Scott McLaughlin joked after his Volvo’s debut, “It didn’t blow up or anything like that!”
His S60 hadn’t even had a shakedown prior to Saturday’s sydney.com V8 Supercars Test Day, so McLaughlin had every reason to be pleased with the progress of his new blue beast.
The young Kiwi driver with two Championship race wins to his name was happy with the initial feel of the car, though he flagged further chassis development as a key area of improvement for the Volvo V8 Supercars.
“I sort of wasn’t expecting to go out and blitz everyone, you don’t expect that,” he said. “Actually, I’m very happy because it was reliable, so that was the main thing.”
Question marks surrounded the B8444S engine, developed by Volvo’s Swedish racing arm Polestar, but McLaughlin felt it didn’t let the team down, each car completing around 100 laps of the 3.93km Eastern Creek circuit.
“I think our engine is quite reliable, more so than we thought, we’ve just got to nail down the chassis a little bit – I think we’ve got a few issues there but once we get on top of that we’ll be right.
“Obviously it’s a little bit different to what we’re used to, with the aero package and a few things. We’ll work on that and we’ve got obviously engine work to look at, to make sure everything is ok.”
While he agreed there was probably never enough testing time with such a new package, Saturday’s run – which meant a possible seven hours on track, all up – gave the team enough time to identify weaknesses and have an idea of where they were sitting, heading into season opener the Clipsal 500.
The wet weather hampered most teams’ progress, but McLaughlin didn’t make a big deal of it. In fact, he turned it into a positive saying it was a good chance to run electrics and see how the car coped.
“It hampers you a little bit (wet weather) but again it gives you a good chance to run your engine in those conditions, with your wipers going, your rain lights, whatever, so it runs the alternator, so it’s pretty good.”
One of the worries for McLaughlin was that he had been trying to set a quick lap time, but only managed 19th overall in the afternoon session, his teammate Robert Dahlgren 17th.
“At the end there before it rained, we were trying pretty hard,” he said.
“I think everyone sort of got caught out in the rain, so not many people showed their true potential. Again, we don’t know where we’re at but at the end of the day it didn’t blow up, ran all day, and that’s all you can hope for. Solid – obviously not massively good pace at the moment, but that will come…
“We threw a few sets (of tyres) at it, we didn’t run any greens but we ran pretty good old tyres... no softs. We’re still a fair way down the order so not the best.”
While it may have looked like a huge drama when McLaughlin’s #33 rolled into pit lane on the back of the flatbed, he stopped the car more to be cautious than anything, though teammate Robert Dahlgren was able to limp his into the pits when both S60s had the power steering hose drop off.
“I just got out and let them sort it out – I didn’t want to drive it and blow it up, but it wasn’t a problem, so I was just being careful. And it was the end of the session anyway.”
Valvoline Racing GRM will crunch the data and prepare for the Clipsal 500, just over a week away in Adelaide.
And while McLaughlin again isn’t expecting to go out and smash the field, he is mindful of how important staying out of trouble will be at the concrete-lined, stressful street circuit.
He finished sixth and ninth in last year’s races, so he knows what it takes to do well at the circuit, including qualifying well.
“We’ll come out to Clipsal and see how we go,” he said. “You never know, we might go ok, we might not, but we’ll find out.”