Reigning Bathurst winner Steven Richards has lauded his IRWIN Racing team’s decision to bank both of its test days for a double-barrelled Great Race preparation.
Richards last year took his fifth Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 title co-driving with Craig Lowndes at Triple Eight; he has since reunited with Mark Winterbottom at Charlie Schwerkolt’s revamped squad.
While most other teams used one of their two allowed private test days earlier in the season, IRWIN Racing opted to save their allocation for back-to-back running at Winton yesterday and today – little more than a week out from Bathurst.
Richards declared it was vital to do so in order to allow the largely new-look crew to “get in sync” over the course of the year.
“I would have to say that was definitely the right choice,” Richards told Supercars.com of the timing of their tests.
“It’s been really good because what it’s meant is that [yesterday] wasn’t a rush.
“We’ve been able to actually think through what we’re doing, make sensible changes and look at the things from our pitstop procedures and driver change practice that didn’t work, so we’ve got the opportunity to iron those out.”
The 47-year-old reported smooth sailing yesterday as they joined six other Victorian-based Supercars teams at Winton.
With more clear air available today – the only other Supercar on site is the Walkinshaw Andretti United wildcard of Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe – the focus has shifted from set-up work to more procedural preparations.
Though no longer in the Triple Eight fold where he won two of the past four Bathurst 1000s, Richards has been reinvigorated by his increased role at IRWIN Racing this year.
“For me personally it has been a year where I have had a lot more involvement than I probably have had in the past few years and I enjoy that,” he said, having been on hand with the team at the recent ITM Auckland SuperSprint.
“I enjoy getting my hands dirty and being a Melbourne-based team, that makes it a little bit easier as well, I can get down to the workshop a bit in between races and get involved in briefings and things.
“I’m really excited for next week.
“I don’t underestimate how tough it’s going to be in terms of that whole week… but I think there’s no question that we’re in a position where we could spring a really good result.”