Seventy-eight laps, 250km, two races and one third-place podium into his comeback and Chaz Mostert says it’s the finer points of his driving rather than his body that needs to sharpen up.
The 23-year old raced to an impressive third in his Supercheap Auto-backed Prodrive Ford Falcon FG X after leading much of yesterday’s second 39 lap race at the Clipsal 500 from pole.
Earlier he finished 16th after starting 12th in the first ever soft tyre race conducted at the Adelaide parklands circuit.
It was Mostert’s first race appearance since breaking his left leg and wrist and suffering knee injuries in qualifying for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 last October.
After proving his raw speed was intact with Friday’s pole position Mostert emerged from yesterday’s races confident he was 100 per cent fit to operate the controls of his Ford in race conditions.
“I feel 100 per cent in the car,” he said. “Outside the car I am still limping around a little bit which makes it look like I am still in a bit of pain.
“But it’s half mental – the limping – and also some strengthening in different bits of the range.
“But in the range I use in the clutch my leg feels really good. So I didn’t really struggle out there with my body."
But he conceded he still had work to do on his driving to climb to the incredible level of performance that saw him claim 10 ARMOR ALL pole positions in an astonishingly dominant display through the mid-part of the 2015 season.
“If anything I still feel a little bit rusty,” he said. “It’s not like last year when I was getting those poles and all that.
“I knew exactly where the car was going to end up and I think you get that with the more laps you do.
“I don’t think it will take too long to get my mind back in the groove.”
On Saturday he made a poor start in the first race but improved for race two, leading until lap 22 when both eventual winner James Courtney (Holden racing Team) and Jamie Whincup (Red Bull Racing) forced their way by.
“The first start was pretty bad but I haven’t done any starts since the crash and I just didn’t get my sequence right,” the 2014 Bathurst winner said. “The second one I felt pretty good.
“I just hope it’s not just one good start and the rest are bad. We will try and keep the sequence going.”
Mostert only admitted to “feeling pretty hot” after making it through both Saturday races in 38 degree Celsius temperatures.
The next challenge for him is to race for 78 laps and 250km continuously in this afternoon’s 250km mini-marathon, which is forecast to be conducted in 37 degree heat.
“Obviously I am exhausted because 125km in that heat is still long,” he said. “Tomorrow is going to be a big slugfest.”
Mostert admitted he didn’t quite have the car to win race two.
“I had great pressure from James and he was pretty strong through eight to nine and that is where he got me past me. I think we lacked a little bit of car compared to these two guys (Courtney and Whincup).
“But we are pretty close and tonight we will see what we come out tomorrow with.”
He said the soft tyre performance of his Falcon would require work. The 2016 calendar has an increased number of races using the Dunlop sprint tyre.
“I think as a team we have a little bit of work to do but I think we will find it and we will all come up with some ideas,” Mostert said.
“We are all pushing hard and we have four cars and four good drivers, hopefully including myself, and we will see how we go.”