The Norton Hornet Nissan Altimas are buzzing with excitement ahead of the Sandown 500 – the first of three endurance races in this year’s V8 Supercars Championship.
Buoyed by taking a memorable 1-2 result at the last event at Winton, James Moffat/Taz Douglas (#360 Norton Hornet) and Michael Caruso/Daniel Gaunt (#36 Norton Hornet) are confident of continuing Nissan’s push towards being a consistent front-runner in the V8 Supercars Championship.
While acknowledging that the Sandown circuit layout not may make a repeat of their watershed Winton result as likely, both Hornet entries are ready for the Sandown event, the traditional warm-up race for the world-famous Bathurst 1000 next month.
“This is the time of year that I really enjoy in V8 Supercars racing,” Moffat said.
“The endurance races are such a traditional element of our game and I always look forward to heading to Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast.
“The Winton win was fantastic and a great relief for me personally. We still have some work to do but for the team, we know what’s possible and we’re pushing hard to stay towards the front.
“Taz (Douglas) has fitted into the team really well, and one of the important elements of choosing a co-driver is the adjustments that need to be made for drivers with different sizes. Fortunately, there’s no changes that need to be made for us.
“I’m looking forward to going to Sandown. It’s a track where there’s a lot of family history, given that Dad won his last-ever race in Australia back in 1988 with the late Gregg Hansford. It’s a great track, a great event and the perfect build up for the Bathurst 1000 next month.”
Both co-drivers Douglas and Gaunt need no introduction to V8 Supercars, having competed regularly in the V8 Supercars Championship and the Dunlop Development Series in recent times.
The pair has clocked up plenty of pre-race testing laps, placing them in good stead for the two-driver races.
“I’m not feeling any extra pressure. It’s more of an excitement, knowing that a win can be achievable. It’s better going into these races knowing there’s so sort of race-winning form,” said Douglas.
“I thought it would take me a long time to get used to these new cars, but ever since I first drove the Altima, I felt right at home. I haven’t felt the need to do heaps of laps in the car. I hop in and feel like it’s my own.”
In the Norton #36 entry, main series driver Caruso knows the significance associated with the PIRTEK Enduro Cup races.
“I always enjoy heading into the endurance races. If you can get a result in these events, it’s always significant,” Caruso said.
“Coming off our podium at Winton, it’s nice we can go into a meeting with a little less pressure, knowing that Sandown is going to be quite difficult, for us. Sandown is basically two drag strips. There are some tight corners too, and we know we have a well-balanced car, so we’ll be doing everything we can do to maximize our cars through the corners.
“Dan has a bit of experience, both at Sandown and Bathurst, but it’s the first time that I don’t have to change my seat position, which is a huge plus. These cars are harder to get in and out of and that can only be an advantage."
The prospect of being involved with a factory team is one of the big advantages for Gaunt.
“For me at this stage of my career, it’s a big step up in all facets. I can’t wait for the weekend to begin.
“The team has momentum going into the enduros, but every team will be on its game this year. The championship is so competitive, so we’ll have to cross all the T’s and dot the I’s to be in a position to jag a result.”
The unique Wilson Security Sandown 500 format will see two qualifying races held on Saturday that will determine the grid for Sunday’s 500km event.