts on green tyres.”

Qualifying is different both days, and affects tyre usage in practice given there is an ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout on Sunday after the 20-minute qualifying session.

“To have a good crack at the Shootout you need to have a set of green tyres sitting there for it. Most people won’t run a set of greens in Practice 3 for this reason,” Hogan explained.

Watch for Hollywood times, too. The current lap record – a 1min06.2526, set last year by David Reynolds – has a high chance of falling this weekend.

“The lap record was set on hard tyres in qualifying last year – as qualifying is on softs this year would be surprised if it didn’t go this year.” 

Racing

As always, qualifying at the front will be critical.

“This track allows a lot of passing opportunities but if you start too far behind you will struggle to make much headway,” Hogan said.

Teams must complete one compulsory pit stop for tyres during the Saturday race, with the window opening on lap five (with no Safety Car intervention).

“As I don’t think that there will be much tyre degradation I think half the field will pit as soon as the pit window opens. The rest of the field will pit within the next couple of laps.”

There is not a minimum fuel drop on Saturday, but some 120km/h races have forced cars to refuel before given the fuel usage at different circuits.

“It will be a little touch and go if you need to take fuel – but I think that most cars won’t need to take fuel.”

As usual for the SuperSprints, Sunday’s race does have a minimum fuel drop, but Hogan believes strategies will be reasonably straightforward.

“I think that it will be very similar to Winton – a lot of cars will pit at in the first couple of laps then pit as soon as they can get to the end on fuel,” he said.

“I think that cars can pit on lap 27 to make it home.”

Don’t bank on the appearance of the Safety Car at Hidden Valley.

“With a lot of runoff at Darwin there is a low danger of a Safety Car at this track,” Hogan explained.

“As the tyre degradation is not as big of an issue, I think that most teams will split their cars at the start of the race and pit one car at the end of the first lap to avoid double stacking.”

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